Set Your Mind on Things Above

By Rob Jensen

Colossians 3:1-17

The book of Colossians, like many of Paul’s books, establishes the basis and importance of doctrine for the believer. Paul had many converts in Colossae but following right behind his work were the servants of Satan who caused confusion regarding God’s message that had been delivered through Paul. Some of the areas of confusion involved pursuit of false knowledge, Gnosticism, and Asceticism (Col. 2). It is in that background that Paul began his reminder and exhortation to the Church as a preventative letter to these false teachings.

Paul started this section with: “Therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ” (Col. 3:1). The word “if” would be better translated “since” as it indicates Paul’s confidence in the salvation of many in the Colossian church. “Raised up with Christ” is our place positionally, as Paul reminded the Ephesians:

even when we were dead in our transgressions, [God] made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:5-6).

This brings us to the first of two commands in these first two verses: “keep seeking the things above” (Col. 3:1). This first command is a continuous action of seeking with a purpose and target. Salvation brings about the reality of being a “new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17). We now have the Holy Spirit indwelling us and illuminating God’s Word for us. God’s Word is our guidebook while we are here on earth – it helps us to understand the “things above.”

The second command is in Col. 3:2: “Set your mind on the things above.” Paul commanded believers to have a new way of thinking – a new mindset. We now think and live as those released from a life of slavery to sin to those who now live as slaves to Christ (Col. 3:3).

These two commands, “keep seeking” and “set your mind on the things above,” create the basis for the instruction given in verses 5 through 17.

Colossians 3:5-7 details some of the things that were normal in our unsaved state – “immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed” – all things that do not control us in our new lives in Christ. Paul wrote that we are dead to these things. In verses 8 and 9, Paul continued with the things we shouldn’t be doing: “anger, wrath, malice, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another.”

The focus changes from what we shouldn’t be doing to what we are to be doing because of our “new self” in verse 10.

New characteristics in the life of the believer are listed in verses 12-15:

a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.

Verse 16 points again to the importance of the Word in the life of the believer:

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

This verse points again to the importance of having our minds set on the things above.

As we focus on the Word of God, we will develop the proper attitude in all that we do, which Paul expresses in verse 17:

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”

So how are we doing in our daily walk in Christ? Are we seeking and setting our mind on the things above? Are all our activities focused on bringing honor to the name of the Lord Jesus?

Paul expressed how he lived his life in Philippians 1:21: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”