We have the privilege tonight of continuing in our series in Colossians. So, if you’ll take your Bible and look with me at Colossians chapter 2, verse 10, we’ll get a start on what is a tremendous, tremendous portion of Scripture.
Colossians 2:10 to 15. I’m going to read it to you just so you have it in your mind and get the total impact of it. Colossians 2:10, “And ye are complete in Him, who 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, in which 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 made alive 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.”
Now, that passage is so loaded with theology and doctrine that it just kind of oozes out of every phrase. And we’re going to endeavor to at least get a careful overview of all that is here.
In our continuing study of Colossians, we have been made aware, as we’ve gone verse by verse that the apostle Paul is making repeatedly a tremendous statement regarding the person of Jesus Christ and His ability to save, and that is no less true in this section.
Although this section is a rebuttal against the false philosophies and heresies which are right at the doorstep of the Colossians, as a rebuttal it comes out very positive, because Paul’s approach against false systems is always the positive approach. You don’t need to argue against the falsity of the system if you just present the truth of Jesus Christ. And that’s precisely what he’s doing as he argues against human philosophy.
You’ll remember last time we began by looking at verses 8 and 9, and we saw that Paul says, “Beware lest anybody spoil you through philosophy which is vain deceit.”
Now, Paul is here arguing against the four facets of the false heresy that was attacking the Colossians. And fact number one was a heresy had as part of it human philosophy. And so, Paul is digging into that. And in the midst of that, he gets into this concept of who Christ is, and what Christ can do. And the idea is that you don’t need any human philosophy; you don’t need any human wisdom. You are complete in Him. That’s the great truth that he is signaling there in verse 10.
Now in order to introduce our thoughts tonight, I want to just kind of draw your attention to something else other than this passage, and it is the healings of our Lord. Because I think the healings of our Lord illustrate a great principle relative to salvation.
So, take your Bible and let’s go back to the beginning of the New Testament in the book of Matthew. And I want to see if you, all by yourself, without making – me making much editorial comment, can pick out of the verses that I read to you, a consistent pattern or principle.
Matthew chapter 9. I’m going to go pretty quickly, so – there that’s better. Matthew 9:22 – there went 42 tabs on the floor; I saw them – 9:22 – “Jesus turned about, and when He saw her, He said” – and I’m going to read you just the way the old English has it, because the translation, I think, gives the complete meaning of the word - “‘Daughter, be of good comfort; they faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.”
Matthew 12:13, “Then saith He to the man, ‘Stretch forth thine hand.’ And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like the other.”
Matthew 15:28, “Then Jesus answered and said unto her, ‘O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.”
Verse 31, “Insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel.
The Gospel of Mark chapter 3, verse 5. And when He had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, He saith unto the man, ‘Stretch forth thine hand.’ And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored whole as the other.”
Mark 5, verse 28, “For she said, ‘If I may touch but His clothes, I shall be whole.’ Verse 34, “He said, ‘Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.”
Luke 6:10, “And looking round about on them, he said, ‘Stretch forth thy hand.’ He did so, and his hand was restored whole like the other.” Seventh chapter, tenth verse, “They that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.”
Luke 8:48. And I know you’re seeing a pattern here – very obvious. Luke 8:48, “He said, ‘Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.” And further on in the seventeenth chapter of Luke, the nineteenth verse, “He said to him, ‘Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.”
The Gospel of John, no less a part of this same thought pattern, John 5:6, “Jesus said to him, ‘Wilt thou be made whole?’” Verse 14, “Behold, thou art made whole.” Verse 15, “Jesus had made him whole.”
John 7:23, “If a man on the Sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are you angry with Me because I have made a man whole on the Sabbath?” And the new Scofield has the clear meaning of that. It says, “Entirely well on the Sabbath.” Whole.
Now, you have the same thing carried out in apostolic miracles as well. In Acts 4:9, “If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; be it known unto you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here before you whole.”
We find it again in Acts 9:34, “Peter said, ‘Aeneas, Jesus Christ makes thee whole: arise, make your bed.’ And he arose immediately. Now, what you see in all of those passages is a consistency in the style of healing that Jesus did. When Jesus healed somebody, He made them – what? – whole. Entirely well. No missing parts.
Now, there are some synonyms used in those various things, but the dominant term is the word hugiēs, from which we get the medical word “hygiene,” and it means healthy. Jesus made them well, healthy, sound. The best translation, “entirely well,” the absence of any infirmity.
Now listen - and we’re going to see more about this next Sunday morning - all the healing miracles of Jesus made people completely healthy. There was no progression involved. They were whole instantly.
Now you say, “What in the world does that have to do with Colossians 2?”
Just this: it serves, at least in my mind, and I trust in yours, as a beautiful picture of the way Jesus heals spiritually. If Jesus heals physical illness and makes people entirely whole, then that is precisely what is meant by the apostle Paul in chapter 2, verse 10, when he says, “And ye are complete in Him.” You could put the word “whole” in there. Just as Jesus Christ did miracles of healing that made people entirely well, so when Jesus touches a life spiritually and gives salvation, it is entire salvation; it is whole salvation. That person becomes spiritually entirely well.
In fact, if you want to choose another Pauline term, “If any man be in Christ, he is a” – what? – “new creation.” I mean that is brand new wholeness. Now, this is nothing new; God has always done that. When David cried out in the midst of his sin, in Psalm 51:10, he knew what God would do, and he said, “God, create in me a” – what? – “a clean heart.” Whole, no spot, no blemish. When God acts against sin, in His saving grace, there is a wholeness.
