See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.
For in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; 11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.
Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day - 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. (Colossians 2:8-17).
Computers are the norm today, but it has not always been the case. I can still recall when we got our first computer. It was one of those big ones with all the letters and numbers behind it. It has disks and CD's and megabytes and all sorts of other things about which I knew absolutely. It also left a hole in our non-existent bank account that left resounding echoes.
It was a few weeks after we had purchased the computer that Paula and I happened to be in a computer store and I looked at the price on one of the machines and I remarked to Paula how much cheaper this one was.
She looked at it for a moment and then she remarked, “Ours has a lot more megabytes than that one.” Yes, I know, nowadays we speak in terms of gigabytes, but that was then and this is now. I pointed to how many were on this machine and I retorted, “I don't think that ours has that many!”
“Yes,” she answered, “I really think that it does.” When we went back home, I went and looked at our new computer and, sure enough, Paula was right!
Do you see what my problem had been? (Other than not believing my wife). It was that I didn't know what we had.
The Colossians were like that. They had heard the preaching of the Gospel. They had heard the message of the cross - that Christ died for sins and that eternal life was a free gift. They had believed and they had been saved.
But then, as time went on, they started looking at other religious systems.
" They looked at Greek philosophy.
" They looked at legalism and traditionalism - a set of rules which, if they would only follow, they would be holy and pure.
" They looked at signs and wonders - fleshly occult practices.
These things began to look very attractive to them. Paul says to them, “The reason that these other things look so attractive is that you do not know what you have. Let me show you what you have in Christ.”
Can you identify with the Colossians? Our world today is seeking after that same three things.
" It is enamored with Greek philosophy -- the desire to know just for the sake of knowing.
I have several degrees in theology and have been to both Bible college as well as a couple of seminaries. It has been good and it has been fun, but there is a real danger to seminary. It is the danger of focusing on the intellectualism of knowing things about God instead of knowing God. You can't pray to a degree. There is a real emptiness in religious books.
" Others tend toward legalism and traditionalism.
The church begins to do things a certain way because it's comfortable and we've always done it that way. And soon, the rituals have lost their reality.
" People today are looking for signs and wonders. The drama of the dramatic. Some mystical experience.
Am I describing you? Do you have tendencies in one of these three areas? If so, then I want to remind you of what we have in Christ.
WE FACE A NEW DANGER
See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8).
We open with a warning of a danger the Colossians were facing. Paul is going to give a number of warnings throughout this chapter:
• Don’t let anyone kidnap you (2:8).
• Don’t let anyone condemn you (2:16).
• Don’t let anyone disqualify you (2:18).
Each of these warning puts a different face on the same danger. The danger is that you abandon the fullness of Christ for the sake of a counterfeit.
WE HAVE A NEW FULLNESS
For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority (Colossians 2:9-10).
When you look at Jesus, you see God. As the old country preacher said, Jesus is God with “skin on.” God is transcendent and holy. He is far removed from all of His creation. I love R. C. Sproul's definition of “HOLINESS” - He defines it as "OTHERNESS." God is other than creation. He is different than all else that exists. He is separate from us. And yet, without losing His holiness, God came near. His fulness was still there. Jesus never stopped being God. But it was masked in the flesh.
The omnipotent One became weak and breakable. He who was larger than the universe became an embryo. God as a fetus. The Creator being born of a young teenage girl. The Eternal One became tired. The Unchangeable God grew up as the son of a Jewish carpenter, learning the trade of His father.
When His disciples met Him, they saw a little Galilean Rabbi. One who partied at weddings, who slept when He was tired, who cried at funerals. But occasionally, His deity peeped out. There was that time on the storm-tossed sea of Galilee when He got up in the boat and yelled at the storm, “Shut Up!” And the storm shut up. There was the time when he arrived late for a funeral and recalled the quest of honor from the grave. There was that time when He went up into a mountain to pray to the Lord and the Lord came down in a cloud to meet Him.
It was at times like these that...
- the holy met the humble.
- deity entered time and space.
- the sacred met the secular.
- God drew near in all of His fulness.
His fulness is still there. All of the fulness of Deity still resides in Him. And as we approach it, we find a measure of fulness, too.
Does your life ever feel empty? Is there a longing inside that it seems nothing can fill? We have a fulness that can only be filled in Jesus. Nothing else will fit.
WE HAVE A NEW IDENTITY
Who are you? When asked that question, most people tend to answer with a name, rank and serial number. Or perhaps you answer with your occupation, telling what it is you do. The Bible teaches us that we have a new identity in Christ. Paul describes this identity in two ways. He uses two separate ordinances to refer to it.
And in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ (Colossians 2:11).
Circumcision was the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant. It was a sign placed upon the body of Abraham and his male descendants. It set Abraham apart and made him different. It was a sign of faith. It was a sign that God was cutting Abraham away from this world and joining him to another world.
Now you say, “Wait a minute, John. How could circumcision have been a sign of faith if babies were supposed to be circumcised who weren't old enough to believe yet?”
It was not a sign of their faith. It was a sign of their PARENTS' faith. It was a sign that the parent were saying, "Our house and our children are the Lord's. We are raising them as children of the covenant. The only way that they shall be able to separate themselves from the covenant of God will be to apostatize."
