*** The word “for” in v. 9 is fascinating. It means “because.” And this whole passage (2:8-23) is built on that word.
“See to it that no ones takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception … rather than according to Christ. BECAUSE Christ is fully God BECAUSE you are in Christ and you are complete in Him BECAUSE He is the ruler over all rulers etc.” And this continues, through verse 15, where we get a “THEREFORE.” And actually we could put the word “BECAUSE” in here also. “BECAUSE Christ is God, you are complete in Him, He is ruler over all rulers and powers, let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink … things which are a mere shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” This whole passage is based upon BECAUSE CHRIST. Because Christ is so great, and has done so much, therefore, don’t get sidetracked on other things.
Actually, the entire book of Colossians is built on this same BECAUSE.
BECAUSE Christ is so great you must walk in a manner worthy of Him.
BECAUSE He is creator and sustainer and redeemer of all things you should live holy and blameless.
BEAUSE Christ suffered the infinite price for my sins I will suffer for His church.
BECAUSE God’s glory is seen in Christ-likeness, I will labor to present people mature in Christ.
BECAUSE I have been raised up with Christ, I must keep seeking heavenly things, not earthly.
BECAUSE I have died with Christ and been raised with Him I must set my mind on things above.
BECAUSE I am actually a servant of Christ I can work heartily for my earthly boss.
BECAUSE Christ is my master I will be gracious to my earthly employees.
The whole book is built upon BECAUSE CHRIST.
Hebrews, which we are studying in Sunday School, is built upon this same thing. You should stick with it, don’t get discouraged and give up. Why? BECAUSE Christ is so much greater than the angels. BECAUSE Christ is so much greater than the law. BECAUSE Christ humbled Himself to become a man and die. BECAUSE Christ is a merciful high priest.
All of the Bible is built upon “BECAUSE CHRIST.”
Why the sacrifices? BECAUSE Christ is coming, the perfect sacrifice. Why the law? BECAUSE we need a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. Why the traumatic events and battles that Revelation describes? BECAUSE Christ must be completely exalted over all nations, all powers forever.
Not only is all of the Bible built upon “BECAUSE CHRIST,” but all of life is built upon “BECAUSE CHRIST.” You can’t just go to church on Sunday and then go live for yourself on Monday. Why? BECAUSE of who Christ is and what He has done. You can have peace BECAUSE of Christ. You can’t find true happiness in anything else BECAUSE it is only found in Christ. You can find the grace and help you need to be a godly mother or father BECAUSE of Christ. You can rest in the midst of severe trials, BECAUSE God is exalting Christ and shaping Christlikeness in you through them. It is fascinating that even if you try you can’t get away from it! No one can! If you ignore Christ, you will be judged forever BECAUSE Christ is a just and righteous judge over all the earth. If you, Christian, live for yourself you will be disciplined by God BECAUSE He will be glorified in your life through your Christlikeness. Whether we submit to it and enjoy it and celebrate it and live in the reality of it or not, all of life is of and through and for Christ! This world doesn’t revolve around me! It doesn’t revolve around you! It’s not about us.
Our text today is actually verses 11-15. These verses are part of the “BECAUSE” in verse 9. Remember verse 8 says “See to it that no ones takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception … rather than according to Christ. BECAUSE of all these things.” You should be centered on Christ and live in the reality of Christ and not let anything replace Christ as the central focus of your life. Why? BECAUSE verse 9, BECAUSE verse 10, etc. all the way through verse 15. I.e., Paul says “Let me a tell you a reason why … Now let me tell you another reason why. Let me tell you another reason why. Here’s another reason why.” And then he hits the “therefore” in verse 16.
I think this structure is simply illustrated with a sandwich. (by the way, I saw this week that you can now buy peanut butter in a squeezable tube, so that you do not have to go to the work of spreading it with a knife. And of course if you want to spend the money, you can buy premade peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with the crust cut off.) There is bread in verse 8 and in verses 16-23. This is the practical application: don’t let anything replace Christ as the central focus of your life. Particularly, don’t let people’s laws or regulations or traditions get you off track. We will look at this next week. But that is like the bread, and then the peanut butter and jelly, the “BECAUSE” is in verses 9-15. This is the truth about Christ that motivates you to follow the practical teachings in verse 8 and verses 16-23. If you think of it like a sandwich, it will help you remember and visualize the structure of this part of Colossians 2.
If you love the centrality of Christ in all of life, then verses like these in the middle of Colossians 2 are like steak or ice cream to your taste. It’s sweet. This is celebration material. I love having this great Christ at the center of everything! That’s Paul’s point - if you will celebrate who Christ is and what Christ has done, you will stay on track.
God designated circumcision as an act of obedience for Israel, a sign that they were in the covenant with Jehovah. Through time the Jews came to be very proud that they were circumcised and other races were not. But they were off track, because that outward circumcision did not save them. And so many times God told His people that they needed a heart circumcision.
Deut. 10:16 “fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him … Circumcise then your heart, and stiffen your neck no more.”
Deut. 30:6 “The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live.”
Jer. 4:4 “You should return to me…. Break up your fallow ground, and do not sow among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord and remove the foreskins of your heart.”
Jer. 9:26 “all the house of Israel are uncircumcised of heart.”
Paul warned in Romans 2:29 “He is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter.”
