The Hidden Life Of A Christian - Part III
Adapted from a Sermon By
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:3
This morning we return once more to Isaac Watts sermon about the hidden life of a Christian.
It is to the Christian converts who were at Colosse, that the apostle addresses himself, in this strange language: You have died, and yet I tell you where your life is. This inspired writer delights sometimes to surprise his readers, by joining such opposites, and bringing together such distant extremes. But can a dead person have any life in him? Yes, and a noble one too, you are dead to the world, and dead to sin, but you have a life of another kind than that which belongs to the sinners of this world: your life is spiritual and holy; theirs is sinful, and engaged in the works of the flesh: your life is heavenly, and seeks the things which are above; theirs is derived from the earth, and grovels in the dust: your life is everlasting, for your souls will live for ever in a glorious state, and your bodies will be raised from death into equal immortality, and a partnership of the same glory; but their best life is only a temporal one, and when that is at an end, all their joys and their hopes are forever at an end too, and their eternal sorrows begin.
But this life of a Christian is a hidden life. That was the first doctrine we observed from the text. Both the operations and the springs of it, are a secret to the world, and the future glories of it, when it is most properly called eternal life, are still a greater secret, and much more unknown: Yet, said the apostle, I can tell you where the springs of it lie, and where all the future glories of it are to be derived; they are hidden in God, with our Lord Jesus Christ. Now by giving so short a hint, in a word or two, where this our life is hid, he has said something greater, and brighter, and more sublime, concerning it, than if he had shown us, from a high mountain, at noon-day, all the kingdoms of this world, with all the dazzling glories of them, and then pointed downward, "there your life is."
Let this therefore be the second doctrine, and the subject of our meditations this morning, that the life of a Christian is hidden with Christ in God. It is hidden in God, as he is the first original and eternal source of it, and entrusted with Christ as a faithful Mediator; it is hid in God, where our Lord Jesus Christ is, and he is appointed to take care of it for us; for he is also, in verse 4, called our life ; ver. 4.
And now the way we will approach this truth in order to best lay hold of it, will be to first carefully examine the words the apostle uses, and then to draw some conclusion or inferences from them.
The first question which comes up, is in what respect the Christian life is said to be hidden in God?
And, in the second place, what is meant by its being hidden with Christ?
I. First, In what respect is the life of a Christian said to be hidden in God?
The word God is taken in scripture, either in general for the divine nature, which is the same in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or, in particular, for the person of the Father. And there seems to be no absolute need to determine, precisely, which was the meaning of the apostle in this place. The three particulars by which an attempt will be made to explain it, will include both. The life of a Christian is hidden in God; that is, in the all-sufficiency of the divine nature, in the purpose of the divine will, and in the secret engagements of the Father to his Son Jesus Christ, in the covenant of redemption.
1. The Christian's life is hidden in the all-sufficiency of the divine nature. And there are immense stores of life, of every kind, hidden in God, in this sense. This whole world of beings, that have, and do not have souls, with all the infinite varieties of the life of plants, animals, and angels, were hidden in this fruitful and inexhaustible mine of the divine all-sufficiency, before God began to create a world. All things were then hidden in God; for of him are all things, and from him all things proceeded; For from him and through him and to him are all things, Rom 11:36. Now this all-sufficiency of God consists in those powers and perfections, whereby he is able to do all things for his creatures; and ready to do all for his saints; these powers are most notably his wisdom, his almightiness, and his goodness.
There are inconceivable riches of goodness and grace in God, which provide for the life of all his saints; and all the unknown preparations of future glory are the effects of his grace. Eph. 2:4. God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ; and he did it for this purpose, that in the ages to come, he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus: ver. 7. Not all the goodness that appears in the rich provision he has made for all the natural world of creatures, nor all the overflowing gifts of his providence, since the first creation, are equal to those unsearchable treasures of mercy and goodness, which he has poured out for the spiritual welfare, and eternal life and happiness of his own chosen children; and in the secret of this grace all the blessings of his covenant were hidden from eternity.
The divine wisdom is another part of his all-sufficiency. There are in God infinite varieties of thought and counsel, riches of knowledge, and unsearchable wisdom; and he has made these abound in his new creation, as well as in the old; in the supernatural, as well as in the natural world. He lavished the riches of his grace upon us, sinners, in this work of salvation, in all wisdom and insight. Eph. 1. 8. What surprising wisdom appears in the life of even the most lowly animal! What glorious design, and divine skill, to give life to clay, and make a fly, a dog, or a lion of it! What sublime heights of wisdom to create a living man, and join these two distinct extremes, flesh and spirit, in such a vital union, that has puzzled the philosophers of every ages. And what an amazing work of God, is it, to turn a dead sinner into a living saint, here on earth! and then to provide a heaven, with everything needed, for the eternal life and dwelling of his sons and his daughters! What divine skill is required here! What immense profusion of wisdom, to form bodies of immortality and glory, for every saint, out of the dust of the grave, and the ashes of martyred Christians! And so it is that our spiritual and our eternal life are hid in the wisdom of God.
