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Colossians 2: 6-23 Don't be Taken Captive (You're Alive in Christ)

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Dearly loved people of God,

Jesus has won the victory!

Jesus has won the victory!

I’m struck again as I teach about discipline at how ordinary it is. When church discipline is mentioned, I’m surprised how often people’s minds jump to the final steps of discipline: barring folks from the sacraments or excommunication. Thankfully words and relationships are powerful means of calling people to reconsider their behaviour.
When Jesus describes Christian discipline in , it starts with a simple conversation 1:1.
Matthew 18:15 NIV
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.
As Jesus describes it, you can see the power of conversations, persuasion, and relationships for good.
In the passage we read from Colossians, you see the negative side of social pressure, quick words, and persuasion. Paul and Timothy give 2 warnings:
Colossians 2:8 NIV
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
Colossians 2:16 NIV
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.
col 2:
Note to my catechism class: Paul and Timothy exercise Christian discipline in this letter.
In both of these cases, God uses the authors to warn Jesus’ followers not to be influenced by the misleading words and mistaken values of other people. In fact, the authors warn that something serious is going on behind the social pressures. They see spiritual forces at work, distracting, confusing, and misleading people away from true faith.
Our culture doesn’t often pay attention to spiritual forces. A major exception to the rule seems to be the celebration of Halloween. For a week or two, movies and radios and bookshelves highlight stories of ghosts, horrors, and the paranormal. It’s a little weird and many Christians shy away from it all.
The other day though, I was waiting somewhere without a book, so I scrolled through a library on my phone. I and found C.S.Lewis’ book Screwtape Proposes a Toast. As in the Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis writes about spiritual warfare from a unique perspective. Lewis imagines temptation from the view of an evil spirit. The purpose of Lewis’ books and others is not to make you frightened nor to overestimate the powers of evil, but to illustrate the reality of spiritual forces and their power.
That is what Paul and Timothy do as well. They warn about the “elemental spiritual forces of this world” and the “powers and authorities.” These spiritual forces are opposed to Christ. They are opposed to the church. They are opposed to your faith.
These spiritual forces will use the philosophies of our culture and social pressure about eating, drinking, and religious festivals to sway believers from the gospel of Jesus.
What does this look like?
relativism which denies that anything can be good or evil
ambiguity of what is true or false, especially because ALL KINDS of ideas are readily available on the internet. How do you know what to believe?
yet the algorithms of social media are designed that you mainly see more of the views you already have
the type of evolution that rules out any role for the Creator
no matter what you post on FB, someone will “like” it
depending on legalistic standards to determine what Christian behaviour ought to look like
do you find assurance of your salvation in working or not working on Sunday?
do you find assurance of your goodness in participating or not participating in Halloween activities?
do you measure other people’s goodness in whether or not they smoke or drink or have tattoos?
The language of this letter is very strong connecting people’s attitudes in these matters to spirits.
Colossians 2:20 NIV
Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules:
Colossians 2:20–21 NIV
Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”?
col 2:20
If you’re trying to make yourself look good to God and neighbours by these rules, if you take any spiritual comfort or pride in your own success in meeting these standards, you’re in danger according to God’s Word. You’re in danger of depending on “the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.”
It doesn’t take much to experience another person’s judgement. If you’re planning to go to a restaurant with friends this evening, it only takes one person to give a little gasp and ask, “on Sunday???” for you to feel their judgement.
It doesn’t take much to insert judgement and hurt. Years and years ago, I remember an older cousin complimenting my sister on her maturity. I demonstrated my immaturity by snorting. I had judged my sister.
In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C. S. Lewis tells the story of Eustace.
Eustace’s “undragoning” is an example of what Paul and Timothy describe as
It’s a battle against our sinful nature – which God’s Word calls “the flesh.”
It’s a battle against our sinful nature – which God’s Word calls “the flesh.” The flesh is the rebellious thing inside us that wants to do and say and have things that don’t help us live as dearly loved children of God.
The flesh is the rebellious thing inside us that wants to do and say and have things that don’t help us live as dearly loved children of God.
Colossians 2:11 NIV
In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ,
It’s a battle against the opinions and suggestions of other people
It’s a battle against the opinions and suggestions of other people – when relatives or those we want to impress put pressure on us to do and say and have things that don’t help us live as dearly loved children of God.
– when relatives or those we want to impress put pressure on us to do and say and have things that don’t help us live as dearly loved children of God.
dragon skin is removed by Aslan - cutting deep into the dragon skin in a way that is painful, but necessary. Only when that layer of dragon skin is removed is Eustace “undragonified” and restored.
It’s a battle against what Paul and Timothy call “the elemental spiritual forces of the world,”
It’s a battle against what Paul and Timothy call “the elemental spiritual forces of the world,” spiritual powers and authorities that put pressure on us to do and say and have things that don’t help us live as dearly loved children of God.
spiritual powers and authorities that put pressure on us to do and say and have things that don’t help us live as dearly loved children of God.
Although we face pressure from our own desires, from people around us, and from spiritual forces, Jesus has won the victory! In light of Jesus’ victory, let me tell you 2 things
Although we face pressure from our own desires, from people around us, and from spiritual forces, Jesus has won the victory! In light of Jesus’ victory, let me tell you 2 things
1. How Jesus won the victory.
How Jesus won the victory.
2. 2 warnings from Paul and Timothy
A pair of warnings from Paul and Timothy

