I’m studying through the book of Colossians because I plan to teach through the book during the month of March (and the first Sunday in April). So far, I’ve written these posts in the series:
The beginning of the study
Salutation (author, recipients, greeting)
Prayer Part 1
Prayer Part 2
Jesus’ preeminence over creation
Jesus’ preeminence over the church
Paul’s service for the gospel
Contrasting Christ with human wisdom Part 1
In my previous post, I began the section of Colossians (Colossians 2:6-3:4) while Paul alternates between exhortations to trust Christ (alone) and warnings against following human wisdom. This section is introduced in Colossians 2:6-10.
In the next few posts, I am going to continue studying this section verse by verse. However, it is helpful to notice that Paul jumps back and forth between these two contrasts. The whole section should be studied and understood together.
I will begin by looking at the first exhortations to trust only Christ, since this is where Paul begins:
In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 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 2:11-15 ESV)
Paul begins by using circumcision as a metaphor. (Colossians 2:11) The metaphor demonstrates the “putting off” of the “body of flesh.” (Later we see that Paul says the “uncircumcision of the flesh” is related to being “dead in trespasses.” It is clear that Paul has a metaphorical circumcision in view because he specifically says it is a “circumcision made without hands” and a “circumcision of Christ.”
The circumcision metaphor is intertwined with another metaphor: baptism. Immersion into water in baptism (No, I don’t want to start a theological debate here, but “baptism” means “immersion” and the imagery uses that meaning.) represents being buried with Christ. And being raised back out of the water in baptism represents being resurrected with Christ. (Colossians 2:12)
Continuing with the interwoven metaphors of circumcision and baptism, Paul wants his readers to see that their sins have been “cut off” (much like in circumcision) and that they are now alive in Christ (much like they were raised out of the water in baptism). (Colossians 2:13) While he uses metaphors to get his point across, to Paul the forgiveness of sin and the new life in Christ is very real. In fact, he says that our sin debt has been paid in full (“nailed to the cross”) by the death of Jesus Christ. (Colossians 2:14)
But, Christ’s death did more than cancel all records of our sins. Paul also says that, through his death, Christ removed all rights that others might have on the children of God. (Colossians 2:15) He “disarmed” them, stripping off all power that they may have had to control those who are now risen with him.
This last point becomes very important as Paul continues his argument. These rulers and authorities (whether earthly or heavenly) might make claims on or offer philosophical arguments against God’s children. These claims and arguments might sound good, and even be rational and believable. But, Paul says those rulers and authorities have been stripped of all power of those who are in Christ.
In this passage, it is clear that the historical death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is extremely important for Paul and his readers. While he uses metaphorical language of circumcision and baptism, the metaphors point to the reality of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. In that even, God canceled the sin debt for all those who are in Christ and removed them from power and authority of earthly or spiritual rulers.
What would you add to my study of this section of Colossians?