The Believer's Identification With the Death and Resurrection of Christ

Colossians 3:1‑11  •  25 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Chapter 2:20–3:11
We now come to the practical part of the epistle wherein are the exhortations based on the truth that, as believers, we are dead and risen with Christ. The practical application of this great truth not only delivers believers from the four dangers mentioned in chapter 2, but it also leads to the setting forth of Christ characteristically in the saints, which answers to the Colossian aspect of the Mystery—“Christ in you, the hope of glory” (chap. 1:27).
Using again the typology in Israel’s journey to Canaan, the truth that is before us in this passage answers to Israel’s crossing of the Jordan river (Josh. 3-4). The Jordan River is a type of Christ’s death. Israel’s entrance into the riverbed answers to the believer’s death with Christ and Israel’s exit from the riverbed into the land of Canaan answers to the believer being risen with Christ. At that time, the children of Israel drew 12 stones out of the riverbed and placed them on Canaan’s shore for a memorial. This typifies the believer being risen, and seated in Christ, in heavenly places (Eph. 2:66And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: (Ephesians 2:6)).
The Practical Effect of Being Dead With Christ
Chap. 2:20-23—Paul speaks first of the practical ramifications of the believer being dead with Christ. He says, “If (since) ye have died with Christ from the elements of the world, why as if alive in the world do ye subject yourselves to ordinances?” Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch (things which are all for destruction in the using of them): according to the injunctions and teachings of men (which have indeed an appearance of wisdom in voluntary worship, and humility, and harsh treatment of the body, not in a certain honour), to the satisfaction of the flesh.” Paul’s point here is that since the saints have “died with Christ” to “the elements of the world,” why would they subject themselves to various ordinances of worldly religion that have been either invented by men or borrowed from Judaism? The believer is not only dead to the grosser things of the flesh, but also to worldly religion. Christians, generally, have not understood this and have mistakenly incorporated many carnal ordinances and rituals into their church services. W. Kelly said, “The great error of Christendom has always been a going back to ordinances” (Lectures on Colossians, p. 136). (Biblical Christianity has only two ordinances: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Baptism is performed once in a person’s lifetime and the breaking of bread at the Lord’s Supper is to be done weekly – Acts 20:77And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight. (Acts 20:7).)
The fact that these false teachers had encouraged the saints to engage in carnal ordinances of earthly religion proved that they were promoting something that was not a part of real Biblical Christianity. To help the Colossians to see this more clearly, Paul exposed the folly of seeking spiritual attainment through carnal ordinances and ascetic practices (punishing the body in an attempt to keep it from obeying the lusts of the flesh). He gives an example of the rules and regulations that accompany many of these ordinances—“Touch not, taste not, handle not.” These are human injunctions, which he calls “the commandments and doctrines of men,” by which misguided religious people vainly seek to control the flesh and to attain a higher spiritual life. Religion made up of trusting in ordinances and outward rituals may appeal to a man “living in the world,” but it is totally inconsistent with the believer who accepts the truth that he has died with Christ. Identification with Christ’s death has severed him from all that. In a parenthesis, Paul explains that those things were not spiritual at all, but carnal, and would “perish with the using” of them (vs. 22a).
As mentioned already, asceticism denies the body certain things (food, sleep, natural comforts, etc.) in order to purify the human spirit and to control lust, but in reality it only gratifies the flesh with the feeling of having acted in what it thinks is praiseworthy. The proud fallen nature gains a measure of satisfaction in trying to keep the body down; a person can be proud of what he has suffered. In another parenthesis, Paul explains this, stating that these things have “a show of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body” (vs. 23). After closing the parenthesis, he says that all such practice is only “to the satisfying of the flesh.” In spite of this air of pseudo-spirituality, thousands of monks have proved that these things do not control the indulgences of the flesh. They have starved their bodies, beaten their bodies, and made many earnest promises to God, etc., but no amount of will-power and physical suffering has changed the carnal mind of the flesh. The Lord taught this to Nicodemus. He said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:66That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:6)). That is, the flesh doesn’t change in man regardless of how many appliances are used to alter its propensities. After all such attempts to reform the flesh have been made it remains the same old flesh that it has always been.
