I don’t think we really understand the magnitude of this New Life that we have in Jesus Christ. Growing up, sometimes it’s easy to hear about how to be a Christian and to even continue going to church and praying and reading our Bibles, and yet still the spiritual truth of our life in Christ is remote and weak.
But some of the things St. Paul says here in Colossians 2 help me to understand how dramatic and powerful my life in Christ really is – even when I don’t acknowledge it to be.
We have received Jesus Christ through baptism and faith. Just as the Israelites were required to be circumcised in order to be brought into covenant with God and were also required to have faith (the life of Abraham demonstrates both), so we are brought into a New Life with Jesus Christ in baptism and through faith. How these 2 work together would require more of a theological treatise than I have time to offer.
But Paul does say a few things we should notice. First, we are buried with Jesus Christ in our baptism (verse 12.) As we are buried with Him in baptism, God puts off the body of sins of the flesh, a cleansing that is represented by the waters of baptism. But sometimes we forget that in baptism we are also raised with Jesus Christ through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead (verse 12.)
Paul’s point is that once we were dead but now we have been resurrected to the New Life in Jesus Christ. Having been baptized, and having faith, you are complete in Him, in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead (verse 9.)
But even having said this, it would be too easy to go on with the rest of my day today as if nothing extraordinary had happened.
But something extraordinary has happened!
Take a closer look at what Baptism into Christ makes us heirs of and what union with Christ through faith actually gives us.
When Jesus died on the Cross (and we died with Him), Jesus took away the condemnation and judgment we faced under the Law. We are all sinners and guilty of breaking God’s holy Law and spitting in His holy Face. For this, we should die.
But on the Cross, Jesus erased or tore up the handwriting of requirements, or the accusation of the Law, against us. No, He did more than this – Jesus took this certificate of death and nailed it to the Cross, putting it to death instead of us. Pontius Pilate had the Roman soldiers nail a sign to the Cross saying that Jesus was the King of the Jews. But Jesus nailed the condemnation of the Law, sin, and death, to the Cross. Maybe that’s why Jesus the carpenter spent all those years learning His trade from His father Joseph: so He could know how to nail the condemnation of the Law to the Cross!
Jesus did more than this at the Cross, though. At the Cross, Jesus disarmed the Evil Empire, the armies of Satan. Sometimes, in our hurry to find the evil that still lives on earth, we forget that Jesus defeated Satan once and for all at the Cross. Jesus disarmed the principalities and powers (verse 15), that is, He stripped Satan and His minions of their weapons and power, and whooped them.
At the moment of the Cross, Satan thought that in the cosmic wrestling match between him and God that he had pinned and defeated Christ. So he had the Romans strip Jesus Christ and humiliate Him, before they put Him to death. But in the most dramatic reversal in history, Jesus Christ actually stripped Satan and His forces, disarming them to some degree at the present so that He might finally destroy Him in due time.
Just as Satan humiliated Christ and had Him carry His own cross in a mock procession of shame, in reality Jesus Christ humiliated Satan and his armies at the Cross. He “made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it” (verse 15.) The image is of a Roman triumphal procession, with the victorious general leading the humiliated and defeated enemy behind him for all to see.
While we may not always see this “public spectacle,” I’m sure the angelic citizens of both Heaven and Hell didn’t miss it. This seems to be why Paul has the principalities and powers in mind in particular (verses 10, 15, and perhaps 8 and 20.)
We hear so much about how Satan is alive and well and living on planet Earth. The reality is that Satan is a serpent who has had his skull crushed and is thrashing around in pain for a few millennia until he finally realizes he’s been defeated.
Do you remember the prophecy of Genesis 3:15? “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel?” At the Cross, Jesus Christ definitively bashed Satan’s skull in. How do I know? Not only because of this prophecy and many other Scriptures, but because both Calvary and Golgotha mean “The Place of the Skull.” How fitting that Satan’s head was crushed by Jesus Christ on the Cross at the Place of the Skull.
This – this nailing to the Cross of the sentence of death upon us, this disarming of the demonic forces, this crushing of Satan’s skull, and this triumphal procession – this is what you have been made a part of by participation in Christ through baptism and faith.
Paul urgently urges the Colossians not to let anyone “cheat” them through philosophy, empty conceit (verse 8), legalism (verse 20ff), etc. I don’t think the NKJV translation here as “cheat” captures the idea well enough. Paul is saying “don’t be taken captive” or, the interpretation I like best: “don’t be kidnapped” by false teaching.
I urgently urge you, too, to not be kidnapped by false teachings, of which there are many in the church today. I can’t help but think of the many Christians who are being deceived by such false teachings as The DaVinci Code, The Gospel of Thomas (and movies that glorify such heretical teachings, such as Stigmata), the “Lost” Teachings of Jesus, the “Lost” Books of the Bible, teachings about angels, that Satan is still ruling over earth and not Jesus Christ, and on and on and on.
In baptism and through faith, you have died to the false teaching of the world. Therefore, do not live by these false teachings and the worldviews of the world. But as you have therefore received Jesus Christ the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him, and established in faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving” (verse 6.)
Prayer: Praise be to You, O Christ, because You have nailed the penalty for sin to the Cross, taken away my sins, disarmed the principalities and powers, and made a public spectacle of them. Help me to live in union with You through faith by which You have given Yourself to me, so that I may walk in Him and His holy ways. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
1. Meditate on your deliverance from sin and death. Find time to give thanks to God today.
2. Imagine Christ as a conquering hero over Satan and His army. Sing a song of victory to Him.
Resolution: I resolve to meditate on Christ’s triumph over Satan at the Cross, as well as His victory over sin and its penalty, death.
© 2012 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Category: Give Us This Day