Series: Identity (Student Ministry)
- Who Are You? I Am A Bearer of God’s Image (Genesis 1-3)
- Who Are You? You Are In Adam Or In Christ (Romans 5:12-21
- Who Are You? You Are Justified (Galatians 2:15-21)
- Who Are You? Christian, You Are Loved By God (Zephaniah 3)
- You Are Adopted Into God’s Family (Galatians 4:1-7)
- Who Are You? Christian, You Are United To Christ (Colossians 2:8-15)
- Christian, You Are Clothed In Righteousness (Zechariah 3)
- Christian, You Are God’s Possession: Indwelt by the Spirit and United to Christ (1 Corinthians 6:12-20)
I remember just as plain as can be the conviction of the Holy Spirit that fell on me one night. I had been a believer for about six years and a leader in my youth ministry and found myself drunk at a party. Over the past year or so I had been behaving in ways that I should not have. And it all seemed to culminate in this moment. I was drunk in the corner of a room, not so drunk that I couldn’t function, but enough that I shouldn’t be driving and I could hear within me, “This is not you. This is not who you are. You should not be behaving this way.”
At that point I began going back to church and dropped the stupidity that I had involved myself in. I realized something that night by the prodding of the Holy Spirit, I had been an idiot. That is it, plain and simple. I had chosen something much worse rather that what is good and it was the dumbest thing I’d ever done.
Interestingly though, the concept delivered to me is one that is found in Scripture. I was, and still am, united to Christ. What is good and acceptable for everyone else is not good and acceptable for me. In fact, what other people think of as good, I know is not. I know that anything other than Christ is less. He is perfect and greater than all I could ever attain on this Earth.
In his book, The Weight of Glory, p. 26C.S. Lewis says,
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, p. 26
And that is what we find Paul telling believers in Colossae. They are fooling around with that which is far lesser, when they have Christ who is far greater.
Christian, you are united to Christ which is far better than anything this world has to offer.
Christian, You Are United To Christ, Don’t Settle For Less (Colossians 2:8-10)
There were a group of people within the Church at Colossae who were teaching something that was wrong. Paul is here calling these people out and correcting any problems that may have occurred because of the false teaching. While we do not know exactly what the controversy was within the Church we do know that it had something to do with having to be circumcised and keeping other ceremonies. So, though we don’t know what the exact circumstances were, we do have a little insight. The people were being told that they had certain things that they needed to do to be made right with God. Paul called the things that people were being told “philosophy”, “empty deception” and “tradition of men” and “according to the elementary principles of the world”. He also said that what they were being told was not “according to Christ”.
The people were adding to the work of Christ in an attempt to be made right with God. There are two ways to fall off of this track. One, is the mistake that is being made here. The people believed that they had to do things other than trust in Christ to be made right with God. They thought that they had to have a certain amount of their own righteousness to be made right with Him. The other way that we can fall off here is to believe we can have something better if we participate in worldliness.
In the example listed above I was participating in worldliness as if it was giving me something better than I was getting with Jesus. In the first it is people attempting to find a salvation greater than what Jesus offers and in the second it is people attempting to find satisfaction greater than what Jesus gives. Both are wrong. Both are stupid and Paul is about to tell us why they are both stupid. Both of them are according to the “elementary principles of the world” which is another way of saying that it is according to the demonic world system.
Paul says, “see to it that no one takes you captive” through “philosophy” and “empty deception” into this demonic system. Don’t let anyone capture you by tricking you by human wisdom or deception into thinking that these things are good. It is human wisdom that adds to salvation by the work of Christ alone. It is empty deception that makes you think that getting drunk on Friday will benefit you. It’s human wisdom that makes you think that you need to clean yourself up and make yourself righteous in order to be made right with God. It is empty deception that leads you to believe that you will live a life of fulfillment by having 100 different boyfriends or girlfriends by the time you get out of High School. It is human wisdom and empty deception to think that you can have sexual relationships with a lot of different people without having any repercussions. See to it that you are not held captive by these things and other things that this world has to offer. These things are not “according to Christ”. These things are foolishness. Do not be held captive by them.
Why is it that we are not to be held captive by these things? Here it is.
“For in Him the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and inColossians 2:9-10 ESV
Himyou have been made complete.”
Christ has come. He is God the Son, in whom the “fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form”. And it is in Him that the Christian is made complete. The One who is the head over all things is the one who makes us complete.
Notice what Paul is saying here. Why is it that you should not look elsewhere? It is because Christians are made complete through Christ, who is Himself God. Going anywhere else for a completion of salvation or satisfaction in this life is searching out “mud pies in a slum” when offered “a holiday at sea”. It is utter ridiculousness to go anywhere else.