In chapter 2:20-23, Paul does not describe a man who is striving to become dead. This is something that is not taught in Scripture, but sadly striven for by many well-meaning believers. They will say, “We have to die to ourselves so that Christ can live in us.” The truth is that the Christian is “dead with Christ” (vs. 20). He is also “dead to sin” (Rom. 6:22God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? (Romans 6:2)) and “dead to the Law” (Rom. 7:44Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. (Romans 7:4)). This is all a result of his identification with Christ’s death. Therefore, what is needed is not an effort to attain one’s death with Christ through ascetic practices, but to have the Spirit’s power to act on the fact that we have died with Him. This is taken up in detail in Romans 6-8.
The Practical Effect of Being Risen With Christ
Chapter 3:1-4—The counterpart to the believer’s identification with Christ’s death is the believer’s identification with Christ’s resurrection. Paul takes this up next. In chapter 2, he has shown that the practical effect of our death with Christ disconnects us from man’s world, man’s wisdom, and man’s religion. He now shows that the practical effect of our identification with Christ’s resurrection is to associate us with God’s world above and with all that is there. Hence, chapter 2:20-23 presents the negative side of this great truth and chapter 3:1-4 gives the positive side. The great difference between the two is that on the positive side we have an Object before us—Christ.
Paul says, “If (since) ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” Since it’s true that we are identified with Christ in His resurrection, we are to seek after those things which are in Christ on high. It may be asked, “What exactly are ‘those things which are above?’” They are our heavenly blessings and privileges that have been secured for us through Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension. In Christ risen, we have been introduced into a whole new sphere of things which has come into existence through His being glorified and seated at the right hand of God. These things did not exist while Christ was on earth.
F. B. Hole explained what setting our “mind on things that are above” means. He said, “We set our minds upon things above, not by reposing in arm-chairs and indulging in dreamy and mystical imaginings as to things that may be in heaven, but rather by setting our minds supremely upon Christ and seeking in all things the furtherance of Heaven’s interests. The British ambassador in Paris sets his mind on British things by seeking British interests in French circumstances, and not by continually sitting down to try and recall to his memory what British scenery is like” (Paul’s Epistles, vol. 2, pp. 105-106). Thus, the Christian whose mind is set on heavenly things is busy on earth pursuing the heavenly interests of Christ. These things would be: spreading the gospel, learning and teaching the truth, shepherding God’s people, etc. The person who is engaged in such has set his mind on things above, because those interests are centered in Christ above and have their ultimate end in Christ above.
It’s true that we have to provide for our temporal needs through secular employment, but we don’t have to set our affection on those earthly responsibilities. The danger for us is in getting absorbed with earthly things: Hence Paul’s admonition to set our minds on things above, and “not on things on the earth.” He adds, “For ye are dead.” In saying this, Paul was not teaching that the Christian is dead to nature—that is, to the natural things of this creation. The believer is dead to sin and to the world, but when it comes to natural things, God “giveth us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:1717Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; (1 Timothy 6:17)). Hence, it is fleshly and worldly things on earth that the believer is dead to, not natural things.
Paul then tells the Colossians that they shouldn’t expect the world to understand their pursuit of heavenly things, because the Christian’s life is “hid with Christ in God” (vs. 3). From whom is this life hidden? It is hidden from the men of the world. The men of this world do not understand Christians, as far as our inner springs and motives are concerned. They cannot figure out why we live the way we do, and for the things we live for—it makes no sense to them. The unbelieving man of the world lives and moves and has all his thoughts on the temporal things of this earth; he thinks that everyone should do as he does. When he sees a Christian “marching to the beat of a different drum,” it is all an enigma to him.
