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Christ Has Done It All

Colossians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  53:23
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Introduction

Colossians 2:9-10;
Good morning - please open your Bibles with me to Colossians 2. It is an extreme joy to be back with you this morning. Kyle did a great job last week - but there is something about the mandate to preaching that makes it odd to be in the church that God has entrusted you with and to not be the one preaching. As you are turning in your Bibles or navigating on your phones let me again take a moment to thank all of you for affording me the opportunity to attend the Shepherd’s Conference last week the learning I received there will he me I become a more faithful and capable pastor and teacher of the Word for you.
Let’s read our passage for this morning.
Colossians 2:9–15 CSB
For the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily in Christ, and you have been filled by him, who is the head over every ruler and authority. You were also circumcised in him with a circumcision not done with hands, by putting off the body of flesh, in the circumcision of Christ, when you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he made you alive with him and forgave us all our trespasses. He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it away by nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them publicly; he triumphed over them in him.
We’re going to back up a little bit because in order to fully understand the entirety of the text for today we need to see that the thought process in this mornings passage is really a continuation of statements that Paul started making in verse 9. The NASB translation of these verses really puts it into focus for us
Colossians 2:9–11 NASB95
For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; 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;
Paul is driving home the point that it is in Christ that first all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form - the very God who could not be contained within a temple built by human hands - a lavish, extravagant temple built by Solomon - dwelt in the frail, limited body of a human being. And it is the complete nature of God - all of His nature is found in Him. It is interesting that anytime we look to anything else we end up worshipping something else as God. Sex, money, science - none of these are God. Paul is making it clear for us that the entire fullness of Deity and therefore the only true object of our worship is found in Christ.
And then he says that in Him we have been made complete - or another way to say this is that we have been completely filled. Some of you may have seen this illustration before but if I were to get in my car and drive to the Pacific Ocean and take a mason jar and dip it into the ocean would I have the entire fullness of the ocean in the jar? No. But if I take that jar and throw it as far as I can into the sea (really that’s more for dramatic affect because it’s way cooler to throw the jar out into the ocean than it is to simply drop it into the surf) and it is swallowed below the surface of the sea it is completely filled with the ocean - the jar ceases to exist outside of the ocean and when we receive Christ Jesus as Lord and are made complete in Him we cease to exist outside of Him.
Paul goes on to say that we have been circumcised in Him. A quick background on circumcision - circumcision was given to Abraham in Genesis 17 as a sign of the covenant that had already been struck between them by God’s sovereign action in Genesis 15. Basically God tells Abraham that in order for his offspring to be considered a part of the covenant that they would have to be circumcised. It was a physical demonstration of their submission to God. Throughout the history of the nation of Israel boys had been circumcised in accordance with this command. After Christ’s death and resurrection, when the Gospel was taken to the Gentile nations a controversy arose as to whether or not someone had to be circumcised to be saved. It is evident by it’s inclusion in our passage today that there may have been some misguided teaching regarding circumcision taking place in Colossae.

What Circumcision is Paul Talking About?