How Jesus Won the Victory

How Jesus won the Victory

First, you’ve often heard preachers and Bible teachers say that Christ Jesus is Lord. Jesus is Lord because he is God. Jesus created the world, along with God the Father and God the HS.
First, you’ve often heard preachers and Bible teachers say that Christ Jesus is Lord.
Jesus is Lord because he is God.
Jesus created the world, along with God the Father and God the HS.
As part of God’s amazing rescue plan, God the Son became a person – completely human, like you and me and everyone else. Even though he was human, he was still the head over all earthly powers and spirits. Because he is God, he is able to rescue us from the punishment we deserve for sin.
As part of God’s amazing rescue plan, God the Son became a person – completely human, like you and me and everyone else. Even though he was human, he was still the head over all earthly powers and spirits. Because he is God, he is able to rescue us from the punishment we deserve for sin.
At the cross Jesus was cut off from God and cut off from the rest of humankind instead of us. Being hung on a cross is symbolic – cut off from God; cut off from people. Paul and Timothy explain that our legal debts were taken away; nailed to the cross. Ä “He forgave us all our sins.”
At the cross Jesus was cut off from God and cut off from the rest of humankind instead of us. Being hung on a cross is symbolic – cut off from God; cut off from people. Paul and Timothy explain that our legal debts were taken away; nailed to the cross.
“He forgave us all our sins.”
Maybe you’ve heard how baptism is a sign and seal of God’s forgiveness. Paul and Timothy mention baptism
Maybe you’ve heard how baptism is a sign and seal of God’s forgiveness. Paul and Timothy mention baptism
Your whole self, ruled by the flesh, was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
Your whole self, ruled by the flesh, was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
Your whole self, ruled by the flesh, was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
(NIV)
(NIV)
(NIV)
Colossians 2:11b–12 NIV
In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
They also mention circumcision. They connect circumcision with baptism in these verses.
They also mention circumcision. They connect circumcision with baptism in these verses.
We don’t often talk about circumcision. It’s hard to discuss politely. Circumcision involves cutting some skin from the penis. It’s usually done when a Jewish boy is 8 days old.
We don’t often talk about circumcision. It’s hard to discuss politely. Circumcision involves cutting some skin from the penis. It’s usually done when a Jewish boy is 8 days old.
Have you ever checked an animal to see what gender they are? Maybe you’ve noticed how in puppies and calves and gerbils, the penis is tucked inside a sheath.
Have you ever checked an animal to see what gender they are? Maybe you’ve noticed how in puppies and calves and gerbils, the penis is tucked inside a sheath.
It’s similar for people. The foreskin is a sheath that covers the end of the penis. Removing the foreskin is the sign and seal of God’s promises dating back to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in Genesis, the first book of the Bible. That’s called circumcision; it’s the OT sign and seal of God’s promises.
It’s similar for people. The foreskin is a sheath that covers the end of the penis. Removing the foreskin is the sign and seal of God’s promises dating back to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in Genesis, the first book of the Bible. That’s called circumcision; it’s the OT sign and seal of God’s promises.
The outward sign represents something that happens inside. Remember we talked about “the flesh;” the part of you that wants to do and say and have things that don’t help us live as dearly loved children of God?
The outward sign represents something that happens inside. Remember we talked about “the flesh;” the part of you that wants to do and say and have things that don’t help us live as dearly loved children of God? Paul says that sinful flesh has been cut off.
Paul says that sinful flesh has been cut off.
Now you can see the powerful imagery of circumcision. You have been circumcised with Christ. Your rebellious flesh has been cut off and buried with Christ. You have been raised to life alongside Jesus through faith – that’s the significance of the NT sign of baptism as well. So Paul and Timothy write:
Now you can see the powerful imagery of circumcision. You have been circumcised with Christ. Your rebellious flesh has been cut off and buried with Christ. You have been raised to life alongside Jesus through faith – that’s the significance of the NT sign of baptism as well. So Paul and Timothy write:
In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self, ruled by the flesh, was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self, ruled by the flesh, was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
(NIV)
Colossians 2:11–12 NIV
In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
(NIV)
Baptism is a sign and seal of Jesus’ victory over our sinful nature. Our rebellious inclinations shouldn’t have power over us anymore. Our flesh has been defeated. Remember, Christ Jesus is Lord! He has defeated all the powers and forces that were opposed to God’s reign over everything.
Baptism is a sign and seal of Jesus’ victory over our sinful nature. Our rebellious inclinations shouldn’t have power over us anymore. Our flesh has been defeated. Remember, Christ Jesus is Lord! He has defeated all the powers and forces that were opposed to God’s reign over everything.

