Pastor David B. Curtis

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Forgiven Forever

Colossians 2:13-15

03/14/2004

At the time when Paul wrote this letter there was a subtle and powerful false teaching that was threatening to infiltrate the Colossian church. It's known to us today as the "Colossian heresy". In 2:8 Paul warned the Colossians believers about the dangers of false teaching. He tells them to, "Beware." It is a command for a constant circumspect watchfulness, because of the dangers of the Colossian heresy.

Now notice how he prepares them to be able to deal with the false teaching. He doesn't say, "Here's what they are teaching." What he does is he tells them who Christ is, and who they are in Christ. He teaches them positional truth:

Colossians 2:9-10 (NKJV) For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.

We don't need to study error in order to avoid it, we simply need to know the truth. If we know the truth, we'll be able to spot error when we hear it.

He is saying that Jesus Christ is God in a bodily form. He is the God-Man. And "you" (believers) are complete in Him. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you are in Christ. And because you are in Christ, and because He is complete, you have been made complete. Get that? Because Christ is who He is, we have been made complete in Him. His fullness is imparted to us. As all the fullness of the eternal God is Christ's, all the fullness of Christ is yours and mine.

Having made the statement that they have, in Christ, already received all that God is, and nothing can be added, Paul now traces how this happened to them. In these next statements he tells how believers share in the fullness of God in Christ. First, he declares, they were circumcised & baptized with Him:

Colossians 2:11-12 (NKJV) In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

Paul says believers have been given a circumcision, not of the flesh by the hands of men, but with the circumcision done by Christ. By this spiritual circumcision, the old sinful nature (flesh) has been cut away or put off. He is speaking of our death to sin and union with Christ.

Let me share with you what another commentator says about these verses, because it is very important that we not confuse these verses with ritual as so many do:

But now, you have been circumcised. Your old life has been cut off. Your sinful nature has been killed, crucified with Christ on the cross. This is the reality to which baptism points. And Paul is willing to tie this reality to baptism, claiming that the circumcision of Christ, whereby he trims away the body of the sins of the flesh, takes place in baptism. Not that the water of baptism does this all by itself. But rather that the water of baptism is the outward sign of this new reality. If you have been baptized, then this is the reality that God promises to you. You have been crucified with Christ, and your old sinful nature has been washed away.

Paul does not mention "water baptism" in this verse! This verse has NOTHING to do with water baptism - it speaks of identification. Water baptism is no more in view in 2:12 than physical circumcision was in 2:11. Both verses speak of spiritual realities. We must not confuse rituals with realities.

Paul goes on in verse 13 to tell them that they have been made alive and forgiven in Christ:

Colossians 2:13 (NKJV) And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,

Notice Paul says, "You being dead in your sins". He says the same thing in:

Ephesians 2:1 (NKJV) And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,
Ephesians 2:5 (NKJV) even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),

There are two questions that we need to answer here. How did the Colossians get dead? And what does he mean by dead? To answer these questions turn to:

Romans 5:12 (NKJV) Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned;

"Therefore, just as...." the "just as" suggests a comparison, but we notice that verse 12 does not complete the comparison, there is no "even so." He only gives us half of the comparison - Adam. Verses 13-17 are a parentheses for clarification. Verses 18 and 19 complete the comparison started in verse 12.

Let's read it that way, skipping verses 13-18a: "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned; 18b even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life."

One man did one thing resulting in sin and death; the other man did something else, resulting in justification and life. "Just as" the one act of Adam affected every member of the human race, "even so" the one act of Jesus Christ affects every member of the new covenant community.

Notice the Results of Adam's sin - "Sin entered the world". The Greek word for "sin" is hamartia, it means: "to miss the mark." The mark is what God commands of us to do or not do.

1 John 3:4 (NASB) Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.

Sin is disobeying God. It is violating his Holy law. God is the Creator and law giver, and any violation of his moral will is sin.