Having a hidden life with Christ in the sense in which Paul speaks here does not mean that we hide ourselves from the world literally. To sequester ourselves in our dwelling places and live a secluded, monk-like life would be counterproductive to our Christian testimony. On the contrary, God’s people are to be “the light of the world” and as “a city upon a hill” that “cannot be hid,” and thus they should be a bright and shining testimony before the world (Matt. 5:1414Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. (Matthew 5:14)). The main thrust of this Colossian epistle is to have the saints move together on earth in such a way that there would be a display before the world of the truth of the Mystery, which is: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (chap. 1:27).
Paul concludes by saying, “When Christ, who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory” (vs. 4). He brings this in to show that there is a day approaching when Christ and the Church will be manifested before the whole world (2 Thess. 1:1010When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. (2 Thessalonians 1:10)), and at that time it will be revealed before all what faith has led believers to do in this day. The revelation of that day will explain what we have been living for in this day (John 17:2323I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:23)). Correspondingly, Paul had only two days before him in his life and service: “this day” (Acts 20:2626Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. (Acts 20:26)) and “that day” (2 Tim. 1:12, 18; 4:812For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. (2 Timothy 1:12)
18The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well. (2 Timothy 1:18)
8Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:8)
). He lived his life in this present day of grace in view of that coming day of manifestation—and so should we.
A Character Change
Vss. 5-17—Being introduced into the life above with Christ necessitates that our old life which we once lived in our pre-conversion days, must go. The reason is simple: the two cannot go on together in a Christian’s life. Hence, what follows in this 3rd chapter is the exercise of divesting the character of the old life and putting on the character of the new, so that the divine objective of having a reproduction of Christ displayed in the saints would be achieved (chap. 1:27).
The Old Man
Hence, in this next series of verses, Paul makes a practical application concerning this character change based on the “old man” (vs. 9) and the “new man” (vs. 10). This is a subject that is not well understood. These two terms do not refer to the flesh and the new nature, as is commonly thought, but rather are abstract expressions that denote the corrupt state of the fallen race of Adam and the new moral order in the new creation race under Christ. The old man does not refer to Adam personally, but to what is characteristic of the fallen race of which he is the head. It is the embodiment of every ugly and sinful feature that marks that race. To see the old man properly we must look at the race as a whole, for it is unlikely that any one person would be marked by all of the features that characterize that corrupt state. For instance, one person may be characterized by being angry and deceitful, but he may not be immoral. Another person may not be known for losing his temper, nor for being deceitful, but he is terribly immoral. However, taking the race as a whole, we see a personification of all the ugly features that compose the old man.
This corrupt state has been condemned by God at the cross (Rom. 6:6; 8:36Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. (Romans 6:6)
3For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: (Romans 8:3)
) and is something that is put off by the believer when he gets saved. He may not be conscious of doing so at the time, but by taking the Christian stand, the believer by his profession dissociates himself from that corrupt state, for it is not part of what constitutes a Christian. Hence, as Christians, we are no longer associated with that old corrupt state. This putting off is stated in the aorist tense in the Greek, which refers to having done it once for all time. The KJV mistakenly renders Ephesians 4:2222That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; (Ephesians 4:22) as an exhortation, making the putting off of the old man something that we are to do in our lives on a daily basis. But the passage should read: “Having put off according to the former conversation, the old man ... .” This shows that the putting off of the old man is a thing that has been done in a believer’s life and the exhortations to him that follow in the passage are based on that fact.
