DEVOTIONALS ON COLOSSIANS
A Life in Union with a Risen Christ
Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute
Colossians 1:12, 13
Paul has outlined clearly for us our new point of departure in Colossians 2: 9-11."You are complete in Him" and God says it (v.10). And "you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands . . . by the circumcision of Christ" (v.11) The Christian life began at the Cross, not with what we could not do or may have done, but with what He did, once for all, at the Cross. Christ said: "It is finished."
At the Cross He completed His work in our behalf forgiving our sins [justification] and in us annulling the power of the old life and joining us to His risen Son [sanctification]. Paul is asserting what God sees as a radical cutting off of the old life, the life of the First Adam. "For what the law could not do in that it was weak though the flesh, God did by sending is His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh" (Romans 8:3).
A Doctrinal Review from Romans
Colossians is re-stating what Paul had originally delineated in depth in Romans 6:-1-6."What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not!" Then comes the startling response in the form of a rhetorical statement. "How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?"
In the following verses Paul analyzes the phrase, often so difficult for us to understand: "we who died to sin" by stating the divine fact of our identification with Christ in His death, in His burial and in His resurrection issuing in a newness of life (vv.3, 4). Our walk will be in newness of life"-- "life uniquely new in origin and essence"--the very life of Christ in us. This rendering is the exact meaning of the word "new" in the original language.
But there is the process of faith: "If we have been being planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection." [my paraphrase of v.5]. Compare our Lord's pointed response to the Greek's request to see Jesus: "the corn of wheat" must fall into the ground and die, if it does die [ the process] , it bears much fruit" a process and most well assured (John 12: 24-26).
If we have the analysis of the phrase: "we who died to sin" in verses 6: 3-5, we have the synthesis of the truth in Romans 6:6--my life verse: "Knowing this [experientially by faith] , that old man was co- crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin." Notice the strength of" no longer."
The Old Testament Counterpart in Abraham's Life
With this background in mind, Paul compares the truth of our death in Christ to the Old Testament rite of circumcision, a testimony to Abraham's faith in God's promised son. Much is learned from God's life-long dealings with Abram's faith, a process of twenty-five year period.
By faith he left Ur of the Chaldees at age seventy-five, indeed a bold step of faith. A few years later after several failures of faith--a trip to Egypt, his lie about Sarai, God does appear with a new and enhanced covenant, a son in his old age (Genesis 15). Later at age eighty-seven his faith failed again and Ishmael was born. But thirteen years later when all human hope had died, God renews His covenant and changes his name to Abraham, the father of many nations and institutes the rite of circumcision--all things new (Genesis 17). Now, God sees his faith in process and grants Abraham a miracle son (Genesis 21).
In this last encounter God revealed Himself by a new name: El Shaddai, the Almighty, sealing His covenant with His new name and a rite that spoke of a radical severance from old and the introduction of a faith covenant with His chosen people. Unfortunately the Jews misread the spiritual meaning of circumcision, confusing its deeper meaning with the physical rite in which they so wrongly boasted (Romans 2: 28, 29).
Our Spiritual Circumcision in Union with Christ
Paul will now equate the "circumcision made without hands" with a New Testament reference which corresponds to our Spirit baptism once for all into the body of Christ."For my one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free--and have all been made to drink into one Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12: 13) "Buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised in Him through faith in the working of God who raised Him from the dead" (Colossians 2:12). In the words of the French theologian, Lacordaire: "We were born crucified."
Our once for all Spirit baptism marked our initial entry into the Body of Christ at conversion. Only by a later comparison does the ordinance of water baptism take on the meaning of a personal witness to having already died to the former life to be raised to new life in Christ.
With the believer's full consent of simple faith, the believer's spiritual circumcision marked the end of the old and beginning of the new. Paul asserts that from God's standpoint that is exactly what took place at the cross. The finished work of Christ is not just forgiveness of our sins but a separation from the controlling power of the old life. The old sinful life no longer must rule the believer.
But there is a vital truth that more than compensates for our death and burial of Colossian 2: 12: "You were raised with Him through faith in the working of God who raised Him from the dead." Take note on when this happened. Let us never lose sight of the fact that this is God's doing, not ours. The Christian life would be an utter impossibility, if it were to depend upon you and me. Our efforts are bound to fail.
But the working of God, the dynamic of the Cross, must be grasped by faith, simple faith and acknowledged with gratitude. Only in this way can we experience the liberating power of the Holy Spirit who responds powerfully to God's great fact of our co- crucifixion and our simple faith and gratitude.
I recall the statement of my mentor, Dr. F. J. Huegel: "Praise or gratitude is faith in full bloom." Learn to give thanks for what God has said and let feelings and experience follow as they may.
So real is this divine working in you that verse 13 assures us again of our total inability: "And you, being dead, in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made alive, together with Him, having forgiven you all your trespasses." How dead can dead be? By heart faith, not head faith, we are introduced to the reality and simplicity of our greater salvation.
In the same way that saving faith grasped the forgiveness of all our sins, so also does sanctifying faith introduce us into our union with Him based on the identical work of the Cross. For us it is faith in Christ. Again it is not the power of our faith; it is rather the power of Him in whom we believe, a risen Savior.
Paul expressed it succinctly: "As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him" (v.4). As we approached God initially in saving faith to receive the offer of forgiveness of sins, daily let us count ourselves "dead indeed to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:11). May God grant us that grasp of truth which will issue in the walk in newness of life!
What Happened at the Cross?
Circumcised . . . . . . baptized into his death . . . . . having been forgiven of all your sins . . . . .
Raised to walk in newness of life . . . . . . . . . . . . . Are you believing this? . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
How does Abraham represent the new Covenant? . . . . . . . What was the sign? . . . . . .
How long did he have to wait for the miracle son? . . . . . . . . Was Abram's faith always
strong? . . . . . . . . . . . . . Name his failures . . . . . . . . . . . . . Was God faithful and patient? . . . . . . . .
A new name emerges -- El Shaddai, the Powerful One - used 46 times in the Old Testament