Get Rid Of “It!” – Colossians 2:11-12 07/26/20

Get Rid Of “It!” – Colossians 2:11-12 07/26/20

If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you realize that your old nature, that which wants to drag you away from an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, fights against everything God desires for you. In our text today the Apostle Paul begins to address this need; the passage is Colossians 2:11-12.

The primary point of the passage is clear enough, we’re supposed to put away our sins and the sinful life we once lived. We are to die to those things, and instead we are called upon to live in the newness of life that Jesus brings. The passage opens with “In Him,”[1] (ἐν ᾧ)[2] more literally, “in whom.” This expression is laced through the letter to the Colossians and must be recognized as a key concept.

Through our union with Christ we experience what Paul says is a true circumcision.[3] Obviously, Paul is drawing a contrast between the physical circumcision required in the Mosaic Law and what takes place in the heart of each believer.[4] This appears to have been one aspect of the heresies being pressed upon the church, the need for circumcision.[5] Whether that was in a Jewish context or a pagan context is never revealed. Regardless, we find Paul addressing the reality that to be a Christian is an inward reality, not conformity to some external standard or practice.[6]

So Paul tells us to put off some things. But… what is it that we put off? The expression is “the body of the sins of the flesh” (τοῦ σώματος τῆς σαρκός[7]). This is literally “the body of the flesh.”[8] In the background here is a reference to the practices of the mystery cults. During initiation the devotee would seek to lay aside their body, “put off the body of the flesh,” so that he could be filled with divine power.[9] The process included initiand disrobing and bathing to achieve ceremonial cleanness.[10] This was followed by an extended period of fasting, along with secret rituals, sometimes including circumcision for the males.[11] All of this was in preparation for participation in the deity’s feast and then being clothed in sacred garments.[12]

Some in Colossi were teaching the necessity of these specific religious practices in order to become a “mature” follower of Jesus.[13] The result was supposed to result in the rebirth and transformation of the soul.[14] Frankly, it didn’t, and couldn’t, work. The deity being sought was nothing more than a created fallen being, one with no true power. The demonic is incapable of giving rebirth. All that these beings could do is provide smoke and mirrors, and they often did.

Getting back to our text, it says “putting off the body of the sins of the flesh.” This can be understood in a number of ways, but the two primary possibilities are, first, as a direct reference to our physical bodies that are marked by the condition of our fallen natures.[15] Secondly, “body” (σώματος) could denote the sum total of our evil natures, that is, our sin natures.[16]

Personally, I think it’s the second meaning that Paul has in mind. After all, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the material world. In Genesis 1:31 God said that all that He had created was “very good.” In the same way, even in our fallen states, our physical bodies are not evil in and of themselves; that has more of the doctrines of the Gnostics than it does of Christianity. The reality is we will exist in physical bodies forever according to Romans 8:23.

So it’s not our physical bodies that need to be disposed of. We put off the whole of who we were, all that was a part of our lives organized for, and geared to live in, rebellion against God.[17] In Christianity we find that God redeems that which was fallen and corrupted. We become something that has never been seen before, we are new from the inside out.[18] We are changed, we become something new, and that’s accomplished by God, not through human effort.[19] It happens “in Christ.” The passive verb forms used point to the activity of God in all of this.[20] God rips away the filth of our lives and casts it away, and we are changed.

And yet, as free moral agents this is a process, we are being changed, from the inside out[21] as we learn to live in the reality of who we are in Christ. With that, Paul now draws the parallels between circumcision and baptism.[22] It is here that the idea of putting off comes into play as a personal experience; Colossians 2:12. With their baptism in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the converts had “put off” their street clothes, and re-clothed themselves in baptismal robes.[23] Paul indicates that Christian baptism is the outward counterpart to the inward experience of a spiritual circumcision.[24]

Baptism symbolizes our participation in Christ’s death and resurrection[25]… by faith. The imagery is powerful,[26] and one of the reasons I prefer baptism by immersion. Our being lowered into the water reminds us that we passively receive what Jesus has done[27] as we symbolically die with Christ. Our entering into the water pictures our burial, seen in the ancient world as the culmination of the death process.[28] We are reminded that we have died with Christ.

When we place our faith, our trust, our belief, our reliance, on Jesus as Savior, the Holy Spirit “baptizes” us into the body of Christ.[29] We are immersed in the Spirit and joined with Christ in both His death… and His resurrection![30] Just as our burial with Christ in baptism demonstrably shows our union with Him in His death, so coming out of the water physically demonstrates our union with Him in His new life.[31] Our old lives are gone, crucified with Christ. Our new lives are “in Him.”

We find the expression “In Christ” scattered throughout the letter, and it becomes the defining statement for each Christian.[32] We put off the old body of flesh because we are “in Christ.” We die with Christ, and we rise to new life “in Christ.” Nothing about Christianity makes sense apart from this reality.

We simply must come to terms with the fact that we Christians have been joined to a living Savior.[33] We are “in Christ.” That should result in changed lives. Through faith we say, “Hasta la vista, baby!” and we choose to stop living like who we were before we came to Jesus, and we choose to begin living in the new life Jesus brings.[34] It is not a feeling, it is not some outpouring of emotion; we may or may not have experienced these things. That doesn’t matter. What matters is the realization that we are utterly dependent on Jesus for our salvations.