As mentioned, the "old man" is often confused with the old nature (the flesh). This is a widespread misunderstanding among Christians. They will say things such as: “The old man in us desires things that are sinful.” Or, “Our old man wants to do this or that evil thing ... ” These statements are confusing the old man with the flesh. Scripture does not use the term in that way. J. N. Darby remarked, “The old man is being habitually used for the flesh incorrectly” (Food for the Flock, vol. 2, p. 286). One difference is that the old man is never said to be in us, while the flesh most certainly is. F. G. Patterson said, “Nor do I find that Scripture will allow us to say that we have the old man in us—while it teaches most fully that we have the flesh in us” (A Chosen Vessel, p. 51). Hence, it is not accurate to speak of the old man as being a thing living in us with appetites, desires, and emotions, as does the flesh. H. C. B. G. said, “I know what a Christian means who loses his temper, and says it is ‘the old man, yet the expression is wrong: If he said it was ‘the flesh,’ he would have been more correct” (Food for the Flock, vol. 2, p. 287). Moreover, if the old man were the flesh, then Ephesians 4:22-2322That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; (Ephesians 4:22‑23) (in the KJV) would be telling us that we need to put off the flesh! This is something that no Christian can do while living in this world. It won’t happen until we die, or when the Lord comes.
Hence, there are no exhortations in Scripture to put off the old man. There are, however, exhortations to put off the things that characterize the old man. Accordingly, Paul says, “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection [vile passions], evil concupiscence [evil lust], and covetousness, which is idolatry” (vs. 5). These grosser manifestations of the flesh were common in the heathen world, but they have no place in Christian life. The fact that there is an exhortation to believers of this sort shows that when a person is converted his old sin-nature is not eradicated.
Christians are not called to “mortify” their bodies, but rather to mortify “the deeds” of the flesh which are manifested in their bodies (Rom. 8:1313For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. (Romans 8:13)). In using the word “mortify,” we see the need of dealing with these sins unsparingly. F. B. Hole said, “Put to death is a strong and forcible expression. Our tendency is to parley with these things, and sometimes even play with them and make provision for them. Our safety, however, lies in action of a ruthless kind. Sword in hand, so to speak, we are to meet them without any idea of giving quarter. We should rather, meet them after the fashion of Samuel who hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord” (Paul’s Epistles, vol. 2, p. 106). Using again the typical teaching in Israel’s journey to Canaan, what is depicted here in Colossians 3 answers to Gilgal—the place where Israel cut off their flesh by circumcision (Josh. 5). This typifies the believer’s exercise of cutting off the manifestations of the flesh through self-judgment.
Note also, Paul was not speaking of mortifying the “members” of our bodies literally—the dismembering of our hands, feet, etc. He was using the word in a figurative way to describe the exercise of judging the flesh and keeping it in the place of death so that those corrupt things would not manifest themselves in our members. Mortifying our members is not done by making resolutions, fasting, depriving the body of natural comforts, etc. We are never told to crucify ourselves or to fight the flesh to keep it in line—these things lead to defeat. We are to put these things to death in their very conception (James 1:1515Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. (James 1:15)).
Among these horrific moral disorders, Paul mentions “covetousness, which is idolatry.” Covetousness is allowing the desire for something to have an undue place in our hearts that displaces God, and anything that displaces God in our affections is an idol.
Vss. 6-7—Men think that they can commit these sins and escape the judgment of God, but Paul says that “the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” who take pleasure in these sins. This judgment is governmental (as they live in this world) and eternal (when they pass out of this world.)
Vss. 8-9—But there are other things, besides those mentioned in verse 5, that are of the old man which also must be put off. Paul says, “But now ye also put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth, Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds.” Again, “put off” is stated in the aorist tense in the Greek. We once lived wrapped up in these things as a garment clad about us. When men looked at us, that is what they saw—a “garment spotted by the flesh” (Jude 2323And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. (Jude 23)). Upon being saved, this is not to be seen any more. Hence, the old garment must be divested, and that is the essence of Paul’s exhortation here. Let us say again, the exercise is not to put off the old man—that has been done—but to put off the sinful character of the old man.
The New Man
Vss. 10-15—Having stated the negative side of things, Paul goes on to give the positive side in connection with the new man. He says, “Having put on the new [man], renewed into full knowledge according to the image of Him that has created him; wherein there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman; but Christ is everything, and in all.” As with the putting off of the old man, the putting on of the new man is a thing that was done when a person took the Christian stand. The practical exhortations that follow in verses 12-15 are based on this fact.