In Ezekiel 11:19, “I will give them one heart; I will put a new spirit within you. I will take the stony heart out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” And that’s repeated later in Ezekiel, as you know. God says, “A new heart, a new soul,” as it were, “a new clean inside so that spiritual healing, which is salvation, is as whole as is the physical.
In John 1:16, it’s a great statement. He’s talking here about Christ, and John the Baptist says this, “Of His fullness have all we received.” When you were saved, you received of Christ’s – what? – fullness. You received the fullness of Christ; the wholeness of Christ became your wholeness so that somebody who becomes a Christian is spiritually whole. And that’s Paul’s whole standard here. That’s his whole point here. He’s trying to say to these people, “Look, when you receive Christ, you were made whole. A healthy man doesn’t need any more medicine. You don’t need human philosophy. You don’t need Jewish legalism. You don’t need strange pagan mysticism. You don’t need abstaining asceticism. You don’t need anything. When you received Christ and His salvation, you were made whole, and that’s his point. And John says here – John the Baptist – in John 1:16, “Of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.”
In Galatians, at the end, in the sixth chapter and the fifteenth verse, he says, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails anything nor uncircumcision” – listen – “but a new creation.” Same as 2 Corinthians 5:17, “A new creation.”
Listen to 2 Peter 1:3, “According as his divine power has given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness.”
You say, “But when do you get that.”
Next phrase, “Through the knowledge of Him.” When do you come to know Christ? At salvation. Then when do you get all things pertaining to life and godliness? The moment you believe in Christ.
And so I say if we can say the miracles of Jesus made people whole, we can also say the spiritual transformation of salvation makes them just as whole spiritually. So that when you become a Christian, you are a clean heart, a new heart, a new spirit, a soundness, a wholeness. You become spiritually well, and you don’t need to add anything to that, nothing. Not legalism, asceticism, mysticism, or human philosophy.
Now, let’s look at Colossians 2:10. Colossians 2:10 says, “And you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” Literally it says you have been made full. “You have been made full in Him.” There’s nothing missing. Christ fills you up. There aren’t any other things to add to that. You have been made full with the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
Human philosophy based on the traditions of men, as verse 8 says, and the elementary marks of infantile human religion has nothing to add to what is already completed. When Jesus died on the cross, the last thing He said is, “It is finished,” and when He said it, He meant it not only in terms of His own deed, but in terms of securing the fullness of salvation by that deed. And this one who rules all principality and power – that is all other beings, all created authorities, all created rulers – particularly referring here to the angelic ones. He rules them all. They have nothing to add to His work.
These people who are influencing the Colossians are dead wrong. You don’t need to get to God through a series of intermediary Aons or angels. Listen, good angels can’t help make you complete, and bad angels can’t harm you once you are complete. And so, Paul deals a blow to the heresy of human philosophy and religion which tries to deny that Christ has the power to give complete salvation. And we’ve discussed that enough to know that that was the basic heresy they were facing. The Colossians, who have in Jesus Christ the fountain that never fails, would be fools to listen to these false teachers who would have them hew out broken cisterns that hold no water. You don’t need philosophy, and you don’t need angelic intermediaries. Christ is the completer. He makes anything He touches whole. All His healing miracles, whether physicians or spiritual are instantaneous and complete.
These two things of physical healing and spiritual salvation are brought together, I think, beautifully in the statement of 3 John, verse 2. It’s kind of tucked away there. This is kind of beautiful, really. John is writing to his beloved Gaius, whom he loved in the truth, and he says in verse 2 – watch this; this is beautiful – “Beloved” – beloved Gaius – “I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health” – now watch this – “even as thy soul is healthy.”
He says, “Oh, Gaius, if your physical body could only be as healthy as your soul, would you be in terrific shape.” Now, what’s the implication? The implication is that because the guy’s a believer, his soul prospers. His soul is healthy. Now, sin plays a part in the practical aspect of this, but positionally the soul is healthy, and John is simply saying, “If your body could only know the health that your soul knows.”
Back to Colossians 2. You’re complete in Him; you have been made complete. Now, what does that mean?
You say, “Well, what do you mean, John, when you say complete? Complete what? What is the definition of that completeness?”
Well, Paul can’t just say it either, so he’s got to preach a sermon on it just like I would. He’s got to explain it, so he does in the next verses. And he shows you three ways in which you are complete. These are just basic, beautiful things. Three ways, three kinds of completeness, three aspects to our completeness. Number one, complete salvation. Number two, complete forgiveness. And number three, complete victory. Complete salvation, verses 11 and 12; complete forgiveness, verses 13 and 14; complete victory, verse 15.
Let’s look, first of all, at the complete salvation. How are we complete, Paul? Number one, your salvation is complete. Verse 11, “In whom also you 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, in which also you are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who’s raised Him from the dead.”
Now, we’ll look at this. He says, “Look, your salvation is absolutely complete. There’s no need for you to be circumcised; you’ve been baptized. Now, remember, the heresy which the apostle is combating is a somewhat baffling mixture of the pagan beliefs of these various intermediaries and Jewish beliefs of legalism. And along with it, they’re trying to propagate the idea that you have to be circumcised.
