The Knowledge of Christ
Tim Temple

Review

For some time now we have been studying the book of Colossians, and we have completed the first two chapters. As we come to chapter 3, we move into a new section of the book. When we surveyed the book, we pointed out that it is broken into two sections. The first two chapters are from the standpoint of somewhat technical or doctrinal advice, and the second two chapters are from a somewhat more practical standpoint. We have thought about those first two chapters, those technical in their contents though personal in their approach, and in those two chapters we want to take a moment now to review some of the things that we have seen, because the last two chapters of the book, into which we enter now, will be built very largely upon those first two chapters. There is a sense in which we are going to go back over the same material, but this time from the standpoint of application.

So think with me, by way of review, about those first two chapters. First, remember that in those chapters, we have seen Christ as Creator of the Universe, very clearly specified that by Him all things consist. He is not only the Creator but He is the One who holds all things together. Then in those chapters we also saw Christ as Reconciler between man and God and the fact that we now can have complete fellowship with God because of what Jesus Christ has done.

The key point of these first two chapters is in chapter 1, verse 27, a verse that we have quoted many times before:

Colossians 1

27…Christ in you, the hope of glory:

That is probably the key phrase of the whole book. The summary of the whole letter is that we would know and understand all of the ramifications of the wonderful fact that Christ is in us, and that is our hope of glory.

In chapter 2, Paul elaborated on that basic statement. And in chapter 2, he called the details of this “Christ in you, the hope of glory,” the knowledge of Christ. He refers to the knowledge of Christ from several different standpoints. For example, in the first part of chapter 2, he says that the knowledge of Christ will provide stability in the pressures of life. If we can recognize that Christ is in us, if we can understand all that that implies, it will provide stability in the pressures of life. Then he says, in chapter 2, verse 8, that to understand the knowledge of Christ will prevent our being carried away with false doctrines and philosophies and the ideas of man.

These things are accomplished, Paul says, because Christ is the fullness of God. You might want to look again at chapter 2, verse 9:

Colossians 2

9For in him [that is, Jesus Christ] dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

Jesus Christ is the fullness of God.

In verses 11-13, he tells us that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. As we were thinking earlier in our observance of the Lord's Supper, we pointed out that Jesus Christ is the one who reveals God to us, and no man has seen the Father at any time, but God the Son has revealed Him to us, and we have the privilege of seeing God as He really is, in seeing Jesus Christ. “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father,” Jesus said to Philip. So Jesus Christ is the fullness of God, but He is also the fulfillment of all that the Old Testament pictured–all of the sacrifices, all of the offerings, all of the feast days, all of the observances. All of those things were picturing Jesus Christ. He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament.

Verses 14 and 15, of chapter 2, are very beautiful verses concerning the fact that He is the basis for forgiveness of our sins. Notice in chapter 2, verses 14-15:

Colossians 2

14Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
15And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

Notice those words in the first part of verse 14:

Colossians 2

14Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us…

The handwriting of ordinances was a reference to the death penalty, which in Roman times was written out and tacked to the cross of the one being executed. Paul is saying in beautiful, poetic style that when Jesus Christ was crucified on the Cross, your sins and mine were written out and tacked to His Cross. That's the reason that He was executed. In fact, technically, what Paul is probably saying when he refers to the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, is a reference to the Ten Commandments and that the ordinances of God, the commandments of God, were the standard which we had violated, the standard of God's perfection from which we fell short. God wrote the death penalty for Jesus Christ, consisting of our failure, and tacked it to the Cross of Jesus Christ. So He is the basis for the forgiveness of your sins and of mine.

Three Areas of Reaction

All of this review is important because, as I mentioned a few minutes ago, in chapters 3 and 4, Paul is going to tell us what the proper reaction to all of this should be. We can hardly grasp the full truth of the knowledge of Christ, but as we come to understand it, as God enables us little by little to understand all that is implied in having full forgiveness, all that is implied of having a personal presence of Jesus Christ in our lives, there are certain reactions that should take place. And so we want to think about these reactions to the knowledge of Christ, in chapter 3.

In this chapter he is going to specify three areas of reaction that should take place. First, in verses 1-4, we are going to see that there should be some different attitudes. The reaction to the knowledge of Christ should affect our attitudes. Then in verses 5-17, the knowledge of Christ should affect our actions. This will have to do with our relationships, with our decisions, with the various actions that we take. Then in verse 18, going through verse 1 of chapter 4, as we understand the knowledge of Christ, it will cause a reaction in our associations, our relationships with other people—within the family and at the job, and the various kinds of associations that we have.

