SBTS live blog: Bryan Chapell — Mullins Lectures

Communications Staff — March 31, 2010

God’s love is not based on our heroic or holy actions. What is the basis of God’s love? His grace. I know you know that, but the implications can be difficult for even the most mature Christian to apprehend and live out.

Most of our human relationships are consequential and reciprocal. We perform and are paid for our work. But the Gospel is different. While we were His enemies, Christ died for us. When we are faithless, He abides faithful. His love, His lasting affection is not based on our past, present or future actions. This unconditional nature of the love of God is concerning. People fear that we grant people liberty to sin. When people say that, we have no option but to concede that they are right.

There is an unavoidable math: when we tell people that they will be loved no more or no less even if they sin, the mind does the math.

But the math of the mind is not the mechanics of the heart. The heart works differently. Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commands.” The compulsion of the Christian life is not the conditional nature of grace, but the unconditional nature of grace. The love of Christ compels us to do His will. That is the true and strongest motivation for holiness. And we love Him most deeply and most compulsively when we know His grace and love the most.

What we do is based on who we are and that order is not reversible. God says, “you are mine. Now walk in my ways,” and that order is imperative for us to understand if we are to be proclaimers of the Gospel. The Gospel says what you do is determined by who you are.

If you understand that the imperatives of what you are to do are based on who you are … if you understand that, it will transform every relationship in your life.

I did not used to preach this way. I did not used to parent this way.

There is no better place to look than Colossians 3 to see that the indicatives precede the imperatives, and the strongest imperatives. The imperatives could not be more strongly stated and the indicatives could not be clearer.

Colossians 3

What Paul is saying in this passage is “you must be willing to kill yourself for your Savior.” Even in seminary, you can get caught up in grades and classes and studying. Devotion to your Savior may have brought you to seminary, but that devotion may be waning. If so, Colossians 3 is a great place to turn.


You are raised with Christ

Paul begins by saying, “If you have been raised.” Of course, if we must be raised, then we were previously dead.

Baptism marked a union with Christ. It marked being dead to ourselves and alive with Christ.

Christ is seated at the right hand of God. We are identified with this Christ. This Christ is not only at the right hand of God, He is seated at the right hand of God.

Heb. 10:11 talks about this reality. Every priest stands daily at his service. But when Christ offered one time a single sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God.

In the old sacrificial system, there were annual, seasonal, monthly, weekly, daily and personal sacrifices. The blood ran and the stench filled the streets and the smoke filled the sky and people knew what these things represented. The priest was busy and he did not sit down until one Lamb without blemish went to the hill that is called Calvary. And that point the sacrifices were done and the great High Priest sat down.

He said, “it is finished” and He sat down at God’s right hand and we sit with Him.

There is nothing that we do to enter right relationship with God. We should sit with Christ. There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. And Paul has just begun to say what your position is in Christ.

You are hid with Christ

You are dead. All that was you and that was counted to you are dead, nailed to the cross. You are dead, because all that was true of you is now eclipsed by the work of Christ. That is what Paul is saying. You have died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

We are hid with Christ in God as if we are being reminded that in this relationship with the wrath of God turned away, we are hidden in God, in Christ, in the embrace of God the Father. But Paul is not finished describing who we are in Christ.

You will appear with Him in glory

The apostle has said (1) “you are raised” and (2) “you are hid with Christ” and here he says (3) “you will appear with Him in glory.”

If you could see the person next to you the way they will be at Christ’s return, you would be tempted to bow down and worship them. That is the glory that we will receive. To this position that has now been described, Paul begins to add imperatives.


The first imperative appears in verse one: seek the things that are above. But Paul ratchets things up in verse two: set your minds on things that are above. SET YOUR MINDS. Paul is saying that you were once dead and on your way to hell, but now you are alive in Christ. We must set our minds on that.

We were going to die. Our sins were going to overwhelm us. But God sent His Son and raised Him in newness of life and then raised us in newness of life in Him. Paul is saying that these things need to grab you. Only now is Paul ready for the key imperative.

Verse five: put to death therefore what is earthly in you.

Paul says identify in you what turns back to your old way of life and kill it.

The apostle is saying, “God has rescued you from these things. Do not go back to the mire.” And the way that Paul is doing this is not with a great threat, it is with a great privilege. He is reminding them of who they are in Christ and the privilege of their standing in Christ.

The power is first in the fight itself.

Verse three says: you have died. But verse five says: put to death what is earthly in you. The fact that you are dead to sin and alive in Christ does not mean that you don’t have to then fight sin. You should never think that you don’t have to fight anymore. The fact that the apostle Paul puts the fighting words in the present tense should remind us that having to fight sin is part of the normal Christian life. If you think you don’t have to fight, you are wrong. You have to fight.

John Owen says believers typically think of two times in their life when they don’t have to fight anymore. The first is when they have indulged in a serious sin and they find it is repugnant and they think that once they turn they will not be tempted by it anymore. But the repugnance will grow old and the temptation will return.

The second time Christians think they won’t have to fight anymore is when they come through a great trial. Once they come through the suffering they think that the sin will not tempt them anymore. But God’s rescue from the trouble will grow distant, Owen says. You always have to fight.

As you fight, you must set your minds on things above. Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. Satan will come along and tell you: you can’t help this, you can’t resist this. It is actually God’s fault. Scripture says that is a lie.

God gives you power to resist. I am not saying it will be easy. The very fact that Paul uses language of fighting and setting our minds should tell us that it is not easy. We should turn to other Christians and ask for help. We should pray. And we should believe the Word. You have been raised with Christ and Christ is your life. Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.

The question is not so much whether you can, but whether you will.

The power for the Christian life is (1) in the fight, (2) by faith and (3) ultimately it is in love for Christ.

If He loves you so, then love Him and let the love for Him become the compelling power to engage the resources to begin the fight. What will overcome the desires of the world is a desire for God. The way you take away the power of sin to live in you is to replace and overcome it with love for Christ.

Remember who you are so that when He calls you to holiness, compromise is not your option but living for the Lord is your joy.

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