Adam introduced sin into the human realm. The story is found in Genesis 2. Adam was placed in a perfect environment in the garden of Eden. God gave Adam one prohibition. All those trees and Adam could eat of them all except one. Well, you know what happened, Adam ate of the forbidden fruit - he sinned. Sin is violating the commands of God. When Adam sinned - "sin entered the world." How did sin enter the world? The Pelagian theory says that sin entered by others following Adam's bad example. But our text says "sin" not "sins." Adam did not bring sin into the world by setting a bad example. Adam's sin wrought a constitutional change of unholiness within the heart. That act resulted in an innate corrupting principle, and he transmitted this to his decedents. Men became sinners, as Paul said in:

Romans 5:19 (NKJV) For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous.

This corruption of man's nature is what is called in theology "Original Sin." This sin is called "original sin," (1) because it is derived from the original root of the human race; (2) because it is present in the life of every individual from the time of his birth, and therefore cannot be regarded as the result of imitation.

It's not that you sin, and that's what makes you a sinner. You're a sinner, you were born that way, and that is why you sin. Every human being born is born with original sin.

Paul tell us that death came as a result of sin - "and death through sin." As a result of Adam's sin, he died. Is he speaking here about physical death or spiritual death? Most commentators say he is talking about physical death. They say that man dies physically because of sin. Is that true? Let's go back to the original sin and see what God said:

Genesis 2:17 (NKJV) "but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."

Did Adam die that day? Not physically! Adam lived at least 800 years beyond the day he ate the fruit. But, God said he would die the day he ate, and we know that God cannot lie. Adam did not die physically that day, but he did die spiritually. He died spiritually the moment he disobeyed. Spiritual death is separation from God who is life. So, since the text in Genesis is dealing with "spiritual" death, so is the text in Romans 5, and so is our text in Colossians 2:13.

Also, the comparison in this passage is between Adam and Christ. What we lost in Adam is restored in Jesus Christ. If the death referred to is physical, then having gained in Christ what we lost in Adam, Christians should never die physically.

Because of his sin, man was separated from God. He was dead in trespasses and sins. The focus of God's plan of redemption is to restore through Jesus Christ what man had lost in Adam. Because of Adam's sin, we are all born dead, separated from God. But through Jesus Christ we receive eternal life. We see this same comparison in:

Romans 6:23 (NKJV) For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The life that is a gift is spiritual life, so the death must also be spiritual.

So, in answer to the question: "What is death?" The death referred to here and in our text in Colossians is spiritual death, which is separation from God. If a man dies physically while in a state of spiritual death, he will spend eternity in the lake of fire, which the Bible calls the "second death".

Paul goes on in Romans 5:12 to say, "and thus death spread to all men." Spiritual death spread to all men. Every human being born is born separated from God, dead in sin. The question that arises here is, "Why?" Why do all die? The answer is given in the end of verse 12:

Romans 5:12 (NKJV) Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned;

All men are born spiritually dead - "because all sinned." The Greek here employs the aorist tense which indicates that at some point in the past all men sinned, and that point must be when Adam sinned. When he sinned, I sinned. If Adam is guilty, I am guilty.

We're all born spiritually dead, and death is penal. Why? Did we personally sin before we were born? No! We sinned in Adam. He represented us, and what he did, we did. His act is put to our account.

Back to Colossians. Paul says all men were dead in sin - "and the uncircumcision of your flesh". Our nature was "uncircumcised," that is, separated from God. This describes our state of being before we came to know Christ. We were dead in our state to God. The corrupt moral condition in which the desires of the sin capacity still operate in the believer. This is the violation of God in principle.

Notice what Paul is NOT saying, He is not saying that we were handicapped. He did not say that we were sick. He did not say that we're misguided by our social surroundings. He says we were dead! We were without any spiritual life at all.

There are many analogies that people use to depict man's sin that are not biblical: Mortally ill man must take the medicine of the gospel to live. They say man must make the choice, he must take the medicine. The problem with that analogy is that the Bible doesn't speak of mortally ill man. It speaks of dead man. I guess you understand the difference between being mortally ill and dead. The Scriptures clearly teach that we are dead in sin.