So there are three kinds of reactions that the Scripture says we should have to the knowledge of Christ: reactions in the area of our attitudes, reactions in the area of our actions, and reactions in the area of our associations.

Attitude Toward Acquisitions

Today we want to think about our reactions to the knowledge of Christ which should manifest themselves in our attitudes, in verse 1-4. Notice with me the first four verses of chapter 3:

Colossians 3

1If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
2Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
3For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
4When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.

First, we want to notice in verse 1 that a relationship with Christ should bring a new attitude as to our acquisitions. We live in a materialistic age. We live in a nation and in a generation that is blessed materially as no nation in the history of the world has ever been blessed. There have been advanced civilizations in the past, and historians, archaeologists and anthropologists discover from time to time civilizations that were quite advanced, but nothing has ever existed like the blessings materially that we enjoy in this nation, in this generation.

Even with the economic situation fluctuating as it has in recent years, we still are so much more fortunate than almost any other part of the world in any other time in history. Every human being today living in the United States, and really living in other large areas of the world today, have the equivalent of many personal servants, and we have comforts available to us that others never even dreamed of. So we live in a time, as Christians, when aquisitions are very important, and as believers in Jesus Christ, our attitude toward material things should be very important to us. The Scripture does speak to that.

Seek the Things Which Are Above

These verses tell us as we understand what it is to have Christ in us as the hope of glory, as we understand what it is to really have a personal relationship to God through Jesus Christ, it will affect our attitude as to acquisitions. Notice again verse 1:

Colossians 3

1If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.

What are we to seek in this life? What are the things that we should try to acquire in this life? Verse 1 says, “If you are risen with Christ, our goals for our acquisitions, the things that we try to acquire, should be the things which are above.”

Before we look at that in detail let me point out that the word if in verse 1 is written in the Greek in what we refer to as a first class conditional clause, which means if and it is so . There are several classes of conditional clauses in the Greek. One means if and it's not so . Another means if maybe it's so, and maybe it's not . Another means, as this does, if and it is so . We could translate this legitimately, since you be risen with Christ , or if, and it is true ye be risen with Christ . “If you be risen with Christ, and you are, since you are risen with Christ, seek those things which are above.” This is why we say that the instructions here are describing reactions to the knowledge of Christ, the fact that we have the knowledge of Christ, that we are risen with Him, that we are no longer dead in trespasses and sins, but that Jesus Christ has paid the penalty for our sins. He rose from the dead, and God looks at us as if we had paid that penalty and had risen from the dead. We are risen with Christ.

That is another large area of doctrine that I am just stating the facts about, and we do not have the time to go into it in detail, but it is a statement of fact. We are risen with Christ! As God looks at us with our sins forgiven, He sees us as though we had risen from the dead just as Christ did, and so he says, “If ye be risen with Christ, or since you are risen with Christ, here is an attitude that should be effected: Seek those things which are above.”

A Literal Place

The question arises, “What are the things which are above that we are to seek?” What does it mean when it says, “Seek those things which are above?” First, let's point out that he is speaking about a literal place and literal things, because he says, “Where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.” So we know from that statement that Paul is not writing to the Colossians about some sort of poetic, ethereal, figurative kind of a thing. He is not just saying, “Think sweet thoughts and read a lot of poetry, and meditate a lot, seeking those things which are above.” Rather, he is talking about a specific mind-set, a specific attitude that needs to be adopted: “Seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.” It is a literal place and these are to be literal thoughts and literal attitudes.

One suggestion that has been made about verse 1, traditionally, is that it is simply saying, “Seek to go to Heaven. If ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above.” In other words, “Keep seeking to get to go where Christ sits at the right hand of God.” Of course, a careful examination of the text would indicate that that is nonsensical, because as we have already pointed out, the correct translation of the phrase should be, “Since ye be risen with Christ.” So obviously if it is already established that we are risen with Christ in God's sight, if God looks at us as qualified for Heaven, then the verse can't be telling us to seek to go to Heaven. So it is speaking of something much more specific than that.

