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Home » Daily Readings, New Testament Writers

Colossians 3:1-11 A Life Hidden In Christ

Submitted by on Wednesday, 9 September 20093 Comments

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We are already aware of the idea that for Paul, the Christian’s baptism has united him/her to the death and resurrection of Christ. This is precisely what he says in Colossians 2:11-15, specifically in that part where he talks about the spiritual circumcision received by the Colossians in baptism:

In him you were also circumcised … having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

In Colossians 3:1-11, Paul draws some moral considerations from the theological idea of the new status of the Colossians received in baptism. First he talks about being raised with Christ (1-2) and then with their having died with Christ (3-6).

Txt-col3_1-11

As a first moral consequence of their baptism, the Colossians will have to fix their gaze on what is heavenly, for that is where Christ is, and in a hidden way — hidden to those who do not know them — it is also where they are. The idea of fixing one’s thoughts on the heavenly is repeated in different ways in the other Pauline epistles. New in Colossians is what Paul says about the Christians, that their lives “are now hidden with Christ in God.” By Baptism, the Colossians have received an “upgrade”, they even now share the life of Christ who sits at the right hand of God. Traditional Catholic spiritual theology talks about this in terms of the “supernatural life”, where by baptism the Christian already even in this life share the Divine life through “grace”. This idea has prompted a popular preacher — the late Fulton J. Sheen whose case is now being processed for sainthood — to explain, that, the Christian is like the amphibious frog: he straddles both time and eternity, with one foot in earthly affairs and with the other in the realized expectation of heavenly ones. Pope Benedict XVI in his Spe salvi writes about this when he explains how Catholics understood Hebrews 11:1 as distinguished from the way Protestant exegesis influenced by Martin Luther understood it. The Catholic he says understand the text this way:

Faith is the reality of things hoped for,
the evidence of things unseen

Luther however made the text sound this way:

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for,
the conviction for things unseen.

For the Catholic, what is hoped for is already a reality present in the baptized in germine, in seed-like form that has to be nurtured and cared for. The way of life of the Catholic — his faith — is evidence that there is something there already, thus, the sacraments for example which are there to sustain the divine life in us as we go on our earthly pilgrimage.

The second aspect that Paul talks about is the moral consequence of the Colossians’ sharing in the death of Christ. We read about it in the Gospels when we hear Jesus tell his disciples that to follow him, one must deny oneself, carry the cross and follow Him. Paul’s command to “put to death” whatever is “earthly”, he is talking about what Catholics were hearing before as “mortification” — a word that is unfashionable nowadays. The idea however is that since by his baptism the Christian has died but is now living the life of Christ, his life should reflect the innocence of Christ. As a consequence, whatever he observes in himself that is sinful or incompatible with Christ should be “put to death”. In the Gospels, this is called “self-denial” or “cutting off and throwing away”

Colossians 2:11-15
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11In whom also you are circumcised with circumcision not made by hand, in despoiling of the body of the flesh, but in the circumcision of Christ:
12Buried with him in baptism, in whom also you are risen again by the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him up from the dead.
13And you, when you were dead in your sins, and the uncircumcision of your flesh; he hath quickened together with him, forgiving you all offences:
14Blotting out the handwriting of the decree that was against us, which was contrary to us. And he hath taken the same out of the way, fastening it to the cross:
15And despoiling the principalities and powers, he hath exposed them confidently in open shew, triumphing over them in himself.
Colossians 3:1-11
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1Therefore, if you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above; where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God:
2Mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth.
3For you are dead; and your life is hid with Christ in God.
4When Christ shall appear, who is your life, then you also shall appear with him in glory.
5Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, lust, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is the service of idols.
6For which things the wrath of God cometh upon the children of unbelief,
7In which you also walked some time, when you lived in them.
8But now put you also all away: anger, indignation, malice, blasphemy, filthy speech out of your mouth.
9Lie not one to another: stripping yourselves of the old man with his deeds,
10And putting on the new, him who is renewed unto knowledge, according to the image of him that created him.
11Where there is neither Gentile nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free. But Christ is all, and in all.
Hebrews 11:1
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1Now faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not.

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