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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
September 26, 2010
The Superiority of Being In Christ
Would you be interested in buying a hamburger if you already had a filet mignon on your plate? How hard would you work in order to purchase a used Yugo if you had already been given a Rolls Royce? How likely would it be for you to go shopping at Barb’s Bargain Basement if you had a $10,000 gift card for Saks Fifth Avenue? Would you take a job in which you had to sweat to earn something that was of the lowest quality if you already had the same thing that was of the highest quality? Would you give up an hour per day doing what you don’t want to do in order to have the right to wear a ring made of tin when you could wear a ring of gold for simply believing the owners promise? The answers to those questions are self evident, yet we find that when it comes to philosophical views, people often tackle a hard road to gain something of the lowest quality though the highest quality is already available to them as a gift.
Over the last few weeks we have started examining Paul’s concern for the Colossians because there were dangers caused by those who would seek to delude them by persuasive argument (See: Paul’s Desire and Struggle). They could protect themselves by walking in Christ (See: The Superiority of Walking in Christ),
but even so they would still have to be diligent and be on guard against vain and empty philosophy that gave the illusion of being the means of godliness (See: Avoiding Capture by Philosophy).
This morning in our study of Colossians 2:9-15 we will see that the superiority of being in Christ to such philosophy is comparable to the superiority of filet mignon to hamburger, of a Rolls Royce to a Yugo, of shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue to Barb’s Bargain Basement, and of gold to tin.
Turn to Colossians 2:8-15. 8 “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. 9 For in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; 11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us [and] which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.”
Philosophical Weakness – vs. 8
Paul begins this section with a command in verse 8 to “see to it” or “beware” that no one would take them captive by empty and deceptive philosophy. We examined this in detail last week. They were to be on guard to protect themselves from being overwhelmed and carried away as spoil by philosophy which masquerades itself as being the way to achieve godliness, but in the end it is only empty, vain, void. Its claims and appearance are illusions, for the ideas and practices being advocated are based in the tradition of men rather than the revelation of God. They encompass elementary, rudimentary practices instead of true godliness for they are only a shadow and not the substance, and in the final analysis they do not have any value in the battle against fleshly indulgence. Paul is specifically concerned with a religious philosophy that would cause the Colossians to stray from the prize set before them so that they end up living by the flesh instead of the Spirit. This was not an imminent threat to their salvation, but it was a red alert threat to their spiritual maturity. However, capture by such a philosophical system could end up revealing a person to have a false profession.
Paul ends verse 8 with the phrase “rather than according to Christ” by which he contrasted capture by such a vain and deceitful philosophy with being captured by Christ. The thrust of his argument is to not allow yourself to be taken captive by anything other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul then goes on to explain in verses 9-15 why capture by Christ is superior. Jesus is superior in His nature, His work in the believer, His position and He gives to the believer a superior circumcision, baptism, life and victory.
Superiority of Jesus’ Nature – vs. 9
Jesus is superior to the philosophy taught by the false teachers because “in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” Some of the false teachers then, and many now, are confused about Jesus’ nature. Some are just ignorant and do not understand how Jesus can be both fully man and fully God, while others are heretical and teach against one or the other. In this verse Paul makes clear Jesus’ nature as both God and man.
First, Paul states than in Him all the fulness of the deity dwells. The identity of who Paul is talking is in the previous verse, and it “Christ,” the Messiah, the anointed one promised throughout the Hebrew scriptures. Paul has already clearly identified Jesus to be the Christ, the promised Messiah four times (1:1, 3, 4; 2:6). Paul already stated in Colossians 1:19 that “it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fulness to dwell in Him” with the context showing this to be a reference to the attributes of deity and savior. Here in Colossians 2:9 Paul leaves no doubt about what he means.
The word for deity here (qeovth” / theotês) is a particular word that refers to the divine essence rather than just divine qualities (qeiovth” / theiotês) such as in Romans 1:20. In that passage Paul states that God’s divine nature or qualities are displayed in creation in such a way that all men are without excuse for their suppression of truth in unrighteousness. This includes not only those who deny Him, but also all those that do not properly honor Him or give thanks to Him. Frankly, that includes all the theistic evolutionists who deny God’s own word that He created it all out of nothing in six days (Genesis 1; Exodus 20:11) in favor of the speculations and musings of man. Such people have a lesser God than the one who reveals Himself in the Scriptures.