And this isn’t anything new; the Judaizers did it in Galatia, didn’t they? “So, now it’s fine that you believe; that’s wonderful that you believe, but you got to get circumcised; you have to have this operation.” Surgical salvation.
And he says, “Look” – verse 11 – “in whom also you are circumcised. Don’t let anybody come along and woof you about some circumcision. You’ve been circumcised.”
Oh, really? How? How could these Colossians Gentiles have been circumcised? “With the circumcision made without hands.” We’re not talking about surgery here. We’re talking about putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision which Christ did. We’re talking about a spiritual operation, not a physical one.
Now, all through the history of Israel, there were two views of circumcision. Every little Hebrew boy was circumcised the eighth day after he was born, and that was the sign of his belonging to the nation of Israel, and it became a controversial thing, and there were two schools of thought on it. One, there was the view that circumcision in itself was enough to save – surgical salvation. If you just got circumcised, you were in the covenant, people, and that was it. The physical act is all that was required.
And, you know, many in the history of the church picked that up, and that’s where infant baptism came from. And the Israelite believing this would argue it didn’t matter whether an Israelite is good; it didn’t matter whether he was bad; all that mattered was he was circumcised. That was the typical view of the Jews in Jesus’ day, the typical view of the Jewish leaders in Paul’s day as well.
That’s why in Romans chapter 2 and verse 25, he says, “Circumcision profits if you keep the law” – it’s fine if you keep the law – “but if you break the law, circumcision is just like uncircumcision.”
My dad used to always tell the story about the fighter that went in and before every fight he crossed himself. And the guy says, “Does it help?”
Somebody else said, “It does if he can punch. If he can’t, it won’t do him any good at all.”
The same thing with circumcision. If you keep the law, it just fine; if you don’t, it doesn’t help. “Therefore,” he says, “even if the uncircumcision keeps the righteousness of the law” – in other words, people who haven’t had the operation obey the law – “that’ll be like being circumcised.” They’ll move into the covenant blessing. Verse 28, “He is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision outward in the flesh. He is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is of the heart.”
You see, that’s what we’re getting at. But this was the typical Jewish view, that if you just had the external operation, you were in good shape.
But there was another view, and there were some true spiritual Jews. There were some remnant all through Israel’s history, and they believed that circumcision was only an outward mark of a man inwardly committed to God. And they believed right. They believed that it just really was simply a symbol on the outside. And what really mattered was the heart. And this had always been what God told them anyway.
You can go clear back to Exodus, when God was first laying down the rules. Exodus 6:12, “Moses spoke before the Lord, saying, ‘The children of Israel have not hearkened to me; how then shall Pharaoh hear me, who am of uncircumcised lips?” And here you see Moses, at the very beginning, is using the concept of uncircumcision in a metaphorical sense, showing that what God is really after – God is really after is somebody who’s got a circumcised heart; that is a heart dedicated to God. Circumcised lips – lips dedicated to God, not simply the act of surgery on a child, but that the real issue was the heart.
In Leviticus 26 – I think it’s verse 41 – “And that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies: if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and then they accept of the punishment of their iniquity.” God is talking to them. He says their uncircumcised hearts. And that is always what God has been after; He’s always been after the fact that the heart would be set apart unto Him, and that the outward sign was simply a symbol of that.
In verse 7 of Ezekiel 44, uncircumcised in heart, uncircumcised in flesh are drawn as two different things. And that’s exactly what God has been saying all along. You can check Deuteronomy 30, verse 6 and Jeremiah 6:10 find the same thing.
Now, we know then what physical circumcision was, but here in Colossians 2:11, it says, “You are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands.” You have had a special circumcision. What is it? It is the cutting away of the body of the sins of the flesh. When you became a Christian, Christ cut away everything sinful from your life. The cutting away of the sinful things.
Now, I want you to stay with me, because I don’t want you to extrapolate out of that until I’m done. In Romans chapter 4, in verse 11, it says, “And he received the sign of circumcision” – Abraham – “a seal of the righteousness of faith, which he had yet being uncircumcised.”
You know, people say, “Well, Abraham was circumcised.” Yeah, 14 years after he believed God and was saved. So, circumcision didn’t save him. He was circumcised as a sign of a righteous heart, and that’s the message. And what is true circumcision? Listen to me. It is cutting away everything from the life but the will of God. And Paul’s message in Colossians 2:11 is this: it is the spiritual surgery, the cutting away of self and sin, and only Christ can do that.
I love the New International version translation of verse 11. This is what it says, “In Him you were also circumcised in the putting off of your sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men, but with the circumcision done by Christ.” What kind of circumcision? The putting off of your sinful nature.
When you became a Christian, your old nature was taken away, and you became a new creature with a new nature. Okay? Now listen, any old priest or any old anybody can circumcise a man’s foreskin, but only Christ can circumcise a man’s heart, and that means cut away the old sin nature.
So, “Christian,” he says, “you don’t need any right of circumcision. You have received from Christ a spiritual surgery of which that old rite was only a picture and a symbol.
You know, you look at that symbol in the Old Testament, it’s kind of interesting. It pictured the removal of sin. And listen to me, and by its association with the organ of generation, it stressed the sin inherent in our fallen nature as the offspring of Adam. But even the Old Testament constantly emphasizes that an inward change is the real issue. The insistence in the Old Testament – check it out, Jeremiah 4:4, Jeremiah 9:25. It says it there. The insistence is that the inwardness, the heart be circumcised. But that picture, and the fact that it is the organ that produces life that must be circumcised pictures the influence of that old sin nature on the next generation, how it’s passed down.