The Bible teaches that dead men can't receive the things of God:

1 Corinthians 2:14-15 (NKJV) 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.

The word "natural" is the Greek word psuchikos. Jude uses this same word and helps us understand its meaning:

Jude 1:19 (NKJV) These are sensual [psuchikos] persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.

The "natural" or "sensual" person is the person without the Spirit. This is the unregenerate man who has no ability to understand spiritual things. Natural man is dead and totally unreceptive to the gospel.

The bottom line is this: our hope does not lie in our own will. We are all sure for condemnation unless God would somehow incline our wills in the opposite direction. We must have a savior who is mighty enough to rescue us from ourselves. Clearly, God must do something.

And He does! Paul goes on in Colossians 2:13 to say, "And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him..." The words "made alive together" are from the Greek word suzoopoieo. It is a first aorist active indicative of the double compound verb "to make alive" and "with", found only here and in Ephesians 2:5. Paul again stresses the believer's union with Christ (cf. 2:10, "in Him"; 2:11, "in Him"; 2:12, "with Him"). Those who were hopelessly dead in sin received new life through that union. Please get this, we were dead, and God gave us life. Why did God give us life? It's a one word answer; grace:

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NKJV) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Even our faith was something that God gave us. He is responsible for our salvation! He alone makes it possible for you and I to be a child of God. In the Reformation the cry was, "Sola Gratia!" It means by Grace Alone. And that is Paul's emphasis here. We can do nothing to effect our salvation. God must first move in us to bring us spiritual life. He must do this before we even realize that we have sinned and are in need of a Savior.

Why is this important? Because there is a growing notion in our ego-filled society that we are saved because of what WE do, not because of what CHRIST DOES in us. In other words, we are diminishing the work of grace in our life. On this issue Max Lucado writes:

Think back to your own birth. . .Look at yourself. Brand-new. New hands. New eyes. New mouth. No pre-owned parts. . . Now tell me, who gave you these parts? Who gave you eyes so you could see? Who gave you hands so you could work? Who gave you feet that you could walk? Did you make your own eyes? Your own hands? Your own feet?
No, you made nothing; God made everything. He was the one who made everything new the first time, and he is the one who makes everything new the second. The Creator creates again! 'If anyone belongs to Christ, there is a new creation. The old things have gone; everything else is made new!' (2 Cor. 5:17).
But the analogy contains another truth. May I ask another question about your birth? How active were you in the process? Did you place your hands against the top of the womb and shove yourself out? Were you in radio communication with your mother, telling her when to push? Did the doctor ask you to measure the contractions and report on conditions inside the womb? . . . Hardly. You were passive. You were not born because of what you did. Someone else did all the work. Someone else felt all the pain. Your mom did the pushing and the struggling. Your birth was due to someone else's effort.
The same is true for our spiritual birth. It is through God's pain that we are born. It's not our struggle, but God's. It's not our blood shed, but His. (A Gentle Thunder; p. 108, 109)
This is the point Paul wants to make. God is the one who makes the changes. He is the one who brings life. We need life, and only God can do that.

Well not only does God give us life, notice what else He does, "...having forgiven you all trespasses...". The Greek word for "forgiven" here is charizomai, it means: "forgiveness as the result of grace or an act of love." It means to bestow a favor unconditionally. The favor bestowed unconditionally here is the remission of debt against God.

Do you hear this declaration? How many of our sins are forgiven? ALL. Not just the past sins, not just the present sins, not just the big sins, not just the little sins, but ALL of them. Do you get it? It means those times in your past that plague you with guilt, He forgave those sins. And those times when you let others down and hurt them, He forgave those sins too. And all those times you promised you did something for the last time, and then you fell again; God forgave those in Christ too. He forgives the hidden sins and the public sins.

Here's the problem, we think God is like other Christians, He is waiting for you to fail, and then will never let you hear the end of it. Thank God He is not that way! What would your life be like if you believed this truth?