With that utter dependence then come a total change as we’re remade in His image. The result is a faith-union with the risen Lord Jesus Christ of which baptism is simply a sign.[35]

Through the faith God grants, our faith becomes a conduit for the power of God to actively work in each of our lives.[36] We are found to be “in Christ.”

[1] James Dunn, The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, eds., I. Howard Marshall, W. Ward Gasque, and Donald Hagner, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids MI.: 1996), 154. [2]Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Col 2:11. [3] Curtis Vaughn, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 200. [4] Curtis Vaughn, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 200. [5] James Dunn, The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, eds., I. Howard Marshall, W. Ward Gasque, and Donald Hagner, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids MI.: 1996), 155. [6] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 350. [7] Cambridge Greek Testament: Greek Text (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), Col 2:11. [8] Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (Interlinear with Morphology) (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993), Col 2:11. [9] Eduard Lohse, Colossians and Philemon, A Commentary on the Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, Hermeneia – A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible, ed., Helmut Koester, trans, William Poehlmann and Robert Karris, (Fortress Press, Philadelphia, PA.: 1971), 102. [10] Eduard Lohse, Colossians and Philemon, A Commentary on the Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, Hermeneia – A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible, ed., Helmut Koester, trans, William Poehlmann and Robert Karris, (Fortress Press, Philadelphia, PA.: 1971), 102. [11] Eduard Lohse, Colossians and Philemon, A Commentary on the Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, Hermeneia – A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible, ed., Helmut Koester, trans, William Poehlmann and Robert Karris, (Fortress Press, Philadelphia, PA.: 1971), 102. [12] Eduard Lohse, Colossians and Philemon, A Commentary on the Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, Hermeneia – A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible, ed., Helmut Koester, trans, William Poehlmann and Robert Karris, (Fortress Press, Philadelphia, PA.: 1971), 102. [13] Earle Wilson, Alex Deasley, and Barry Callen, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians: A Commentary for Bible Students, Wesleyan Bible Commentary Series, gen. publisher, Donald Cady, exec.. ed., David Holdren, managing ed., Lawrence Wilson, theological ed., Stephen Lennox, snr., ed., Darlene Teague, (Wesleyan Publishing House, Indianapolis, IN.: 2007), 324. [14] Eduard Lohse, Colossians and Philemon, A Commentary on the Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, Hermeneia – A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible, ed., Helmut Koester, trans, William Poehlmann and Robert Karris, (Fortress Press, Philadelphia, PA.: 1971), 102. [15] Curtis Vaughn, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 200. [16] Curtis Vaughn, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 200. [17] F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, gen. eds., Ned Stonehouse, F.F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1984), 104. [18] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 350. [19] Curtis Vaughn, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 200. [20] Eduard Lohse, Colossians and Philemon, A Commentary on the Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, Hermeneia – A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible, ed., Helmut Koester, trans, William Poehlmann and Robert Karris, (Fortress Press, Philadelphia, PA.: 1971), 103. [21] Curtis Vaughn, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 200. [22] Eduard Lohse, Colossians and Philemon, A Commentary on the Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, Hermeneia – A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible, ed., Helmut Koester, trans, William Poehlmann and Robert Karris, (Fortress Press, Philadelphia, PA.: 1971), 102. [23] Ralph Martin, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, ed., James Mays, NT ed., Paul Achtemeier, (John Knox Press, Louisville, KY.: 1991), 115. [24] Curtis Vaughn, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 200. [25] Curtis Vaughn, Colossians, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 200. [26] James Dunn, The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, eds., I. Howard Marshall, W. Ward Gasque, and Donald Hagner, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids MI.: 1996), 159. [27] James Dunn, The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, eds., I. Howard Marshall, W. Ward Gasque, and Donald Hagner, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids MI.: 1996), 159. [28] James Dunn, The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, eds., I. Howard Marshall, W. Ward Gasque, and Donald Hagner, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids MI.: 1996), 159. [29] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 350. [30] Eduard Lohse, Colossians and Philemon, A Commentary on the Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, Hermeneia – A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible, ed., Helmut Koester, trans, William Poehlmann and Robert Karris, (Fortress Press, Philadelphia, PA.: 1971), 103. [31] James Dunn, The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, eds., I. Howard Marshall, W. Ward Gasque, and Donald Hagner, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids MI.: 1996), 161. [32] Eduard Lohse, Colossians and Philemon, A Commentary on the Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, Hermeneia – A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible, ed., Helmut Koester, trans, William Poehlmann and Robert Karris, (Fortress Press, Philadelphia, PA.: 1971), 105. [33] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 350. [34] F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, gen. eds., Ned Stonehouse, F.F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1984), 105. [35] F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, gen. eds., Ned Stonehouse, F.F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1984), 106. [36] James Dunn, The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, eds., I. Howard Marshall, W. Ward Gasque, and Donald Hagner, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids MI.: 1996), 162.

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