And so, the actual form of the rite emphasizes that it was human nature that needed to be dealt with, that it was progeny that was the problem, that it was a thing being passed on from father to son to son to son and all the way down the line, and that this nature had to be dealt with.
You say, “Are you trying to tell me that when you become a Christian, God takes away the old nature?”
Yes, I believe that. I believe it. I believe He gives you a new nature. All new. Brand new. And that’s what he’s talking about in verse 11. Look what he says; this is made without hands – and what is it? – putting off the body of the sins of the flesh.
You say, “But wait a minute, John.” If we’ve had our fallen nature put away; if we’ve put off the body of the sins of the flesh, human nature in its fallen condition, and we’ve got a new nature, how come we still sin? Right?”
Fair question. The answer is this. Because you not only have a new nature, but you have an old body. You got a new inside and an old outside.
Look with me at Romans 7. The first sermon I ever preached at Grace Church I was preaching here, I didn’t know it at the time, but they were going to talk to me about being the pastor. I preached on Romans 7. Never forget it. Afterwards they told me I preached an hour and 20 minutes. So, they knew what they were getting long ago.
Romans 7:15. A great chapter. Paul says, “For that which I do, I understand not: for what I would, that do I not; and what I hate, that do I.” It sounds like me, right? It sounds like me. “If then I do that which I don’t want to do, I consent to the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me.” He says, “Look, it is not my new nature doing this; it is the old flesh that is in me.
“I know” – verse 18 – “that in me (that is, not in my new nature, but in my flesh) dwells no good thing.” He makes a distinction. Verse 20, “If I do that I would not, it is no more I” – it is not my new nature – “it is sin that dwells in me. I find a law then” – or a principle – “when I would do good, evil is present. I delight in the law of God after my inward man.”
He says, “My new nature just loves God. My new nature wants to do all kinds of good things. My new nature wants to obey God. My new nature wants to respond to God, but I see another principle” – verse 23 – “in my members, warring against the law of my mind and bringing me into captivity the law of sin which is in my” – what? – “my members.” The law of God is in my – what? – mind, but sin is in my members. The new nature that is in me has been purified, but the body that it lives in is a mess. That’s why when I go to heaven, I don’t get a new inside; I get a – what? – a new outside. If I could just my good inside out of this bad outside, I could really go.
So, he says in 24, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So, then, with the mind I serve the law of God” – my new nature is Godward – “but my flesh serves the law of sin.”
So, he says, “Even in my new-creation life, that new nature that’s there, surrounding it is the flesh.” But I believe, people, it’s a new nature, all brand new. I don’t believe when you become a Christian you get kind of whitewashed. I believe you get brand new from inside from the very moment you believe. Sin is still there because of the flesh, because of the body, because we’re the sons of Abraham and the sons of Adam. And they were sinners. But the internal nature, the new heart is there. God promised, “I’ll give them a new heart,” didn’t He? That’s the covenant promise, the new covenant.
So, when you receive Christ, that was the end of the old nature. Positional. But sin is still hanging around. But what Paul is saying here is he’s not getting into the fact of sin here; he’s not dealing with that. He’s simply saying, “Hey, you don’t need anybody to get you more saved.”
People come along and say, “Well, I was saved, but later on I got more saved.”
No. You can’t great more saved. That’s like saying, “I was married, and now I’m more married.” No. You’re either married or you’re not married. The same thing is true of being saved. You’re not more saved. You’re just either saved or not. And you do not need anything to be added to the new nature that you’ve been given except to bring your behavior into harmony with your new nature.
And Paul learned how to do that. He didn’t know how to do it in Romans 7, but what did he do in Romans 8. He learned how to do it by doing what? If you walk in the Spirit, you will not fulfill – what? – the lusts of the flesh. So, we learned how to obey the Spirit.
Now, Paul says you have new life. It’s been given you in the way that Christ circumcised your heart by taking away the old nature. You don’t need any outward sign. That’s absolutely irrelevant. That is superfluous. And he goes a step further in verse 12. Look at this; after all, you’ve had your own rite, R-I-T-E, you’ve had your own ceremony, and it is baptism. “You were buried with Him in baptism, in which also you’ve risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who’s raised Him from the dead.” Now, there is no water in verse 12. Verse 12 is very dry.
Some people say, “You see, Paul is teaching baptismal regeneration.”
Folks, Paul would never do that. You think he would get rid of one ceremony just to bring in another one? If he does have spiritual reality in mind in verse 11, you can believe he has it in mind in verse 12. He would never say the change from spiritual death to spiritual life is done by water; that would make him as much a ritualist as those whom he was condemning. He is the champion of spirituality, not ceremony.
You say, “Well, what’s he talking about here? What is this baptism?”
It pictures the union of a believer with Christ. The word simply means placed into. You were placed into Christ. And, of course, water baptism is the beautiful picture of it. And the terminology became synonymous in the early Church, and still is often. When you became a Christian, it’s as if you were buried. You died, and you rose again in new life, “through the faith of the operation of God, who raised Him from the dead.” Just as God raised Jesus, so He raised you from the dead when you believed in Christ. Your old life died, was buried, and you rose in new life.