God's forgiveness is a prominent theme in the New Testament. Our Lord told His disciples at the Last Supper:

Matthew 26:28 (NKJV) "For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

Peter told those assembled in Cornelius's house that:

Acts 10:43 (NKJV) "To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins."

In Acts 13 Paul said:

Acts 13:38-39 (NKJV) "Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; 39 "and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.

To the Ephesians, Paul wrote:

Ephesians 1:7 (NKJV) In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace

The good news of the Bible is that our debts were paid in full by Jesus Christ. And not only has the Christian's debt been paid in full, there is no possibility of going into debt again. Jesus paid the debt of all our sins: past, present, and future. This is GRACE!

JFB commentary has an interesting comment here: "Forgiven you - the oldest manuscripts read, 'forgiven us,' passing from the particular persons, the Colossians, to the general Church." This forgiveness applied to ALL believers.

Paul then illustrates God's forgiveness. When God forgave us, He:

Colossians 2:14 (NKJV) having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

The word "handwriting" translates cheirographon, which literally means: "something written with the hand," or "an autograph." Paul describes that certificate as "requirements that was against us." The word "requirements" is the Greek word dogma, which means: "decree, ordinance, decision, command, a formalized rule (or set of rules) prescribing what people must do." This refers to the Mosaic law as a certificate of requirements that puts us in debt to God.

Ephesians 2:15 (NKJV) having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances [dogma], so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace,

All peoples (including Gentiles, cf. Rom. 2:14-15) owe God a debt, because they have violated His law. The certificate was "contrary to us," that is, it was enough to condemn us to judgment and wrath, because:

Galatians 3:10 (NKJV) For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them."

For the Israelite, the written code stood as a constant reminder that there was a debt which needed to be paid that the people of God might stand perfect before God. Otherwise, why would there be the need for the annual reminder of sins being dealt with if the Law had made anything perfect (Leviticus chapter 16, Hebrews 10:1-3)?

Romans 10:4 (NKJV) For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

"Wiped out" is the Greek word exaleipho, which means: "to wipe off," like erasing a blackboard. Ancient documents were commonly written either on papyrus, a paper-like material made from the bulrush plant, or vellum, which was made from an animal's hide. The ink used then had no acid in it and did not soak into the writing material. Since the ink remained on the surface, it could be wiped off if the scribe wanted to reuse the material.

In Christ, under the New Covenant, we have been set free from the condemnation of the Law. Our text says, "And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross." The word "taken" here is the Greek word airo, which is a perfect active indicative of an old and common verb meaning: "to lift up, to bear, to take away." The word is used by John the Baptizer of Jesus as "the Lamb of God that bears away (airo) the sin of the world." The perfect tense emphasizes the permanence of the removal of the bond, which has been paid and canceled and cannot be presented again.

Paul was telling the Colossians that fleshly circumcision (which was a major thing in the written code) has now been canceled and nailed to the cross. But it wasn't just circumcision, it was all of the written code.

Colossians 2:15 (NKJV) Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.

The word "disarmed" is the Greek word apekduomai. Kittels simply states the meaning as: "to disarm" observing that it's a compound word from the verb "to arm oneself" and a prefix denoting that what's conveyed is the opposite.

He disarmed "principalities and powers" - meaning those spiritual forces which have set themselves as opposed to God. The same two Greek words were used earlier in Colossians 1:16.

There are two other places in the New Testament where a similar phrase occurs:

Ephesians 3:10 (NKJV) to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places,

Here "heavenly places" define the content of meaning of our phrase. Clearly, Paul understood by the phrase something which wasn't earthly in its stand and position. This is also clearly the case in:

Ephesians 6:12 (NKJV) For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Here Paul informs his readers firstly, "We do not wrestle against flesh and blood" that is, against physical forces which exist all around them. But "...against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." Where, again, the idea is of something above the affairs of man which are seeking to exercise their dominion and authority.

