November 28, 2014 Speaker: Pastor Cameron Arensen
Scripture: Colossians 2:6–2:15
Synopsis: November 28 was a baptism Friday at ECC, with 20 people being baptized. In this message, Pastor Cam reminded those who were baptized as well as all who have been baptized before that “baptism is not a graduation ceremony.” Using Colossians 2:6-15, he challenges us all to Keep Walking! Trusting in Christ for salvation is only the beginning. Now we are called to not only be grounded in our faith, but also to live it out.
Today we held a baptism service here at ECC. Between the morning services we performed the baptisms of 16 individuals who gave their testimony to their faith in Jesus Christ. So my message today is focused on two groups. First, it is directed toward those who were baptized. But secondly, it is directed toward those of you who have been baptized in the past. As you reflect on your own baptism and the path you have followed in life since then. Has your life fulfilled the promises you made when you were baptized?
When we baptize people here at ECC, we ask two questions:
Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and have you trusted in Him as your Savior from sin?
Is it your desire to follow Him and make Him the Lord of your life?
For those who will be baptized, what do those statements mean? And for those of us who have been baptized in the past: how are we doing in keeping the promises made? Especially the second one?
Last spring, we did a baptism, and in that service I preached a message with the title: Baptism Is Not a Graduation Ceremony. Baptism is not the sign of something ending or being completed. It is a ceremony of initiation, of a journey beginning.
To inform our thinking today, I want to direct our attention to the Scripture Reading we read a few moments ago, found in Colossians 2:6-15. Let’s look first at verse 6-7:
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
My sermon title today is “Keep Walking!” It is taken from this verse. “As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him…” The verb “walk” is a command, and it is in the present tense, which means it is a command to keep doing what you are doing. “Keep walking…” Receiving Christ Jesus as Lord is where it begins. But it is not where the journey ends. “As you received him, so keep walking in him.”
I love the verbs that follow in verse 7: “rooted” like a tree with deep roots going down into Christ. “Built up” like a building on a solid foundation. “Established” has the idea of being confirmed and strengthened.
During my final year in university, I had some vacant spots in my academic schedule and some credits to fill at my discretion. I chose to use those credits to take a series of Physical Education classes, as a way of staying in shape and of exposing myself to sports I had never played. I took classes like handball, and racket ball. Because I was a beginner in all these sports, I kept getting the same teacher. It didn’t matter what the sport was, this teacher always started off every course the same. “The key to the game is to stay strong in the legs,” he would say. “Keep your knees bent, keep your feet the right distance apart, stay strong, keep your center of gravity low.” As he would go on to explain, our legs were not only the source of our speed, but also of our balance and strength. Throughout the class, we could hear his words ringing out on the courts. “Stay strong in the legs.”
I think what Paul is telling us in this verse is the spiritual equivalent of “staying strong in the legs”, not easily pushed back or off-balance. All of this rooting and grounding and establishing is to be “in Christ” and in the faith which they had been taught. When the New Testament uses the word faith in this kind of context, with a definite article it is not referring to subjective faith or the act of believing. Rather it is referring to the content of what is believed: “the faith which has been once for all delivered to the saints.” In such contexts, “the faith” is a synonym for the gospel message.
Paul goes on to expound on the subject in a passage that is so rich that we are only going to skim the surface. In verse 8, Paul gives this warning:
"See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ."
This is an important warning. Last week Pastor Steve preached a very helpful message on resisting temptation and the fact that Satan walks around like a roaring lion, seeking to devour us. One of the ways he tries to devour us is to take us captive with false teaching. The only way to resist that is to remember that the focus of our faith must always be on Christ. He must be at the center of our teaching, our doctrine, our life.
Let’s go on to the next 7 verses:
"For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 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, 12 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. 13 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, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him."
In these verses, Paul is taking us back to the fundamentals, the basic truths of the gospel, the mystery that has now been made know. This is the truth in which we must be grounded. These are the truths that we believed when we received Christ Jesus the Lord. These are the truths in which we must continue to walk if we desire to stay strong in our faith.