Colossians 2:11; Galatians 5:6; Romans 9:6; Deuteronomy 10:16; Deuteronomy 30:6; Romans 2:28-29; Philippians 3:3; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Corinthians 5:17
Paul is not making the case that we have to be circumcised to be saved.
Paul is not making the case that we have to be circumcised to be saved.
- Galatians 5:6
Galatians 5:6 CSB
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision accomplishes anything; what matters is faith working through love.
This would have caused two problems for Paul - the first is that it would have supported the claims of his opponents that you do have to be circumcised and Paul would have played right into their hand. The second is that Paul is not even really referring to the physical act of circumcision here. He is giving an example of a spiritual reality that took on the form of human tradition and was perverted. The Jews believed that they were God’s special people not because they had been chosen out by Him but because they followed in the traditions that had been handed down through the centuries - one of these primarily being circumcision. Romans 9:6 though demonstrates that all those who had been physically circumcised were not necessarily a part of the spiritual nation of Israel.
Romans 9:6 CSB
Now it is not as though the word of God has failed, because not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.
The concept of circumcision being more about the spiritual condition of the man rather than the physical is not simply a New Testament concept. In his great final message to the people of Israel contained in the book of Deuteronomy Moses mentions the reality that circumcision is more about the heart. In Deuteronomy 10:16 he says
Deuteronomy 10:16 CSB
Therefore, circumcise your hearts and don’t be stiff-necked any longer.
Then again later in Deuteronomy 30:6
Deuteronomy 30:6 CSB
The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants, and you will love him with all your heart and all your soul so that you will live.
And in Romans 2:28-29 Paul makes clear that it is the one who is circumcised in their heart - by the Spirit not the letter - is the one who is the actual Jew.
Romans 2:28–29 CSB
For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, and true circumcision is not something visible in the flesh. On the contrary, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart—by the Spirit, not the letter. That person’s praise is not from people but from God.
Finally - he applies this to all believers in Philippians 3:3
Philippians 3:3 CSB
For we are the circumcision, the ones who worship by the Spirit of God, boast in Christ Jesus, and do not put confidence in the flesh—
Paul is elevating the concept of circumcision from the physical realm to the spiritual.
Paul is elevating the concept of circumcision from the physical realm to the spiritual.
Isn’t it fascinating that whenever we try to add anything to Christ we always add something temporal or physical. Whether it is the Judaizers with circumcision, the Roman Catholics with penance, the Prosperity Gospel with your best life now or the Social Justice advocates looking for reparations we humans always try to add something to Christ that is about the here and now. That is about making our life now more palatable or more acceptable to us now. But Paul rips us out of that realm and places us squarely in the spiritual.
So if it isn’t a physical circumcision - and incidentally it wont be a physical baptism that he is pointing to either - what is Paul getting at here? How is it that we as believers have been circumcised in Him with a circumcision not done with human hands. As we have already said this is a spiritual reality and it is one that Paul explains in the next two phrases.
The first being “by putting off the body of the flesh”. Throughout Scripture the flesh is referred to as the seat of our sinful nature. In Galatians 5 Paul contrasts the works of the flesh with the fruits of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:19–21 CSB
Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I am warning you about these things—as I warned you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
The flesh is represented in Scripture as being in complete opposition to the Spirit of God and also the new nature of the Christian. Here Paul is saying that if we have shared in His death (the circumcision of Christ) then we have had the body of flesh meaning our sinful nature taken away. This is not to say or infer in any way that we are able to achieve some sort of sinless perfection this side of the Heaven -
Luther said it best when he said “simul justus et peccator
Simul justus et peccator
- that Christian believers are at the same time both righteous and a sinner. But what this does mean is that if you are a believer and have placed your trust in Christ that your propensity for living in a state of sin is removed. It means that your nature - what you are known for will no longer be sinful but righteous. It means that you will no longer practice open, rebellious sin and that you will desire to come under the instructions of Scripture and live your life in accordance to what God has commanded. And if anything in your life doesn’t conform to those commands you will seek ways to repent of that lifestyle and change it. Paul gives a good demonstration of the struggle that we as Christians have in Romans 7 and for sake of time I will let you take a look at that chapter during your quiet times this week - but to the church in Corinth he wrote this in 2 Corinthians 5:17
2 Corinthians 5:17 CSB
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!
We have a new nature in Him and we are no longer held captive by the sinful, fleshly nature that once ruled our life.

What does Baptism Have to do with It?