We are so identified by faith with Him, that we are in His death, we are in his burial, and we are in His resurrection. Tremendous, tremendous truth. And it’s all done by the operation of God.
Notice this; the word is “energy.” That God’s energy, God’s resurrection power, God who raised Him from the dead raises you from the dead so that when you received Christ, you are buried, your old life dies, and you become alive. And listen, folks, there are only two things you can be: either dead or alive. And when you are alive, you are alive. And that is precisely what happens.
There’s one little footnote to notice in there. In the middle of verse 12, it says “through faith.” “Through the faith and the operation of God.” We who believe in God’s power, we who believe that God raised Jesus from the dead will also be raised with him. Is that right?
Romans 10:9 and 10, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in thine heart that God hath” – what? – “raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” When you believe that and confess with your mouth, your old life dies, is buried, and you rise in newness of life. A spiritual miracle. And you know what you experience and I experience? The same power with which he raised Jesus from the dead.
Look with me at Romans 6, because you have to compare Romans 6. Sometimes we read this at our baptismal services. Romans 6, verse 3 – great, great chapter – “Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, we were baptized into His death?” Again, when you were entered into a union with Christ – I think Romans 6 is dry, too, like Colossians 2 – he’s talking about the spiritual baptism, not the water. As you were placed into Jesus Christ, you died with Him. Verse 4, “You were buried with Him by baptism into death. And as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also walk in newness of life.” We died with Him, rise with Him.
Verse 6, watch it, “Knowing this, that our old man” – what is the old man? What’s another term for it? The old nature. Right? Self – the old self, the old nature – “that our old nature is crucified with Him” – here’s the same terminology – “that the body of sin might be slightly altered” – is that what it says? it might be what? – “destroyed” - the old nature was wiped out – “that henceforth we would no longer be the slaves of sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.”
You say, “But, John, in what way are we freed from sin? We’re not freed from never doing it again.”
No. That’s not what he’s saying. What he’s saying is you’re free from its consequences. The wages of sin is – what? – death. How many times can sin kill you? Once. All right? If you’re a Christian, it already has done it. You’ve already died. Sin comes along and says, “MacArthur, I’m going to get you, because you have to die.”
I say, “I’ve died already, thank you.” You can only kill me one time, and that’s it.
You say, “When did you die?”
I died in Jesus Christ. The moment I put my faith in him, I was crucified with Christ. Nevertheless I live. I died once. It’s your tough luck I rose from the dead. And now sin has no claim on me because I died in Christ. Every man will die for his sin – either alone and spend eternity in hell, or in Christ and spend eternity with God.
You say, “Well, what does death mean for us, then, when we die physically?”
That’s just getting rid of the problem so the good part can be released. Big deal. That’s terrific. And so, what he’s saying here in Romans is, “Look the old man is done away with. The old nature is destroyed. And now you are free from sin’s bondage. Oh, you’re going to mess around and goof up because of the problem of the flesh that is there, but sin cannot lay a claim on you.
Look student verse 10, “For in that He died, He died unto sin” – how many times? – “once. In that He lives; He lives unto God.” Verse 9, “Christ being raised from the dead dies no more; death has no more dominion over Him.” He dies once. That’s the end of death’s dominion.
Verse 11, “Likewise reckon you yourselves to be dead unto sin.” How many times do you have to die to it then? Once. And you have. And sin, and death, and hell, and Satan have no claim on you. A tremendous truth.
And so, we summarize the verses in Colossians this way: you believers, you have no need of external circumcision. You have already received the true circumcision of the heart and life. Your whole sinful nature has been cut away. You received it by virtue of your union with Christ by faith. When He was buried, you, your former wicked selves, were buried with Him. When He was resurrected, as new creatures, you were resurrected with Him, all by the power of God when you believed. It is done. It is complete. The old nature is dealt with; new life is begun. Complete salvation is yours; you don’t need anything else.
So, when somebody comes along and says, “Well, I know you have to believe, but also you have to keep the Ten Commandments.” No. “But also you have to do this or this.” No. “If you don’t you’re going to get it.” No. I already died once, and that’s all there is. He died once, and He dieth no more. And that’s the standard. Complete salvation. It’s fantastic, isn’t it?
Second, in what way is our completion in Christ seen here? Complete salvation, and secondly, complete forgiveness. This is so great; I love it. Complete forgiveness. I don’t know about you, but probably the most exciting doctrine in all the Bible is forgiveness to me. I mean that’s – let’s face it, knowing what I know, if I felt guilty all the time for my sins and felt like they weren’t forgiven, I’d be a basket case.
Complete forgiveness. This approaches the same reality from another aspect. The first one emphasized the completeness of salvation apart from ritual. And this emphasizes the completeness of forgiveness apart from any work. Look at verse 13, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, has he made alive together with Him, having forgiven you most of your trespasses” – oh? – “all; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross.” This is so rich. I don’t know whether I can give it all that it deserves, but, boy, spend some time on these verses. These are just loaded.
So, notice the “He” and the “Him” in there contrasted with the “you.” “And you, dead in your sins and uncircumcision of your flesh,” - that doesn’t sound too good – “hath He made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses.” You are in bad shape, but He conquered it all. You share His resurrection life. You were dead in your sins.