A Pair of Warnings from Paul & Timothy

A Pair of Warnings from Paul & Timothy

Since that’s true, Paul and Timothy have a warning that’s our second point. Two connected warnings:
Since that’s true, Paul and Timothy have a warning that’s our second point. Two connected warnings:
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
Colossians 2:8 NIV
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
(NIV)
Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.
(NIV)
Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.
Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.
Colossians 2:16 NIV
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.
(NIV)
God’s Word doesn’t just warn against our own sinful desires, but also about pressure from outside. They warn about people taking you captive. They warn about people judging you. Sometimes it’s only a word, a gesture or a cough for people to indicate that they disapprove of what we do.
(NIV)
God’s Word doesn’t just warn against our own sinful desires, but also about pressure from outside. They warn about people taking you captive. They warn about people judging you. Sometimes it’s only a word, a gesture or a cough for people to indicate that they disapprove of what we do.
God’s Word doesn’t just warn against our own sinful desires, but also about pressure from outside. They warn about people taking you captive. They warn about people judging you. Sometimes it’s only a word, a gesture or a cough for people to indicate that they disapprove of what we do.
It doesn’t take much to express judgement. Years ago, during summer vacation from elementary school, I remember a much older cousin spending a day with my older sister and me. She ended the day complimenting my sister on how mature she was. She glowed with the compliment. Then I showed my immaturity: I snorted. I had judged my sister; she felt it.
It doesn’t take much to express judgement. Years ago, during summer vacation from elementary school, I remember a much older cousin spending a day with my older sister and me. She ended the day complimenting my sister on how mature she was. She glowed with the compliment. Then I showed my immaturity: I snorted. I had judged my sister; she felt it.
It doesn’t take much to feel someone’s judgement. If you plan to eat out at a restaurant this evening, it only takes one person to give a little gasp and ask, “on Sunday???” You’ll feel judged.
It doesn’t take much to feel someone’s judgement. If you plan to eat out at a restaurant this evening, it only takes one person to give a little gasp and ask, “on Sunday???” You’ll feel judged.
Don’t misunderstand. There are times it’s really super-helpful to hear other people’s recommendation, caution, and advice. After all, we depend on the Christian community to help us grow in our faith and in our Christian behaviour. It’s called Christian discipline.
Don’t misunderstand. There are times it’s really super-helpful to hear other people’s recommendation, caution, and advice. After all, we depend on the Christian community to help us grow in our faith and in our Christian behaviour. It’s called Christian discipline.
But Paul and Timothy are talking about judgement by people who want to impress God and others by how good there are. Their human traditions and attitudes about celebrating the sabbath or other religious holidays aren’t based on the freedom we have in Christ, but on their own efforts to be good enough for God. If you give in to that, you’re being held captive by human traditions.
