"Complete with Christ"
Lesson Text:Colossians 2:6-15
Background Scripture:Colossians 2
Devotional Reading:Romans 8:31-39
Colossians 2:6-15 (KJV)
6As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him,
7Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
8Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
9For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.
10And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.
11In him ye are circumcised with circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.
12Buried with him in baptism, also ye are risen through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
13 and you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
14Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us and took it out of the way; nailing it to his cross.
15And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
To understand that we cannot depend on human traditions or philosophies, because true “fullness” is available only in Christ!
To know that the truth about the Son exposes false religious ideas.
To walk daily knowing that you are complete in Christ!
Rejecting the “Yard Sale” Life
People find amazing items at yard sales. Among the piles of used clothes and dated bric-a-brac, savvy shoppers find bargains on rare collectibles, valuable antiques, and useful everyday items.
Most yard sales have a few items that have been barely used, if at all. Many of those nearly new items were probably bought in a spasm of self-improvement. A person thinks, “I need to start exercising,” so he buys exercise equipment. Or a person says, “I need to eat healthier food,” so she buys a juicer or vegetable steamer. Years later, that item sits unused in the closet or the basement.
Facing up to reality, the owner puts it up for sale at a fraction of its original cost. The hoped for self-improvement never happened. And by Saturday afternoon, the item is in the custody of another optimistic self-improver, perhaps to end up in yet another yard sale in a few more years.
Look closely at many lives and you will see more than neglected treadmills. You will also see unused ideas, beliefs, commitments—ways of life that people hoped would improve their lot but which end up ignored and set aside. No one wants a basement full of neglected stuff, once bought at high cost only to be sold for loose change at a yard sale. Likewise, no one should want a spiritual life that is characterized by an endless string of short-term, lukewarm enthusiasms. No one should miss the genuine, priceless treasure that commitment to Christ brings. Paul definitely didn’t want this fate to befall the Colossian believers.
The church of Colosse found itself surrounded by competing belief systems (sound familiar?). There were the old pagan religions—famous stories about the heroic gods and goddesses of Greece. There were newfangled “mystery” religions—small, cultlike groups that promised spiritual enlightenment for those willing to undergo a long and costly process of initiation. There were sophisticated philosophical systems—ways of life built around speculation on the nature of existence combined with commonsense observations. There was magic—practices that were thought to manipulate spiritual beings into doing one’s bidding. And there was Judaism—a firm commitment to but one God who revealed himself to a single nation and gave them an elaborate legal code to follow.
When the gospel came to Colosse, many saw in Jesus Christ what they had sought but not found in those other ideologies and faiths. Setting aside their old commitments at great cost, they committed to Christ. But old ways can reassert their appeal with time. Paul wanted to remind the Colossian believers of what was at stake in their flirtation with these old ways.
Stand Firm on the Truth of the Gospel (Colossians 2:6-8)
1. Why did Paul feel compelled to remind the Colossian believers to remain steadfast and grow in “Christ Jesus” (Colossians 2:6-7)?
For the time being, Paul expressed his pleasure with the “orderly” conduct of the Colossian congregation (Colossians 2:5). The apostle was drawing from a military image to describe how they united their ranks against the Christ’s foes. As a matter of fact, the religious frauds were not able to break the morale of the Colossians. However, Paul also knew that in the Christian life, we never stand still: we either go forward or gradually slip backward. The Christian who is not making spiritual progress is an open target for the enemy to attack and destroy.
Despite Paul’s praise for the believers in Colossae, he still felt compelled to admonish them to keep away from the forces that wanted to lead them astray. When the apostle’s readers first heard the Good News about the Savior, they embraced it with joy and zeal. But perhaps their initial enthusiasm had started to fade. For this reason, Paul urged them to draw upon deeper spiritual resources as they continued to anchor their lives in the Son (Colossians 2:6). It is all too common for many believers to go through a so-called “honeymoon period” just after conversion. During this time, the new believers might begin to feel invulnerable to emotional or spiritual pain and expect these feelings to last a lifetime. After a while, however, as the pressures of following the Savior begin to mount, the pain inevitably comes. A mark of spiritual maturity is to let go of false expectations and to keep growing despite temporary discomforts.
