Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, overflowing with gratitude. Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ. For the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily in Christ, and you have been filled by Him, who is the head over every ruler and authority. You were also circumcised in Him with a circumcision not done with hands, by putting off the body of flesh, in the circumcision of the Messiah. Having been buried with Him in baptism, you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive with Him and forgave us all our trespasses. He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them publicly; He triumphed over them by Him.
The major theme coursing through this letter is the supremacy of Christ and His provision for His people. The opening phrase in this passage recognizes Christ as Lord. Contrary to the view of many professing Christians, no man makes Jesus Lord - He IS! When Paul was speaking to the talk show crowd of his day, he didn't tell them of an entity that wanted to be their Lord; he declared God as Lord. He told them, Acts 17:23-25 What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. The God Who is, does not depend on His creatures to bestow or admit that He is Lord, He is. This word, Lord, conveys the idea of supreme authority and power. And we who have believed on Christ Jesus have received Him, the Lord of heaven and earth.
As with so many epistles, we are told here to walk in Christ - that is to keep our mind fixed on His truths and live as people who have been changed, raised from spiritual death by the same power that raised Christ from the grave! We cannot walk in the Lord if we do not have fellowship with one another, as He has given us to each other to equip us for His service. This call to discipleship is contrasted with the siren call of the world to turn our backs on Him, to sit in judgement of Him. The serpent still beckons for us to put ourselves in charge; our flesh constantly desires to be in charge. In contrast to Col 2:4, where we were advised not to succumb to plausible arguments of men that might delude us, here we are told to be rooted, built up in Christ, and established in the faith. Paul knows these saints have been taught these things rightly; he started this letter thanking God for the progress they had been making as gospel warriors. Here's a critical truth for us: We may grow wise in many biblical doctrines and theological truths, we never outgrow our need of the gospel. If we learn all the systematic and biblical theology man has written but we forget Who bought us and how He did, we will tend to drift into trusting our human wisdom, so called. Rightly comprehending the grace that is ours in Christ Jesus will keep us humble and very grateful – abounding in thanksgiving. If we truly understand the saving grace that is ours, we will be abounding in thanks to God!
Verse 8 provides the same type of warning as we found in verse 4 - take measures so no one, not even your favorite preacher - can capture your mind. This is what Absalom did in 2 Sam 18 as her worked to draw the men of Israel away from David. Paul lays out three areas of humanistic thinking - philosophy, empty deceit in line with human tradition, and elemental or foundational elements or spirits of the world. Each of these represents humanistic ways of thinking that are contrasted with Christian thought, which is according to Christ. Paul sets the world's ways of thinking straight up against thinking as and according to the teachings of Christ Jesus. Paul wrote about elsewhere - 1 Corinthians 2:12-16 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. We cannot afford to conflate or confuse the natural wisdom each of us has with the wisdom of God which we access only by prayer and diligence.
Next in our text, a paragraph which one commentator (Brian Hedges) described in this colorful way: "This rich paragraph is “pressed down, shaken together, and running over” in spiritual wealth and insight. While the whole letter of Colossians radiates the sufficiency of Christ, the saving significance of his sufficiency nowhere burns brighter than here. Having exposed the hollow doctrine of the hucksters in verse 8, the apostle now reflects on the inexhaustible fullness of Christ in a cascading torrent of vivid images and motifs."
The fullness of deity dwells in the God-man. This phrase reveals of the dual nature of the Son of man - fully God and fully man. If He was not God, the fullness of deity could not be His; if He was not man (a tabernacle of flesh as Paul put it) that fullness of deity could not dwell in Him. As God dwelt with Israel in the tent of meeting, so Jesus as a man had Jesus as God dwelling within Him. While this flies in the face of what men call science, it is the truth of God that men fought to make clear early in the life of the post-apostolic church.
Verse 10 says we, the redeemed, have been - past tense - filled with Him. How is it that we filled with Christ? I submit that this refers to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that every saint enjoys from the moment he is regenerated. In the same way Jesus is God, He is present where His Spirit is; but it's not the same as Jesus in His glorified body is present in each of us - for the same reasons He is not in the crackers used by the cult of Rome. Paul wants to impress upon us this Jesus that He preaches to everyone. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords, the head over every ruler and authority. I think Paul heard about what we call the Great Commission, wherein the Lord Jesus said, Matthew 28:18 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." This means He is the ruler over us and even those who do not submit to Him. Many men tell others to "make Jesus Lord of your life," as if the creature has that kind of power! Jesus IS Lord, to the glory of God the Father! The ignorance or rebellion of creatures does not affect the identity of Christ any more than Israel's unbelief does not nullify God's faithfulness (Romans 3:3).
Verse 11 brings us to a point that contrasts the New Covenant with the Old by pointing out that true circumcision is a spiritual act of God applied only to the people who are true Israel. Fleshly circumcision or the lack thereof is meaningless (Gal 6:15 & 1 Cor 7:19). But paedobaptists must have fleshly circumcision be very meaningful in order to tie it to baptism, which they claim is the sign of the New Covenant. By contrasting fleshly circumcision with spiritual circumcision, Paul shows us that circumcision is the sign of each covenant: fleshly circumcision for the fleshly covenant that could never take away sins; spiritual circumcision for the spiritual covenant, wherein each and every member has been regenerated and raised up in Christ. Just the Sabbath is also called out as the sign of the Mosaic Covenant, so we see the Lord Jesus identify His blood, as portrayed in the Lord's Supper, as a sign of the New Covenant.
