Fullness of life in Christ. 2:6-15
In Colossians 2:6-3:4, Paul outlines the false teachings of those who were troubling his readers and provides for them an antidote to their teachings. In the passage before us, Paul speaks of the all-sufficiency of Christ.
v6 -7. Paul begins by asking his readers to continue in the Christian faith in the same way as they began. They put their faith, their trust, in Jesus the risen one and they must go on in their Christian life trusting him. They must remain in union with Christ so they will grow as believers, solid and stable. In this way their Christian lives progress and they will be able to give thanks to God.
v8. Against this method of Christian living (faith in Christ), there is the method of effort applied to the law of God. Yet, law-obedience does not have the capacity to restrain sensual indulgence, nor progress Christ-likeness for the appropriation of the full blessings of new-life in Christ.
v9-10. Given that the whole of God's divine nature is in Christ, and that we share in this nature through our association with Christ, our being "in Christ", why then would we proceed in the Christian life by other than holding onto Christ?
v11. Paul now explains what is involved in being united to Christ. First, it involved being circumcised by Christ. This images the stripping off of useless flesh. This "circumcision" was fulfilled on the cross by Christ, he died there, and since we are "in " him, we died with him in the "putting off of the sinful nature."
v12. As well as "dying" with Christ, we are "buried with him" and also "raised with him". In the same way as we are identified with Christ's death, so we are identified with his burial; we are immersed in his burial such that our old nature is buried with him. As we are buried with Christ, so we are raised with him.
v13. The idea of "rising" with Christ images the gift of new life, a Christ-like life, lived through the indwelling compelling of the Spirit of Christ.
v14. Before becoming believers, the Colossian Gentiles had a limited understanding of the law of God; they were rebels and under judgment. In Christ, God dealt with this situation by forgiving their sins and releasing them from the curse of the law.
v15. "The powers and authorities" are probably not satanic powers, but are rather the oppressive regulations of the law, regulations designed to expose sin and thus condemn the sinner. The binding authority of the law's regulations has been discarded by means of Jesus' faithful obedience on the cross.
Dying and rising in Christ
Let us continue our Christian walk as we began.
This is not a bad exhortation, is it? It's exactly the point Paul is making in verse six of our passage for study. We began our Christian walk by putting our trust in Jesus and that's the way we should continue.
I guess it all seems a bit too simple. Here we have Jesus who possesses the complete nature of God; he possesses deity. If I hold onto him, if I trust him, then his nature becomes mine. That doesn't mean that I am God, but it does mean I possess divinity. Certainly that's the way the heavenly host sees me. When I hold onto Jesus, I am made one with him as a gift of God's grace. I am made complete in Jesus.
This identification with Christ involves an identification with his death and resurrection. In dying with him I die to sin. I am no longer condemned. My sins are forgiven. In rising with him I rise to new life. I am "given fullness in Christ", I am as Christ is, and in his power I begin to be what I am.
This truth is so simple we often don't believe it. Believers are constantly faced with the heresy that "fullness", or completeness, in the Christian life, cannot be theirs by simply trusting in the faithfulness of Jesus alone. For some members of the Colossian church the essential extra was the Old Testament Law. They were putting pressure on the new Gentile believers to apply themselves to the Mosaic law. It was the way to "fullness".
How do we add to the cross of Christ today? What are the extras we have to do, or believe, before we can be complete in Christ?
First, there is the extra of piety. We can easily end up with a complex structure of rules that supposedly makes us complete in Christ. Each of us will have to examine our own Christian tradition to identify the "extras." They can involve such matters as: dress, food, alcohol, even to the type of church we attend.
Second, there is the extra of ethics. We often treat life as if enjoying ourselves is an affront to God's dignity. Never smile, as if you are enjoying life, someone will create a law to make it illegal. It's interesting how secular society today is increasingly constrained by puritanical "political correctness." On the church front it's as if the purity of our behavior, or motivation, makes us complete in Christ. This form of thinking will make us a pharisee. We too easily forget that our most noble motivations cannot tolerate close inspection.
Third, there is the extra of denominational correctness. It is often argued that fullness in the Christian life can only be realized if we have been baptized by full immersion, or we worship on the Sabbath, or we have spoken in tongues as evidence of Spirit baptism, or we have received the sacraments by a duly ordained priest, or ........
The truth is, we "have been given fullness in Christ." So, "as you received Christ Jesus as Lord. Continue to live in him."
1. What is the element that must be common to our reception of Christ and our continuing to live in him? v6.
2. What is the "deceptive philosophy" which is attempting to capture the Colossians? v7.
3. Explain the nature of the "fullness" we have in Christ.
4. Discuss our identification with Christ in his death and resurrection, along with its consequences.
5. Discuss how the Colossian heresy might be presently affecting us and how we should work to overcome it.
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