Lesson 25: "Buried. . .in Baptism. . .Ye Are Risen with Him" (Colossians 2:12)
This is lesson #25. Near the end of Lesson #24, we said Paul was warning the Colossians not to get entangled with false teachers. He warned about being beguiled by enticing words (2:4). To be beguiled means to be misled, deluded or deceived. Beguile also carries with it the idea of: to captivate or to lure. In v.8, Paul said: "Beware lest any man spoil you through..." THROUGH WHAT PAUL? Through philosophy, vain deceit, by traditions of men, or after the rudiments of the world. That covers a lot of territory. However, no man can literally spoil you against your will. He can teach you error and when you obey that error, you will be lost. In effect, nevertheless, that man has spoiled you in the sense that he led you to be lost. Jesus taught this same lesson in these words: "If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch." (Matt. 15:14) To fall into the ditch is Jesus' figurative expression meaning, very simply, to be lost. In other words, both those who teach error and those who are taught that error will be lost. Thus, YOU are responsible to study the Bible for yourself as you are now doing. Keep your eye on the text. Our reading begins 2:9, let's read! I read, you read, we both read. Let's read! Beginning in v.9, we'll read down through the end of v.17. Are you ready?
"For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: in whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ."
O.K. back to v.9..."in him," who is him? This is talking about Jesus, the Christ, (see the end of v.8?). In him, i.e. in Jesus the Christ dwells or resides the fulness of the Godhead. What does fulness mean? All of it! The Godhead is complete in Jesus. What does "the Godhead" mean? This word is used twice more in the N.T Acts:17:29...Paul said to the Athenians: "we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device." In Rom. 1:20, Paul spoke of the Godhead as "eternal power." The word "Godhead" here in Col. 2:9 means very simply, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as that phrase is used in Matt. 28:19. All the fulness of Deity is invested and embodied in Jesus our Lord. In Jesus is a full and free expression of God himself. Back in John 5:26, Jesus said to the Jews (down by the sheep market pool, if you remember): "For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man." Why did God impart and endow in Jesus, his Son, all authority? Well, it pleased God to do it that way, according to Col. 1:19, do you remember? Please re-read it, just across the page. Jesus said (Matt. 28:18), "All power [or authority] is given unto me in heaven and in earth." To the Colossians, Paul very simply said: "in him [i.e. in Christ] dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." In him (v.10), "ye are complete." In Christ, one is complete. What does that imply? Well a couple things. (#1) It says one can be "in Christ" or one can be out of Christ. In other words, one is a Christian or one is a non-Christian. You can't be both at the same time. And may I be so bold as to ask you, what about you? Are you in or are you out? You can't be both. Either you are in Christ or you are out of Christ. (#2) When Paul said that "in Christ", ye are complete.. .this implies further: that something is lacking in a non-Christian. A non-Christian is incomplete. This human body that God created is not all of it! In other words, we have spiritual needs as well as physical needs. Jesus said to Satan (back in Matt. 4:4), "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every WORD that pro-ceedeth out of the mouth of God." It takes bread and material things to live physically. But it takes more than physical things to be a complete person as God created us. We have physical needs yes! But, there is a spiritual side to man also. The Bible makes it very clear, one can be well and alive physically and still be dead spiritually. And, as we have said before: physical fitness, although very desirable, will not get you to heaven. One must be made alive spiritually to get to heaven. The road to heaven is a spiritual highway. It won't accommodate human or mortal transit. Paul taught this to the Ephesians like this (do you remember?). He said: "You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins." When we covered that, we talked about the Ephesians; that there was a time when they were walking around dead, i.e. they were living physically; but, they were dead spiritually. How were they dead? In trespasses and sins (that's Eph. 2:1), sin separates us from God. The word "quicken" (there) means to make alive. In the next verse(s) to the Ephesians, the apostle described their condition before they were made alive spiritually. Now, Paul is getting ready to teach the Colossians the same lesson...the same things...the same gospel. One must be IN CHRIST to be spiritually alive. As a matter of fact, Paul even used that same word: "quickened" here also (down in v.13).
