Gordon E. Johnson



Paul's Prayer

Walk but Beware

Life in Union with a Risen Christ

Freedom In Christ

Victory: Real or Counterfeit

The Christ Life in an Alienated World

Panoramic Review

Holiness in the Home

Holiness in Our World at Large

Paul's Greetings to Fellow Workers


A Life in Union with a Risen Christ

Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute

Colossians 2:14, 15 (NKJ)

In the context of Colossians 2:11- 13, Paul has led us through the steps of faith in vital union with Christ: circumcised [cut off from the old life at the cross] (2:11); buried with him in an identification or baptism [baptism of the Spirit in conversion 1 Corinthians 12:13], fully participating in His death to sin and made alive together with Him, raised to walk in newness of life; Paul clearly asserts the "how" of  God's  liberation through faith in the working of God who raised Him from the dead (v.12). 

Too much cannot be said that God has based this union in daily practice on our walk of faith, counting ourselves dead and alive in Christ (Romans 6:11). The simplicity of faith that recognizes the bankruptcy of self and our full dependency on Christ boggles our minds, but it is the key to entrance into life and victory.

The very heart of Paul's message of the Cross is carefully outlined in Romans six. Its truths are here applied to the urgent needs of the Colossians who were faced with a variety of errors: the persuasive words of man's wisdom (v.4), the empty subtleties of philosophy and traditions of men (v.8) and the worship of angels (4.19). Walk but beware is Paul's constant counsel.

 Paul returns to his frequent emphasis; the same basic truths are repeated again in Ephesians: "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved [sanctified]), and raised us up together, and made us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:4-6). This concise paragraph balances the gems of salvation--justification and sanctification-- thus we are made to sit in heavenly places. As glorious as this may be, he has yet more to add with reference to our being dead to the law, that is, our best self efforts.

The Supremacy of Grace as Opposed to the Law's Impossible Demands

God gave the Law of Moses to reveal His holiness and as the same time to reveal the sinfulness of man. Paul thus had concluded: "Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20).

To the Galatians Paul outlines the biblical role of the law: What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of the transgressions, till the Seed [Christ] should come . . . Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith" (Galatians 3:19, 24). "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone  who believes" (Romans 10:4). The Law, therefore, was preparatory and   transitory demolishing our righteousness and opening the door to His goodness and grace.

But the Galatian and Colossian Christians were in danger of misusing the law, as if it were by their sincere efforts that they might accomplish God's work of grace. This is precisely the problem of many believers today.

In fact, in Romans 7, Paul the Apostle once fell into that very error "For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do" (v.15). Ultimately he sighed: "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this death?  But without delay and by the Spirit's illumination, he broke out into thanksgiving ."I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! (vv. 24, 25). The truths of the Cross became his through that breaking process.

Paul now sees the full sweep of God's abundant grace at the believer's disposal. At one fell swoop, as if by one stroke of a pen, God disposed of the Law as the valid dynamic for the believer: "And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcisión of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all your trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which has contrary to us. And He has taken it out the way, having nailed it to the Cross" (Colossian 2:13, 4).

Our Definitive Death to the Law and Our Best Self Efforts

Paul returns again to this point of departure when in Christ's body we died to the Law. Let it be understood: the Law did not die to us, but rather we died to the Law. "Therefore, my beloved  brethren, you also have become dead [you were made to die] to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another, even to Him who was raised from the dead that we should bear fruit unto God" (Romans 7:4).

In the classical definition of the Christian life, Paul returns to this death to the law or our best self efforts in order to achieve God's favor. "For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. 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 me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:19, 20). Paul then adds the coup de grace: "I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes by the law, then Christ died in vain" (v.21). Such a thought is unthinkable!

This is the essence of the Christian life -- freedom from self effort and struggle. The Christian life is never described as a struggle but rather a rest. "There remains therefore a rest for the people of God" (Hebrews 4:9). We make it a struggle by doubting and not resting in our death to the law and accepting by faith our spiritual marriage to a risen Christ (Ephesians 5: 25-27, 32).

How and where did this liberation occur? Christ wiped out even the memory of the past, canceling our certificate of indebtedness to the law (Colossians 2:14). This bill of bankruptcy was against us, hostile to us. We had neither the means, nor even the will to pay.  Our debtorship to the flesh which the law provokes is no longer in sight (Romans 8:13).  He nailed it to the Cross. Our debtorship to the Law also died when he died.  Now we are free to become servants of true righteousness (Romans 6:18). But still there is more than this in our union with Christ.

The Ultimate Triumph Over Cosmic and Demonic Powers

Paul does not enter in depth into this final cosmic triumph. He will state it clearly in Ephesians. "Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do no wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts in wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:11.12).

Earlier Paul had discerned the worldview of the age; he had said: Walk and beware.  The prevailing philosophies of Gnosticism, the worship of angels all derived their influence from cosmic demonic powers. Paul will be advertise them, but he will declare their defeat at the Cross. "Having disarmed principalities and powers, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it" (Colossians 2:15). Such a declaration of total victory over demonic powers is the final triumph of the Cross.

In a similar use of the verb, but in an entirely different context Paul describes our victory in Christ." Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place (2 Corinthians 2:13).  The picture is the return of the conquering Roman general who enters the arch of triumph displaying his conquered foes. In Corinthians, we are the conquered ones who gladly yield our allegiance to him as His slaves.  Now we always march in the train of His triumph. In the Colossians text, however, it is Satan himself and his hosts of whom He makes a public spectacle in His triumphal entry.

What does all of this mean?  We share in His death, in His burial, in His resurrection and His exaltation. This heritage is ours by virtue of His work on the Cross. This is the "finished work of Christ..  We often hear that term in reference to the forgiveness of our sins. But Paul enlarges our limited view and says that each Christian shares this full heritage by grace through faith. 

This becomes our point of departure, our union with Christ. From this departure Paul will address the issues that the Colossian believers are facing. But there can be no lasting victory in our walk without this gracious work of the Spirit of Christ in us."As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him" (Colossian 2:6).

The Faith Challenge of the Cross

Paul identifies five key action verbs in 2: 11-15.  He names them, can you identify them?

1.verse 11 ……………………………….    

2. v.12 …………………………….

3. v. 13…………………………………...  

4. v.14 ……………………………

5. v.15 ……………………………………

6. What is the key that enables the believer to enter into daily union?................................

7. What was the two fold purpose of the Law? 

1 ………………………  2…………….………………

8. Are we consigned to struggle? ……………Compare Romans 7:24 and 25a ………

9. It is not what we do, but what He ……once for all at the Cross. We must say "Amen."