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Complete In Him: Part 2

Colossians: Christ Is Enough  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Our completion in Christ is not simply an idea, but a reality.

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Have you ever heard of something that seemed too good to be true? Have you ever had someone make a promise that sounded like a good idea, but in reality you knew it probably wasn’t actually going to work out?
We’ve all heard the age-old saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Or another old quip, “the proof is in the pudding.”
Or how about, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
There is a reason behind this, of course, especially for us stubborn Vermonters. We tend to range from realist to pessimist. We are typically slaves to pragmatism. Results speak, and consistency is key. This is not a particular slam against any one of us, if it were I would be slamming myself, too! It is, however, an observation that plays into the “too good to be true” mentality.
The contrast that this really comes down to is the contrast between the abstract and the concrete. Now, you may have to dig way back into your language arts compartment to give that some thought. Something abstract is something that exists, but not in any particular time or space. Typically it refers to an idea, a concept, a possibility, but not an actualization of those things. Concrete, on the other hand, refers to tangible, actualized, something that has existence in time and/or space. Its the idea that has been played out, created, brought to fruition.
Typically, we function in a comfort zone of working off the concrete. Its when we get into the abstract that we get a little uncomfortable. We are less likely to invest our time and resources into something that is still in research and development, as opposed to something that is on the ground. This is our practicality playing out.
Ok, you may be asking, then what does any of this have to do with ? I’m glad you asked.
Last week we spent some time looking at the fact that we are complete in Christ! We have no need for philosophies of religion or empty deceit, we have the ultimate spiritual completion apart from works that we do, additions to the gospel, or spiritual experiences.
Here is where this whole discussion of abstract and concrete comes into play. You see, even to say that phrase, “I am complete in Christ”, how is that tangible? How is that actual? Doesn’t that seem, kind of, abstract? I will be the first to admit that there are many theological concepts and spiritual truths that seem so ethereal, so “out there,” so abstract. And although we may believe them, they still seem to us many times as concepts, and not realities.
It is when we find ourselves viewing our spiritual reality in through the lens of the abstract and the conceptual that we find ourselves falling into a state of mental separation from the fulness of joy that is ours when we realize that we are, indeed, complete in Christ. Being complete, or made full, spiritually, in and of itself is an abstract existence. It is a concept, an idea, a thought. The bridge from abstract to concrete comes, however, in the prepositional phrase in verse 10, “hen auto.” “In Him.”
“In Him” is one of Paul’s bedrock concepts in the book of Colossians. “In Him”, that is “In Christ” is a grounding rod that the Apostle uses over and over again to bridge the gap between spiritually abstract concepts, to concrete realities that are true of God’s Children.
Colossians 1:2 ESV
To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
Colossians 1:4 ESV
since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints,
Colossians 1:14 ESV
in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Colossians 1:16 ESV
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
“by him” his that same preposition, “hen”, literally “in Him all things were created.” even creation itself is an abstract principle without being actualized by the creator.
Colossians 1:17 ESV
And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Colossians 1:19 ESV
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
Colossians 1:28 ESV
Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
Colossians 1:
Colossians 2:3 ESV
in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Colossians 2:6 ESV
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,
Colossians 2:7 ESV
rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
Colossians 2:10 ESV
and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.
I know, that was a lot rather quickly, and if you are one who likes to take meticulous notes, just summarize by saying “Paul uses the phrase ‘In Him’ alot in and 2.” You can get find all the references later. Why did we take the time to look at all those in the introduction? Because It is critical that we see the flow of Paul’s argument as he teaches on the Spiritual realities, the indicatives of our lives.
We are going to look at some wonderful spiritual truths in the body of the message, things like forgiveness, redemption, justification, salvation, spiritual victory. All things that, if we are not careful, can become abstract, ethereal, mystical concepts that provide us with cannon fodder for the mind, but little comfort in the dark night of the soul.
Dear ones, I want us to see ever so clearly that all these seemingly abstract principles become concrete, rock solid, actualized realities, and they become so in and because of the person of Christ. Christ is the rock on which the realities of our spiritual life are founded.
So today, I want us to see this.

Our Completion in Christ is not simply an idea, but a reality.

