I want you to know how hard I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.
In these verses, Paul mentions to his readers that he has been “struggling” for them (v. 1) and that his struggle was that they come to know the full riches of a complete understanding of the mystery of God, namely Christ (v. 2). We know that the “mystery of God” is one of the ways that Paul refers to the Gospel, so he is struggling so that the people might come to see all that they have in the Gospel. To put it another way, Paul is struggling to make disciples, to assist these people in growing in their faith to a mature level of understanding.
It struck me that this is what we are all called to do. To “struggle” so that our brother or sister may come to fully understand the riches that are in Christ is our purpose in this life.
In verse 3, Paul goes on to say that in Christ are all of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and it strikes me that this statement runs counter to what the world around us sees as “wisdom and knowledge.” Verses four and five are really telling: Paul tells his readers that he is doing this so they will not be deceived by “fine-sounding arguments.” I love that, “fine-sounding arguments”! What shall we take from this? As I see it, we have a serious role to play in leading our “younger” brother to stand firm in the knowledge and truth of Christ, to help them, to guide them and yes, to struggle for them so that they will not be deceived by the “wisdom” of this age, and to nurture them into the fullness of Christ. I wonder how often we see this imperative as our goal, rather than looking out for ourselves only…
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
People are sometimes surprised when I say that Christian theology is basically simple to understand, and these three simple verses sum it up pretty well; it is simple to understand them, don’t you think?
We received Jesus Christ as Lord; continue to live in Him. We do this by being rooted in Him, built up in Him and if we are strengthened in the faith just as we were taught, we will overflow with thanksgiving. What should our priorities in life be? Simple, we should be in Him, rooted in Him and strengthened by Him, or to put in another way, our life’s priorities are all about Jesus Christ.
Verse eight follows with a bit of practical advice, which is to seek Christ and let go of the hollow ways and teachings of this world. It goes without saying that if we are seeking after Christ, then we are not seeking after the things of this world. If we are seeking Christ, then we will find His ways and want to follow them in our lives, rather than worrying about what everyone else is doing.
You see, none of this is complicated, in fact it is so very simple that sometimes we feel the need to complicate it− but then making the simple difficult is one of the ways of this world.
As we seek His face, as we seek His presence, as we seek His Truth, we seek after that which is good, wholesome and true. As we do this, our faith is strengthened, our walk closer and dearer, and our outlook on everything else will change forever. When that happens, we will be filled to overflowing with thanksgiving, praise and… His presence.
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
Continuing on, we come to a paragraph that is both full and rich in meaning, and yet often cluttered up with unnecessary doctrines. Consider the opening sentence, Paul points out that in the Person of Jesus lives all the fullness of God: Jesus is all God and Jesus is all man: God lived in His physical body. Jesus has also brought you and me to fullness, but fullness of what kind? Here it is in simple terms: All of the fullness of God resided in Jesus Christ, and in Christ the fullness of the Holy Spirit resides in you and me. Neither you nor I are the Messiah, nor are we divine, but we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and He is divine. Kind of makes you wonder why we don’t follow His lead more often, doesn’t it?
Paul continues to state that Jesus is the head of every power; He is at the right hand of God running the universe… and we are in Him.
Not a bad place to hang out!
The next sentence goes on to say that we have received a circumcision that wasn’t performed by human hands. This is puzzling until we recall what circumcision was in the Old Testament. There, circumcision was the sign of God’s covenant with Abraham; it was how people would recognize a man in covenant relationship with God. That was the covenant that set God’s covenant people apart from everyone else, and circumcision was a kind of mark or seal of that covenant. Paul is talking about another kind of seal or sign of our covenant relationship with God, a sign that marks us as belonging to Him.
The last sentence in our text answers a question, and raises another:
The first part answers a question when it identifies Christ as the one who performed this circumcision without human hands, and that tells us that this circumcision is not a physical procedure at all, but instead a spiritual procedure. In this procedure, our natural self that lives according to the flesh is put off, and I think most of us will agree that this happens when we enter a relationship with Christ. This would be really easy if Paul stopped right there, but he goes on…
Here’s the whole sentence again:
Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
The trouble happens when Paul followed the having been circumcised by Christ with “having been buried with Him in baptism”. I say that there is trouble here, because this is where Christians like to divide into camps and slug it out. We aren’t going to do that though, are we?
It appears to me that there is some kind of a connection between this “circumcision” and baptism, but what is the connection? If we were “buried with him in baptism” what were we buried into? Well, when He was buried, He was dead, having died on the cross. So, if we are “buried with him” then we must be buried into His death… right? If this “circumcision” was the link between the old man and the new man, and it is also linked to baptism into His death, then there must be a link of some kind being established here… see it? They are parallel. Notice that Paul also mentions that we are “raised with Him” by our “faith in the workings of God.”
OK, so here’s what we’ve got so far:
- What an awesome thing it is to be in Christ!
- He is the central focus of our lives, our all in all as the old hymn says.
- In Christ, we have the fullness of the indwelling Holy Spirit: Amazing!
- Paul has made a comparison between Old Testament circumcision, a new kind of circumcision and baptism.
- Paul elaborates on that comparison in the next section…
When you were dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
As we pick up from the last passage, we see right away the connection we discovered. Notice the link between “dead in your sins” and “uncircumcision.” Here they are used interchangeably, and since they are used this way, we can be certain, that circumcision here is not the literal procedure done in physical terms. While we were in our sins then, God made us alive in Christ and forgave our sins. So far, this is easy to understand, and wonderful to behold, full as it is with the love and mercy of a loving Father in heaven. It gets even better…
God cancelled the “written code” with its “regulations” that were “against us.” So not only have our sins been forgiven, not only have we been made alive in Christ, but the Law that condemned us has been ended; from now on it’s all about Christ.
God, in effect, nailed the old laws and rules to the cross with Christ and killed it. Christ rose from the grave, we rose with Him from baptism (2:12) and the written code remains in the grave… and there’s still more…
In doing this, God has “disarmed” the “powers and authorities” and triumphed over them at the cross. These “powers and authorities” are the very ones who accuse us. Even now they may try to accuse, but they have been defeated at the cross; the ballgame is really over! Our sins are forgiven, we are alive in Christ, and when they attempt to accuse, they are exposed for the liars they have always been, for there is no written code any more.
This is one of the great liberating facts of our Faith. Those accusers have no audience with God, for they have been humiliated by the cross. Who is the one who accuses? It is Satan, his allies and those who would do his bidding on the earth. What Jesus has done for us on the cross has rendered their accusations altogether irrelevant, and we need not be concerned with them ever again.
What a gracious and loving Heavenly Father we have− what a glorious Lord we follow!
There can be no doubt that we are indeed a blessed people.