Colossians 2:11–15: Trust in Christ Is Completely Warranted

February 2, 2015

My family and I have survived the white-knuckle viewing of yesterday’s Super Bowl game. You can guess, we were cheering for the Seahawks. Boo-hoo. It was a joy to watch, though, because the contest was close and the teams were a challenging match for each other. It also seemed to this rank amateur to be a clean game, with relatively few flags. Both teams racked up amazing accomplishments, and after the last two weeks I am actually glad for MVP Tom Brady’s victory. Well played.

But football is football. It is a game, played according to detailed rules. While on the field, following the rules is not only sportsmanlike, but safety-conscious. I mean, there are reasons why it is against the rules to yank on an opponent’s facemask. The rules apply for a specific time, in a specific place, for a particular purpose. It’s a great character builder, as any parent (and child) remembers of Little League or Pop Warner play. You choose a micro-universe and learn its rules, how to play on a team, respect for authority, about being a good sport win or lose.

Many would say the point of learning a game like football (especially for youth) is to learn lessons that apply to life. When the game is over, football rules are too limited and too specific to cover all aspects of life, but their lessons nevertheless become transferable concepts that are essential for wisdom. While in life, generally speaking, there is no actual ball to keep an eye on, one learns it is essential to keep one’s eye on one’s heart, mind, soul, and strength.

The Apostle Paul was, in his early life, fanatically observant of the rules of Judaism. As to the Law of Moses, he was a Pharisee, which meant that early on he was what we would call a Jewish legalist. And then, on a mission to persecute Christians, who were to his mind breaking that law, he met Christ face to face and was confronted with his misguided emphasis. [You can read all about Paul’s conversion in Acts 9.]

After Paul’s conversion, he saw the law in a whole new light. The law had been a good teacher, but limiting one’s obedience to its strict demands—which were “observed” because they were only outward, visible behaviors (like circumcision and dietary laws)—became a means for self-righteous justification. But this emphasis missed the point of God’s intention for his people, that they would receive what only he could give: grace alone through Christ alone, by faith alone, according to the Scriptures alone, for God’s glory alone. God’s action made possible a transformation of the heart, the invisible but central life-change all human beings ultimately need.

As Paul goes on in his letter to the Colossians, he talks about what measures God took to fulfill the law in Christ so that we would have life in him. I’ve underlined three actions God has taken:

Action 1: 11In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision,
by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ;
Action 2: 12when you were buried with him in baptism,
you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God,
who raised him from the dead.
Action 3: 13And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh,
God made you alive together with him,
when he forgave us all our trespasses, 14erasing the record
that stood against us with its legal demands.
He set this aside, nailing it to the cross.
15He disarmed the rulers and authorities and
made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.

Just look at how many times Paul joyfully points to Christ as the source of our justification, new life, and forgiveness. It is Christ, not any other deity or fancy “philosophy” with its empty promises (referred to in 2:8) that can work our transformation from the inside out, within the heart, erasing the damning record against us, and showing up any earthly authority that would try to play god in our lives. This work on our behalf is so needed and so complete, and Christ’s accomplishment of it so decisive, that trusting him is thoroughly warranted.  

And as that internal transformation is underway, by Christ’s power and our growing to maturity in him, our lives—behavior that is visible—are gracious, loving, and consistent with “the rules” of the Kingdom of God. All of this will be further defined and described by Paul later in the letter.

Questions for the passage:

1. Circle recurring phrases in these verses. What do they say about the nature of the relationship between you and Christ?

2. What action(s) of the church are implied in the work God is doing in our lives, according to the passage?

3. What word is God speaking to you in your present circumstance in relation to the church? How does knowing what this passage teaches help you make progress in your spiritual life? in your faith community life?


6 Responses to “Colossians 2:11–15: Trust in Christ Is Completely Warranted”

  1. emd5542 Says:

    For Progressives the operative and overpowering word is “Love.”
    God receives and loves us as we are but then the work of the Spirit to make us more like Jesus seems to be cast off since the Word made flesh ignores the written Word of holy scripture. If the Old and New Testaments are the story of God’s relationship with God’s people it would seem we hold the two in balance, in tandem. I just cannot subscribe to the idea that same-gender marriage belongs in the Church of Jesus Christ. Maybe civil union, maybe domestic partnership but not a holy union blessed by God. This erupted in me as I read and considered the questions [thanking you for questions]. All of scripture is God’s Word and Jesus most assuredly did not reflect a changed mind of God as to what falls under God’s will for us The Apostle Paul attests to that too. Loving the study, Eleanor Duffield

    • emd5542 Says:

      I wonder if Facebookers will join in!

    • Are you comfortable with women speaking in church or do you follow Paul’s dictum that “the women would be silent in the churches.”? (I Corinthians 14:33). What is wrong with Progressives, Pharisees, or anyone else making love the touchstone of our interpretations of Scripture?

      • emd5542 Says:

        My understanding, Mr. Goff, is that the early church was that of house churches and men were seated near preachers and women were relegated to the back where they could not hear. In that circumstance I’d be admonished for talking too. We need to look at scripture in context. Of course, I am comfortable with women speaking in church. Our current associate pastor is a woman as have been several before her. As a ruling elder off-session and currently serving as a deacon I serve as lector on any number of Sundays. Let’s not forget John quoting Jesus: “If you continue in my word you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” I certainly do not object to progressives as they stretch my thinking in terms of justice and equality. I just don’t agree that same-gender marriage is consistent with God’s will. Love does not cover it. And I have to guard against the pharisee in my own self. 🙂 Peace and joy, Eleanor

  2. In light of Acts 23:6 where Paul asserts “I am a Pharisee” I believe it is not accurate to say that Paul was a Pharisee. He didn’t stop being a Pharisee when he was converted to faith in Jesus the Christ.

  3. Dear Eleanor, I am glad that you are progressive enough to read Paul in the context of the time he wrote. If you would explore the background of his remarks about same-sex activity you might change your mind about same-gender marriage. I recommend a book by a teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA): Science, Scripture and Same-Sex Love by Michael Regele. May Jesus truly set you free!

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