Interpreting 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. (ESV)
Paul is addressing people in Colossae, which was a city in Asia Minor/ Turkey. In this particular selection he is describing what should be the mindset of one who has been “raised with Christ.” Before that, however, in the end of chapter two, Paul was discussing things not to do, and the process of dying to the world. The first paragraph of Chapter three is thereby somewhat of a contrast, or shift in mood. It urges the reader to have a heavenly mindset, and to find life by centering it on Christ. The following paragraph returns to the subject of death to earthly things and warnings against immorality.
Colossae was inhabited predominantly by Gentiles, though there was a Jewish population of notable size. The church there was made up mostly of Gentiles. Though Paul did not visit Colossae, the church was started as a result of his ministry. The city was at that time not as large as it had been, but was still part of the trade route. A major issue during that time was that of syncretism, the attempt to blend opposing religions and philosophies.
Paul deals with the principle of the old life versus the new life. Christians should die to sin, and to their evil nature. In contrast, they are brought to life just as Christ was resurrected when they define life by Christ. God is pure and holy, so as his children and heirs, his “chosen ones, holy and beloved,” Christians must get rid of those things which are contrary to his nature.
For example, someone who idolizes material possessions or entertainment may need to re-allocate time and resources. Some people prioritize their favorite television show over their relationship with Christ. They may spend hours upon hours each week watching TV, while only a few minutes praying, reading, meditating, and studying. Others have a lustful habit of sexual indulgence. Whether physical or mental, it is easily accessible in today’s culture. This too is an example of an earthly thing that should be replaced with heavenly thoughts and actions.