Most of Paul’s epistles begin with a section of doctrinal teaching and then move on to explore the practical significance of this instruction for everyday Christian living. Colossians is no different in this regard. Having spent much of chapters 1 and 2 defending the notion that the Christ is the incarnate God and not some lesser intermediary, Paul in Colossians 3–4 reminds us of the freedom and responsibility that flow from the Savior and His work.
False teachers typically promise freedom from sin through works — a moralism that inevitably displaces Jesus as the sovereign Messiah. God’s gospel, however, begins with His gracious, loving condescension to free us from slavery to sin and death before exhorting us to live as the free people we are in Christ, a liberty that is due entirely to His work on our behalf. The fullness of deity dwells in Jesus, and the Godman has reconciled His people to Himself by the blood of the cross, making us die with Him to the captivity of sin and evil spirits (Col. 1:15–2:23). Yet as we see in Colossians 3:1, we have not only died with Christ but have been raised with Him. Obviously, our bodies have not yet been resurrected and glorified, and Paul elsewhere looks forward to the resurrection on that final day (1 Cor. 15:12–58). Still, our union with Christ is such that we are already raised from the dead positionally, if not yet experientially. United to Jesus by faith, we are already seated with Him in the heavenly places and enjoy the privileges that come with this exaltation, including power over sin and the realm of evil (Ps. 110:1; Eph. 1:15–22; 2:4–7). Although we continue to struggle with sin, this not due to any deficiency in Jesus’ work but to our failure on this side of glory to walk perfectly in all the benefits of the cross (1 John 2:1–6).
Living in the freedom we have in Christ demands that we set our “minds on things that are above” (Col. 3:2). Paul is not calling us to ignore the concerns of everyday life; rather, he is using spatial terminology to refer to realities in the history of salvation. “Things that are above” refers to the age of Christ and His kingdom, an age of sinlessness that will come in its fullness at His return (1 Cor. 15:20–28). Positionally, we are already members of this age to come, and as we set our minds on this reality, we begin to experience the life we will fully enjoy at the consummation of all things.
As we recall the great inheritance of the age to come, we will seek more and more to enjoy a greater foretaste of the blessings that will come in that day when sin will be no more. Knowing that sin will be gone in the consummation, we will seek to mortify our transgressions today so that our experience might better approximate how wonderful our lives will be when we no longer have any inclination to evil in the new heaven and earth (Rev. 21:1–4).