DEVOTIONALS ON COLOSSIANS
A NEW POINT OF DEPARTURE
Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute
Colossians 2: 10-11( NASB)
The heart of the believer is seen as "encouraged, knit together in love (Colossians 2:2), rooted and built up in Him and established in your faith and . . . abounding in it with thanksgiving" (v.7). Can anything more be needed or added? Paul, however, warns the Colossian believer to walk with caution. Our adversary is cunning and has fashioned philosophies and alternate life styles that will be widely accepted and, if absorbed even unknowingly, they will stunt the believer's growth and deter his spiritual progress (v.8).
Literally we, too, are surrounded by a godless world. Paul, however, is not discouraged because he shares our source of strength. That strength is Christ in whom the Godhead verily dwells in a bodily expression. To this is added the boldest statement of all: "and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power" (v.10). This statement is most emphatic: you are "filled full."
As Christ is the fullness of the Godhead in bodily expression, in like fashion we are "filled full" in union with him. Our fullness is such that we don't need to appeal to any other source for victory. He is the head, the vital source of life and energy, the overall authority (v.10). This is the believer's standing before God. This is what the believer is in Christ; it is his very identity. Never compromise that identity. It is "Christ in us the hope of glory." Christ is our strength. On the contrary, our own best efforts to walk in Christ-like victory are bound to fail; they can lead only to frustration.
Paul has set the standard high, but now he will give us a new point of departure. It will not be our best efforts, much less the legalism of our doing, but rather what Christ did, once and for all, at the Cross. Paul sets forth the very essence of the Christian life--Christ in us the hope of glory. Unfortunately we often hear inferred that the Christian life of victory is the sum of our personal disciplines, our reading the Bible, our praying, our service in his name. But God has designed it in terms of his Son, and only his Son, and what he accomplished for us at the Cross.
The Christian life began at the Cross. "And in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ" (v.11) This is precisely our new point of departure so seldom referred to. This appears to be a very strange statement. But the reality of the Cross and spiritual circumcision takes us back to Abram, the father of faith.
Earlier at age 86, Abram had failed to trust God for the miracle son by heeding Sarai's carnal advice to have a son with Hagar, the Egyptian servant. Ishmael was born (Genesis 16:16). Now thirteen long years had passed and every human hope of a son of promise had vanished.
At age 99, God appeared to Abraham: "I am Almighty God (El Shaddai); walk before Me and be blameless. And I will make My covenant between Me and You, and will multiply you exceedingly." Then Abram fell on his face and God talked with him saying: As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you will be a father of many nations" (Genesis 17:1-4). God gave him a new name, Abraham -- a father of many nations.
With a new name and a covenant renewed and extended: "God said to Abraham: "as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and our descendants . . . this is My covenant . . . Every male child shall be circumcised" (17:9, 10).
A new name and circumcision were now the seals of God's covenant with Abraham given in grace because he believed God and ceased to doubt God's promise of a son. Abraham was now circumcised and his faith was now expressed in total dependence on God's gracious timing and intervention. At age 100, God gave Abraham and Sarah their miracle son of promise.
The very essence of circumcision was a cutting off, a severance from the old and the new beginning in God's presence; it stood as proof of God's faithfulness and Abraham's faith. He stood under the banner of God's covenant of grace. Tragically the Jews wrongly magnified the external rite and missed completely the profound inner spiritual meaning of it.
Circumcision "not made with hands" in Colossians compares exactly to our crucifixion with Christ in Romans 6 and Galatians. "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).
Moses saw the spiritual meaning of circumcision. "And now, Israel, What does the LORD your God require from you?" (Deuteronomy. 10:12); he answers: "Circumcise the foreskin of your heart and be stiff-necked no longer."(v.16). Later Moses will add another truth: "And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live" (Deuteronomy. 30:6). Do you hear the echo of our Lord's response to the question: which is the greatest commandment? (Matthew 22:36).
For Moses it was their obedient submission to God and yet equally God's action in effecting the cutting off, the severance from the fleshly. God must circumcise the heart; only then can there be true love for Him. The flesh cannot love Him. He cannot ever accept the flesh. "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit and life" (John 6:63).
At the Cross we died to sin in Christ, our representative; we were baptized into his death; we were buried with him in death and we arose to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:2-4). It was a veritable spiritual circumcision, a cutting off of the human, the natural, the carnal, only thus to be able to love the LORD our God with all our heart. Later Jeremiah will chide the nation, Israel: "Break up the fallow ground and do not sow among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord and remove the foreskin of your heart." (Jeremiah 4: 3 4).
It is against that spiritual background that Paul says that we were cut off from the "body of sin." Knowing this, that our old man was crucified [co crucified] with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with [annulled, its power cancelled, nullified] that we should no longer be slaves to sin" (Romans 6:6). "I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord"! (Romans 7:25).
The Christian life, then, begins with that faith recognition, by the illumination of the Holy Spirit that we died with Christ. Our new point of departure is to believe as God affirms that we were [past tense, definitive action], cut off from the old and raised to walk in newness of life (Colossians 2:12). It was his doing at the Cross, and we accept it by faith today. Victory begins with that fundamental act and attitude. We proceed from the liberating Message of the Cross.
Just as our justification and forgiveness of our sins sprang from our simple faith acceptance of the merit of his shed blood, so in the identical fashion our simple faith must focus on the power of that death, his death and ours, once for all. That focus of faith on our identification with Christ will issue in the reign of grace through the Spirit's ministry.
I would urge you to express verbally your acceptance in faith of that death and resurrection as promised as your new point of departure from this day forward. Let faith grasp and your heart give thanks for his cutting off of the old life, our spiritual circumcision and our union with Christ.
An Expression of Faith and a Prayer from the Heart
I bow my heart and mind to the authority of your Word. In the person of your Son, I died at the cross to my sin nature. You declared me righteous in Christ; my sins were forgiven. In Your Son You declared me dead to sin, identified with your Son, who as my representative, died to sin so that I might live unto God. I may not fully understand now that glorious truth, but I receive it in faith. I give thanks for it. The Holy Spirit will reveal to my spirit this new reality. I accept your victory in faith and give heartfelt thanks.