Free and complete: Devotional Commentary for November 12-18
7having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.
8See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.
The singular focus of Paul's admonition to the Colossians was that they would be consciously mindful of the fundamental transformation that occurred in their lives as they were born anew in Jesus Christ. As the Spirit of God was undertaking His work of regeneration in their hearts, each one was being firmly rooted in the true Foundation, built up in Jesus Christ, and established in faith. The corollary of such supreme work of divine Grace is that the redeemed would be strong in their faith, joyful in their demeanor, wise in their understanding, confident in their position, and appreciative in their outlook.
Having been so assured, strengthened, and transformed, it behooved the Colossians to see to it that they were not held spiritually captive by the deceptive philosophies and vain traditions of the world. In other words, Paul exhorted the Colossians to resist the lure of familiar philosophies and enticing traditions. He urged them to be on guard lest they are charmed into responding to contrary teachings, persuasive arguments, and the prevailing principles of the world.
Having been rooted in Jesus Christ and built up in Him, the Colossians were warned to be always mindful of the exhortations and instructions they received from the Gospel, as the principal source of wisdom for life and faith. Since the Lord had saved them and continued to work in and through them, they had every reason to be thankful with overflowing appreciation. It is in the framework of thanksgiving and praise that the saints show the world that they belong to God, not by falling captive to the world they left behind. So Paul urged the Colossians to be careful, aware, and deliberate both in their rejection of man's deceptive ways and in their adherence to the Gospel.
9For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,
10and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;
11and 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;
12having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
13When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,
14having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
The urgency of Paul's admonition to the Colossians is fueled by two enduring truths. Paul felt it is a matter of pressing necessity that the Colossians were always mindful of: 1) Who Christ is, and 2) How His finished work made us complete in Him. He had already told them that Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. He now emphasized the same Truth by affirming that the fullness of God dwells in Him.
That means Jesus Christ is not only the image of the invisible God, but also God in bodily form. In other words, Jesus, as Creator and Redeemer, is God the eternal Lord. He is the very substance and essence of God in bodily form. Any other philosophy or human tradition that fails to build on this eternal truth stands in opposition to God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit revealed in the Gospel. Such contrary teachings should not be heeded.
Paul's message to the Colossians was a serious one. He was not merely identifying Jesus' Deity for them. He was exhorting them to be thoroughly discerning that the Gospel they heard and believed is Jesus Christ Himself Who is the Word Who became flesh, in Whom the fullness of God dwells. What they heard is the Word of God, therefore, alive and powerful. Adherence is the only option for all who confess Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Jesus Christ, the personal Savior and Lord of the redeemed, is also the supreme Head over the Law, all rules and authorities. There should be nothing to discourage believers from responding to the Gospel in real obedience.
Paul assured the Colossians that they have been made capable of responding as they should. They have been made complete in Christ. That is, they have been rooted in Christ and built up in Him. Paul gave some specific outcomes of the regenerating, formational, and developmental work of the Holy Spirit in the sinner, now saved by Grace.
Paul unveiled the mystery of salvation to the Colossians this way. He told them that their heart is circumcised by the divine act of circumcision in Jesus Christ. That is, the removal of their corrupt nature and the influences of the flesh from presiding over their hearts. It is setting their life free from the eternal consequences of sin: eternal death. This circumcision is not the cutting of the flesh decreed in the Abrahamic covenant. It is the deliverance of the soul from sin, death, hell, and the devil, and the bringing of the soul into the redemption of God's Grace. It is the cleansing of the heart from the filth of sin and disobedience.
The Colossians needed to know that, having been circumcised in Christ, they were made alive in Christ, forgiven in Christ, and have their debt to the Law cancelled because Jesus Christ has nailed the certificate of their indebtedness to His Cross. They were no longer in debt to the Law. They were no longer dead in sin, bondage, and disobedience. They were alive and complete in Christ, therefore, called to be obedient and diligent. They were made capable of walking in Christ as they received Him by the hearing of the Gospel and by faith in Jesus Christ.
What the Colossians needed is also lacking in the lives of most Christians, that is most of us. As he told the Colossians, Paul tells us that, not only do we need to know, but also believe what the Gospel declares to us about the identity of Jesus Christ. We must also understand and accept by faith what He did for us through His finished work on the Cross.
You see, we were not merely rescued from hell. Redemption involves answering the Law and receiving Grace. Having been born into the lineage of sin, Adam's entire posterity was living under condemnation by the Law. Since God did not wish the entire human race to perish, He Mercifully redeemed some for Himself as it pleased Him, by sending His Holy, Righteous, and Blameless Son to take our place under the Law and receive the full force of God's judgment upon sin and disobedience. He set us free from condemnation by the Law by taking the place of the condemned.
God graciously accepted His Son's atoning sacrifice and declared us free from judgment. He declared us just and righteous in Christ so we might stand before Him redeemed. Actually, God mercifully saved us from His own just judgment by His Grace through His Son's finished work. Because we owed our life to the Law by reason of transgression, Christ gave His Life and shed His Blood to satisfy our liability to the Law and destroyed the record of guilt justly held by the Law against us. Now redeemed, we stand complete and built up in Christ.
Salvation is not the fruit of our action. It is not a sublime acquiescence with a story we appreciate. Nor is it a passive assent to something we cannot discredit. It is the divine work of the Holy Spirit, applying Christ's finished work to the heart and life of the sinner toward whom God's sovereign Grace abounds. It is the regeneration of the soul that was dead in sin into a new life in Christ. It is a new birth. It is the glorious unfolding of God's sovereign Grace in favor of the sinner called to be the child of God.
As the soul experiences the new birth, the Spirit of God executes the dethronement of our corrupt nature from a position of prominence and authority. Our heart is thus spiritually circumcised and should no longer be suffocated by the ungodly influences of the flesh. As we are baptized into Christ by the Spirit through regeneration, and, as it is later affirmed by the testimony of water baptism, we are united with Christ in His Death, Burial, and Resurrection as God makes us alive with His Son by His Power with which He raised Him from the dead. Thus, being alive with Christ in our newness in Him, we have been made capable of responding to God in obedience.
We have been set free from guilt. Having been made free and alive in Christ, we have been made capable of walking in Him even as we have received Him by faith. We should not go astray because we are rooted in Him. We should no longer be enticed by what has been discarded with our past because we are new in Christ. We should not fall apart because we are being built up in Christ.
The Christian experience is not a single static event which occurs at the time of conversion. It is an eternal journey which begins at conversion and continues into eternity. Actually, the Scriptures tell us that redemption is purposed, planned, and accomplished by God from before the foundation of the world and lasts forever. Then, it behooves us to stand in line with God's eternal Purpose and enduring Plan. Paul admonishes us to walk in Christ even as we have received Him by faith, because real faith is reflected in a life lived for God.