The power of God is all-sufficient also. The power that gives life and raises a soul to this divine life, must be almighty; Eph. 1. 19, 20. It is the same exceeding greatness of his power that works in us who believe, which worked in our Lord Jesus Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right-hand in the heavenly places. It is the same powerful word that commanded the light to shine out of darkness, that shone into our hearts, when he introduced the knowledge of Christ there; 2 Cor. 4. 6. and when he commanded us, who lay among the dead, to awake, and arise, and live. Was it not a noble instance of power, to unfold this infinite universe, with all the myriads of galaxies in them, the planets and the stars? And the same hand is mighty enough, if these were not sufficient, to build a brighter heaven, fit for the saints to live in during all their immortality, and to supply them with a life that will be incorruptible and everlasting. Thus the life of the saints is hidden in the almightiness of God, as well as in his wisdom and goodness. Thus it is contained in the all-sufficiency of the divine nature, and each part of it is ready to be unfolded, in every proper season.
2. The life of a Christian is hidden in the purposes of the divine will. And in this sense, the whole gospel, with all its wondrous glories and mysteries, is said to be hid in God; Eph. 3. 9. When the apostle Paul preached among the gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, he unfolded something of that mystery, which from the beginning of the world had been hid in God. And if this is compared with Eph. 1. 9. (making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ) we will find that this mystery of the will, or good-pleasure of God, was that which he eternally purposed in himself.
There is not one dead sinner awakened, and called into this divine and spiritual life here, or that will ever have eternal life hereafter, but it was contained in the eternal secret purpose, and merciful design of God, before the world began. For it is a demeaning and a disgraceful opinion concerning the great God, to imagine that he should exert his power to work life in souls, here in time, by any new purposes, or sudden new plans, brought about by some act of man which he had not forseen. This doctrine would represent God as a changeable being: but we know that he is unchangeable. There is nothing new in God; and his immutability is that perfection of his nature which ensures the carrying out of this divine purpose, and the life of every Christian.
3. It ought to be added in the third place that the life of a Christian is hidden in the unknown engagements of the Father to his Son Jesus Christ the Mediator. That sacred and divine transaction between the Father and the Son, is often hinted at in the holy scriptures, and some of the promises of that covenant are pictured there; Psalm 89. 19, 28, 29, 36, &c. I have granted help to one who is mighty; My steadfast love I will keep for him forever, and my covenant will stand firm for him. I will establish his offspring forever and his throne as the days of the heavens. Then when the counsel of peace shall be between them both, as it is expressed in Zech. 6. 13. then did the Father promise that out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied, Is 53:11 raising sinners from among the dead, to be made living saints in the world of grace, and in the world of glory.
Many of these promises are transcribed as it were, into the covenant of grace, and they are written down in scripture for our present consolation and hope; and many others are, doubtless, concealed from all but Jesus the Mediator; they are hidden from men and angels, and reserved to be known, by surprising revelation, in the future bright ages, beyond the date of time, and to entertain the long successions of our eternity. Now the truth and faithfulness of God are those attributes of his nature which secure this covenant, and all the promises which accompany it; both those which are revealed to the children of men, and those that are known only to the Son and the Father: but it is sufficiently evident, that all the degrees and powers of the spiritual and eternal life of the saints, with all the graces, glories and blessings that will ever accompany them, are hidden and laid up in these sacred engagements and promises.
II. This leads us to the second question; and that is, what is meant by these words, with Christ, in our text? and how the Christian life is hidden with Christ?
We close with a consideration of these three ways in which the Christian’s life is hidden with Christ:
1. First, our life is hidden with Christ, as he is the great Treasurer and Dispenser of all blessings. This is the high office to which the Father has appointed him; and this is the role he fulfils; and he is abundantly able to carry out this great trust. In this sense, all the stores of life and blessing, that ever shall be bestowed on the sinful race of Adam, are laid up in the hands of Christ, the Son of God. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell ; Col. 1. 19. And he was all of grace and truth, that of his fulness we might receive grace upon grace ; John 1. 14, 16. That is, a variety of graces and blessings corresponding to that rich variety, with which our Lord Jesus Christ, the high-treasurer of heaven, was furnished from the hand of the Father. And to this purpose, perhaps, the words of John 5. 26. may be interpreted, compared with ver. 21. As the Father has life in himself, so has he granted the Son also to have life in himself; that as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.
