For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (3:3)
Paul stresses the reason that living in the heavenlies is to be the norm for the believer. Believers have died to the world system, through their faith union with Christ in His death and resurrection. Paul wrote in Galatians 6:14, “May it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” The past tense of apothnēskō (you have died) indicates that a death took place at salvation. “If any man is in Christ,” Paul writes to the Corinthians, “he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor. 5:17).
In what sense has the believer died? In the sense that the penalty for sin has been paid. The wages of sin is death, so we must die. By union with Jesus Christ, we die the required death in Him, thus the penalty is paid and sin can never claim us again. We have thus died to sin in the sense of paying its penalty. Its presence and power still affect us —but it cannot condemn us.
Not only have believers died to sin, but also their lives are hidden with Christ in God. What does with Christ in God mean? First, believers share a common life with the Father and Son. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:17 that “the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” Believers are “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4).
Second, that new life is concealed from the world. Unbelievers are unable to grasp the full import of the believer’s new life, since “a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Cor. 2:14). Paul pointed out that the true manifestation of the sons of God is yet to come in the next world, so that people cannot see what believers really are like (Rom. 8:19). The apostle John implied as much about our true identity when he wrote: “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not yet appeared what we shall be” (1 John 3:2). The false teachers troubling the Colossians could not grasp the truth that the Colossians had already gained transcendent spiritual knowledge and life, and thus had no need of their false teaching.
Third, believers are eternally secure, hidden protectively from all spiritual foes. The blessings of salvation are “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Pet. 1:4). Our great high priest “is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25). Those to whom the Son gives eternal life “shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28). They are hidden away deep in the shelter of their God.
No passage states that glorious truth more eloquently than Romans 8:31–39:
If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or na- kedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “For Thy sake were being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
All the riches of the eternal God are available to those whose lives are hidden with Him through His Son.
MacArthur New Testament Commentary