Colossians 2:12-13b; Romans 5:18-19; Romans 6:6; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 2:11-12
Paul moves on to a discussion of baptism to demonstrate another spiritual way in which we have been regenerated and associated with Christ. Some have used this passage to suggest some form of baptismal regeneration - that you aren’t actually saved until you have been baptized. That something happens during that event that makes you spiritually right with God. But Paul is not, and I am not, suggesting that here. That would be to simply supplant one tradition with another that amounts to nothing more than a work performed by us to achieve our own salvation.
In verses 12 and 13 Paul is going to transition his metaphors for the Christian from those of being found in Christ to now being associated with Him and in so doing he is going to give us a picture of the spiritual regeneration and life of the believer. Now that may sound confusing because I have just made the case that what Paul is not getting at here is baptismal regeneration and he is not. The picture that he is going to provide for us is not so much associated with the act of baptism - as important as that is for the Christian - as it is a picture of who we are associated with. Throughout Paul’s writings there is one theme that is continuously present - that his new life in Christ wrought in him an entirely new identity and a new association. This is most clearly brought out in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 where Paul establishes the idea that because of his sin and the resulting corruption of human nature, all humans are found in Adam before regeneration and then those who are regenerated are now found in Christ.
Romans 5:18–19 CSB
So then, as through one trespass there is condemnation for everyone, so also through one righteous act there is justification leading to life for everyone. For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
And so here in Colossians Paul continues to make the case that there is no where else that salvation can be found - no other association is necessary for us to be redeemed except to be associated with Christ. And he says that we are associated with Him in three ways
The first is that we are buried with Him. Baptism in this verse is incidental in the same way that circumcision is incidental in verse 11. In both usages they are a reference to the death of Christ so they are not incidental in that way - only that the acts of circumcision and baptism are not the main point of the passage or verse. They are important in the sense that just as in circumcision our fleshly nature is removed from us, in this baptism we are seen as having spiritually participated in Christ’s death and thus had to be buried with Christ in the grave. This is most clearly seen in Romans 6:6
Romans 6:6 CSB
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be rendered powerless so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin,
But Paul also alludes to this reality in the Christian life in Galatians 2:20
Galatians 2:20 CSB
I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
It is our sinful nature that is buried with Him as that is why Christ was crucified to
But just as Christ did not stay in the grave but was raised from the dead we also have been raised with Him into the new life that is the promise of salvation. It is through faith in the the working of God. This is an important distinction to make here - that it is through faith. There are some circles of Christianity that are minimizing this notion of faith in the life of a believer - and in a sense they are right because the picture of faith that they are giving surely should be minimized. The reason is that the faith that they are talking about is the “You’ve just got to believe brother” or “You just have to take it on faith sister” - where faith is characterized more as a blind hope than what the Bible’s description of faith is. The word for faith here is pisitis and in the 236 times in the New Testament that it is translated as faith never once does it operate on the premise of blind hope.
Pistis - it was used to denote “confidence”, “trustworthiness” or as a guarantee in the sense of a pledge or an oath.
Pistis - it was used to denote “confidence”, “trustworthiness” or as a guarantee in the sense of a pledge or an oath.
It is this faith that we share with the believers in Colossae and down throughout history that God is faithful to His promises and that He has raised us from the dead along with Christ. We can have assurance that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
And it is amazing that He has made us alive with Him. Here, Paul returns us to our state before our regeneration into Christ - he says that we were dead in our trespasses and in the uncircumcision of our flesh. In Ephesians 2 Paul says that we were dead in our trespasses and sins and that we lived according to our fleshly desires. And then He makes that great statement that even in it’s brevity is one of the most beautiful in all of Scripture - “But God”. Here in our passage he is slightly more understated even if he uses more words as he writes that God made us alive together with Him.
Paul’s point here is that we were completely devoid of sense, that we could not have moved toward God unless He had taken the initiative and moved toward us. Before we moved up here one of the roles that I filled was as an itinerant funeral officiant. We had a friend who worked at a mortuary and he would call me when they had a family that desired a Christian burial but didn’t have a pastor. Once, as I was preparing to preach through the Ephesians 2 passage, I called my friend up and asked him if he’d ever had a dead body get up off the table and walk out of their mortuary and he, after laughing at me for a minute, said no that’s never happened to me. Not only do dead men not tell any tales, they don’t suddenly rise up and walk either. That’s the spiritual state that we were in as a result of Adam’s sin in the Garden. That’s the state that the entire unbelieving world is in and as such is one of the reasons that we should have such a tender heart towards them. They are where we once were - and we are where we are now not because of anything beautiful or amazing on our part but because God sovereignly moved and made us alive when we were dead. It’s also why we need to place our faith in Christ and the Gospel and not hope in politicians or policies or programs enacted to save anyone or anything.
Paul also says that before being made alive in Christ they were in the uncircumcision of their flesh - this is a glancing reference to the circumcision spoken of in verse 11 but it is also a reference to the fact that as Gentiles these believers were outside the camp - they were not included in the covenant promises of God given to the nation of Israel and as such had to be made alive in Christ to now be included.
Ephesians 2:11–12 CSB
So then, remember that at one time you were Gentiles in the flesh—called “the uncircumcised” by those called “the circumcised,” which is done in the flesh by human hands. At that time you were without Christ, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world.
But how did this happen - how were we who were dead first buried with Him, then raised with Him and are now made alive with Him - Paul continues on with the point that this entire section has been building towards and which is the main point of our passage this morning.

Your Debt is Paid!