2. What does it mean to for the believer to live “rooted” in the Son (v. 7)?
Paul provided three answers to this question. First, we are to be “rooted and built up” (Col. 2:7) in the Redeemer. This phrase brings two pictures to mind. One is of a plant rooted in the Redeemer. This phrase brings two pictures to mind. One is of a plant rooted in the ground. The other is of a structure being built above ground. This mixed metaphor actually combines two important features of the growth of one’s Christian faith. At the same time we are growing upward in the Savior, our roots in the faith should also be deepening. Second, we are to be “stablished in the faith.” Specifically, Paul was exhorting the Colossian believers to rely on the teachings Epaphras had given them (Col. 1:7). These instructions were consistent with what the apostle had taught and were certainly in harmony with other biblical teachings. Expressed differently, they were to stay committed to the truth of the Gospel, which empowered them to live in harmony with the Father’s will.
Third, we are to be “overflowing” with gratitude. This includes being thankful that Jesus died for our sins and now lives in us. For these and other reasons, we should show our appreciation to the Father and the Son (along with the Spirit) in all that we do. Paul prayed that this attitude would mark the lives of the Christians in Colossae. This attitude should most certainly mark the lives of believers today, too. As before, Paul’s objective in giving this much emphasis to Christ was so that this knowledge would protect them from doctrinal error and invigorate their faith. This type of knowledge can do the same for us who are rooted and grounded in Christ.
3. What spiritual perils did Paul say to watch out for (v. 8)?
Paul warned the believers in Colossae not to be fooled into believing the deceitful doctrines of the false teachers who were around them. The apostle’s language in Colossians 2:8 vividly portrays the consequence of being misled by a philosophy that is empty of any value and deceptive in its intent. Those who were captivated by it are like people who are kidnapped or captured during a war. In short, the false teachers were spiritual enemies who treacherously preyed upon Jesus’ followers.
Paul went on to characterize this evil philosophy as being man-made. God had not revealed this doctrine. Rather, it was the product of corrupted human minds. Moreover, this philosophy was based on the strictly human ideas found in the world. They consisted of instructions on acquiring secret knowledge and codes, angel worship, eating and drinking practices, and religious rituals (Col. 2:16-23). Yet very little of it reflected the well-known public teachings of the Savior. It would be incorrect to conclude that Paul was arguing against the study of philosophy as an academic discipline. Philosophy today often refers to academic argumentation about thought and logic. In Paul's time, it refers more broadly to the wisdom of various thinkers who seek to have an appearance of wisdom (v. 23). The apostle was warning against adopting any point of view or teaching that was contrary to the Gospel (see Gal. 1:6-9).
What Do You Think?
What worldly traditions, principles, etc., present the greatest threats to a Christian's spiritual health? Why and how do we resist these threats?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
Worldly views of sin l Worldly views of human origins l Worldly views of Jesus' person and work l Other
Affirming the Son’s Deity/Reasons for Firm Faith (Colossians 2:9,10)
3. What did Paul mean by Christ is “the fullness of the Godhead” (vs. 9, 10)?
To make clear Christ’s utter supremacy, Paul draws on a concept that he used earlier, in Colossians 1:19 (last week’s lesson): Christ is the fullness, the entirety of God’s being. To know him is to know God fully. Here Paul adds a concept to specify further Christ’s utter supremacy as God: Christ is the fullness of the Godhead. This indicates unmistakably that Paul speaks of Christ not just as a powerful spirit being, but as God himself. Christ is the one true God, the God of Israel.
Further still, the true God dwelt in Christ bodily. This indicates that God himself entered the world as a human with a physical body in the man Jesus. The wonder of the triune God (one God existing as Father, Son, and Spirit) and the wonder of the incarnation (God becoming human) are briefly and powerfully expressed here.
Because Christ is the fullness of God, those who belong to Christ are complete or full because they belong to Him (Col. 2:10). Nothing else can surpass or add to what believers receive from the supreme Christ.
Indeed, there are spiritual perils that the Christian faces. The fundamental test of any religious teaching is, "Where does it put Jesus Christ—His person and His work?" Does it rob Him of His fullness? Does it deny either His deity or His humanity? Does it affirm that the believer must have some "new experience" to supplement his experience with Christ? If so, that teaching is wrong and dangerous.