We also see in this verse the significance of spiritual circumcision - putting off the body of flesh. This shows that we who have been made alive in Christ have died to sin and the flesh. Fleshly circumcision removes a small part of flesh, leaving the person in tact; spiritual circumcision kills the flesh - setting us free from sin's mastery and freeing us to the mastery of grace in Christ. It was His death on the cross, taking the punishment for our sins - that reconciled us to Himself, circumcising us without the use of human hands.
Paul goes on in verse 12 to teach us the role of water baptism - it is our way of identifying what has been accomplished. This verse also shows why "baptizing" unbelievers cannot be reconciled with Scripture - by water baptism we are buried with Him and raised with Him through faith in God and the work He has done - in Christ and us! Just as Christ was raised from the dead, so were we, when He circumcised our souls and coming up from the water displays the faith in Christ that is necessary for our new life. Unbelievers do not have such faith in Christ. This is why many people who practice what is called infant baptism have resorted to various schemes to deal with it. Historically, 8 variations have been claimed by these people:
1. Fides Aliena: The church supplies the faith necessary for infant baptism.
2. Fides Infusa: Baptism infuses faith into the infant.
3. Fides Infantium: An infants’ own faith is present in baptism.
4. Sacramental Symbolism: The legitimacy of infant baptism is independent of faith.
5. Pre-credobaptism: Baptism precedes faith in the infant, but does not guarantee it.
6. Presumptive Regeneration: The church assumes its baptized infants have faith until proven otherwise.
7. Baptismal Regeneration: Baptism imparts faith to all infants (including the non-elect).
8. Paedofaith: Infants have faith prior to their baptism.
God-parents were invented by the Roman Catholic Church as those who stand in faith for the baby during its "baptism" under the first scheme. Are any of these compatible with what Scripture teaches about water baptism? They all present schemes of men, trying to twist Scripture to support their beloved doctrine. The truth is far, far simpler: baptism represents the sacrifice made by Christ on our behalf; it has no merit, adds nothing to the grace given us which is what saves sinners. Everything and anything added to grace makes grace of no effect and betrays a lack of trust in God.
The last three verses in our passage describe our salvation - all of which is the work of Christ. Similar to Paul's description of natural man in Eph 2, he says here that we were dead in trespasses and our Gentile flesh. This shows us Paul is writing to non-Jews, those not circumcised in the flesh; yet dead in trespasses, being a law unto themselves. Christ made us alive with Himself - which relates back to water baptism as the symbol of that. This is the same message - being made alive in Christ, having been dead in trespasses - as we read in chapter 1 and verse 13: He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son. Buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him.
His death for our sins made the way for our death to sin; His everlasting life after death made the way for our resurrection life which results in eternal life with Him.
But no only did Christ make us alive in Him and forgive us our sin, He erased the certificate of debt (reminds me of the OC certificate of divorce, which could mean certain poverty for the woman). This certificate carried obligations, which all law does - whether codified in the Mosaic Covenant or given to man directly. That which was working our condemnation was cancelled and nailed to His cross. Jesus made a public display of bearing the wrath due our sin in His body as He hung on the cross. He was not ashamed to suffer for us, not ashamed to call us brothers (Heb 2:11) – the question that ought to be always on our minds: Are we ashamed of Him? We cannot let ourselves off the hook by our good intentions; we must be honest and examine ourselves. Have you and I been faithful to herald the life-saving gospel to others?
The last verse reveals yet another glorious work completed by Christ on our behalf. For not only did Jesus forgive us, raise us up to new life, and reconcile us to the Father; He disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them publicly. How did He do this? We know the last enemy is death – the master sin brings death to all mortals for all have sinned. Satan and his minions know they are the rulers of death – they push out of their minds that Christ holds the keys of hell and death. When He arose, in a glorified body not stained by sin, hell was left waiting and death was overthrown. After Jesus rose from the dead, He "presented Himself alive" (Acts 1:3) to the women near the tomb (Matthew 28:9-10), to His disciples (Luke 24:36-43), and to more than 500 others (1 Corinthians 15:6) – a public display that none could dismiss. By this act, He disarmed Satan and his minions – hell and death have no power of Him or His people. He triumphed over these last enemies by being glorified by the Father when He was taken up into glory – publicly. It was the final stamp on His redemptive work. As Paul would write (quoting Hosea), "“Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law." (1 Cor 15:54-56).
This is victory we have in Christ - He has conquered sin and death, has promised us life eternal - death has no hold on us! By dying, in faith, in Christ we have this victory. As He was seen by many - making His victory public - so we are seen by many. Do they know we are His? Let us go outside the gate being thought fools because we believe the gospel of grace. To the glory of the Son and the Father - let His message be ours.