Christian, You Have Been United To Christ And It Is Glorious (Colossians 2:9-14)
Paul doesn’t stop with just saying that Christ is greater, he begins to describe our being united to Christ and how glorious that truth is.
We have an idea in a smaller way of being united to someone. Though marriage has been spat upon in many ways by our culture, it is still a good picture of what it means to be united to someone else. In a good marriage lives are shared together, the home is shared, kids are shared, responsibilities are shared, finances are shared, success is shared, failure is shared, the two lives are joined together and everything is shared. The two have become one flesh.
When we trust in Christ we are united to Him by the power of the Holy Spirit. Notice what is said here. Paul has already said that the fullness of Deity dwells in Christ and that we are made complete in Him. Now he is telling us how it is that we are made complete. We are united to Him.
Paul discusses circumcision specifically here, this is probably because it was being used by the false teachers as something that people needed to do. Circumcision was necessary in the Old Covenant, but not in the new. Why? Because circumcision was a picture of something greater: Regeneration or the new birth.
Circumcised by God
Circumcision pictured something in the Old Testament. It was the cutting off, or removal of flesh. The old and wicked was cut away and the person was separated unto God. And now the circumcision is different. It is not as it once was, there is no person brought in to do the circumcision. God does this “in the removal of the body of the flesh”.
This removal is the removal of our old nature. It is the removal of the heart of stone and being given the heart of flesh that is pictured in Ezekiel 36. God promised that, in the New Covenant, He would remove the heart of stone and put in its place the heart of flesh and give to the believer His Spirit and cause them to follow His Law. It is the same thing that Jesus discussed in John 3. God works in His people. How does this occur?
Jesus died and you died with Him as is pictured in baptism. The old man has died with Christ. When a person is baptized they go under the water. It is a picture of our dying with Christ. We have been united with Him and He died, so I died. I died with Him and it is pictured in my baptism. When a person comes up out of the water it is a picture of their being given new life in Christ. Jesus rose, so I rise to new life.
I am united to Him and God can give me life in Christ because Christ has life in Himself. God can kill the old man, because Jesus died. God can give me new life, because Jesus rose from the dead. I am united to Christ and I am most definitely the big beneficiary in all of this.
While I was spiritually dead (V. 13) and separated from God I was made alive “together with Him”. I was united to Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit and now I have life in Him.
And not only do I have life, but I have forgiveness. The text says that the transgressions, my sin was cancelled. How was it cancelled? It was “nailed to the cross”. My sin was paid for on the cross through His sacrificial death. The record of debt that stood against me was nailed to the cross and “I bear it no more”.
What an incredibly beautiful picture and reality for the believer!
I am a sinner in rebellion against the Creator. I deserve wrath and justice to be poured out upon me. Instead, I am united to His Son who came to Earth and lived a perfect life. Since I am united to His Son that perfect life is credited to me. He died on the cross. Since I am united to Christ my sins are paid for and my old nature that was in rebellion against God dies as is pictured in baptism. Jesus rose from the dead, therefore I am given new life. All that I have in Christ is given to me because I am united to Christ.
Why would I want anything else?
What is there left for me to do?
What better could I ever have?
The answer is clear. Nothing.
And this means that the demonic forces controlling the world system are shown to be absolutely foolish as they are conquered by Christ.
Christian, You Have Been United To Christ, And It Makes The Promises Of Everything Else Foolish (Colossians 2:15)
Sin promises so very much and it just does not deliver.
You think that you are going to feel better about yourself when you date the wrong person and they make you feel miserable during and after your relationship.
You think that you will be better if you had the right friends, and then you find out that you gave up far more than you got in that ordeal.
You think that sin is going to have this huge payoff, that’s what it promises. Yet, this is not what it gives. In the end it is shown to be truly awful.
We will leave this passage reading of Christ’s conquering. This demonic system that the Colossian Church was apparently being taught to believe was likely quite coercive. There might have been some sort of pressure put on them. Maybe they were made to feel stupid if they didn’t succumb. Maybe it was some of the more influential folks in the congregation that were trying to drag them away, but it doesn’t matter.
What Jesus offers is greater! Jesus, who is Himself God, who is the head over all, who died for us so that we could die to sin, who rose from the dead so that we could rise to new life, who achieved for us forgiveness of sins makes everything else look ridiculous. He has conquered the power of sin and death. He has conquered the demonic powers of this age. He has conquered and now because we are united to Christ, we are victorious as well.
Christian, we are a people of victory. Christ has conquered and because He has conquered, we have conquered. We are united with Him. As Paul says to the Colossians. “See to it that no one takes you captive”. You have been given so much. See to it that the emptiness of this world does not take you captive.
R. Dwain Minor