The blessed Spirit himself, as He is the great promise of the New Testament, and the glorious gift of God to men, was communicated to the Son, and by him bestowed upon us: for he went to heaven to receive the promise of the Spirit from the Father, and he poured Him out upon the apostles and the believers; Acts 2.33. It is this Spirit who gave miraculous gifts to them in the early days of the church. It is the Spirit that is the immediate principle, or worker, of divine life in dead souls now, and it is by this same Spirit, that he will raise our dead bodies from the grave; Rom. 8. 11. He is the source of our spiritual and eternal life; and he is given to us from the Father, by the hands of the Son.
And here it is good to notice of the way in which the Lord Jesus Christ is the treasurer, or keeper of life, and all divine benefits for the saints, and becomes the dispenser of these to his people: He is ordained to stand in the relation of a head to them, and they are his body, his members. And so our life is hidden with Christ as he is the vital head of all his saints. Christ is the head of his own mystical body; Eph. 4. 14, 16. from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped increases to its own edification: and it is the same vital spirit that runs through head and members. He who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him; 1 Cor. 6. 17. and therefore partakes of the same life.
And so you see, that though the life of a Christian is hidden in God, in the all-sufficiency of his nature, and the purposes of his will; yet our Lord Jesus Christ, as Mediator, is entrusted to keep it for him, and dispense it to him.
2. In the second place, our life is hidden with Christ, as he is our forerunner, and the possessor of life, spiritual and eternal, in our name. And this can be described in a number of ways.
i) When his human nature was first formed complete in holiness, it was a pledge and assurance, that we should one day be completely holy too; for, as is the head, so must the members be. In the original sanctification of his Spirit, flesh, and blood, we may read the certain future sanctification of every believing soul, with its body too; see John 17. 19. and Heb. 2. 11.
ii) Again, when his body was raised from the dead, it was a pledge and pattern of our being raised from death in sin, to the spiritual life of a saint, as well as a certain assurance of the resurrection of our bodies into future glory. The first is evident from Eph. 2. 5. When we were dead in our trespasses, (He) made us alive together with Christ. And Rom. 6. 4. just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life; for … we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his; ver. 5. And in 1 Cor. 15. 12, &c. the apostle builds his whole argument of the resurrection of the bodies of saints who are dead, from the rising of our Lord Jesus Christ out of his grave when he concludes: But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead; ver. 20. the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. And as all that are united to Adam, by having him for their head must die; so all who are one with Christ, and have him for their head, shall be made alive; which seems to be the meaning of the 22d verse: As in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
When he ascended into the heavens, it was not merely in his own name, but in ours too, to take possession of the inheritance for the saints in light. Heb.6. 20. Our hope enters within the veil, where Jesus the forerunner has entered for us. And when he sat down at the right-hand of God in the heavenly places, it was as the great forerunner of our future advancement, and thereby gave us assurance, that we should sit down there too: and therefore the apostle, in the language of faith, anticipates these divine honours, and applies them to the Ephesians beforehand: God raised us up with him, says he, and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Eph. 2. 6.
It was by the blood of the eternal covenant, that Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep was brought again from the dead, and it was the God of peace who raised him; Heb 13. 20. And it is by virtue of his own blood, and righteousness, that he, who once took our sins upon himself, is now set free: It is through his own sufferings that he is accepted before the throne, and enjoys a divine life in the unchangeable favour of God; and all this as our head, surety, and representative, giving us assurance by this, that we, through the blood of the same covenant, will be raised again from the dead also; that we by virtue of the same righteousness, and the all-sufficiency of the same sacrifice, will appear one day before God in glory, and stand in his eternal favour; and as an earnest of it, we enjoy a life of holy peace and acceptance with God in this world, through the same all-sufficient blood and righteousness: for he appears in the holy of holies, in heaven itself, in the presence of God for us; Heb. 9. 24. He secures all the glories and blessings of spiritual and eternal life for us, as he has taken possession of them in our name.
3. And lastly, our life of grace, and especially our life of glory, may be said to be hidden with Christ, because he dwells in heaven, where God resides in glory; God, in whom is our life. He is seated at the right-hand of the Majesty on high; Heb. 12. 2. There our eternal life is. The things which are above, are the objects of our joyful hope, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God; Col. 3. 1. It is the short, but sublime description of our heaven, that we will be at home with the Lord, we will be where Christ is, to behold his glory; 2 Cor. 5. 8. , John 17. 24. And will possess all that unknown and rich countless blessings which are reserved for us in the heavenly places, where Christ our Lord is ascended.
And so we have, in the largest and most comprehensive sense, what we are to understand by the life of a Christian hidden with Christ in God: it is reserved in the all-sufficiency, the purposes, and the engagements of God, under the care of the Mediator, and in the presence of Christ.
The next time we come to this sermon, God willing, if the Lord has not yet returned, we will draw from this doctrine some inferences for our instruction, and some inferences for our consolation.