God's Priorities

The thing to which Paul is referring here in Colossians, I think, is better described in other places in the Scripture. Keep a marker here in Colossians, chapter 3, and turn with me to I Peter, chapter 3, and notice verses 3-4. These are verses which describe for us the godly wife and the attitude that a godly wife should have. In the course of teaching us what the godly wife's attitude ought to be, he touches on the same idea that Paul is talking about in writing to the Colossians. I Peter, chapter 3, beginning with verse 3:

I Peter 3

3Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;
4But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

We will stop there with verse 4. Let's notice what this verse is not saying. It is just as important to notice what a verse is not saying as it is to notice what it is saying. First, these verses are not saying that women should never wear jewelry or never have their hair done nor anything like that, because if that is the case, then it is also saying that they should not be clothed. It is not saying, “Don't have anything to do with material things.” That is a very important concept for us to understand as we think about our attitude toward acquisitions right from the beginning. The Scripture nowhere says, “Christians, do not even think about material things.” The Scripture nowhere says, “Shun material things.” But here is one of several places that tell us we should not put those material things in the place of priority. The godly wife is to pay attention to her clothing, her hair and her jewelry and those things for a lot of reasons, but what Peter is saying is, “Those are not to be the place of highest priority.”

The word adorning , in verse 3, is a translation of a Greek word that is often used to describe the constellations in the sky, the orderly universe. What Peter is saying is, “Don't put those things in any sort of order. Don't put the plaiting of hair, the wearing of gold, the wearing of apparel, and those kinds of things in the top priority. Don't make a list of priorities and put that at the top of the list. Whose adorning let it not be that outward appearance.” That is important, but it should not be that place of most importance. Instead, in verse 4, “let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit.” So what Peter is saying is that the godly woman should put the proper emphasis on clothing and apparel and those material things, but her first priority should be the development of a godly spirit. That's the idea. That's the kind of thing that Paul is talking about with the Colossians, that they should have an emphasis on God's priorities, not on material things.

Seek First the Kingdom of God

Another passage which I think deals with this very clearly, is Matthew chapter 6, verses 31-33:

Matthew 6

31Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Notice that Jesus is not saying that we should not even think about food and clothing. Just to take these verses by themselves and not look at them in their context, we would get the idea that that is what He is saying, because, “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed.” But when He says, “Take no thought…,” we could more literally translate it, and the sense of the passage in the original text is, “Take no anxious thought. Take no concerned thought.” In other words, He is not saying, “Don't even think about food and clothing,” but He is saying, “Don't make that your top priority.” In fact, if you will glance down in verse 32:

Matthew 6

32…for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

God knows that you need food and clothing. God knows that we need material things. “Your heavenly Father knows that ye have need of all these things.” Then, what is Jesus saying? He says in verse 33:

Matthew 6

33But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Again let's think about this as realistically as we can. You see there in the last part of verse 33—“All things shall be added unto you”—God is not saying that material things are wrong. God is not saying that there is anything wrong with being wealthy. In fact, He has entrusted many believers with wealth, particularly in our generation and in our nation; and we whom God has not entrusted with wealth should not think there is anything wrong with those people, because the Scriptures do not say, “Be ye poor.” It says, “Be poor in spirit,” and things like that, but there is no commandment that says in order to be a good Christian, you have to be poor. Neither is there a commandment, incidentally, that in order to be a good Christian, you have to be rich. Acquisitions, material things, are a matter of what God provides for you as you walk in obedience to Him. That is to be the attitude.

God's Material Provision

Notice what he says: “All these things shall be added unto you.” How? In verse 33: “As you seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Notice that these things He is referring to are the very things that in verse 32, the Gentiles are seeking. You see that? “For after all these things do the Gentiles seek.”

Not ice the word seek . I think if we could understand that in its original statement, we would see that it characterizes very completely the attitude of many, many in our world today. The New American Standard version translates that verse: “After all these things the Gentiles are eagerly seeking.” That is the idea. They are eagerly seeking. We might even more literally say, “They are knocking themselves out to acquire things.” And yet God says that the Father knows that ye have need of these things. There is nothing wrong with things. God knows that you need them. But how are we as believers to go about those things? Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and He will add these things as He knows you need them.

In summary, what we are saying is that the things which are above that Paul is speaking about to the Colossians, which we are to seek, are not material acquisitions, but the seeking of God's standards in our lives. Now, that is a reversal of the thinking of most people in our society, in our culture today. But as we seek to know the Lord, and as we seek to walk with Him, God will take care of those material acquisitions.

If we, as believers, are going to be obedient to the Word of God in this area, for most of us, this involves a real change of thinking, a real change of priorities simply because of the society in which we live. We are just geared to think that way. We are bombarded with advertisements. We're bombarded with peer group pressure to get and to have more and more, to keep up with the Joneses and to keep up with the other neighbors, whatever their names may be. That is just part of our culture. But God says that that is not part of His culture. Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and He will take care of the things that the Gentiles are knocking themselves out for.