But Paul and Timothy are talking about judgement by people who want to impress God and others by how good there are. Their human traditions and attitudes about celebrating the sabbath or other religious holidays aren’t based on the freedom we have in Christ, but on their own efforts to be good enough for God. If you give in to that, you’re being held captive by human traditions.
God’s Word peels back the façade. It reveals that evil spirits are behind those traditions and judgments:
God’s Word peels back the façade. It reveals that evil spirits are behind those traditions and judgments:
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
Colossians 2:8 NIV
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
(NIV)
(NIV)
Because Jesus has won the victory, you depend on Christ for your goodness and holiness; not your ideas or behaviour. Rebellious spirits want to mess that up. They want to take your eyes off Jesus’ victory.
Because Jesus has won the victory, you depend on Christ for your goodness and holiness; not your ideas or behaviour. Rebellious spirits want to mess that up. They want to take your eyes off Jesus’ victory.
The OT laws and regulations – which created room for judgement in the Colossian church – were necessary in the OT. God’s instructions found in the OT books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy point ahead to Christ’s righteousness. Since the fall into sin, nobody has been able to live up to that level of goodness. At least, not until Jesus fulfilled God’s law on behalf of believers.
The OT laws and regulations – which created room for judgement in the Colossian church – were necessary in the OT. God’s instructions found in the OT books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy point ahead to Christ’s righteousness.
Since the fall into sin, nobody has been able to live up to that level of goodness. At least, not until Jesus fulfilled God’s law on behalf of believers.
And so Paul and Timothy invite the Christians in Colossae to let go of their attempts to impress God and others with their holiness by living up to human traditions:
And so Paul and Timothy invite the Christians in Colossae to let go of their attempts to impress God and others with their holiness by living up to human traditions
Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”?
Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”?
(NIV)
Colossians 2:20–21 NIV
Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”?
(NIV)
God’s Word isn’t saying that everything goes. It’s freeing us from the pressure of living up to an impossible standard for holiness, when we’ve already been washed clean from sin and clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

Conclusion

God’s Word isn’t saying that everything goes. It’s freeing us from the pressure of living up to an impossible standard for holiness, when we’ve already been washed clean from sin and clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Now we’re back where we started.
Now we’re back where we started.
Jesus has won the victory!
What does that mean for you?
Jesus has won the victory! What does that mean for you?
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
Colossians 2:6–7 NIV
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
(NIV)
(NIV)
Don’t live your life for yourself.
Don’t live your life for yourself.
Don’t live your life for anyone else; only live in Jesus. You can count on the righteousness he has wrapped around you. Don’t let any lies take you captive!
Don’t live your life for anyone else; only live in Jesus. You can count on the righteousness he has wrapped around you. Don’t let any lies take you captive.
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