Devotional # 154. 9/14/15. Colossians 2:11-15.
Intro. Last week we talked about not settling for cheap deceits but accepting God completing us. We also saw that Jesus has all of the “fullness” of the Godhead (which is all three Persons of God) in Himself. It’s cool to be reassured that Jesus is God but why do we need to know that? The big picture is that we don’t need to search for other things to fill us because we are complete in God because He is complete in Himself.
This week Paul makes something things very clear to us and yet its difficult for me to just sum up in a quick introduction. You’ll have to read the Scripture to see how many important things we’re taught here!
v. 11. If I could sum up this verse I would say “it’s a fulfillment of a covenant.” Paul is saying that every Christian has been circumcised, not in their physical body, but spiritually. I was just reading about this in Romans 4:9-15. Back in Jesus’s day Hebrews thought that they were righteous because they had been physically circumcised just like their patriarch Abraham. But in Romans chapter 4, Paul makes a great point that Abraham was accounted righteous because of his faith long before he had been circumcised. So then is circumcision useless? Definitely not, God is not in the business of doing foolish things. Turn to Genesis 17:1-14. This is where God first institutes circumcision with Abraham. It was meant as an outward profession of an inward belief. But why did all the boys after Abraham have to be circumcised? Because it was a reminder of God’s promise to their people before they were a people. And it was to identify them as being different from all other nations around them. So here in Colossians 2:11 when Paul tells us that we have the “circumcision of Christ” it makes sense that he’s drawing the conclusion that God always intended. And for those of you Bible students whose ears perked up when I just said “an outward profession of an inward belief” then you’re right, it only makes sense that Paul would follow this up with “baptism” in the next verse!
v. 12. Why did Jesus have John the Baptist baptize Him? Two reasons are: to give us an example of His burial and so that we would be able to join Him in it. Did you realize that the motion of laying down when we’re baptized is like laying in a grave but then when we come out of the water it’s like being raised from the dead? If we have made the choice to make an outward profession of faith through baptism then we were “buried with Him.” But the good news is that, just as Jesus physically raised from the dead, then we also have been raised from the dead.
The themes of “burial”, “baptism”, “raising” and “death” are also found in Romans 6:2-4: “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
vv. 13-14. What does it mean that you “were dead in your trespasses”? It means that there was a point in time for each one of us that we were pronounced dead. The sins in our life made it so we were spiritually dead. If we had died at that time we would have gone to hell. But 2 Peter 3:9 says that God doesn’t wish for anyone to go to hell. However, if they decide to go to hell He will give them what they want. But what if people wish to go to heaven? Well, those are we Christians who are represented in the second part of this verse when it says “He has made alive.” And not just “alive”, as in no longer declared “dead” but “alive with Him.” This shows us that Jesus rose from the dead! It’s not like He doesn’t understand everything we go through, instead He was tempted just like us but didn’t sin (Hebrews 4:15). Beyond that He experienced stuff that we haven’t gone through yet and stayed true to everything He ever said. So since He experienced everything first He is the only one who can ask us to do the same things. Interestingly in Romans 6:11 it tells us that if Jesus died for our sins then we need to “reckon ourselves to be dead indeed to sin” but that we are “alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” He set the example so we can be convinced that when we die from life on earth we will be “alive together with Him” in heaven.
Did you notice that not only are you “alive together with Him” but also that He has “forgiven you all trespasses.” Before we just move past having our sins forgiven us, we need to note the really important word “all.” We weren’t forgiven just some of our “trespasses” or most of our “trespasses” but ALL of our “trespasses.”
And as if that wasn’t enough Jesus also “wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us.” When I first read this I thought it was a really interesting way of putting it. The “handwriting” gives the picture of a written document stating our guilt*. But he has “taken it out of the way” and “nailed it to the cross.” What does that mean? I thought Jesus Himself was nailed to the cross. Well, Jesus became sin even though He had never sinned (2 Corinthians 5:21). So when Jesus took on all our sins, all the things that stood in the way of us ever going to heaven, he effectively nailed them to the cross and there they withered away and died – never to be remembered by God again (Isaiah 43:25, Hebrews 8:12; 10:17). But Jesus was not left on that cross. He rose from the dead. So our sins were left on that cross but Jesus was not – we will be “alive together with Him.”
*“handwriting”- Because in the Greek “the term handwriting is a general word for a handwritten document” there are several theories on what is meant. The first, is that this is a “legal” document as in “charges against a prisoner, or a confession to wrong that the prisoner has made.” The second, is as a “financial” document where a person’s debt is recorded. But “either way, it means that the document that once condemned us is now taken out of the way, having been nailed to the cross” (Source 1).
v. 15. Here we’re told that when Jesus nailed all of our sins to the cross it “disarmed principalities and powers.” This tells us at least two things: prior to this “principalities and powers” were “armed.” (We know from Romans 8:38 that “principalities and powers” are demons.) Second, Jesus’ act took away Satan and his demons chance of eternal ruling. Now if you’ve ever read the book of Revelation you know that Satan is still deluded…but more on that in a second. Here it says that Jesus “made a public spectacle of them“, but what does that mean? As Christians are we not supposed to embarrass people in front of others? Isn’t it prideful and immature and unsportsmanlike to make a “public spectacle” of a loser? The answer is yes, if we humans do something publicly to disgrace and humiliate then that’s wrong. I think of the final scene of William Wallace in “Braveheart” where they make a public spectacle of him. But we are talking about the God of the universe. And when the God of the universe, who should only be praised, has been publicly rebelled against, then it is His right to publicly notify every living creature that He has triumphed over sin and death. This isn’t saying that Jesus is self-righteously humiliating them – that would serve no purpose for God. Instead it was a picture that the Romans were very familiar with, a victorious general would parade his defeated enemies through the streets of Rome” (Source 2). God is using imagery to show us that we don’t need to live in fear anymore, the enemy has been conquered. Again, we’re brought back to the book of Revelation. God shows us that although Satan is working as hard as ever in his delusion that he can overcome God, he is wrong and ultimately he loses because the “triumph” was made certain on that day on the cross 2000 years ago.
I also find it very interesting that in verse 14 it’s made very clear that the “handwritten” document which condemned us was nailed to the cross, but that very act signed the “handwritten” document which condemned Satan and his demons.
Conclusion. The goodness of God is magnified in this section. You have to be aware of the bad stuff you’ve been saved from in order to appreciate your salvation. Did you notice the contrasts?
Verse 11: “putting off the body of the sins of the flesh” is contrasted with “the circumcision of Christ.”
Verse 12: “buried” and “dead” contrasted with “raised” (x2!) and “the working of God.”
Verse 13: “dead in your trespasses” and “uncircumcision of your flesh” contrasted with “alive together with Him” and “forgiven you.”
Verse 14: “requirements that [were] against us” contrasted with “taken out of the way” and “nailed it to the cross.”
Verse 15: “principalities and powers” contrasted with making “a public spectacle of them” and “triumphing over them.”
We are incredibly fortunate to know the God of the universe, and that He would tip the scales in our favor. He didn’t just even out bad with good, He “triumphed” over the evil. He made a “public spectacle” of it. This is certainly more than enough reason for us to praise God this week! Take these truths hide them in your heart and then share them with others!
Source 1: David Guzik, http://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Col/Col_2.cfm?a=1109014
Source 2: John MacArthur, The John MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1836.