And in order to do this, we will look at three main headings.
Real Salvation
Real Forgiveness
Real Victory

1. Real Salvation - Vv. 11-12

“Christ’s Redemptive Action.”
Now, if we are not careful, we get bogged down when we jump into verse 11, because Paul begins speaking metaphorically. I want you to notice how he begins the metaphor, though, its with our key phrase, in him, “hen auto.”
He then jumps into a metaphor which speaks of our spiritual circumcision in Christ, putting off the body of the flesh. What is Paul referring to?
Well, of course, we know circumcision was the rite, the sign and seal of the Old Covenant. Every Jewish boy was circumcised on the eighth day. It was the sign that he belonged to the covenant nation of Israel. Circumcision was never intended to be the enough to save someone, although some were teaching, even in Colossae, that circumcision was necessary for salvation. Rather, circumcision was the outward demonstration that man was born sinful and needed cleansing. It was a graphic way to show that mankind was corrupted to the deepest part of him, and needed cleansing in every way. It was not just a physical sign, it was a sign that pointed to the spiritual cleansing that was necessary. Circumcision in a physical sense was a picture of the circumcision that was needed by all, male and female, and that was circumcision of the heart.
Deuteronomy 10:16 ESV
Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.
Deuteronomy 30:6 ESV
And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.
God was always concerned with the heart of man, not the physical rite that outwardly showed their separation unto Him.
If we need any proof that circumcision never was salvific, we need look no further than Abraham. Abraham, the father of the nation, the father of Faith, was said to have “believed God, and it was counted unto Him as righteousness.” This took place years before God instituted the sign of circumcision. To that point, Paul writes in ,
Romans 4:11–12 ESV
He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
Romans 4:11 ESV
He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well,
Abraham is the example of faith to both the Jew and the Gentile. The Circumcised and the uncircumcised.
So Paul, here in Colossians, is speaking to the fuller meaning of Circumcision. The fact that we are Circumcised in Christ, whether Jew or Gentile, by faith in Him, shows the reality of our spiritual cleansing. The putting off of the body of flesh. The “Circumcision of Christ” as Paul states it, is salvation from sin by Christ’s Redemptive Action.
Fittingly, as Paul just spoke metaphorically of the sign of the Old Covenant, he then moves to speak metaphorically of the greater meaning of the sign of the New Covenant, Baptism.
It is important to see that these inferences, both to circumcision and to baptism, are metaphorical. If we miss that, then we make Paul out to be simply replacing one religious act, which he argues against in many other places as having salvific effects, with another religious act. In that regard, some groups have misinterpreted this verse to mean literally that water baptism is physical act that God uses to save an individual. Baptismal regeneration, as it is known, is a dangerous false teaching that leads many astray and gives them false hope of their conversion based on a physical activity and not on the person of Christ.
Rather, what Paul has in view here is the reality that water baptism symbolizes. Just as physical circumcision pictured cleansing and purifying by the removal of flesh, so water baptism pictures our death to sin and resurrection to new life in Christ, as Paul says here. In Christ, believers have shared in His death, fully and completely. But it does not stop there.
Romans 6:3–4 ESV
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

To be joined with Christ in his death cannot stop with the burial. He was raised from the tomb! The one who raised him from the dead is the one who has also raised you to new life. You have this new life in your union with him whom God has raised.

John Peter Lange says this:

We live Christ’s life, with and through Him, symbolically, ethically, spiritually, but actually and really.

And this all takes place, as Paul says, by “The powerful working of God.”
The “powerful working” here is the word “energeia.” Sound familiar? of course, that is where we get our word “energy.” This is further proof that paul is metaphorically speaking of spiritual reality. Circumcision and baptism are both physical signs performed by man, but spiritual cleansing, death to sin, and resurrection to new life in Christ are spiritual realities worked by the power of God alone!
Think of that! The very same power that raise Jesus from the dead has brought us to life in Christ! This is awe-inspiring, spiritual reality that is brought to fruition by the person of Christ. Loved one, do not let this become an abstract concept that is in your mind but far from the heart. Let it ring true, and remember that in Christ you have real salvation! Real cleansing! Real death to sin, and real resurrection to new life!
And this becomes much the more significant when we remember where we came from.

