Hidden Christians?

When Paul wrote the epistle to the Colossians, they had seen better days. An earthquake had destroyed their edifices, leaving life forever changed and unsettled. There was no such thing as normal anymore. On top of that, they were about to face some major religious persecution by unbelieving Judaizers and Gnostics. These brethren needed encouragement and exhortation. So, Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote the little letter to the Colossians, Christians who lived in a world that did not understand who they were or what they were doing. Can you relate?

I love the way Paul described their Christianity:

[box type=”shadow” align=”aligncenter” ]For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory (Col. 3:3-4).[/box]

Christians died, but they are not dead. That these Colossian Christians had died is a fact that Paul already established (Col. 2:20). In fact, he said they had been buried (2:12). Paul said they died with Christ, were buried with Him in baptism, and were raised with Him. A Christian’s life is far from dead. Christ has given us life! In fact, He has become my life (Col. 3:4). Notice that, while this relates to eternal life in heaven, this life specifically refers to living the Christian life here, in preparation for the heavenly home. Yes, Christians died with Christ, but in so doing they connected with the very Source of spiritual life (John 1:4; 14:6; Gal. 2:20; Phil. 1:21; 4:13) and the One in Whom eternal life rests (John 4:14; 11:25; Titus 1:2; 3:7).

Christians’ lives are hidden, yet glorious. How can you hide something as beautiful as a life that has been transformed by the great Life-Giver? Well, in what way is a Christian’s life “hidden?” Some assert that Paul is talking about their salvation and that it is secure to the extent that these Christians will never fall (Barnes, a Calvinist, is among those who so profess). While God promises security for our souls (2 Tim. 1:12), that security is based upon our continued obedience (1 John 1:7). Otherwise, why does John warn Christians to “keep [themselves] from idols” (1 John 5:21)? Why does Jude exhort us to “keep [ourselves] in the love of God” (Jude 21) if we can’t fall back into sin? Why would Peter warn us to watch out for Satan if our souls are kept from falling away (1 Pet. 5:8)? This isn’t what Paul was talking about when he said Christians’ lives are “hidden with Christ in God.”

We see the answer when we consider verses three and four together. There’s coming a time when Christ will appear (to show or to reveal oneself to someone), and, when He does, Paul said that we (Christians) will also appear (same word) with Him in glory. [highlight]Here’s the point: right now, the world doesn’t understand us. We have died, yet we live, but we do not live for ourselves anymore, we live for Christ (cf. Gal. 2:20). A world that rejects Christ just won’t get that. But one day, when Christ comes again, the world will understand (Phil. 2:10-11; Rom. 14:11). God’s people will appear with Him in glory.[/highlight] Lightfoot says,

[box type=”shadow” align=”aligncenter” ]The veil which now shrouds your higher life from others, and even partly from yourselves will then be withdrawn. The world which persecutes, despises, ignores now, will then be blinded with the dazzling glory of the revelation (St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, J. B. Lightfoot, p 210).[/box]

Inspiration says is best:

[box type=”shadow” align=”aligncenter” ]Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2).[/box]

[box type=”shadow” align=”aligncenter” ]And if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Rom. 8:17-18).[/box]

[box type=”shadow” align=”aligncenter” ]For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself (Phil. 3:20-21).[/box]