Raised Up to New Life
“You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (vv. 3–4).- Colossians 3:1-4
Answer 45 of the Heidelberg Catechism lists three benefits that we receive from Christ’s resurrection. The first of these benefits is that through rising again, Jesus enables us to partake of the righteousness He earned for His people. Jesus’ resurrection proves that He obeyed the Father perfectly; thus, we can be declared righteous in God’s sight via the imputation of our Savior’s merit. This is our living hope: the work of Jesus gives us peace with God (Rom. 5:1; 1 Peter 1:3–5).
According to the catechism, the second benefit we have on account of Jesus’ resurrection is that we are “by his power … raised to a new life.” This truth is taught in several passages, including Colossians 3:1–4. Paul tells us in this text that we have been “raised with Christ,” who is seated at the right hand of God the Father. Jesus’ resurrection was the first step in His exaltation, which continued in His ascension, His session at the Father’s right hand, and His eventual return to judge the living and the dead. In His resurrection, Jesus, as the firstfruits of “those who have fallen asleep,” gained new life according to His humanity — an incorruptible and imperishable body (1 Cor. 15:20, 35–58). He was raised, never to suffer death again.
Because we are united to our Savior in His resurrection, we are raised with Him to new life. We are “hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3) and enjoy incorruptible and imperishable life. Of course, we do not yet enjoy this life in all its fullness. We still await our physical resurrection, when we will fully experience everything that Christ has purchased for us. Still, this life is ours today even if aspects of it are not yet realized in our experience. We have been glorified (Rom. 8:30) — our final destiny in Christ is so certain that Paul talks about it as if we have already reached its fullness. Nothing can prevent Jesus from transforming us fully into His image.
The Christian does not experience the new incorruptible and imperishable life completely before death, but this life does reveal itself in our sanctification (growth in holiness) even now. We begin hating that which causes corruption — sin and wickedness — as Christ’s life-giving Spirit purifies us. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin in anticipation of the day when we will possess in its fullness the holy, clean, incorruptible life that Christ lives today (1 John 1:7).
John Calvin comments on today’s passage: “No one can rise again with Christ, if he has not first died with him.” If we would enjoy the new life that fuels our sanctification and grants us imperishable bodies, we must die to sin. To be raised with Jesus, we must repent and turn to Him. After conversion, we must walk in repentance to enjoy the Spirit’s power. If we do not die daily to sin, we cannot truly enjoy the new, resurrected life that Jesus shares with His people.
Passages for Further Study
2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1
2 Timothy 1:8–12