Because Christ is the fullness of the one true God, He is sovereign over any and every other spiritual being (all principality and power; also Ephesians 1:21, 22). Whatever power they possess, Christ is greater. Likewise, whatever they might empower among the people of this world, Christ is greater and imparts a greater power to His people.
So Christ's people have every reason to look nowhere but to Him. He, the fullness of God, gives us full, complete relationship with God. As the greatest power, He is supreme over every spiritual and worldly power. His supremacy gives us every reason to stand firm in our faith in Him.
Spiritual Victory in the Son (Colossians 2:11-15)
Remember that the false teaching that threatened the Colossian church was made up of several elements: Oriental mysticism, astrology, philosophy, and Jewish legalism. It is the latter element that Paul dealt with in this section of his letter. Apparently, the false teachers insisted that their converts submit to circumcision and obey the Old Testament Law.
4. How is it that Christ transform us (vs. 11, 12)?
From His supreme position, Christ grants His people a victorious transformation that surpasses that of any other source. What Christ does fulfills God's promises made in the Old Testament to Israel, bringing the reality to which Israel's laws and practices pointed. God had commanded Abraham to circumcise all the males in His camp as a sign that they belonged to God through a covenant (Genesis 17:10, 11). Thereafter, circumcision was the definitive sign of membership in Israel, God's chosen people. Without that sign, a man could not be regarded as belonging to God's people.
But God's promise was always to bless not just Israel but all nations (Genesis 22:18; Isaiah 42:6). In Christ, Paul says, God fulfills that promise. Christ brings about a greater circumcision. This one is not done by human hands, but by Christ's divine power.
This new kind of circumcision is not the removal of a piece of flesh, as is “ordinary” circumcision. Rather, it is the removal of sin, pictured as if it were a piece of flesh. Christ removes the guilt of sin, granting us forgiveness, and He removes the power of sin as His power enables us to overcome the rebellious thoughts and actions that otherwise dominate our lives. That is a circumcision of the heart (Romans 2:29).
Thus Israel's practice of circumcision was intended by God to point toward something that later would truly mark God's people as belonging to Him. That “something” is the sin-overcoming transformation that Christ offers.
5.What spiritual truth does Paul illustrate by the physical act of baptism (v. 12)?
Verse 12 continues the theme of the previous one, adding another image of Christ's transformation: baptism. At Jesus' command, His followers administer it“in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” on those who come to faith in Jesus (Matthew 28:19, 20; compare Acts 2:38). Religious washing ceremonies are common in ancient Judaism. But these are self-administered: a person dips himself or herself in water. Christian baptism differs in that it is administered by another. This represents a cleansing that one cannot do to oneself, but that God provides (compare Titus 3:5).
To this image of cleansing, the New Testament adds others. Notable images here are burial and resurrection (also Romans 6:4). Because the baptized person is taken under the water and then brought out of it, the action resembles Christ's resurrection from the dead. So now in baptism, the believer is united with Christ's death and resurrection, as God applies the power and benefits of the cross to believers. Baptism signals death to the old life of rebellion against God and resurrection to the new life of submission to Christ.
Of course, merely dipping someone in water cannot accomplish this. The baptismal water has no magical properties. Baptism is God's act, given to those who approach Him through the faith of the operation (work) of God. But baptism also is the biblical means by which we address ourselves to God, seeking cleansing from sin and new life from Him. In baptism the believer says, “God, please by the power of Christ make me clean from sin, make me dead to sin, give me new life in Christ.”
Mark of the Best
She has her mother's eyes. He has his father's smile. He acts like his big brother. She likes to dress like her sister. Each of these statements indicates a mark of identification of one person with another. Various symbols or marks of identification are all around us. Think of matching wedding bands, police uniforms, and gang tattoos.
The mark of identification in ancient Israel was circumcision. In the Christian era, baptism is one mark of identification of a repentant follower of Jesus Christ. But submitting to baptism as a mere outward ritual is without value. The goal of those who are identified with Christ is to become more and more like Him.
Some Christians spend a lot of time trying to interpret the meaning of “the mark of the beast” of Revelation 16:2; 19:20. They want to make sure they are not identified in that manner. While some concern about this mark is called for, a better use of time and effort is to try to live up to the meaning of bearing “the mark of the best.” We do so when our lives serve as examples of what living in Jesus Christ is all about. —A. E. A.