The word for fullness (plhvrwma/ plêrôma) is the idea of “full measure,” “complete,” “sum total,” “totality,” and the word for dwell here (katoikevw / katoikeô) is one of permanence rather than a temporary sojourning which would be a different word. When these three terms are combined together it means that Jesus has the totality of the divine essence dwelling in Him permanently. He did not just display some divine attributes here and there, Jesus was and is the full revelation of God. To behold Jesus is to behold the Father that sent Him (John 12:45; 14:7, 9, 20). He is the one that reveals the Father (John 1:18) so that to know Jesus is to know the Father (John 8:19).
This is completely contrary to the ideas that were later more fully developed by the Gnostics that Jesus had only partial attributes of deity and that the aspects of deity that He did have were only upon Him temporarily. Jesus has the fulness of the divine being, the essence of God, and He has that fulness permanently.
Paul also corrects the opposite error that thought Jesus was not really a man. This is related to their advocation of the worship of angels that Paul corrects in specific later in the chapter. They taught a philosophical dualism in which matter is evil and spirit is good so there were degrees of separation between God who is spirit and man who is made up of matter. In their minds angels and Christ were in the progression of beings that emanated from God that were varying degrees of less than God, but more than human. Paul states specifically that the fullness of deity dwells in Christ in bodily form. Jesus is both fully God and fully man.
In bodily form is specifically referring to the physical form Jesus took on in the incarnation and which was resurrected from the dead. That is why Paul can state here that the divine essence is dwelling in Christ permanently. While any mortal, physical body is subject to decline, death and decay, our resurrection bodies will not. Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 15:50-54 that our perishable bodies will be changed to imperishable, and our mortal bodies will put on immortality. That is the nature of Jesus’ resurrection body, and though we do not know fully what it will be like, we do know that one day we will gain bodies like His (1 John 3:2).
Jesus is fully God and fully man. That was a difficult concept for the false teachers in Colossae to understand, and it is still difficult for people to understand it now which is why most heretical groups error in one direction or the other. To deny either the humanity or deity of Jesus is serious. To be born of God you must believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, which includes all the promises about Him and His nature including His deity (1 John 5:1). To deny that is the spirit of antichrist (1 John 2:22) as is denial that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh (1 John 4:1-3).
Jesus is superior in nature because He is fully God and fully man.
Superiority of Jesus’ Work – vs. 10
Jesus’ work is also superior to any philosophical or religious system because “in Him you have been made complete.” To be complete (plhrovw / plêroô) is to be “made full,” “fully supplied.” 2 Peter 1:3-4 describes this being fully supplied saying, “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of [the] divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” There is no lack in Jesus. He fully supplies all that we need pertaining to life and godliness.
As for life, Paul already pointed out in chapter 1, Jesus is the architect, creator, possessor and sustainer of all creation. God is the one that supplies seed to the sower and bread for food (2 Corinthians 9:10), and Jesus already commanded us not to be anxious about what we eat, drink or wear. He has promised to provide food and clothing for those that will seek first His kingdom and righteousness (Matthew 6:25-34). There is no other philosophy or religious system that can make such a promise.
As for eternal life, Paul already pointed out that Jesus is the redeemer who by His own sacrifice of Himself brings about the forgiveness of our sins and reconciles us with God. Our reconciliation with God is to such a degree that we are adopted into His family (John 1:12) calling Him, Abba (Romans 8:15), and can come before His throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16). No other philosophy or religious system has that kind of assurance of salvation.
As for godliness, Philippians 1:6 promises that “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:28-30 promises that whom God foreknew He predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son and that He will call, justify and glorify them. 1 Peter 5:10 comforts those who are facing persecution stating, “And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen [and] establish you.” Certainly there is work for us to do in the process of sanctification (2 Peter 1:5-8), but since it is God working in us we have a confident assurance that what we are working toward will be achieved. No other philosophy or religious system has such a promise.
Paul’s point here is simple. Christ’s work is superior for He supplies everything the believer needs to be saved from and forgiven their sins, be reconciled to God, be supplied what is needed for life, and given His precious and magnificent promises which include eternal life and are the means of godliness. It would be absurd to trade that for the mess of pottage offered by legalism, ritualism, asceticism or the worship of angels.