Do you know what it means to be dead in your sins? Do you know what it means to be dead in sin? Well, I’ve – I’ve illustrated it many times. The word “dead in your sins” is a – is also used – that phrase also used in Ephesians 2:1, and it appears there I think in the very same form here. It’s what you’d call a locative of position. It’s speaking about a positional thing. You are dead in sin.
I mean when you were born, you were born dead spiritually. And what does death mean? It means an inability to respond. You see dead people, and you can do whatever you want, and they don’t react. Dead people can’t respond. That is the – that is the signal that somebody’s dead; they don’t respond. Now, I don’t want to get into all the technicalities of that, but when you see the little thing going bleep-bleep-bleep-hmmmmm, it’s all over. When you go to the funeral, and everybody moves but the one in the casket – dead. Everyone files out but him. Can’t respond. No ability to respond.
That’s what spiritual death is: to be dead in sin. It means to be so locked in sin that you are unable to respond to God. You see? The Bible makes no sense. You’re lost in the sinfulness of the world and the flesh and the devil, and you can’t react to God because you are dead, and you do not respond to stimulus. You’re a spiritual corpse.
Now, if it wasn’t bad enough that you’re dead in your sin, he also says your uncircumcision of your flesh. Well, what does that mean? That’s a reference to Gentiles. He says, “You are dead in your sins and your Gentile situation.”
You say, “What’s so bad of being a Gentile? I don’t know why you want to say that.”
The Gentiles were uncircumcised. You know what that meant? Outside the covenant. They did not have the truth of God. It’s bad to be dead in sin. It’s double bad to be dead in sin and not have any hope, because you don’t have the truth. Right? The Jew might be dead in sin, but at least he was in an environment where the covenant of God was operative. But a Gentile was dead in sin, and he was outside of that.
Listen to Ephesians 2:11, “Wherefore remember that you in past time were Gentiles, uncircumcised.” In verse 12 he defines it, “And at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.” That’s pretty sad. One thing to be dead in sin, but it’s double serious to be dead in sin outside the covenant, outside the promise, with no hope, without God in the world, because you have no information, you have no revelation.
So, he says, “God looks down on you people dead in your sins, without Him, without hope, without information, without revelation.” And what did He do? What’s the one thing a dead man needs most? Life. So, what does it say in 13? “Hath He made alive together with Him” – whom? Christ – “having forgiven you all trespasses.”
He says, “You Gentiles” – outside the covenant, outside the promises. And I think, too, there’s a symbolic implication in the uncircumcision of your flesh in which he’s saying that’s an apt symbol of the fact that they were still subject to the old nature. “You’re dead in sin and subject to the old nature until He came along and made you alive.” Fantastic. That’s precisely what it says in Ephesians 2, verse 5, “God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath made us alive together with Christ.
Colossians 2:13, “He made alive together with Him.” Somehow we are in union with Christ. He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit,” 1 Corinthians 6:17. When He rises, we rise. So, you see, dead men, utterly defeated, utterly dominated by sin, powerless to break the sin that bind them, powerless to discover the truth of God, without hope, without God, without any choice, locked into the sinful nature. And all of a sudden, God makes them alive. Now, you tell me who initiates salvation.
And you hear people say – and they say it meaningfully, “I found the Lord.”
No, He found you. You have no more power to overcome your sin than a dead man does to overcome his own death. But in Jesus Christ, by His complete work, He freed men from sin, its power and consequences, gave them new life. So new and so vital and so liberated that it can be described only by the term resurrection life. And even to the Gentiles He gave it apart from any ceremony like circumcision.
You say, “This is fantastic. You mean it’s possible for somebody to be completely restored to God? Completely given a new heart and a new nature? To have a complete new relationship with God in eternal life? Wow. How?”
Watch this. Beautiful, watch this. Verse 9, two little words “in Him.” Are you ready? Verse 10, two little words, “in Him.” See them? Verse 11, two little words, “In whom.” Verse 12, two little words “with Him.” Verse 13, two little words, “with Him.” How do you get all this? By being what? In Christ. That’s the key. You put yourself in the hands of Christ. You receive Him by faith, and it all becomes yours. And then he says – here’s the first major benefit, the end of verse 15, “Having forgiven you all trespasses.” Past tense, folks; it’s already been done.
People ask me this all the time, “John, how many of our sins have been forgiven?”
What’s the answer? All of them. “Having forgiven all trespasses.” That’s miraculous. And I’ll tell you, I agree with Psalm 32:1. It says, “Happy is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is removed or covered.” That’s a happy man, isn’t it? That’s happy to be forgiven. I like it. I don’t like to be guilty about things. I’m so happy I’m forgiven. And if I thought there were two sins that weren’t forgiven, I’d be a miserable wreck. I’d be down doing something, counting beads or doing something.
You know what I like? I like Isaiah 1:18. This is what it says – you remember this one? – “‘Come now, let’s reason together,’ saith the Lord. ‘Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.’” How much forgiveness is there there? Total. White as snow, as wool. It’s Isaiah 1:18
Isaiah 55:7 is a good thought on that, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him” – listen – “and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” That’s great.
Listen to Acts 13:38. Again, the completeness of forgiveness. Acts 13:38, “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins” – the forgiveness of sins. The forgiveness of sins. This is Paul preaching. And listen to verse 39. “And by Him” – listen to this; I love it – “all that believe are justified from all things, from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.”