6. Hoe does Christ nullify our sins (vs. 13-14)?
Paul now combines images from the preceding section to emphasize the complete forgiveness that Christ gives His people (also Ephesians 2:1,5). The Bible consistently associates death with sin, from God's first warning to Adam (Genesis 2:17) through Revelation's warning about the “second death” (Revelation 21:8). That death is more than the tragedy of physical death; it is the ongoing guilt, alienation, and disharmony that we experience because of disobedience to God. That is the experience of being dead in your sins.
“Uncircumcision” indicated separation from God's people, being God's enemy. That is another appropriate image of the old life. To that lost, helpless situation, God brings the answer in Christ. He grants new life in resurrection from the death of sin; He performs the removal of sin in spiritual circumcision. He forgives utterly. In every way that we have violated His will, He absolves.
Nowhere else is such forgiveness possible. Even the temple, given to Israel by God himself, cannot give full and final forgiveness since sacrifices there have to be offered over and over (Hebrews 10:1-4). Only Christ provides absolute release from sin's condemnation. Quickened is an older word that means “made alive,” and that's what Christ does.
Colossians 2:14 (of today’s lesson) has terms that are difficult to sort out, but the basic sense is clear. The “handwriting of ordinances” is probably one of two things: either the Old Testament Law of Moses or a figurative list of the sinner's violations of the law. The latter would indicate a sort of IOU that we cannot pay back. Probably the simpler choice is the first one.
For Israel, that law brought condemnation: the people knew it, but did not keep it. For Gentiles, the law excluded them from the people of God. Truly, it was against all of humanity in rebellion against God. Sin makes us God's enemies, and so God's law becomes our enemy because “sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4).
But Jesus Christ did even more than cancel the debt: He took the Law that condemned us and set it aside so that we are no longer under its dominion. We are "delivered from the law" (Rom. 7:6). We "are not under the law, but under grace" (Rom. 6:14). This does not mean that we are lawless, because the righteousness of the Law is fulfilled in us as we walk in the power of the Spirit (Rom. 8:4). Our relationship with Jesus Christ enables us to obey God out of love, not out of slavish fear.
7. What did Paul say was completed the victory over our enemies (v. 15)?
Paul now pictures the end of our condemnation in terms of a great military victory. The principalities and powers are, as in verse 10, spirit beings—here demonic beings in particular. These now appear as defeated enemies. They are pictured as spoiled, as if their weapons and armor have been stripped by a victorious general. Then as defeated enemies they are led in a victory procession, paraded through the city. All this is to the glory of the victor and the shame of the vanquished.
We need not speculate about some specific disarming ceremony and victory procession in the spirit world to understand this statement. The point is that by His death and resurrection, Christ has defeated every power that opposes Him. Ironically enough, the Romans—pagans who are indifferent to the true God—crucified Him as a demonstration of their own power. But as things turned out, Jesus defeated all who rival Him as Lord.
So there is none to condemn Christ's people. And there is none with power greater than His.
What Do You Think?
How do you make sure that "principalities and powers remain defeated in your life?
Talking Points for Your Discussion:
Jeremiah 1:17-19 l Romans 8:31-39 l Acts 2:42 l 1John 5:5 l Other
POINTS TO PONDER
1.The only way to spiritual maturity, is to walk in Christ the same way you received him, by faith (Colossians 2:6).
2. When you make spiritual progress, it reduces the enemies' ability to destroy you (Col. 2:7).
3. Don't be fooled or sidetracked by man's empty, worldly and deceptive philosophies (Col. 2:8).
4. The Father has made every provision for our spiritual vitality though Christ! (Col. 2:9-15.)
Our Priceless Treasure
A popular television program shows people bringing antique family heirlooms for appraisal by experts. Much of the show’s appeal comes from the surprise that people display when they learn the great value of what was for them just a sentimental memento. In today’s text, Paul served as an expert appraising the priceless value of Christ’s work. But we should not be surprised to hear his appraisal. We recognized Christ’s supreme worth when we came to faith in him, and when each day he teaches us how valuable are our “lives of no condemnation.” There can be no surrendering this great treasure.
O Lord, Your gifts to us are beyond value and beyond measure. In gratitude we pledge our lives to You again. By Your grace may we always grow in our commitment to You. We pray because of Christ’s victory and in his name, amen.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER
Know what to keep and what to reject.