Superiority of Jesus’ Position – vs. 10
Jesus’ position is also superior. Paul states, “and He is the head over all rule and authority.” This is a reemphasis of what was stated in 1:16 that Jesus is the creator of all things including rulers (ajrchv / arch ) and authorities (ejxousiva / exousia). The one who created them is also the head over them. Paul uses both of these same terms in Ephesians 6:12 in describing the organization and rank of spirit beings that are against believers, so it is probably a similar reference here. One of the heresies that was being promoted in Colossae was the worship of angelic beings (Colossians 2:18), so this statement would be specifically to shows Jesus is superior in position to all such beings. It would not only be ludicrous to worship such inferior beings, but it would also be foolish since God has clearly stated that only He is to be worshiped (Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 6:13-14).
Jesus is superior to any philosophy or religious system by virtue of His nature, His work in His followers, and His position. Paul expands in verses 11-15 on the superiority of Christ’s work in believers giving them a superior circumcision, a superior baptism, a superior life and a superior victory.
A Superior Circumcision – vs. 11
“and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.”
I had mentioned in my introduction to Colossians that there was a large Jewish community in that area. This verse confirms that there were a substantial number of Jewish believers in that church otherwise Paul’s reference to circumcision would make little sense. In order to understand what this verse is talking about you need to understand the purpose of circumcision.
The practice of circumcision is first mentioned in Genesis 17 at which point makes it a sign of the covenant that He has made between Abraham and his descendants. Every male in the household including servants were to be circumcised with additional instructions given concerning when to circumcise newborns and new servants. The importance of the ritual is seen in the penalty against those who do not follow it. They “shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant” (Genesis 17:14).
As with all rituals, the meaning can be lost over the years so that the ritual itself becomes more important than the thing it was supposed to represent. In this case the covenant with God became secondary to the ritual itself. The outward sign was kept, but the purpose of it as a covenant to walk with God in light of His promises was lost. God had always called on His people to walk with Him from their heart. In Deuteronomy 10:16 God called on them to “circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no more.” He goes on in the passage to call them to “therefore love the Lord your God. . .” (Deuteronomy 11:1). In Deuteronomy 30:6 Moses gave hope to the second generation that was preparing to enter the land about a future time saying, “Moreover 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, in order that you may live.” There was always to be a greater spiritual reality which the ritual was supposed to signify.
The circumcision spoken about here in verse 11 is obviously not a physical one since it is “done without hands.” It is a spiritual circumcision of the heart in keeping with the new covenant which is the fulfillment of the promise given in Deuteronomy 30:6, which I already cited, and prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31-34. This is a covenant in which the law of God is written on the heart and they will know the Lord. This is the same as Paul mentions in Romans 2:29 of the circumcision which is of the heart, by the Spirit. This is the huge change that Jesus brought about through His sacrifice. The Holy Spirit now indwells the believer so that righteousness is generated out of the heart instead of legalistically following a set of rules. We can now know the Lord instead of just about the Lord.
The particular “body of flesh” referenced here is a metaphor for the old sinful self such as in Romans 7 & 8 where being in the “flesh” and being in the “Spirit” are contrasted. The “circumcision of Christ” would probably be a reference to the regeneration brought about by Jesus’ atonement. This would fit both the contrast given in verse 13 between being dead in transgressions in the uncircumcision of the flesh and being made alive together with Christ, and it would fit the idea of circumcision as a sign of covenant since regeneration is a definite sign of being part of the new covenant.
This was a very significant statement to the Jews in Colossae and to the teachers advocating practices from the Mosaic Law. Jesus provides a superior circumcision, a superior covenant to Moses.
A Superior Baptism – vs. 12
Jesus also provides a superior baptism – “having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”
Another practice within Judaism was ritual baptism as either preparation for going into the temple to offer sacrifices, or as a sign of repentance such as was done by John the Baptist. While both of these rituals were in keeping with righteousness, neither were identified with regeneration. The ritual of Christian baptism is the outward proclamation of the spiritual baptism that had to have already taken place. As also described in Romans 6, the ritual of water baptism is individual identifying themselves with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection in that they have died to self and been raised to newness of life. However, the baptism that saves is not the ritual, as falsely believed by many, but baptism by the Spirit. John the Baptist spoke of this superior baptism that would be by the Holy Spirit and fire (Matthew 3:11). 1 Corinthians 12:13 is direct in stating that every person that is part of the body of Christ entered it by being baptized by the Spirit.