Now, I've got a question for you? How is one "quickened" or made alive spiritually? Are you listening? I just asked you a question. How is one quickened spiritually? Can you answer that question? To say it another way, how does one get INTO Christ? In Christ, we are complete (v.10). Now, the question is, how do you get in? It's a very straightforward question; but, it is a very important question. Now, we don't want any philosophy, that's ruled out (up in v.8). We don't want any deceitful answers, i.e. vain or empty answers, in other words no non-scriptural stuff. Paul had already plugged that hole also (up in v.8). Tradition won't get it! We can't do it because grandpa DID IT THAT WAY or because old uncle so-and-so taught me that a hundred years ago...and HE WAS A PREACHER! God bless grandpa. God bless every preacher; but, stay away from "tradition." That's what Paul said (up in v.8). Now, one more time, have you got the question? It boils down to this: How does one become a Christian? As important as that question is, you will find a lot of disagreement on the very street where you live; if, you will ask that question on your street, some will tell you: lay your hand on the radio and pray through. Some will say, just accept Jesus as your personal Saviour. It all comes by faith...do nothing. Some will require you to come down front where the preacher will pray the sinner's prayer with you and on your behalf and then everyone will smile and hug you and say with tears: praise God, honey now you're one of us. Now, you can do all of that and be one of them and still have your sins...all the sins you have ever committed. It's pathetic; but, it's true. They underwent a social experience; but, they were not quickened to spiritual life. How do I know that? Very simply! Forgiveness of sins takes place in the mind of God. A preacher can pray all the prayers he wants to pray, ask until he is blue in the face. All the congregation can hug you and cry a bucket of tears and celebrate all you like...but, forgiveness of sins takes place in the mind of God. When does God forgive sins? That's the question before us. Sin separates us from God and one sin can keep you out of heaven (Rev. 21:27). What is it (?) that takes away sins AND how do you get it? How do we get this completeness, Paul discusses. My friend, why not let the apostle Paul answer that question once and forever. Why go from church to church, preacher to preacher, philosophy to philosophy, from the reformation tradition to the Catholic tradition or some other tradition? If the Bible is true, you've got the answer. Paul was an ambassador for Christ (Eph. 6:20). An ambassador can speak for his sovereign. Officially! Do you remember? Why not stick to the official answer? Why go from creed book to creed book, denomination to denomination, looking for an answer that can't be found there? You don't go to a hardware store to buy food. You don't go to a lawyer to get your hair set. That's foolishness. When your physical health is ailing, of course, you go to a physician. If you have a spiritual question why not go to the Great Physician, Jesus for a spiritual answer? His ambassador, the apostle Paul, in the verses we just read, answers that question. When you get married an official of the state, pronounces you husband and wife. When you finally get down to that point, you become a husband and a wife instantly when that pronouncement is made, whether you kiss the bride or not. Every state law with reference to marriage then applies to that marriage. Laws about divorce, laws about your estate; your relationship has totally changed. Laws that a moment before did not apply to you...now apply. When a judge taps that gavel and says, you are acquitted; then, you are acquitted, instantly, that moment, when that gavel bangs that little wooden block, that acquittal becomes legally effective and binding. When you become a Christian, your sins are remitted then and there, you are complete and YOU ARE IN Christ, you are as of that moment adopted as one of God's children. Do you remember Eph. 1:5-6-7?
