The German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) once made a distinction that is very relevant to our passage today. The distinction he made was between what he called the noumena and phenomena. According to Kant the noumena is ‘a thing as it really is’ while the phenomena are ‘things as they appear in our experience.’ Kant believed that though mankind is very intelligent we can never break through our own experience to actually know the real substance of a thing (the noumena) and that we can only observe what we experience in life (the phenomena). The reason this is so relevant to our passage today is because Kant believed God and all of the divine was part of the noumena, meaning that we could never truly know God as He is. Therefore to think deeply on the nature of God and who He is in His attributes and character isn’t a worthwhile pursuit because we can’t know Him. Because of this Kant would have us believe that we should set our minds to things of earth as opposed to reaching into the heavens for truth and wisdom.
Enter our text today, where Paul opposes this idea by telling us the exact opposite, that we should set our minds on things above not on things below, and that the Christian life is “The Life Above Lived Below.” Colossians 3:1-4 continues the same argument Paul began in 2:1, in fact he’s still tracing out the implications of our union with Christ he went over in detail in 2:11-15. 3:1-4 also marks an end of Paul’s arguments against the false teachers in Colossae and this passage functions as a bridge to begin his appeals to the Colossians to live a life pleasing to God. Which is itself a huge point because notice that Paul’s instructions for Christian behavior come after all of his rich description of the redemption Christ secured for His people. Lesson? Living a life that’s pleasing to God (obedience) is a response of gratitude to God’s favor already given, not a means of gaining it.