Notice in this verse as well that this baptism operates in the same manner as salvation for it is speaking of the same thing. It is received through faith in the working of God. In Romans 10:9-10 Paul stated, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus [as] Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; 10 for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” That is the power of God and the nature of faith. This is not something gained through a ritual, it is a spiritual issue.
It appears that part of the empty and vain philosophy that was being taught there included a significance given to baptism as a ritual that pales before the superior baptism provided by Jesus that results in eternal life.
A Superior Life – vs. 13 – 14
Jesus also provides a superior life for it is one that is far beyond the present physical life the false teachers were trying to affect.
The Dead Made Alive – vs. 13 “And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him.” The natural state of all men is being spiritually dead, but the Gentiles also had the additional problem of being outside of God’s covenant. The power of God is demonstrated in making alive what was dead, and the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is able to give us spiritual life. This is something God has done on our behalf that we could not do for ourselves since what is dead is incapable of anything except rotting. No philosophy or religious system can overcome it, only God can.
Forgiven All Transgressions – vs 13 – “. . . having forgiven us all our transgressions . . .” This another area that philosophy or religious systems cannot touch. They might be able to get a person to shift the blame to someone else, a common practice in psychology. They might get the person to think they have earned forgiveness for some sins by performing religious rituals. Through Jesus all our transgressions are forgiven. There is no distinction between mortal and venial sins. Christ brings about forgiveness to those who believe regardless of the sin committed. He has removed our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:11).
The word forgiven (carivzomai / charizomai) has its root in the word for grace and it is in the aorist tense showing it has already been done. We do not earn forgiveness. It was given to us by God through Christ. This is far superior to anything that any philosophy, psychology or religious system can offer. The next verse describes this in a wonderful way.
Charges Dismissed – vs. 14 “. . .having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us [and] which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” The picture here is of a Roman execution by crucifixion. The charges and the condemnation are written out and read at the execution with the decree then posted on the cross of the one being crucified. Recall that Pilate had posted above Jesus’ cross the statement, “JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” This was the charge against Him. The picture Paul gives here is that all the court orders against us are gathered together and then nailed to the cross of Christ. The charges against me are wiped away, obliterated, because the price to discharge them was paid by Jesus. I am forgiven of all my sin because Jesus has paid the price for all my sin – every single one – idolatry, blasphemy, pride, dishonoring parents, murder, hatred, adultery, immorality, debauchery, drunkeness, theft, lying, coveting, envy, greed, etc. What can philosophy or religious systems offer that in any way compare?
A Superior Triumph – vs. 15
Finally, Jesus offers a superior triumph. “When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.”
A triumph was a victory parade of a conquering General as he returned leading his defeated captives. Paul uses this imagery to describe Jesus’ absolute victory over Satan and his forces when He paid the price of sin and then rose from the grave. Hebrews 2:14-15 explains that through death, Jesus rendered powerless the devil who had previously had the power of death and delivered those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. The grave is longer the victor and death has lost its power for all who have faith in Jesus Christ have the promise of eternal life and a future resurrection body like His (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). Paul proclaimed in Romans 8:37, “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us,” and then went on to explain that nothing can separate us from His love.
Jesus gives us a superior victory. No philosophy or religious system can offer anything similar.
Paul warns us to be on guard against being captured by vain and deceptive philosophy. Just as you would not trade a gold ring for a tin one, understanding the superiority of what we have in Jesus makes it a lot easier to resist being lead astray by what is offered by any philosophy or religious system. Jesus is superior in His nature, His work in the believer, His position and He gives to the believer a superior circumcision, baptism, life and victory. We are to be captured by Jesus Christ and Him alone.
Sermon Notes – 9/26/2010
The Superiority of Being In Christ – Colossians 2:9-15
Would you work hard to gain something ____________ to something far superior that you already have?
