2018-10-28 Jesus Is Enough

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          October 28, 2018

“Jesus Is Enough”
Colossians 2:11-15

We find ourselves, in our series through Colossians, in the prime occasion for the letter—the refutation of the Colossian heresy.  The way we resist the elements of that heresy (one of which we see today)—and those of our day—is by making much of Christ.  We do this along the lines advocated in Colossians: by espousing a high Christology (especially 1:15-23), by being rooted and built up in Jesus Christ (2:6-7), and by avoiding human “wisdom” divorced from God’s revelation of Himself in His Word, the Bible (2:8-10).  Today, as we examine Colossians 2:11-15, we see that Jesus is enough.  Let us hear that portion of God’s Word read and expounded in this place today.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

Today, as we come to the final section of the Greek paragraph which began at verse six, we read that, in Christ, we were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands.  This, on first hearing, is a curious assertion in view of what preceded it, but this remark fits well here when we consider that Jewish-background legalists[1] made such an assertion necessary.  Recall the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 (ca. A. D. 49).  There some Christians argued that Gentile converts must also observe the Law of Moses—right down to circumcision of every male.  These Christians advocated, hence, faith in Jesus plus something else.  Happily, the Council, under the Spirit’s leadership, ruled against such Judaizing Christians.  External circumcision no longer is required for the covenant people of God.

Paul uses circumcision here figuratively to denote the removal of our flesh—that is, the removal of our sinful nature (Greek sarx [sarx]).  This sinful nature, after our conversion to Christ, continues living and raging in our lives—yet it is reckoned dead in Christ, and it weakens over time as we utilize the means of grace.  The Spirit of the living God, then, mortifies (puts to death) our flesh and vivifies (makes live) our souls.  This is true increasingly in this life until its fullness in the life yet to come.

This circumcision not made with hands, this off-putting of the flesh, God symbolizes by baptism.  In baptism, by virtue of our union with Christ Jesus, we are buried with Him.  That is, we are identified with Him in His death.  Also, in baptism, again by virtue of our union with Christ, we are raised to life—and that by the same powerful working of God that raised God incarnate, Jesus Christ, from the dead.  We are identified with Him in His life—His eternal, indestructible life.  Because Jesus has tasted of death to the full, we who are in Him shall not taste of eternal death.  Because Jesus is raised from the dead, eternal life is assured for all who are in Him.

Paul, led by the Spirit, now enlarges upon us being alive in Christ.  Formerly we were uncircumcised in heart—we were dead in trespasses (cf. Ephesians 2:1).  This condition is no mere spiritual infirmity—and mild at that.  We were spiritually dead—without hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:3).  To us in Christ who were in such a state, God made us alive in His Son.  Again, because Jesus lives, we live also (cf. John 14:19).

Now flow several precious ministries to our souls by virtue of being made alive in Christ.  First, He forgives our sin.  The implication of the Greek verb forgive (charidzomai [carizomai]) is good will on God’s part.  God’s forgiveness unto us, then, comes not in grudging manner, but with infinite good will from God to us.  Second, He cancels our record of debt, with its legal demands.  Jesus satisfies our sin debt Himself, and that in full, via His atoning work on the Cross.  He also satisfies the Law’s demands on our behalf via His active and passive obedience.  By active obedience we mean Jesus’ perfect fulfillment of the moral law in every way.[2]  By passive obedience we mean Jesus’ submission unto death upon the Cross.  Third, Jesus defeats rulers and authorities in our stead.  He defeated these non-corporeal beings that would work woe upon our souls by disarming them and disgracing them.  They are rendered harmless against us, and they are put to shame in the Person and work of Jesus Christ.  Indeed, what precious ministries flow from the benefits of the atoning work of Christ unto our needy souls—as effectually applied by the Holy Spirit.

In view of what we heard today—in view of the staggering good that Jesus’ atonement works for our souls—beware anyone who would have you add anything to Jesus for salvation.  The things that folks would add tend to fall into two groups.  The first group is good works.  The Roman church made this error at the time of the Protestant Reformation by asserting that good works somehow contributed to our salvation.  In light of Scripture, however, good works are not salvific in themselves; when done in Christ, though, they display that salvation has come).  Let us do good unto all, especially those of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10)—but let us not trust in those works for salvation.  Rather, let us trust only in the Person and work of Jesus to save us.

The second group is shunning evils.  It is a temptation within Christian circles that take Christian morality and personal holiness seriously to consider shunning (certain) evils somewhat meritorious for our souls.  Hence, we substitute abstinence from substance abuse, sexual sin, and entertainment vices for faith alone in Christ alone—or, at least, feel a strong temptation so to do.  Again, these are not salvific in themselves; when done in Christ, though, they display that salvation has come.  To think these things save displays a legalistic bent that needs remedy before the throne of grace.

Wednesday is October 31—Reformation Day.  Remember the Reformation cry this week, and always, Solus Christus—Christ alone.  Jesus is enough.  AMEN.

[1] These folk, of some threat to the Colossian church, were of considerable threat to the Galatian church.

[2] I continue to be struck by the final telegram ever sent by that great Presbyterian New Testament scholar, J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937): “Active obedience of Christ.  No hope without it.”

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