Attitude Concerning Affections

Go back to Colossians, chapter 3, verses 2 and 3. Notice that the attitude that we are to have in reaction to the knowledge of Christ has to do with our affections also. Not only will it have to do with our attitude concerning acquisitions, but a new attitude concerning affections. Notice in verses 2 and 3:

Colossians 3

2Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
3For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.

These verses are actually dealing with the same principle, but now in the area of our thoughts and values. In other words, how do we decide what is legitimate and what is not legitimate for a Christian to be involved in? How do we decide what things we are going to concentrate on? How do we decide what things that we are going to be involved in, that we are going to give ourselves to? Some people make this decision by picking out certain ungodly things and denouncing and shunning those things. Following that line of reasoning, it seems to be the more one hates, the more godly he seems to be. The more things he is denouncing and the more things he is staying away from, the more godly he must be.

This is going to sound like heresy to some of you, but do you know that is really the reverse of God's plan? Oh, God wants us to stay away from sin, and God want us to denounce apostasy and all those things, but God's approach to it, God's plan to produce that kind of results, is much different than the humanistic plan that many Christians pursue. I think many genuine Christians are deeply misled about this issue of our affection. Notice what he says in 2:

Colossians 3

2Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

You know there are many fine, sincere Christians who are not obedient to the Word of God in this verse. They are setting their hatreds on things below. And you see what God says. “Set your affections on things above.” There is not a word about what we are to hate, not a word about what we are to denounce—rather, what we are to love. This is the attitude that a person with a proper reaction to the knowledge of Christ should have: “Set your affections on things above.” We might say that if we set our affections on things above, the hatreds will take care of themselves. As someone said one time, “If you love the right things, you will also hate the things God wants you to hate.” You will be able to stay away from sin. You will be able to point out sin to another brother who may be overtaken in it. You will be able to discern the difference between right and wrong, but let's just be sure we go about it in God's way. Let's set our affections on things above. In fact, interestingly enough, I think if we were to fulfill the Word of God in this area, we would find ourselves with very little time for hatred.

Concentrate On Right Things

Another passage that deals with this very clearly, is Philippians chapter 4, verse 8. Very poetically stated, but very clear truth along this line, and something, I think, many of us as believers need to be reminded of.

Philippians 4

8Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

It is obvious that these broad categories cover a number of specific things—“whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure.” Now all of those terms include a lot of things, but if you and I concentrate on these just and honest and good and pure things and not spend our time hating the things that are not just and honest and pure, we would discover that we would have very little time to concentrate on those negative things. And that is God's approach. A person who understands the knowledge of Christ, a person who is reacting properly to the wonderful truth that Christ in you is the hope of glory, is a person who is going to be concentrating on truth and honesty and purity; and thoughts that would attempt to come into our minds that are not pure and honest and just will be put out of our mind as we are obedient to the Word of God, and we will be concentrating on the things that are right. Obviously, if we do that, we will be staying away from those things that are wrong and our lives will show a clear-cut distinction from the things of Satan and the things that are not of God.

Guard Against Legalism

If we have this attitude concerning our affections, it will be a guard against legalism. You know, there are many things which people consider part of a good Christian testimony that are really not Scriptural kinds of things. I refer to this sometimes as the building of fences . For example, the Scripture says, “Do not get drunk.” That is a clear-cut statement of Scripture, and there is no way to argue about it. The Scripture clearly says, “Do not get drunk.” There are many passages that say that and there are many reasons given. Some well-meaning Christian may say, “If the Word of God says, 'Don't get drunk,' then I'm going to build a fence around that commandment, and I'm going to never even take a single drink. That is the way that I am going to insure that I never disobey the Word of God.” That is a very wise practice, incidentally—to be sure that you consider all of the things that might lead to disobedience of the Word and even try to avoid those things. Some other brother may come along, however, and say, “If the Word of God says, 'Don't get drunk,' then not only am I not going to take a drink, I'm not even going to go into a place where they sell alcoholic beverages, whether it is a grocery store or restaurant, or whatever, I am not even going to go in that place.” That is well and good, too, and that is the liberty and the responsibility of an individual to decide.