“All that believe” – that’s simple enough – “are justified from” – what? – “all things.” Fantastic. Total, complete forgiveness. Instant. The moment you believed, God forgave the sins you have committed and were to commit.
I love this, Acts 10:43, “To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believes and does penance” – no – “whosoever believes in Him shall receive forgiveness of sins.” You receive forgiveness for believing.
You say, “What about confessing?”
No, for believing. Confessing does not relate to forgiveness; it relates to acknowledging your sin and repenting of it. Forgiveness is already a settled matter. If you have problems with 1 John 1:9, get the ape on that.
Hebrews 8:10 is good. “‘For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ saith the Lord; ‘I will put My laws in their mind, write them in their hearts, and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people. And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I’” – what? - “‘remember’” – how long? - “‘No more.’”
I am always amazed at the fact that there are many Christians who continue to remember what God has forgotten. I used to call it a God complex. Listen, the highest court in the universe is God. And if God has forgiven me, the only thing that would justify my holding myself guilty for sin is if I am a higher authority than God. If I’m not, then I might as well forgive myself.
What are the characteristics of God’s forgiveness? Did you ever think about that? What are the characteristics? Let me just fire these at you quick. First of all, it’s gracious. God’s forgiveness is gracious; you didn’t earn it. You didn’t earn His forgiveness; it is a gift of grace.
Romans 3:24, “Being justified freely by His” – what? – “grace.” Justified freely by His grace. Titus 3:4, “After the kindness and love of God our Savior, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; justified” – verse 7 – “by His grace.”
God’s forgiveness is gracious. Secondly, it is complete. Absolutely complete. Nothing missing. Ephesians 1:7, “In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” – listen to me – “according to the riches of His grace.”
You say, “How much forgiveness is there?”
Equal to the riches of His grace. You want to know how much forgiveness you have? Figure out how much grace He’s got. I’ll help you. Where sin abounds, grace does – what? – much more abounds. So, however much sin you’ve piled up, he’s got a lot more grace. Complete forgiveness. 1 John 2:12, “My little children, I write unto you because your sins are forgiven for His name’s sake.”
Thirdly, God’s forgiveness is not only gracious and complete, it’s eager. You don’t have the idea of God up there saying, “Oh, boy, why did I ever get into this? Now I got to keep forgiving these people.” No. Psalm 86:5 says He is ready to forgive; He is eager to forgive. Second Corinthians 5:19, “To wit, that God was in the world” – or God was in Christ, I should say – “reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.”
Here’s God, and he says, “I want to reconcile you, and I don’t want to – I don’t want to hold your sin against you. I want to forgive your sin.” And so he says, “He committed to us the word of reconciliation and sent us out as ambassadors to tell everybody that God’s just waiting to do this.” Isn’t that fantastic? He’s just up there waiting to do it. Gracious, complete, eager.
Fourth, God’s forgiveness is certain. You can count on it. Absolutely certain. No questions. No doubts. In Acts 26:18, Paul says God sent him to preach Christ, “To open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and inheritance among them who are sanctified by faith that is in me.”
In other words, it’s based on His promise. It’s based on God’s promise. Paul says, “As I have seen these things, and as I heard Christ, and as He told me what to do, and promised to do it, I go out to preach.
Verse 25, “He said, ‘I am not mad, noble Festus; but speak the words of truth and soberness.’” God has said it, and I preach it. It’s certain based on His promise.
And I would add, fifthly, it’s unequaled. If you’re looking for forgiveness, try God. You’ll never find any other kind like it. I love this. “Who” – remember this one? Micah – “Who is a God like Thee, that pardons iniquity and passes by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?” Have you ever know a God like that? The pagans have never invented one. Who is a God like that who pardons so much?
Further, the forgiveness of God is not only gracious, complete, eager, certain, unequaled, but it is motivating.
You say, “What do you mean motivating, John?”
Ephesians 4:32 helps us on that. This is what it says, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted” – doing what? – “forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake” – what? – “has forgiven you.”
Listen to me, if God has not totally forgiven us, that principle gets all messed up. He says, “Forgive totally and completely as God has forgiven you.” Listen, be clear on this. Forgiveness is total, complete, forever for the Christian. There’s no such thing as unforgiven sin in the life of a Christian. It is all forgiven.
Now let’s look at verse 14, this marvelous verse, “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances against us, contrary to us, He took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross.” I want you to look at two words here that’ll give you the picture here. Two Greek words in which the whole idea hinges. Number one, the handwriting which was against us was blotted out. The word is cheirographon, literally autograph. “Blotting out the autograph.”
The technical use of this word is interesting. It was a handwritten note of a debtor acknowledging his indebtedness. You know what it literally was? An IOU. “I, John MacArthur, owe you $500.00,” signed John MacArthur. That is a cheirographon, a handwriting.
You know what happens? A signed confession of debt, your sin and mine, piled up a debt to God. Right? We owed God for that. We got to pay. And it is against us. Notice it, against us. It was against us. In to her words, it would destroy us; it would condemn us. We couldn’t pay it. It is a self-confessed recognition of those debts.
But when you’re willing to go up there and sign it and say it’s true, I will sign my name on that line, “This is true; these are my debts.” It’s the minute that you sign it and confess it that God blots it out.