The “new man,” like the old man, is an abstract term. It denotes the moral perfection in the new creation race under Christ. While the old man is characterized by being “corrupt” and “deceitful,” the new man is characterized by “righteousness” and “holiness” (Eph. 4:22-2422That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Ephesians 4:22‑24)). The new man first came into view “in Jesus” (Eph. 4:2121If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: (Ephesians 4:21)). That is, men first saw this moral perfection when the Lord Jesus walked here in this world. (“Jesus” is His Manhood name.) Just as the old man is not Adam personally, the new man is not Christ personally. G. Davison said, "The new man is not Christ personally, but it is Christ characteristically" (Precious Things, vol. 3, p. 260). As mentioned earlier, the new man is often confused with the new life and nature in the believer. People will mistakenly say, "The new man in us needs to feed on Christ." Or, "Our new man needs an Object—Christ." It would be more accurate to say that the new life in us needs to feed on Christ.
Vs. 11—Paul mentions four things that mark the old creation order that are not a part of the new creation order:
•  “Greek nor Jew”—no national distinctions.
•  “Circumcision nor uncircumcision”—no religious distinctions.
•  “Barbarian, Scythian”—no intellectual distinctions.
•  “Bond nor free”—no social distinctions.
Thus, the distinctions of race, religion, culture, and class are all transcended in the believer’s new position in Christ, the Head of the new creation. By adding, “Christ is everything, and in all,” Paul was indicating that everything in the new order of life in Christ takes its character from Him, for He is the Head of the new race (Rev. 3:1414And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; (Revelation 3:14)). He is “all and in all.”
Christ Seen in the Believer
Vss. 12-15—Passing on to the practical application of this, Paul says, “Put on, therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any should have a complaint against any, even as Christ has forgiven you, so also do ye. And to all these add love, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of Christ preside in your hearts, to which also ye have been called in one body, and be thankful.” This shows that since we have put on the new man, our life should manifest it practically. Hence, another garment, so to speak, is to be “put on” which manifests the character of the new man. This character change is illustrated typically in Elijah and Elisha. Elijah is a type of Christ who ascended into heaven and Elisha is a type of the believer. The sons of the prophets said of Elisha, “The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha” (2 Kings 2:1515And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him. (2 Kings 2:15)). He had rent his own garment and had put on the garment of Elijah, and in doing so, he had no further use for the old robe, so it was cast aside.
“Holy and beloved” are what the saints are before God. Paul then proceeds to list ten moral characteristics of the new man which is how the saints should be seen before the world. These things are the moral features of Christ. When they are seen in the saints as they move together collectively, the truth of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” will be exhibited before the world (chap. 1:27):
In the midst of all these wonderful traits of Christ, Paul says, “And above all these things put on [add] love, which is the bond of perfectness” (vs. 14). This is the girdle, so to speak, that holds the new garment in place.
We can see why this passage has often been called “the Christian’s Changing Room.” It has to do with character change. As mentioned, it is the antitype of Israel circumcising themselves at Gilgal. In doing so, the Lord “rolled away the reproach of Egypt” from them (Josh. 5:99And the Lord said unto Joshua, This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you. Wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal unto this day. (Joshua 5:9)). Similarly, when a person first comes to Christ, he bears the marks of his life in the world, of which Egypt is a type. But in going through the exercise in this chapter of putting off that old garment and donning the new, he is no longer marked by the things of his old life. The shame and reproach of it is gone because there has been a character change.
Since the new man is patterned after “the image of Him who created him,” being part of the new creation race we are fully able to represent God in this world.