Now, here is the point that Paul is making. When you came to Christ, you received a circumcision. It was not a physical cutting. It was a spiritual operation. You were cut off from everything that you used to be.
- Old life.
- Old thinking.
- Old destiny.
You now have a new identity. It is rooted in who and what CHRIST IS. You were united with Christ and now that colors everything that you are.
" You are no longer just a father - now you are a CHRISTIAN father.
" You are no longer just a wife - now you are a CHRISTIAN wife.
" Whatever you used to do for a living - now you do for Christ. Your wages may not have changed - but your true employer has. You are HIS.
How did this all take place? It was through a new BAPTISM.
Having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. (Colossians 2:12).
When you think of the word "baptism" you usually think of getting someone wet. Now, I'm not going to get into whether you should sprinkle or whether it is better to immerse. That isn't really important. What really IS important is the meaning BEHIND baptism.
The idea behind baptism is IDENTIFICATION. When you are baptized into a religious group, you are being identified with this group.
" John the Baptist.
" Jesus was baptized.
" Baptism of the Spirit.
What circumcision was to the Old Testament believer, baptism is now to the New Testament believer.
By the way, that is why we baptize babies - we are taking our cue from the Older Testament and from the teaching of the Apostles that this new covenant is STILL "for you and your children, and for all who are far off" (Acts 2:39).
Do you see the parallelism in verse 12-13?
Having been buried with Him in baptism...
...in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God.
When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh...
He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.
There is a correlation between Circumcision and Baptism. They BOTH point to the fact that there was a time when you were spiritually dead. They BOTH point to the saving work of Jesus Christ. And they BOTH point to the new identity that we have in Him.
WE HAVE A NEW VICTORY
Having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. (Colossians 2:14-15).
When Jesus died upon the cross, it looked for all the world as though the powers of Satan had won. The Son of God nailed spread-eagle on wooden crossbeams. The enemies of Christ rejoicing and mocking Him. Thieves on either side of him joining in the taunting. Even the governor's taunting inscription nailed to the cross, as if to say, “Here is what I think of the concept of a Jewish king!”
Do you remember the inscription? It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” The Jewish leaders didn't like that and they petitioned Pilate to have it changed, but he would not. And so, it remained.
It was the custom of that day to post the crimes for which a criminal was being executed on the cross where he hung. This would serve as a warning to other would-be criminals. What was the crime of Jesus? His crime was in being the king.
But you need to know that there was another inscription posted on the cross that day. It was an inscription unseen by human eyes. It was the inscription "consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us." It was the inscription of our sins. Don't miss this! Your sins were nailed to His cross. This indicates that He died for you.
" Christ died - that's history.
" Christ died for you - that's salvation.
A student was taking a test in college and he wrote on his exam, “Only God could pass this test.” When he got it back, the professor had written on it, “God gets an A and you get an F.” Christ took the test and nailed it to His cross. He passed the test for you. And then He said, “NO MORE TESTS!”
WE HAVE A NEW
Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day - 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17).
We noted in verse 14 that the certificate of our debt was nailed to the cross of Christ.
Now Paul says, “Don't you let anyone pull that certificate off the cross and judge you for it!” You have been set free. The debt is paid. Your relationship with God is no longer on the basis of law-keeping.
Am I saying that you no longer obey the Law? No. But I AM saying that when you follow Christ, you are obeying the Law because He personifies Law. He IS the Law.
Imagine the Law as a great screen. Upon it is projected an image of the righteousness of God. As a result of the cross, we pass through the screen to find Christ - the Image Maker.
This means that in Christ we have a new standard of living. Before we had ordinances. Now we have the Living Word. The standard is no longer a list of “DON'TS.” If spirituality was measured in what you don't do, then our cat would be the most spiritual one in our house.
The new standard is Jesus. And He says to us,
“You follow Me.
Go where I go.
Do what I do.
Live what I lived.
Love how I loved.”
Did Jesus keep the Law? Yes, He did. He did because He was the Law. This is part of what the Reformation was all about. It was Christ instead of tradition. It was faith instead of philosophy. It was liberty instead of legalism. It was recognizing that Christ has paid the debt on our behalf and we can never repay it.
A little boy went up to the
The guard smiled and said, “Son, you can't buy the
" First, 34 cents won't buy it - in fact, 34 million dollars won't buy it.
" Second, it's not for sale.
" And thirdly, if you're an American citizen, it's already yours.”
Salvation is like that. It is a free gift which you can never earn or deserve. And it isn't for sale, even if you could earn it. But the good news is that when you enter the kingdom, it becomes yours. Perhaps you have never received the salvation of Christ. For you, the cross is just something that happened in history. There is an invitation here for you. It is an invitation to join God's family. You can do so today through faith in Christ.
The story is told of when
Aeschylus, the Greek poet, was brought up on charges and ordered to appear
before the Citizens Tribunal in
Aeschylus had an older brother who had fought in the
famous sea battle at
We have an older brother who stands beside us and who reveals His wounds so that we are exonerated and set free. Our brother's name is Jesus.