(Colossians 3:1-4) “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
This passage from Apostle Paul’s letter to the Christians at Colossae expresses the implications of Christ’s work on our behalf in our servanthood that follows. Here, the indicatives of the gospel — who we are by God’s grace — drive the imperatives for our lives — what we should do as a consequence of that grace. The concept of union with Christ is a phrase found throughout Apostle Paul’s theology, especially developed in Philippians. For instance -, in referring to his imprisonment because of Christ, the apostle refers to a greater imprisonment of being in Christ, (Philippians 1:13, NKJV) “so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ.” To be “in Christ” is the opposite of being in the flesh (cf. Philippians 3:3-4).
The statement “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God,” indicates the identity with Christ that we have in our union with him. To understand what it means to be “hidden with Christ,” we should look at the broad picture of how the Bible depicts “hiding.” It appears in many places in Scripture, and very early in the story. As soon as sin entered the world, Adam and Eve tried to clothe themselves with fig leaves and hide from God. What a tragic response to the same voice that not only had spoken them into existence, but also called them into fellowship with him. Instead of running to God’s voice, they fled from him and tried to hide. Their attempt to protect themselves was futile, but God in his grace gave them a covering for their sin in place of the all-consuming judgment that was the due penalty for their rebellion. Humankind has been running from God ever since (Romans 5:12).
During Moses’ intercession (Exodus 33:12-23), he asked the LORD to show him his glory. The LORD indulged his servant and said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘the LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will show mercy on whom I will show mercy … But … you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” God had to instruct Moses to hide in the cleft of a nearby rock as His glory passed by that place. This was to protect Moses from the awesome glory of God’s presence. Though the passage speaks of the “goodness” of God the Father, the revelation of God’s glory shows that it is at once good, fearsome, and irradiating for mortal beings.
It is the same with us in eternal terms. We are not only saved from the world, the flesh and the devil, but we are primarily and ultimately saved from God’s righteous fury — his good and holy reaction to these other forces (Hebrews 10:31).
A cataclysmic scene unfolds at the climax of the Bible: “Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb'” (Revelation 6:15-16). But this time, there is no mercy. It is the climactic day of God’s judgment. The slain Lamb is now the devouring Lion, and there will be no place for his enemies to hide.
Between Genesis and Revelation stands the cross. It is the juncture of history, as God’s mercy and justice come together like streams meeting in a river. Crashing together at the cross, they overtake the Savior in a deluge of judgment, yet become the river of life for his people. The cross is the only point where God’s infinite love and his infinite justice intersect, and neither are diminished (Romans 5:8-9).
What should afflict our spirits is that in order for God’s just judgment to pass by sinners like you and me, it has to find Jesus. That is what it means for us to be “hidden with Christ.” At the cross, the full, unbridled wrath of God descended upon Jesus, and, in that moment of judgment, there was nowhere for Jesus to retreat — no fig leaves or shade trees. Jesus, for us, is exposed to the all-consuming expression of sin’s cruelty and the wrath of God. No friends come to defend him; no lamb is offered in his place; no one negotiates his release. I once had the blessing of singing a contemporary version of the classic lyric, “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee,” and I Corinthians 10:4 says that the “spiritual drink” and the “spiritual Rock” is Christ himself.
For the Bible to so clearly show how holy and sacred God is, and how sinful and profane we are, and yet proclaim that we are hidden in him with his Son, profoundly shows the power that is in the person of Christ to bridge the gulf that we never could. Draped in our shame, crowned with our thorns, and vulnerable to the judgment of God that we deserve, he endured trials and conflicts to be identified with us. Following his example, we should learn to see our trials and conflicts as means by which we are identified with Christ.
Dr. Steven Lawson said, “If you do not receive Christ as the Lamb who saves and delivers, you will face him as the Lion who stalks and devours.” Outside of Christ, there is no safe place to hide, but being found in Christ there is protection and peace (I Peter 3:18-21). Jesus is our hiding place.
A debtor to mercy alone, of covenant mercy I sing;
Nor fear, with your righteousness on, my person and off’ring to bring.
The terrors of law and of God with me can have nothing to do;
My Savior’s obedience and blood hide all my transgressions from view.