Let me take you to the second word, and we’ll put it together. It says, “That which was against us, was contrary to us. He took it out of the way.” Literally, He wiped it off, like erasing a blackboard. This is the forgiveness of God. The day you walked up to God and signed your confession is the day He erased it totally. And what were you confessing? Sin. This is – I’ll give you the idea of this.
The substance on which ancient documents was written was a papyrus. And papyrus was a kind of paper made of the bulrush. There was another thing that was used, vellum, which was made from an animal’s hide. And both were fairly expensive and wouldn’t be wasted. And since no ancient ink had any acid into it, the ink never bit into the papyrus or the vellum anyway. But it lay on the surface. If nobody fussed with it, it would remain there because it didn’t bite into the surface; it had no acid.
And sometimes a scribe, in order to preserve his paper, and because he didn’t have too much money, would simply take a sponge and wipe the ink off the papyrus or the vellum and use it again. And that’s exactly what he’s saying. When you receive Jesus Christ, and you walked up and signed your confession, that’s when God nailed it to His cross, paid the penalty, and wiped it clean. It’s a great thought, isn’t it?
So, God, by our faith in Christ, took that indictment, nailed it to the cross. We signed it, and He erased it. You know what’s left? Not one trace. And He remembers it – what? – no more. Complete forgiveness. Oh, the wonder of that kind of grace. Fantastic.
Lastly, complete salvation; complete forgiveness; third, complete victory. Verse 15, “And having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it. He’s saying to those Colossians, “For goodness sake, don’t piddle around with those Aons and intermediary spirits. They were all decimated at the cross.
When He died, He spoiled principalities and powers. He made a public demonstration over them, triumphing over them. Where was it that Jesus bruised the head of Satan? At the cross. Where was it that He broke his power? At the cross. Where was it that He took away the power of death at the cross?
Hebrews chapter 2, verse 14, “For as much then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same, that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death – that is the devil – and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. Satan’s dominion was broken at the cross. As Christ was suspended on the cross, no doubt the demons were having a carnival. Seeing Him bound hand and foot to the wood in apparent weakness and defeat, they imagined He was their victim. But how wrong they were. He mastered them even in death, and 1 Peter 3:18 says when His body went into the grave, His Spirit went into the place where the demons were bound. And it says He claimed His victory over them right there to their faces in that place.
Read 1 Peter 3:18. Christ descended and proclaimed to the spirits in prison – who are they? – bound demons. He proclaimed His triumph, and they were disabled, and they were dethroned. And so, the cross and the resurrection is the answer in the heresy beguiling the minds of those living in the Lycus Valley. There’s no point in paying tribute to principalities or powers that have been vanquished by Jesus. What a victory.
But for the Gospel, beloved, man is a puppet in the hands of fate. G. H. C. MacGregor says this, listen, “We are still conscious that apart from the victory of Christ, man is a helpless victim in a hostile cosmos. It is little comfort to us that the inexorable fate which was once expressed in terms of the influence of the stars, conceived as personal demons, is now expressed in terms of psychological, or physical, or economic determinism.
“We still ask how a man is to triumph over an evil heredity, or how can he be free and victorious in a world of rigid law and scientific necessity. We still suffer from astronomical intimidation, terror at the insignificance of man and the vastness of the material universe encompassing him.” End quote.
And man has this fear of being crushed, sooner or later, by an intimidating universe and cosmos that he can’t explain. And there’s only one message of hope that comes firing through, and it is this: Jesus Christ crucified, Jesus Christ rise as Lord of all, and the forces of the universe are subject to Him as its creator and its conqueror. They, in that day, feared the demons, and they feared the angels. And they feared the stars. And because of Jesus Christ, we fear nothing. What a confidence.
The death of Christ was a transformation. The death of Christ was a pardon, and the death of Christ was a triumph. And that makes for a complete salvation.
Lord, thank You again for what you’ve done. No wonder Paul said, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of Christ.”
Father, for this complete salvation, we give You praise and thanks, from the deepest part of our hearts. Thank You for what you’ve done in us because of Christ. May our thanks be manifest not just in our thought, not just in our word, but in our acts. May we live thankful lives.
While your heads are bowed for just a moment, would you meditate and just between you and the Lord zero in on your own life. Let me say this in closing - we’ll close in just a minute – I know there are some here tonight who have never come to the completeness that Christ offers. You don’t know what it is to be complete in Christ. You don’t know what it is to have complete salvation, forgiveness, and triumph over Satan and all of this terrible fear and intimidation that man and our universe knows.
You don’t know what it is to have peace in the midst of the storm of life, but you’d like to. I can promise you that you can come to Jesus Christ, and He’ll not only give you what you’re looking for, but more than you ever dreamed. What have you to lose in trying?
If the desire of your heart is to know Jesus Christ, why don’t you just whisper that to God and say, “God, I don’t know all about this, but if it’s true, I want to know. If it’s true, I want to know.”
And Jesus said, “If you seek Me, and really will to do the Father’s will, you’ll know of the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”
Thank You, Father, for our fellowship tonight. We thank You for what You’re doing in all of our hearts. Thank You for the great sense of gratitude that I feel inside for what You’ve done for me in this wonderful salvation. Help me to speak it to others, to be that ambassador, to proclaim the eagerness of Your forgiving Spirit.
Take us from this place, Father, this week to with open hearts, and open mouths, and open minds be Your servants in this world that so desperately needs You. And we’ll praise You for what You’re going to do, in Christ’s name, amen.
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