We shouldn't be going too far wrong, then, if we accept Paul's words at face value and understand them to mean that the apostle saw spiritual beings (who seem to be easiest identified with the rebellious angelic horde than anything else) as ruling over mankind, but that God had affected a victory over them in Christ so that He could announce such a victory to everyone.

Our text says, "He made a public spectacle of them." The picture Paul is painting here is one of Roman conquest. Those to whom he was writing would be familiar with this image. When the Roman army would return from a victorious campaign, they would enter the city in a triumphal procession. Into the city they would parade, displaying the treasures of their conquered foe. Those who had been captured in battle and who would become slaves would march in chains before the cheering crowd. The dignitaries that had been captured would be put on display. The Roman army itself would parade down the street. And the triumphant Roman general would ride in on his chariot to the adulation of the crowd. The defeated foe would be put on display. They would be made a public spectacle. This is the image Paul uses here for Christ's victory over the powers of darkness.

Paul goes on to say, "triumphing over them in it." The words "triumphing over" mean to lead prisoners of war in a victory procession. The picture is of a military procession leading captives of war. It means to demonstrate one's successful conquest of the opposition.

Josephus' account of the Triumphal procession which took place in the streets of Rome following Titus' return from Judea following the destruction of Jerusalem is informative (War 7.5.1-7):

After these spoils passed by a great many men, carrying the images of Victory, whose structure was entirely either of ivory or of gold. After which Vespasian marched in the first place, and Titus followed him; Domitian also rode along with them, and made a glorious appearance, and rode on a horse that was worthy of admiration.
Now the last part of this pompous show was at the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, whither when they were come, they stood still; for it was the Romans' ancient custom to stay till somebody brought the news that the general of the enemy was slain.

The victorious military commander brought back not only the spoils of war but the prisoners and leaders of the subjugated nations to which he'd gone, openly displaying them before the multitudes before taking at least one of them - the leading figure - and having him executed to symbolize not only their subjugation, but the removal of the country's authority to be replaced by Roman rule.

In Geneses 3:15 God told Satan that He would "crush his head." We know this to be a prophecy of Christ destroying Satan. But when does it happen? Most Christians look for this event to happen at a future day when the earth and everything physical is destroyed. But Scripture teaches that Satan is already destroyed:

Romans 16:20 (NKJV) And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

The Greek word used here for "crush" is suntribo, it means: "to crush completely, i.e. to shatter." When is it that Satan is to be crushed completely? Paul said here to the first century Roman Christians that it would happen "shortly." The Greek word translated "shortly"' is tachos. According to Arndt and Gingich Lexicon, tachos is used in the LXX and certain non-canonical writings to mean: "speed, quickness, swiftness, haste."

Hebrews 2:14 (NKJV) Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,

One of the aspects of Christ's earthly mission was to destroy the devil. The Greek word for destroy is katargeo, which means: "to be entirely idle (useless), lit. or fig.- abolish, cease, destroy, do away, make of no effect, bring to nought". Was Christ a failure in this mission? Most Christians act like He was, they're still all worried about the devil. I think we want him to still be around so we have someone to blame for our sin.

1 John 3:8 (NKJV) He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.

The Greek word for "destroy" is luo, which means: "to loosen, destroy, dissolve, put off." Christ is said to have destroyed the devil and his works. Do you believe the Bible?

Colossians 2:15 (NKJV) Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.

According to my Bible, Satan is a defeated, disarmed, destroyed foe.

So, what we have seen this morning is that we were all dead in our sins, and Christ has given us life in union with Himself. We share Christ's life. Not only that but He has forgiven us all our sins. He removed the Old Covenant that was contrary to us. And He disarmed principalities and powers. This is positional truth. This is true of every believer no matter how they feel or live.

When you truly understand these truths, I believe that you response will be one of gratitude. If we understand what has been given to us, we will be grateful to God for the rest of our lives. No matter what life brings, we won't complain, we'll only give thanks that we did not get what we deserved. We will be grateful that we have God's strength, power, provision in our lives. We will spend the rest of our lives saying, "Why me?"

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