The truth of the gospel and of our salvation is so rich, so multi-faceted, that the Scripture uses many metaphors or word pictures to describe it and bring out the many layers of truth found in it. In this section alone we can discover at least four different metaphors describing what happens when we trust in Christ for our salvation.
1. The picture of our salvation as spiritual circumcision
Look at verse 11 again: In him (Christ) also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,
Paul still has this metaphor in mind in verse 13: And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh
It is a rather earthy image or picture. The act of physical circumcision involved the cutting of a fold of skin from the tip of the male sex organ. This ritual was given to Abraham and was to be the sign of those who were his descendants. It was also the prescribed ritual by which a proselyte joined the Old Testament community of faith. In the metaphor before us in this passage, the unsaved person is described as spiritually uncircumcised. Something must be cut away and removed. But the cutting is not done by human hands. It is done by Christ, and it involves a spiritual heart operation. Christ must cut away the pride and self reliance of our sinful nature.
Paul tells us that this actually happens “in Christ” when we put our faith in him as Savior. Now, other Scriptures make it clear that our struggle against the old nature is not finished at that point. There remains a spiritual battle within us. But something fundamental changes when we trust in Christ. As Paul tell us in 2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
The old nature’s ability to tyrannize and rule over us has been cut away and cast off. We are new creatures in Christ. As we received Christ Jesus as Lord and were circumcised by him, now walk in him. Our walk must match our new spiritual reality.
2. The picture of our salvation as being buried and raised from the dead
In verse 12-13 we read:
12 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. 13 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,
Here we have a kind of picture in a picture. The underlying reality is that of our spiritual union with Christ. The words “with him” or “with Christ” are repeated three times here. This union with Christ is clearly portrayed in the act of believer’s baptism by immersion. We are united with Christ in baptism, but the very act of baptism is also a picture of burial and resurrection as the new believer is placed into the water (buried) and then brought back out of the water (raised from the dead).
At this point someone might ask: “But why did I need to be buried? And why did I need to be resurrected?” The passage answers this question clearly. In verse 13: You were dead in your trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh. We were not only spiritually uncircumcised. We were spiritually dead. Both metaphors express the same spiritual reality; the lostness of man without Christ. Lost, dead, uncircumcised. As Paul states elsewhere: we were without hope and without God in the world. Ours was a desperate plight.
But here is the reality of the gospel and of our salvation. God made us alive with Christ. When we put our faith in Christ and in God the Father who raised him from the dead, we are made spiritually alive. We are raised from the dead. We are no longer the person we used to be. We are something new, and spiritually alive. That is a spiritual reality of our salvation. And that is Paul’s challenge, isn’t it? As you received Christ Jesus the Lord and were made alive with him, now walk and keep walking in that reality. Walk in that truth. Live a new life, a life that reflects your spiritual resurrection from rebellion and sin into a life of obedience.
3. The picture of our salvation as the canceling of a legal/commercial debt
Beginning in the middle of verse 13 we read: having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
This is an absolutely incredible verse. “He forgave us all our trespasses.” He did that in a very specific way. The word picture is very explicit here. It says he did it “by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.” The “record of debt” here refers culturally to a hand written record of debts or obligations. It was hand written, probably by the person who owed the debt. It was a kind of hand written IOU. I have called it a legal slash commercial debt, because the language of the two domains overlaps here. He is speaking of “trespasses” so the debt is a legal and moral one, incurred by transgressing God’s laws. This document is a legal admission of guilt or fault for which we are liable. But this legal guilt is also seen as a kind of commercial debt which we owe and which must be paid. This document, hand-written by our own wrong choices and sinful thoughts and deeds, in violation to the decrees of God, is against us and condemns us before God. We owed a debt we could not pay.
But now notice what has happened to this handwritten document. He forgave us all our sins. Jesus Christ cancelled our debts! He wiped them out. He took that document and he erased it. He obliterated it. He took it away and he nailed it to the cross.
