This afternoon, let’s think about the word “above” as we find it in verse 1. There are several Greek words translated “above.” “Huper” (hoop-ER) for example is found 11 times in the Bible – it is an adverb or a preposition. We find it in the statement: “The disciple is not ABOVE his master, nor the servant ABOVE his lord” – Matthew 10:24. And, “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted ABOVE that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” – I Cor. 10:13. And Philippians 2:9 – “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is ABOVE every name.”
Another word translated “above” is “epi,” and this is rendered 5 times as either an adverb or preposition. This speaks about the direction that is over your head. “Para,” “peri,” and “pro” again usually supply us with the idea of direction – but also of importance. For example Paul commanded us “Above all things have charity.”
The rest of the “aboves” are various forms of “ano,” and again some are adverbs. But it might be argued that some of them are talking about a PLACE more than a direction. Take for example John 8:23 – “Ye are from beneath; I am from ABOVE: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” Is this a direction or a place? James 1:17 – “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from ABOVE, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” And then there is our scripture from Colossians.
If “ano” is sometimes a noun – that is – a place – it is hardly ever a reference to any place on earth. Almost always it has something to do with the abode of God – Heaven. “Epano,” for example, is found in John 3:31 – “He that cometh from ABOVE is ABOVE all.” John 3:31 actually has two related but different Greek words: “epano” and “anothen”. So “ano” often is in reference to Heaven and is quite often translated “above.”
And that leads to question: Where is Heaven? Can we point finger saying, “There it is? It’s in that direction?” Some naive people point up and say that Heaven is above our heads. But wait minute, my understanding of our globe makes “up” go everywhere. The man in Australia points up, but it is almost completely opposite to up from North America. Some say that Heaven is in a dark void – essentially over the north pole. There is certainly a place in the northern sky where very few, or no, stars can be found. Is this where Heaven is located? Isaiah 14:13 lends some credence to this idea: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north.” Where is Heaven? All that we can say with assurance is that Heaven is “ABOVE where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God Father.” The only reason why Heaven is Heaven is due to the presence of our Lord and Saviour.
What I’m trying to say is that “above” in this scripture is not always speaking of direction. It is sometimes talking about a place. And we are told to set our “affections on the THINGS which are in this place above.” But, what ARE some of the THINGS which are above? What are the things that we should be seeking?
Well, “above” is the place of the PERFECT STANDARD.
In 1845 Great Britain cast a bronze bar with 2 marks on it, denoting an imperial yard. There was only one problem: immediately it began shrinking – 1½ millionth of an inch each year. That created more problems than solutions, because a standard that changes is no standard at all. In 1960 the U.S. defined a meter by somehow using Krypton-86 – don’t ask me to explain. But then 23 years later, in 1983, they redefined it as the distance traveled by light in a vacuum in 1/299,792,448ths of a second. An international kilogram is now represented by a block made of platinum and iridium. That standard is kept in a special vault in Paris. In Great Britain the standard of time is now kept with an atomic clock. It is important in science and commerce that there be standards. And actually, standards are essential in ALL things.
The Christian has not been left standard-less; we have the eternal Bureau of Weights and Measures. Above are the golden scales and counter balances which determined Belshazar was a under weight. Above is the yard stick that measured King Saul as head and shoulders above all Israel. Above is the tick, tick of God’s perfect time table. “When the fullness of time was come God sent forth his son, made of a woman, made under law.” And there is also a set time, that God has put into His own heart for the return Christ. The ideal of all standards is in Heaven, where we learn mercy, love and truth. All actions, thoughts and attitudes should be periodically checked against that Heavenly standard.
And ultimately our standard is nothing less than God himself. As I say, a standard that is variable, that shrinks and grows is not a standard at all. “Jehovah is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.” Jehovah is our perfection, our ideal and the ultimate criterion for the judgment of everything.
But that leaves us with a slight problem – Heaven is above, and we are here below. Also, many of the things from “above” are spirit while we are physical. But the Lord foresaw that problem and answered it in two ways. First, He gave us His written Word. “The law of the Lord is perfect converting soul; the testimony of Lord is sure, making wise the simple. Thy word is true from the beginning and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever. Forever O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.” “If ye then be risen with Christ seek the Word of God, which is above, settled eternally in Heaven.” And then, even though the perfect standard is in glory, God sent his Son, Living Word, Who was made flesh and dwelt among us. “Jesus is the way, the TRUTH, and the life.”
It is in Heaven where we find the perfect standard, but the Lord has given us copies to use on earth.
