Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Colossians Words Day 14: Death

Day 14 ~ Death

Our word today and our word tomorrow, death and life, go together and are often used in the New Testament to indicate our former life and our new life. Paul, in particular, likes to use the death/life contrast to remind Christ followers of who they once were and call them to live out of who they now are. In Colossians this death/life contrast is seen throughout chapters 2 and 3 (2:9-3:10). Paul will use a number of terms and situations for this death/life contrast to further support his main emphasis: Christ is all (3:11). It is a little difficult to separate all that is connected to these two words, so we will just divide this large passage in two. We will go through 2:9-23 today as it pertains to the death/life contrast, and go through 3:1-10 tomorrow. 

"For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." Colossians 2:9-15
Paul begins by reminding them of the incarnation - Jesus Christ was both God (Deity) and man (bodily form) - He is the fullness of God and that fullness now dwells in His people as well. Why does Paul feel the need to focus on Christ's dual nature as God and man? He was refuting the false teachers who are believed to have focused on Jesus as either one who came to earth in angelic form and thus not human, or that Jesus was merely a man who the "Christ spirit" came upon for a short time. Jesus Christ was fully man and fully God. Why does it matter to us? Because we are complete in Him. His Spirit lives in us. We are His spiritually and materially. Our existence in Christ is both physical and spiritual and Paul will go on in this passage using circumcision and baptism to illustrate this.
Circumcision was the symbol used by Jewish people as an outward sign of their covenant relationship with God. Paul came under attack by Jewish Christians who felt that the Gentiles who had converted to faith in Christ must also be converted to Judaism and thus be circumcised. At the Jerusalem council (Acts 15:1-29) it was argued that the Holy Spirit was now the sign of the new covenant with God and that Jews and Gentiles alike, through faith in Christ, are now the people of God. No other requirements are necessary. However, in the church at Colosse this seemed to be one of the issues raised in the false teaching. Paul now uses this issue to teach the Colossians. While I would love to dig deeper into this, it would take too much time, and space. Read the above mentioned passage in Acts, plus Romans 6 and Ephesians 2 to gain a fuller understanding of this issue and for a great Bible study!
In verses 11 and 12, Paul says that in Christ we have already been circumcised - that is, through the regenerating power of the Spirit of God (Read Romans 2:29) in us, the sinful nature has been put off or removed. He then points to baptism as the outward sign of the new covenant between God and His people. The "circumcision done by Christ" took place when we came to faith in Christ, we were "buried with Him in baptism" and then "raised with him" to new life. (See also Romans 6:3-4.) Paul goes on to point out in verse 13 that before this you were "dead in your sins", our sinful nature was uncircumcised, it had not yet been removed.

The incarnation of Jesus Christ is significant to the new covenant because it is in Christ's death and resurrection that we have new life through His Spirit. It is through His death and resurrection and indwelling Spirit that we are "in Christ". Our baptism shows the world that our old self (Colossians 3:9) and our sinful nature have been buried with Christ, put to death with Him. This is represented when we go down into the water. We are then raised with Christ to new life, we are made "alive with Christ" (2:13), symbolized by our coming up out of the water.  Faith in Christ is the only thing required for this new life. No added laws or traditions, such as circumcision. Simply put we are made alive with Christ because "he forgave us all our sins" (2:13-15). Paul will go on in Colossians 2:16-23 to point out that the various rules, laws and traditions being falsely preached as necessary to be included as members of God's people, are merely "a shadow of the things that were to come" (2:17). Meaning that before Christ they practiced these things symbolically in anticipation of and preparation for the Christ's arrival. It is now no longer necessary to practice them because "the reality is found in Christ" (2:17). "Since you died with Christ" you no longer need to practice the practices of the world or religious regulations (2:20-23).

We will go on tomorrow to look at the significance of being "made alive with Christ". Then the next day we will dig into Paul's repeated use of "in Christ" and "with Christ". This letter is such a vital means by which we can become secure and firm in our understanding and belief that faith in Christ alone is all we need for peace with God. His life, death and resurrection were the Father's great sacrifice of love on our behalf. The Father's great desire is that we know Him and become His people.
"Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands) remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ." Ephesians 2:11-13
"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." 1 Peter 2:9-10
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