Now, please don't lose the question! When does one become a Christian? Is it when you HEAR the gospel? Is it when you BELIEVE the gospel and thus BELIEVE in Jesus? Is it when you REPENT and change your mind and DECIDE to obey and make your actions consistent with your faith? Is it when you CONFESS JESUS and say, I believe that Jesus Christ is God's Son? When does that transformation from a non-Christian to a Christian take place? When? At what moment is one delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son as Paul stated it (up in Col. 1:13)? In other words, when are you added to the church. (Acts 2:47). When do you become a citizen of Christ's kingdom (Phil. 3:20)? When is your name changed in the book of life in heaven? When does your adoption as a child of God become effective (Eph. 1:5). When does spiritual life in Jesus begin? When is one born again, as Jesus told Nicodemus he must be to SEE the kingdom and to ENTER the kingdom (John 3:3,5) When does this change take place? And, incidentally, how would you describe such a change? The apostle Paul called it an operation (here in v.12). Have you ever had an operation? Have you had your appendix removed or your tonsils out or something else? When did you lose your tonsils? I'll tell you when it was! When that doctor used that scalpel and did that bloody slice that cut them loose from your body. Right? When does God remove your sins? When are you redeemed or bought back? When does Christ's blood, that purchased you (Acts 20:28) become effective? I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said: Christians are not perfect, they are only forgiven. Our question is: when? When is one forgiven? This is an operation of God (v.12). God does this operation; in other words, GOD does the forgiving. Have you read about the operation that God did on Adam back in the garden of Eden and how God made Adam a wife from one of Adam's ribs? Do you know what it means to circumcise? A form of that word is used here in v.11 and my dictionary says circumcise means to "cut off the foreskin or internal labia." In other words circumcision was in fact a crude medical operation as known and practiced by the Hebrews since the time of Abraham. The Jews, the Israelites, and those people at Colossae understood this. Paul sees a likeness in someway between this circumcision operation they were familiar with and the "Putting off the body of the sins of the flesh." (v.11). Paul called this operation of sin removal "the circumcision of Christ" (end of v.11). Do you see that? Paul says this circumcision operation, the removal of sins, described very simply as the "forgiveness of sins" other places; Paul says this operation is performed by Christ and by God. "Ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands." In other words, in this operation, Paul is discussing (the removal of sins), this operation is not made by the hands of men...removal of sins, i.e. forgiveness of sins is by Christ and by God. This operation cannot be performed by a preacher, it is not done by a priest, it is not done by "praying through" or by any activity on the part of any man. God alone can forgive sins, it's an "operation of God" (v.12). Look at it close.
Now we still haven't answered our question: WHEN are sins removed? Well, when God performs this operation, yes. But, when does God perform this sin-removal operation? That's the question. Please take a moment to notice verse 11 ends with a colon...two little dots one above the other. Do you see it? Well, what does that prove? My dictionary says a colon is a punctuation mark used before a series of items (which we don't have) OR AN EXPLANATION. Did you get it? A punctuation mark is used before an explanation. What's the explanation? Paul follows this "circumcision made without hands" operation, this "putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ" by a colon that is followed by the explanation. What's the explanation? Verse 12! Put your eyes on v.12. Here is the WHEN God performs this operation, when we are "buried with him [i.e. with Christ] in baptism." Just as Christ was raised from the dead, "ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God." This sin removal operation takes place as we are raised from that watery grave called baptism which is a re-enactment of Christ's death, burial and resurrection from the grave. When you are baptized for the remission of sins, for that purpose, as Peter told the people on Pentecost (Acts 2:38) then it goes without saying that you understand that Christ died for your sins and that he was raised from the dead. That is obeying or re-enacting, if you will, the gospel. The gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (I Cor. 15:1-4) defines the gospel. "The power of God unto salvation" is in the gospel (Rom. 1:16), "by which ye are saved" (I Cor. 15:2). What did Ananias tell Paul? "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." (Acts 22:16). Ananias was telling Paul exactly the same thing that Paul is here telling the Colossians. It's called preaching the gospel. Paul was restating the gospel. Our sins are removed when we are baptized for the remission of sin. That's what Peter said on pentecost and that's what Paul is teaching here. Read it again AND have a good day!