“Above” is also the place of PERFECT KNOWLEDGE and the WISDOM to USE that knowledge.
This is true for the same reason Heaven contains the perfect standard – it is the throne of God. Whether people like to admit it or not, God knows all things. He is perfectly aware of the past – everything in the past. And He knows the future – everything in the future – better than we know our yesterday. His knowledge is immediate and doesn’t come by the way of senses. And he knows all possibilities – what will happen and what could happen. And His knowledge is in such detail that it boggles the human imagination.
Do you ever find that your troubles overwhelm you? The Lord knows all about them. Use them as stepping stones; use them as means to reach Him in “the above.” How can we do that? Turn to James 1:2-5 – “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” We need wisdom in order to turn trouble into triumph. And what is wisdom? From where does it come? Well to be scriptural, the fear of the Lord, who is “above,” is the beginning of wisdom. James 1:17 teaches us that this wisdom is a gift from above.
Look at James 3:13-18 – “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.” This tells us that strength to live a victorious life is not within us.
I read of a man who had become the president of one of the divisions within a large corporation. As he went into his office each morning, he instructed his secretary not to disturb him because he had an important appointment. On one occasion, the chairman of the board came in and demanded to see the president. But the secretary answered, “I’m terribly sorry, but he cannot be disturbed.” The chairman became very angry. He banged open the door and then saw the younger man on his knees in prayer. Softly he closed the door again, and asked the secretary if this was his common practice. “Yes,” she replied, “he does that every morning.” To which the chairman responded, “No wonder his division is doing so well.” Those who earnestly pray reaching into the “above,” easily prosper.
That leads us to point out that “Above” is the place of PERFECT GRACE.
There have been lots of clever definitions of what “grace” might be; things like: Grace is the pity of righteousness. And grace is God doing for us what we do not deserve. Grace is the Lord’s giving something for nothing. Grace is glory begun. Grace is an attitude and action on God’s part – proceeding entirely within Himself. In most cases it means “the undeserved favor of God.” And it is essential for everything that we enjoy upon earth.
Earthly wells can’t satisfy the thirst that eternal souls possess. That’s like asking water to have power to drive your car. That which is of earth is earthly, and only heaven can provide heavenly things. This is why baptism, for example, can’t take you heaven, and there is also the failure earthly morality.
Every person on the face of the globe have needs caused by sin. It’s sad to see most people trying solve that problem in their own strength. When the law came on the scene, it didn’t help at all, because it wasn’t designed to help. Airplane propellers make very poor food shredders, although there might be some similarities. Plane propellers weren’t designed to mow grass. The law of Moses is an system of jurisprudence given by God to show what failures we are. “The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” Men can form systems, laws and various principles of morality. But men can’t satisfy the demand of the Lord.
But the grace which comes from “above” is entirely different; it is the undeserved favor of God. Romans 4:1-8 illustrates the Lord’s Grace: “What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” And although this grace is displayed on earth, its source is in Heaven. It comes from above. It can’t be found under lock and key in some temple or cathedral. It’s not an earthly or human material. Grace is from above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of the Father.
And one other thing: “ABOVE” is the place of PERFECT HOPE.
Because of the reality of grace, there is also the reality of eternal peace. “If in this life only we have hope, we are of all men most miserable.” What things can his world guarantee? It is said that the only things guaranteed in this world are death and taxes. But if a person is rich enough, or smart enough, or dishonest enough, he won’t have to pay those taxes either. Nothing else is promised to all men. Money, health, property, satisfaction, pleasure: none of these are guaranteed. And every time we turn on a light switch, we are closer to the end of all things. Our sun is slowly losing power. Isotopes shrink, metals corrode, life dies. Slow destruction is everywhere around us in this world
But Paul still was looking for the “blessed Hope and glorious appearing of the Great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ.” He speaks of this several times in his letters. For He, “the Lord himself shall descend from Heaven (above) with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God.” Paul spoke to Felix and said, “this is my religion:” “But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets: And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust” – Acts 24:14-15. He told the Colossians that he had a hope laid up in Heaven (above) – guaranteed. He assured us in Hebrews 6:17-20 – “Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec..” “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” – I Peter 1:3-5.
Our hope is “above” and is secured in Heaven for us who also are kept by the power of God.
The Bible uses the word “ABOVE” to mark the place of my Saviour, my hope and even life itself.
And that make Paul’s words all that much more important in our scripture in Colossians. “If 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. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”
Do your affections point toward Heaven this afternoon?