Colossians 2:13b-15; Psalm 32:1;
Paul writes that in addition to being made alive with Christ that we have been forgiven for all of our trespasses. This is truly the most glorious and amazing truth in all of Scripture - that we have been forgiven for our sins. The Psalmist wrote it this way in Psalm 32
Psalm 32:1 CSB
How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!
A case could be made that the forgiveness of sins is the second most important theme of the New Testament - only behind the revelation of the person of Jesus Christ. The two go hand in hand to be sure. In fact Christ’s first recorded words in the book of Mark - imagine this for a moment before we get to those. When we have news today how long does it take for us to share it? 4 seconds? 40 seconds if our phone isn’t readily at hand? Jesus had been waiting 4000 years to bring the news that He had been sent to preach - and these were the words
Mark 1:15 CSB
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
The forgiveness of sins is bound up tightly in the sentence to repent and believe. Forgiveness was promised all throughout the Old Testament
Isaiah 55:7 CSB
Let the wicked one abandon his way and the sinful one his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, so he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will freely forgive.
and it has now come and is available to us
1 John 1:9 CSB
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
How amazing is that! And this isn’t just a temporary or fleeting forgiveness. We have a tendency to make God in our likeness and assume that His forgiveness is the same as ours. We often play with our forgiveness of individuals like the con artist on the street playing a shell game - it’s here, it’s there oh you missed it again or we put heavy restrictions or requirements on our forgiveness - I forgive you but don’t you ever do it again…and then our spouse squeezes the toothpaste in the middle of the tube again and our forgiveness goes right out the window.
But God’s forgiveness is not like that. It does not waver nor does it put requirements on us. It is complete, once and for all time, over and done with forgiveness. It never changes and it will never be rescinded. If you have received this forgiveness it is permanent and it is all encompassing. And the reason why this is is because it wasn’t cheap.
Paul gives an illustration of how this forgiveness has been effected - he says that He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations.
This certificate of debt was in a sense an IOU on the part of a person that they would pay back what was owed.
This certificate of debt was in a sense an IOU on the part of a person that they would pay back what was owed.
It’s like a promissory note or a receipt. The longest receipt I could find record of online was 57.5 feet long and it totaled over $18,000 dollars worth of merchandise. I can tell you that my spiritual receipt - my certificate of obligation - would dwarf that thing. And so we have this certificate against us and opposed to us - literally condemning us under the weight of the obligations. This is a reference to the precepts of God that we should be holy and the decrees (as the ESV translates this word obligations) were the laws that were given that were meant to keep the Israelites holy but really just condemned them. And so here we would stand with a certificate longer than the eye could see, with an IOU that we would be unable and incapable of paying.
But Paul says that He erased it. This is a reference to what they would do in the marketplace with these certificates - they would be written on papyrus or some other material and what they would do is that they would literally scrape the writing off of the material in effect erasing the debt. I think of Abraham Lincoln as he was learning in his younger years he would scrawl out his lessons in charcoal on a board and then he would scrape them off so that he could start over or move on to a different subject.
Erasing it would be amazing enough - if like the shrewd manager in the parable that Jesus told He just took that certificate and erased it, forgiving the debt without extracting payment. If He had just scraped it clean and then nailed a clean slate to the cross like those businesses who have pinned up their first dollar or first twenty dollar bill earned. But that’s not how He did it. Instead He nailed that certificate of debt to the cross with the same nails that pierced His Son - that He exacted the payment that each of those certificates owed out of His own Son. 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us that He bore our sins so that we could be seen as righteous in Him.
2 Corinthians 5:21 CSB
He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
And it is by this act - this selfless sacrifice - that He has disarmed the rulers and authorities - those spiritual systems and ideas that are set against Him and the truth contained in this passage and disgraced them. Never will they be able to measure up to the truth of Christianity - they will never be anything more than a sad attempt to attain salvation by the works of man which will always fail because He has already triumphed over all of them.

Conclusion

So what does this mean for us in 2019 in Spokane Valley? For some of us this is assurance - that His forgiveness is real, it is lasting and it will never be taken away so if you’re here today and you’re wavering in your faith or questioning whether God could really forgive someone like you He can and He will. For some of you this passage is a mirror - that if you hold it up to your life you have to ask the hard question as to whether you have actually been circumcised in Him by the putting off the body of flesh - or are you living in a pet sin that you are unwilling to let go? Are you waging war against that sin or living unreservedly in it? If so look deep into this mirror and see what Christ has done for you, and how you can be freed by complete repentance and faith in Him.
For some of you - this is just another opportunity to glory in the multifaceted diamond that the Gospel is and how it is demonstrated for us in Scripture. But the question is what are you doing with it? Are you like Gollum holding it tightly and protecting it at all costs, unwilling to give it away or are you freely sharing the glorious truths given to you - you’re someone who hasn’t identified one person but instead have found 4 or 5 or ten to pray and share the Gospel with.
And some of you needed to hear this morning that you are guilty on your own - that the certificate of debt that stands against you stretches out farther than the eye could see and that if you stand before God on your day of judgement that you wont have an answer or an account to pay your debt. You needed to hear that forgiveness can only be found in Christ through the cross - this is your opportunity to connect with someone today to come to forgiveness in Christ.
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