Paul moves in his letter to the implications of practical union with the risen Christ. He gives a summary of what such practical union is before developing various consequences in more detail (3:5ff). The summary can be itemised as follows: (1) the secret of Christian living, (2) the strategy for Christian living, (3) the security of Christian living, and (4) the sequel to Christian living, and we can give a reading to each.
Normally, when individuals are eager for an achievement, they have an inner incentive which spurs them on. Some may engage in noble pursuits because they want to enhance their family name. Others may even give their lives because they love their country. There are many possible secret motives for a person’s outward actions.
What is it that makes Christians behave in particular ways? Paul is concerned about the behaviour of the Christians in Colosse and knows that different arguments are being used to influence them to behave in certain ways. These options are detailed in 2:16-23, and the motives for such lifestyle choices are also stated. Paul knew that these options were wrong, but he also knew that the Colossians had to have incentives that would produce right living.
The overall incentive for Paul was union with Christ. Paul wants the Colossians to consider a whole Christ, not a partial one. He has already referred to the motives and benefits that come from thinking about the Saviour’s death, but he knows that other aspects of the Saviour’s work must also be areas of focus. So he reminds the Colossians of another three features of Jesus – his resurrection, his exaltation (seated at the right hand of God), and his return.
Christians know some things about Jesus that others cannot see. This is the case with the deeper significance of what occurred at the cross (many saw a crucified victim, but saw nothing else; we have never seen his crucified body, but we know that he performed great achievements while he was crucified), and it is the case with what has happened to Jesus since then. We don’t know about them because we have seen them, but because we experience the consequences of them. We have not seen the risen Jesus, we have not seen him exalted, and his return has not yet happened. Yet each of these aspects affects us, and should affect us all the time.
As an illustration, imagine a person living in an obscure village who has a relative in an important government position in the capital city. The person in the village may not have seen the office in which the relative works, but he experiences his power in two ways. First, he experiences his power generally because the decisions the government minister makes affects everyone. Second, he experiences his power graciously because the minister has a family bond with him. In a similar but greater way, every Christian has this twofold link with Jesus – and the knowledge of this link is the secret that every Christian possesses for living the Christian life.