The Spiritual Power to Act on the Truth
Vss. 16-17—Paul has exhorted us to put on the moral characteristics of the new man, but the question is: “How?” He goes on to address this next. Some will say that we are to cultivate Christian graces by making an effort to act like Christ in all situations in life. However, Paul does not indicate that these things are put on by any conscious effort of the believer. Rather, he says, “Let the word of the Christ dwell in you richly, in all wisdom, teaching, and admonishing one another, in psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to God. And everything, whatever ye may do in word and or in deed, do all things in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father by Him.” He speaks of two things here: the need for filling ourselves with the things of Christ through the various means that he states, and being engaged with things in life which can be done for the glory of Christ. When we are occupied with these things, the moral features of Christ will be formed in us by the Spirit quite naturally (2 Cor. 3:1818But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18)). Similarly, a tree produces fruit as a natural result of the root system drinking in water and nutrients from the soil. It’s true that we are to “exercise” ourselves “unto godliness” (1 Tim. 4:77But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. (1 Timothy 4:7)), but this is done by acting on the very principle that Paul touches on here—being filled with the things of Christ. The actual bearing of “fruit” is produced in us by the Spirit as we are occupied with Him and His interests (Gal. 5:22-2522But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22‑25)).
“The word of the Christ” is truth that pertains specifically to Christ and the Church. This is indicated in the expression “the Christ” which denotes the mystical union of the Head with the members of the body (1 Cor. 12:12-1312For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:12‑13)). “Wisdom, teaching, and admonishing” are specific instructions pertaining to the carrying out of this truth in practice.
“Psalms, hymns, spiritual songs” are three kinds of Christian compositions that express spiritual thoughts and feelings in regard to the Lord, the truth, and the path on which we tread. “Psalms” are not, as some think, the Old Testament Psalms. These are compositions based on Christian experiences which the saints have passed through in walking with the Lord. If they were Old Testament psalms, the Spirit of God would have added the article “the” as in Luke 24:4444And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. (Luke 24:44) and Acts 13:3333God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. (Acts 13:33). The Old Testament Psalms are Jewish compositions expressing Jewish sentiments and experiences; they do not have a Christian setting and do not properly convey Christian knowledge and sentiment. For example, the name of the Father, which is characteristic of Christianity, is not known in them. Hence, eternal life is not in view in the Psalms (John 17:33And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3)). Moreover, the knowledge of Christ’s finished work is not known by the writers of the Psalms, nor is the believer’s acceptance in Christ before God through the indwelling Spirit. The Old Testament Psalms do not portray the feelings of one who has a purged conscience and knows peace with God. Consequently, they are composed with an element of fear of the judgment of God, even though they have faith. Furthermore, the hope in the Psalms is not heaven, but to live on earth in the kingdom of Israel’s Messiah (Psa. 25:13; 37:9, 11, 29, 3413His soul shall dwell at ease; and his seed shall inherit the earth. (Psalm 25:13)
9For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. (Psalm 37:9)
11But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. (Psalm 37:11)
29The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever. (Psalm 37:29)
34Wait on the Lord, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it. (Psalm 37:34)
, etc.). The worship is also of a Jewish order in an earthly temple; the place of a Christian’s worship within the veil is entirely unknown. Moreover, the cry in many of the prayers in the Psalms is for vengeance on their enemies, which is not the attitude of a Christian who blesses those who curse him and prays for those who despitefully use him. Christians can read them and gain an understanding of the circumstances of the Jewish remnant in the coming Tribulation, and also to gather knowledge of God’s moral principles from them which are applicable to saints of all ages, and thus gain comfort and hope in their circumstances in life.
“Hymns” are compositions that express worship and address God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ directly. These may take the form of prayers. “Spiritual songs” are compositions that contain spiritual truths in accord with the Christian revelation by which we are instructed and exhorted in the Christian pathway. They may be in the form of “teaching” us some aspect of New Testament truth, or “admonishing” us as to some practical point of Christian living.
When we are immersed in these spiritual things having to do with Christ, the Spirit’s power will be evident in our life, and Christ will be seen in us.