Paul is concerned about false teachers ______________ and leading astray the Colossian believers
Jesus is far ______________ to the vain and empty philosophy being advocated by the false teachers
Philosophical Weakness – Colossians 2:8
Be watchful not to be carried away as spoil by philosophies which give the illusion of gaining _________
Do not allow yourself to be ________________ by anything other than the Lord Jesus Christ
Superiority of Jesus’ Nature – Colossians 2:9
Paul makes clear Jesus is the _____________ and His nature as both God and man
Deity here refers to the divine ______________ rather than just divine qualities (compare Romans 1:20)
Fullness is in sense of “full measure” and dwell here is a _________________ residence
Jesus has the _____________ of the divine essence dwelling in Him permanently
In “bodily form” refers to the ____________form Jesus took at the incarnation & which was resurrected
Jesus is fully God and fully man, a concept that people still stumble over – and heretics ___________
Superiority of Jesus’ Work – Colossians 2:10
To be complete (plhrovw / plêroô) is to be “made full,” “fully ____________” – 2 Peter 1:3-4
Jesus fully supplies all we need: ____________ (2 Cor. 9:10; Matt. 6:25-34),
Superiority of Jesus’ Position – Colossians 2:10
The one who ____________ the rulers and authorities is also the head over them
It would be __________to worship inferior beings and contrary to God’s command to worship Him only
A Superior Circumcision – Colossians 2:11
Circumcision is first mentioned in Genesis 17 and is a sign of God’s ________________ with Abraham
There was always to be a greater spiritual reality – circumcision of the __________- Deut. 10:16f; 30:6
“Body of flesh” is a metaphor for the _____________ life as in Romans 7 & 8
“Circumcision of Christ” is a reference to _____________ brought about by Jesus’ atonement
A Superior Baptism – Colossians 2:12
Superior to _________ Jewish ritual baptism of cleansing and the baptism of repentance
Christian water baptism ________with Jesus’ death, burial & resurrection (Romans 6), but does not save
Baptism by the __________is superior to all (Matt. 3:11) – and is the means of regeneration – (1 Cor. 12:13)
This is a baptism that is received through ____________ – as in Romans 10:9-10
A Superior Life – Colossians 2:13 – 14
The Dead Made Alive – Colossians 2:13
The natural state of man is spiritually _________. Only the power of God can make Him alive
Forgiven All Transgressions – Colossians 2:13
Through Jesus _______ our transgressions are forgiven
Forgiven (carivzomai / charizomai) has its root in the word for ________& it is something already done
Charges Dismissed – Colossians 2:14
The illustration is one of a Roman ____________
Paul pictures all the court orders condemning us being gathered together and nailed to __________ cross
A Superior Triumph – Colossians 2:15
A triumph was a _________ parade of a conquering General as he returned leading his defeated captives
Hebrews 2:14-15 explains that through death, Jesus rendered powerless the ___________ power of death
_________has lost its power over believers, and we overwhelmingly conquer through Jesus (Rom. 8:37)
Jesus is _______in nature, work & position and He gives a superior circumcision, baptism, life & victory
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – 1) Write down all the verses mentioned. 2) Count how many times the word “superior” is used 3) Talk with your parents about how Jesus is superior over all.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. How much work would you do to earn something inferior to something you already had? What was Paul’s desire for the Colossians? What was His concern for them? What is the nature of the philosophy that Paul warns against in Colossians 2:8? What should we be captured by? What aspect of deity dwells in Jesus? Is there anything left out? Is it permanent or temporary? What body does it dwell in? What did the Gnostics believe about Jesus’ divine nature? Why is Jesus’ humanity important? How can Jesus be both fully God and fully man at the same time? What does “complete” mean in Colossians 2:10? How does Jesus supply our needs for sustaining life? Eternal life? Achieving godliness? Could legalism, ritualism, asceticism or worship of angels make us complete? Why or why not? What / who is Jesus head over? Why is this an important point here? What was the purpose of circumcision? Is Paul referring to a physical or spiritual circumcision? Explain. What is spiritual circumcision? What is the “circumcision of Christ” and how does it do away with the “body of flesh”? Explain each type of baptism: Jewish ritual cleansing baptism; baptism of repentance; Christian baptism; baptism by the Spirit. What baptism is Paul referring to here? Explain. What kind of baptism can save you? Can something dead make itself alive? How are we made alive with Christ? What is the extent of God’s forgiveness of sin through faith in Christ? Explain. What is the nature of forgiveness? Can you earn it? What is Paul describing in Colossians 2:14? What is the significance of the sign Pilate had posted on Jesus’ cross? What is the significance of the decrees against us being nailed to the cross? What is a “triumph?” How did Jesus triumph over His enemies (Hebrews 2:14-15)? Can any philosophy or religious system offer anything comparable to Jesus and what He has done for His followers?
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