2. Real Forgiveness - Vv. 13-14

“Christ’s Righteous Atonement.”
Playing off the theme of being “in Christ,” where we have that salvation, cleansing, death to sin, and resurrection, Paul reminds us that before that became a reality, our reality was a state of being “in trespasses.” that is to say, “in sin” rather than “in Christ.”
Don’t let this confuse you. In verse 12, Paul reminds us that we died in Christ, and then in verse 13 he tells us that we were dead in sin. These, of course, are not the same. They are very much the opposite. It is our condition before faith in Christ, and our condition by faith in Christ.
This is sort of a parallel, or a restating, of verses 11-12. In verses 11-12, Paul discussed how we are not saved by religious ritual. Here in 13-14, he is telling us that we are saved apart from any human work. And a major component of our salvation is the forgiveness we receive from God. John MacArthur puts it this way.
“Forgiveness is perhaps the most exciting and comforting doctrine in all of scripture, because it is what guilty sinners need to be made right with God.” John MacArthur
Death to life by way of forgiveness of sin is yet another metaphor that Paul is employing, and this is not the only place which he does so.E
Ephesians 2:1–7 ESV
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2:4–5 ESV
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
Unbelieving persons exist in a sphere of spiritual death. To be spiritually dead means to be devoid of any spiritual sense, unable to respond to any spiritual stimuli, just as a component of physical death is the inability to respond to any physical stimuli. Spiritual death places such a grasp upon the unbelieving heart that it totally incapacitates the victim. This is why spiritual truth, although freeing, beautiful, and obvious to you, seems confusing, irrational, and foolish to the unbeliever. It is a symptom of their condition of deadness. And this was us.
The fact that we were in this spiritual deadness, in this prison to our sin, deceased in our foolish ways, having secured our own condemnation, is means of somber reflection. But that somber reflection should be followed by unhindered joy at the thought of what Christ did for us.
John 5:21 ESV
For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.
The fact that Paul stresses this metaphor of being raised from death to life by Christ is not without purpose. In that day, one of the major definitions of God in contemporary Judaism was “He who gives life to the dead.” This is an important rebuttal of part of the Colossian heresy that we talked about last week, which included some elements of Jewish tradition. Paul was, in effect, saying to the unbelieving Jews and those deceiving the Christians, “Yes, God is the one who gives life to the dead, and He does this in the person of Christ Jesus The Lord.”
Then Paul gives an illustration in verse 14.
“The Record of Debt.” Literally translated, this word means “a document written by the person responsible.” It is the credit card receipt to which we sign our name indicating, yes, i do in fact owe this debt to the creditor. Only this debt is not financial, and it cannot be repaid in installments. Our sin is the the debt that we owe, and our name is placed upon that sin. We own it. There is no room for blame-shifting when it comes to the record of debt. The only extenuating circumstances that pushes us to sin, is the other sin that we have already entrenched ourselves within. We do what we do because we want what we want.
James 1:14–15 ESV
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
And there we have it. Our sinful desires bring about sinful actions which incur the debt that leaves us with the consequence of spiritual deadness.
But He Canceled that debt. He canceled it! Literally, the word means to “wipe away.”
He set it aside! and how did He do it? By nailing it to the cross.
Justification is the legal act by which God declares you and I to be righteous. And this righteousness is not our own, it is a righteousness from God that comes by faith. You see, loved ones, Spiritual death is a metaphor for what we really deserve in our sin, and that is death. Death, not just as an annihilation, but as a means of eternal punishment in due accord with our eternal offense against a Holy God. But He took our place. In hanging on the cross, dying in our place, Christ nailed our certificate of indebtedness to that cross, and it died in Him.
The debt was cancelled when Jesus died precisely because he paid for the debt for us by dying in our place. The one to whom the debt was owed was the one who paid the full sum.
Christ’s vicarious death and sacrifice for sin is what makes the concept, the abstract principle of forgiveness, the idea of justification, a concrete reality. We do not just imaging forgiveness, we experience it in the person of Christ.
And His death, as real and concrete of an an event as it was, was not permanent. No, of course, as Paul already mentioned, as we died in Christ, so were we raised in Christ. He did not remain in the realm of the dead, but triumphed over death as the victorious one.

3. Real Victory - Vs. 15

“Christ’s Ruling Authority.”
This ties back to verse 10.
Colossians 2:10 ESV
and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.
This final metaphor that Paul uses is the reverse of the previous one. Whereas before he spoke of something, namely our sin upon Christ, being annihilated by the death of the cross, now he speaks of the total and public triumph that is true in the person of Christ.
This “disarming” and “putting to open shame” the enemies is the picture of a victorious Roman General, parading his defeated captives through the streets of Rome.
How has the enemy been stripped?
Revelation 12:10 ESV
And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.
Satan is the accuser of the brothers. And in our sin, His accusation is just and true. But in Christ, our sin has been removed. our record of debt has been wiped clean from the slate of our legal standing before God. With no accusation that can be legitimately made, Satan and his evil band have been stripped of their power against us, and their cause has been put to shame on our part.
Spiritual victory is a concept that, sometimes, in our weakness, seems so fleeting and distant. But be of good cheer, brothers! Be of great joy, sisters! Our victory is real and true in Christ! The abstract concept of triumph has been brought to fruition in the Triumph of Christ on our behalf!
2 Corinthians 2:14 ESV
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.
What a thought! Christ as the triumphant one leads us with him in His own triumphant procession over the enemy!
This whole transaction, from our spiritual deadness and life of sin, to forgiveness by the atonement of Christ, to the Victory over sin and death that is ours in Christ, is expressed so beautifully by Martin Luther in “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing: For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe; His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate, On earth is not his equal.
The enemy is strong,
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing; Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing: Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He; Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same, And He must win the battle.
And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us: The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him; His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure, One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth; The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth: Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.
So, dear ones, take heart! our salvation is Real! our forgiveness is Real! Our victory is real in Christ! And in Christ, it is more than just real, because it exists more than just in the here and now, it exists forever, because He is forever.
So as Paul writes to us that we are complete in Christ,

Our Completion in Christ is not simply an idea, but a reality.

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