I have tried to find some cultural background to understand what was happening here. I have not been able in the literature to find any similar custom in which cancelled debts were nailed to anything. This is what I have concluded. What Paul is describing here is absolutely unique, a “once in history, once in time and eternity” event. Once and for all time, the written record of my sins was removed and nailed to the cross. When did that happen? It happened when Christ himself was nailed to the cross. All our sins were laid on him, and he was nailed to the cross. The hand-written record of our sins was removed, obliterated, erased by the blood of Christ. The song writer got it so right: “My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought, my sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, oh my soul!”
Live a cross centered life. Stay close to this truth. As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in this reality that you have been forgiven!
Believe it or not, Paul still isn’t done. There is one more metaphor or word picture in this section.
4. The picture of our salvation as a victory parade
Look at verse 15: He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
Here is the picture Paul is painting. A great battle has been fought. The struggle has been long and bloody. But finally a victor has emerged. One army has decisively conquered the other on the field of battle. The conquering general rides through the debris of battle and he strips the defeated officers and soldiers of their weapons, their armor and even their clothing. They are defeated, humiliated, shamed. The general then leads the parade into the city. The people shout and cheer. It is a day of great celebration. And as he parades through the city, trailing behind him are the defeated, humiliated forces of the enemy.
That’s the word picture that Paul is employing here. And that is the reality of what happened on the field of spiritual battle. Christ won the victory. It was an astounding victory, an overwhelming victory, a once for all victory. And he won that victory hanging on a cross. And by that victory, the spiritual powers and authorities that opposed him were defeated and disarmed, their power forever broken. Christ has triumphed through the cross.
Satan, the old arch-enemy is still around. He is still making trouble. He is still a roaring lion. But he is a defeated enemy. His days are numbered. His only real power against us is the power of the lie: trying to convince us that he still has power over us, that he has not been defeated, that our sins are still being held against us. “As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, the conquering, triumphant Lord, so walk in him, as a celebrating member of the victory parade.”
So this is the challenge. As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so “keep walking” in him. Stay “strong in the legs” by staying rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught.
That means remembering these spiritual realities of our faith in Christ:
You have been spiritually circumcised and been given a new heart that owns Christ as Savior and Lord! Keep walking in that reality.
The old person you used to be is dead and buried with Christ and you have been raised with Christ with power to live a new life! Keep walking in that truth.
Your sins, and the moral and spiritual debts you accrued by your sinning have been “nailed to the cross and you bear them no more!” Keep walking, forgiven and clean because you’ve been washed by the blood of Christ.
You are now part of the “victory parade” celebrating the victory that Jesus won on the cross. Keep walking in the victory over Satan’s lies when he tries to condemn you for your past sins. Keep walking in victory over Satan’s temptations in your present life. Keep walking in the firm hope and expectation that you will walk in that future and final victory parade when Satan will be banished and all temptation will be forever cast into the dustbin of history and we shall live forever in the glorious freedom of the children of God.
To those who will be baptized today: Start walking!
To those of you have been baptized before, whether a year ago or 50 years ago, keep walking!
And if you have never trusted in Christ, you’re missing out! Come on, join the parade!
1. Read Colossians 2:6-15
2. Share a brief account of how you came to faith in Jesus Christ.
3. In light of the experiences you have shared with each other – what is the relevance of verses 6-7?
4. Pick out the verbs in these 2 verses. What is the common theme or emphasis behind them?
5. In the message, Pastor Cam pointed out that when the Bible uses the phrase “the faith” the focus is not on subjective faith (the act of believing) but on objective faith (the content of what is believed). Why is it important to be established in Christ and in “the faith”?
6. In reminding his readers of “the faith” in which he calls them to walk, Paul uses 4 metaphors or word pictures. Discuss each one in turn and what they add to our understanding of our salvation:
- The picture of our salvation as spiritual circumcision (v. 11, 13)
- The picture of our salvation as being buried and raised from the dead (v. 12-13)
- The picture of our salvation as forgiveness and the cancelling of a legal debt (v. 13-14)
- The picture of our salvation as a victory parade (v. 15)
7. Each of these picture portray what happens to us when we “received Christ Jesus as Lord.” So what does it mean to “keep walking” in him and in “the faith”?