- 2 Corinthians 5:14-6:2
- Colossians 2:9-15
My dear friends in the Lord Jesus Christ,
Today is the last in our sermon series from Colossians 2. Our topic over the last three weeks was Jesus Christ only, no if’s no but’s.
- In the first of this mini-series, we learnt from Scriptures that Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of all promises of the Old Testament. Knowing Him is knowing the one through whom God created the world, and through whom He revealed Himself as God above all treasures and wisdom. The apostle involved himself in an agonising battle to make Christ known in all his majesty. His prayer is the church would know Christ in all his fulness.
- We followed with the next main point in the chapter which stresses the point that we are initiated into the family of God plainly on account of our faith in Jesus Christ. To be in-Christ is to receive, by faith, all He accomplished on our behalf. Based on his complete work of salvation, baptism, and even Holy Communion are nothing more than signs and seals of his gracious work — in Him, we have been given fullness. The signs don’t save but clearly points to what God has done in Jesus Christ.
- In the next, we learnt that moralism, legalism and even puffed up holier-than-thou spiritualism takes away from the complete work in Christ, who is the Head from which the whole body is supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews. The person who relies on moralistic legalism, or even vain spiritualism, practices is a self-imposed form of worship with the appearance of wisdom, but is not in-Christ, and will not grow in the knowledge of Christ. In fact, such a person has lost connection with Christ.
The heart of the Gospel
Today we want to turn back to the heart of the Gospel. Read with me verses 13-15:
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (Colossians 2:13–15, ESV)
Let’s just take one phrase at a time.
Our common denominator: we were dead in sin
Who is Paul addressing here? Who is the “you” who were dead?
He is addressing the Gnostics who had this idea that they had the spark of light somewhere deep in them and therefore saw themselves as better than those who did not have it.
He is also addressing the Jews on their spiritual high horses who claimed to be part of the people of God based on their heritage along the line of Abraham, purely because they received the sign of circumcision.
And of course, there were those who joined the church coming from raw idol worship, or even godless hedonism and cultural pride.
What is the common denominator between all these backgrounds? In God’s eyes, they were spiritually dead. This is the common denominator between people who are members of the church, and even those who are not: we were all born sinful, spiritually dead, unfit for the Kingdom of God.
Sin is the great equaliser. Those in high society, coming from learned backgrounds, leaders in the business world or political spheres, labourers sweeping the streets, washing the dishes, digging coal in deep mines, architects who design masterpieces, pilots taking responsibility for thousands of passengers, or swaggies finding shelter under a piece of newspaper—let’s add judges and druggies, the morally impeccable and the pedophile, the hardworking businessman as well as the greedy banker — we all share a common heritage: sin.
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9–10, ESV)
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1–3, ESV)
But in Colossians 2:13 Paul writes to the “you”. Who were “they”?
God made “you” alive together with Him.
Once they were outsiders, dead, not part of the church, straight on their way to eternal hell. What happened? Did they improved themselves to be included? Some Gnostics were still trying to improve themselves to eventually get into eternity—and with them, there are scores of people who are on the DIY and BYO righteousness train leading to eternal hell.
There were some who relied on the sacrament of circumcision, and today maybe baptism as a form of acceptance into the kingdom of God.
But there were others who just received the new life in Christ and trusted God for the perfect salvation He provided in Christ. They did nothing else, because God did it all.
God made you alive together with Him… (Colossians 2:13, ESV)
This is God’s work of grace, forever connected to the righteousness which Christ made possible. Listen:
God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13–14, ESV)
The legal demands of the Law were condemning and always charging the sinner as not acceptable in God’s sight. But out of his love, God gave his only begotten Son to go to the cross of shame to bear the sin of the world, and to die like a criminal—although He was holy, innocent and without sin. He then nailed to that cross everything that caused death in us; He nailed the accusations against us which made us stand against God and opposed to God, and He reconciled us to God. This is the only bases on which God will ever forgive anyone, irrespective of his background or standing. Redemption are for those who realise they are dead in God’s eyes, unfit for heaven, opposing his holiness—but then cling to Christ alone. It’s Jesus Christ only—no if’s, no but’s.
Because the sinless Christ met the righteousness of God by making a full atonement for those were dead in their sin, God rose Him victorious from the grave. The gate of Eden which slammed shut when sin entered into the world and man became estranged from his Creator. But it was reversed on Calvary’s Hill and the open grave.
Now we’re back to the doctrine of being in-Christ. Everything God did in Jesus Christ was beyond our capabilities—we were dead when all of this happened. But what being in-Christ means is that what God did in his Son, depending on Christ’s righteousness only with all our heart, soul and strength, by faith all He did is now ours.
The enemy disarmed and made a spectacle
The Gnostics could hear this good news: if you were thinking there is still warfare between the gods of the air for you soul, think again. They were defeated.
Jesus on one occasion had harsh words for the Jews who relied for their inclusion into the Kingdom of God because of the blood heritage. He said:
Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. (John 8:43 ESV)
Now they can hear the good news: their accuser was slain.
And it is good news for everyone who discovers the grace of God in Christ Jesus: the battle for our souls is settled. Our enemy is defeated. When Christ rose He disarmed the powers and the authorities and made a public spectacle of them, in the fashion of a victorious General leading his army down the streets of the city, dragging the commanders of the defeated army in chains for every one to despise.
Only Christ could do it. When He was a little boy Herod wended to kill Him, but He couldn’t. When He entered public life and the holy Spirit sent Him into the desert, He triumphed over Satan who tried whatever He could to defeat Christ. When the crowd wanted to kill Jesus on several occasions, He plainly walked away. When they arrested Him in the garden, He surrendered, not kicking and screaming, but willingly. And when they thought they nailed Him to the cross, they did no know that He gave his life out of his own accord to fulfil his mission. When He refused to rescue Himself from the cross, He died to pay the penalty of our sins. When He rose victoriously no army, and no earthly or force in the air could stop Him. And because of this victory, He sent his church into the world, because all power and authority on earth and in heaven has been given to Him.
My dear friend, do you understand why we say it’s Jesus Christ only—no if’s, no but’s?
Were it not for Christ you’d be dead in your sin. Were it no for Christ, you be facing eternity without hope. Were it not for Christ you’d be against God and opposed to God. Were it not for Christ you’d live under a burden of guilt and condemnation. Were it not for Christ eternity would be just dark.
With Christ it all changes. But then, you have to put you faith in His completed work only. There is just no room for any DYI of BYO righteousness. His righteousness is the only the Father approved of.
Do you hear his offer of grace? Do you see the door of heaven open before you? Leave all your own efforts behind, answer the call, and enter into a life in-Christ. Paul writes:
For he says, “In a favourable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favourable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2, ESV)