Israel had to wake up to the reality that though they were physically circumcised, they were still uncircumcised and unclean in their hearts! This is parallel to some in the church who come to church and talk the Christian talk and do the stuff that people expect them to do, but in their hearts they are unclean before God. Their old flesh is still dominating their life. They may outwardly claim the title Christian and do the Christian stuff, but they are inwardly unclean. We all need circumcision of the heart. All of us, male and female, are bore with uncircumcised hearts. You have a sinful heart that is determined to sin against God, and as long as that sinful heart is in control you have nowhere to go but hell. And you can’t do anything about it. We cannot remove our own sinful heart.
This brings us to 2:11 “In Christ you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.” Christ brings a completely new kind of circumcision. This is a circumcision “made without hands,” it is not physical. It is the “removal of the body of flesh.” This “body of flesh” is your sinful heart, your sinful nature that you are born with. In a spiritual circumcision, Christ can remove that from you. You could never remove it yourself, but Christ can. Praise the Lord for spiritual circumcision, and a new heart!
At salvation, you are brought into union with Jesus Christ. You are in Christ, and Christ is in you. Every spiritual blessing you have is because of this union. His righteousness is on your account; His inheritance is yours as well; His acceptance before the Father is yours. Paul realizes that this means that you died with Him; you were buried and resurrected with Him; you are seated in heavenly places right now because you are in Him. And He says the same thing here. You were buried and raised up with Him. The confusing phrase here is the phrase “in baptism.” What does it mean that you were buried with him in baptism. This is not an actual reference to water baptism. This is referring to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which united you with Christ when you were saved. I Cor. 12:13 “By one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,” that is Christ. The body of Christ. The Spirit puts you in Christ, brings you into union with Christ. They use the word “baptize” to teach this. The word normally means “to dunk.” The Spirit dunks you, immerses you, into Christ. (use pen to illustrate this, just like Dad always did). And so when Christ was buried, you were. When Christ rose, you rose!
Why is it such a big deal that you were “buried” and “raised up with Him”? Because that means you are alive, when before you were hopelessly dead. Look at verse 13 “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him.” You were not only unclean in your heart (uncircumcised), you were spiritually dead. But because of union with Christ you are alive!
How could He take a dead person and make them alive? Because he got rid of what was killing you – your sin. “He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.” “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
Now Paul will describe further our condition…
“certificate of debt” = this is one Greek word, the word used for a legal document, like a mortgage paper.
“consisting of decrees against us” = this must be referring to the righteous demands of God. Just listen:
Leviticus 11:44 “Be holy, for I am holy.”
Ex. 20 “You shall not murder” – Matt. 5:22 “everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty”
Ex. 20 “You shall not commit adultery” – Matt. 5:28 “everyone who looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery already in his heart.”
Matt. 5:44 “love your enemies”
The righteous character of God and his righteous demands are like decrees against us because we are sinners deep in our very nature and we are habitual sinners by choice. God’s righteous decrees expose that.
And so Paul goes on in Col. 2:14 to say that these righteous demands, these decrees of God are “hostile to us.” They are like our enemy that won’t go away. We are constantly being pressed upon with God’s righteousness, and it is like a spotlight that illuminates our unrighteousness. Or to use Paul’s picture, there is a certificate of debt that says you must be holy – GUILTY. You must not commit adultery – GUILTY. You must love your enemies – GUILTY. There it is. Your condemnation, written out on a certificate of debt. The decrees condemn you. Your own sinful choices condemn you. That certificate is like your hostile enemy.
Paul uses to beautiful pictures to show what Jesus did:
“cancelled out” = evxalei,yaj to wipe away; used in Rev 2x for God wiping away every tear in heaven. God takes that certificate of decrees against you and wipes them all away.
And then Paul seems to switch images, and says that Christ took that certificate and nailed it to the cross. It isn’t hard to bring those two images together and see that as the nails went through the wrists of Christ to nail him to the cross, it is as if he had in his hand the certificate of decrees against you. And as the nail pinned Christ to the cross it pinned your certificate of debt to the cross, and the blood of Christ poured out and wiped away the decrees against you.
And Paul says “WHY??? Why would you go back to ‘don’t taste this, don’t touch this, do this, don’t do that and maybe you’ll get to heaven,’ when your sins were nailed to the cross with Christ and have been wiped away forever. And now you will seek to wipe them away yourself with your own works? Or you will get off on other religious, even Christian tangents and diversions, and stop paying attention to Christ? No – come back to the great “because.” Come back to Christ.
This verse is highly disputed, but I think it means that at the cross, when Christ paid for your sins, he disarmed the rulers of evil, primarily the devil and the evil angels with him. He disarmed them because he took away from them their only ammunition against you – your sin. “He made a public display of them.” They thought they had made a public display of Christ – they thought they had won the ultimate victory. But in the world’s most dramatic turn of events, that unfair and brutal death actually stripped them of their power, and ransomed billions to be God’s children, and Christ rose from the dead and ascended to the highest place of exaltation in the universe. Talk about embarrassed?!
Interesting to note that everyone in Israel knew about the resurrection. The few lame attempts at explanation by the Jewish leadership show that. The powerful witness of the disciples, which no one disputed, proves that. It was public humiliation for Christ’s enemies.
READ 8-18a, substituting “BECAUSE” at the beginning of the verses.
Christ is the great “because” in all of life. Now go live like it.