The problem comes, however, and legalism creeps in and setting our hatreds on things below creeps in, when we begin to attack one another's fences. The brother who says, “I'm not going to get drunk, and in order to keep from getting drunk, I'm not even going to go into the places where they sell liquor,” sees his friend who has said, “I'll not take a single drink,” but that friend hasn't said anything about going where they sell it. So that friend who would never take a single drink is willing to shop for groceries in a store where they sell alcoholic beverages, or is willing to eat in a restaurant where they sell alcoholic beverages, and the brother who won't even go in such a place begins to denounce his brother who will. You see, that is setting our hatreds on things below. That begins to be nit-picking and hatred and divisive; and God says, “You set your affections, you set your desires, you set your goals, to being obedient to my Word, and don't worry about all these things below. These things will take care of themselves.”

You see, if we would individually be responsible to God to obey His instructions concerning drunkenness and all of His many other instructions and not worry about how our brother decides he's going to do that, just worry about ourselves obeying it, and worry about whether our heart is right, then we will have the proper affections; then we will have the proper attitudes toward the knowledge of Christ.

Attitude Toward Aspirations

Finally, in verse 4, Paul tells us what our attitude should be as to our aspirations, as we react to the knowledge of Christ. Notice in verse 4, of Colossians, chapter 3:

Colossians 3

4When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.

Paul has talked about our attitudes toward acquistions. He's talked about our attitudes concerning our affections. Now, in that same vein, he talks about our attitudes concerning our aspirations. All of these, you see, are closely intertwined. They are very similar, yet they are different.

What is your goal in life? What is the thing that you look forward to most greatly? For the Christian, reacting properly to the knowledge of Christ, that goal, that aspiration, that thing that we look forward to most, should be seeing Christ in His glory and to be in His presence in Heaven. You see what it says:

Colossians 3

4When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.

That should be our attitude—that dream of being with Him in glory. One of the basic facts of life is that everyone has to live somewhere forever. I hope you have considered that fact. Life doesn't just end at the grave. Life goes on either in eternal damnation in Hell or in eternal bliss with God in Heaven, and that is a basic fact of life that you must contend with.

Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins that we might not have to spend eternity in Hell, but if you do not accept the provision that Christ has made, you are already destined for that place. You have to spend eternity somewhere, and in the scope of eternity, some of the things that seem important to us now are going to seem awfully insignificant. Even in the temporal life, things have a way of changing in importance. If you will think about it for just a minute, you will realize the things that are important to you now, probably were not nearly so important ten years ago, some of them, at least. And some of the things that are so very important to you now, will seem very insignificant ten years from now. That is why we have high school and college reunions—to laugh about how things have changed, to kid each other about how much hair we have lost and how much different we look and all that sort of thing. That is because things have a way of changing.

Importance of Eternal Values

Eternal values may not seem of very great importance to you, but I guarantee you, as we stand in the presence of Jesus Christ, our acquisitions and our affections will be glaring in our consciousness, whether they have been what Christ would have them be, or whether they have been not what Christ would have them be. You're going to probably have a very different outlook as you stand in the presence of Jesus Christ. Our aspirations, as we react properly to the knowledge of Christ, should be to stand in His presence and to be at peace with Him and to know that our lives, since the time that we found Jesus Christ as Savior, have reflected His glory. “When Christ who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with Him in glory.”

John sums up this whole concept, very accurately, in I John, chapter 3, verses 2 and 3:

I John 3

2Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
3And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

Do you see what those verses are saying? These verses, incidentally, are typical of all of prophecy in the Scriptures. God did not give us prophetic Scripture to make us prophets. There are many sincere but misled Christians who are putting that emphasis on prophecy, too, who are misusing the Word of God in that way. God did not give us prophecy to make us prophets. God gave us prophecy to comfort our hearts as we see things beginning to shake and fall apart around us. God has given us enough information in His Word that we should have stability. God has also given us prophecy to remind us of the purity that our lives ought to reflect as we wait for Jesus Christ to come.

Notice verse 3 of I John 3:

I John 3

3And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

What is your aspiration? Paul says to the Colossians that our aspiration ought to be to recognize that we are going to stand in the presence of Christ, and our goal, our aspiration, ought to be to be able to stand there satisfied, to be able to stand there purified:

I John 3

3And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

Conclusion

What effect is the knowledge of Christ having on your life with eternity's values in view? The knowledge of Christ is a wonderful thing, and to have this knowledge, Paul says to the Colossians and to us, should have a definite impact on our lives. It should make a difference. Specifically, it should affect our attitudes toward our acquisitions, toward the place where we set our affections, and toward our aspirations in life. God help us to react properly to the knowledge of Christ.


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