Let us take a moment to pray before we think about God’s word:
Holy Spirit, come among us and soften our hearts to the word of God.
Holy Spirit, come among us and help us see the truths of Jesus and hear them for ourselves.
Come Holy Spirit now, we pray, with power and deep conviction, for we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.I wonder, do you ever feel like your faith has waned or diminished somehow? Maybe when you were a teen or a young person? Maybe when you took on a new role in church that was a real high point in your faith journey, but you know, maybe something’s happened and your faith has taken a knock it’s dropped, it’s dimmed, and maybe now you’re feeling less confident in your faith? And you know, if that’s you or someone that you know, it’s very similar to what Paul was feeling for the Colossians. Maybe even very similar to what the Colossian Christians were feeling themselves, because, in their case, Paul was afraid that other teachers, maybe especially Jewish teachers, would come in and try to influence the church, trying to undermine their confidence, their confidence in the faith and so, he writes now both to safeguard and strengthen that faith.
He begins by taking them back to the start of their faith journey. He writes in verse 6 ‘So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord.’ Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord and with those eight words, Paul has the heart of his letter. This is the central bit to the whole letter. It concludes what has kind of come before. It has been building up to this point but those eight words prepare for the rest of the letter too, and we can just so easily skip over them because we’re like ‘Oh well, we know that language. We know what that means and yet, in the first century, those eight words were radical. Those eight words were daring, dangerous words because, to claim Jesus as Lord, well that was to assert that no one else was God, no other God was God, and it was to transfer your allegiance to Jesus, above all other allegiances, including the Roman Emperor and that was dangerous to do back in the day. This was a claim that could get you ostracized from your family, from your local community. This was a claim that could get you arrested, even killed but, really, it’s the natural conclusion of all that Paul said before. Particularly Donald’s passage a couple of weeks ago in chapter one where we looked at the supremacy of Jesus. This one who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation and whom the fullness of God dwell. This is a natural conclusion that Jesus is Lord and so Paul is saying that to be a Christian is to have received Jesus as Lord, the Lord of your life. It’s to have transferred your allegiance to Him, above all other allegiances.
Now, we might say ‘Well, I’m a Christian because Jesus is my Savior.’ and that might well be true but true saving faith also includes transferring your allegiance to Jesus as Lord because, when we repent, we’re not simply saying sorry for things that we’ve done for our sin, we’re turning from that old way of life and we’re seeking to live a new way of life under the Lordship of Jesus, and that was part of Jesus’s teaching as well. He says in Matthew chapter 11 ‘Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.’ The rest of salvation, the rest that comes through knowing you’re forgiven and reconciled to God, but he goes on ‘Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.’ That language of the yoke and taking it upon you was a Rabbi’s way of saying my way of life, my teaching, take it upon you come under my authority, learn from me. It is coming to Jesus as Lord and so, you might know some knowledge about Jesus, you may even think well of Jesus, you might even say ‘Well, I’ve asked Jesus to forgive me’ but biblical faith, saving faith, includes receiving Jesus as Lord. That is central to being a Christian because, you know, even the demons believe that Jesus is God in the flesh, even demons believe that you can go to Jesus for forgiveness but they don’t receive Him as Lord.
So, can I ask you, have you, have you received Jesus as Lord? Have you transferred your allegiance to Him?
I’ve told my story of coming to faith on a number of occasions but a central part of that faith story is that I transferred my allegiance to Jesus. Up to that point, at the age of 19, I’d been pretty much living how I wanted to live. My way was the highway, and I just did what I wanted to do, and it hurt a lot of people along the way. Actually, it was a very selfish life but when I came to faith I realized not only did I need forgiveness, which I did and which I asked for, but I had to turn from that old way and I had to come under the Lordship of Jesus. Now, I didn’t know that language, I didn’t know that’s what I even really did, but looking back, that’s what happened. I came to transfer my allegiance to Jesus to see that He had to become my Lord and I had to live under His authority. can I ask you friends, have you come to that point, truly come to that point, where Jesus is more than just a nice guy, an old teacher, a figure of wisdom, he might even be someone you regard so highly? Because you can be forgiven through Him but if you come to know Him as Lord, true repentance includes that. So, can you say that, with the Colossians that you have received Jesus as Lord?
So, that’s what Paul begins this section by reminding them, of taking them back to the start of their faith journey, that they received Jesus as Lord and he does that because Paul is concerned for their spiritual welfare. He says in verse 8 ‘See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy.’ Paul is concerned for their spiritual welfare, He’s concerned that someone is going to take them captive through other teaching and the words there ‘take you captive’, the language there has echoes of the day of slave traders coming and taking off victims body and soul and taking them into a new way of life, a life that is no life really, and Paul doesn’t want that for them, he doesn’t want them to be taken away from the life they found in Jesus and taken into slavery and so as to safeguard and strengthen their faith in Jesus, Paul wants to give them confidence in Jesus and to build up their confidence in Jesus.
He gives them four reasons that they can have such confidence and his first reason is this – Have confidence in Jesus, because He is fully God. In verses 9 and 10 Paul says ‘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.’ So Paul’s concerned that some teachers are going to come along and they’re going to say ‘Well, if you want truthfulness, if you want to really know God, Jesus is not enough, you need to to do something else or you need to have something else or know something else or know someone else.’ But not so, says Paul, because in Jesus actually the deity, not just divinity, the deity lives in Jesus and that means that Jesus is not a demi-God, He’s not half-divine and half-human and nor does He simply have a human body within which is a divine spirit or mind ‘No, no, no.’ all the deity fully lives in Jesus. He is the sole human being who embodies the fullness of God and, as such, that means He’s the head over every power and authority. He is all authority over them. He is the Lord Almighty, the unopposed ruler. He is more powerful than any other. He is the Lord. To have confidence in Jesus, the one who is fully God.
Reason number two, have confidence in Jesus because you have been fully integrated into God’s family. You have been fully integrated into God’s family. He says in verse 11 ‘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.’ Now these verses can seem a bit odd, slightly out of place and pretty dense stuff as well, and it’s because of these verses and because of what Paul writes here that it seems likely Paul is concerned about Jewish teachers coming along to undermine the faith and confidence that Colossians have in Jesus otherwise, why would Paul go off on this tangent. And so, we need to remember first of all what circumcision was about. It was about being obedient to God’s covenant in the Old Testament and it signified that someone was part of the people of God. It was a sign, a way in, and so Paul is aware of this from the experience with the Galatians, that people might come along and say ‘Well, if you really want to belong to the people of God, if you really want to be saved, if you really want to be reconciled to God, then you need to have circumcision it’s not just enough to have faith in Jesus’ but Paul says otherwise. It says otherwise in just about all these letters and his argument here is that they actually, the Colossians and any Christian has been circumcised, already circumcised, and the only sense that really matters, a circumcision of the heart, not done by hand, a circumcision of the heart done by Jesus and what Paul means is this, that when you come to faith in Jesus and you put your faith in Him such that He becomes your Lord, not simply your Savior, but your Lord as well, that means you’ve submitted to the Lordship of Jesus, His rule in your life, you’ve transferred your allegiance to Jesus in the depths of your being, where it really matters, and that’s what circumcision was meant to facilitate and enable and represent That old circumcision was meant to represent that inner circumcision and so, Paul says your whole self, ruled by the flesh, ruled by sin that that old way of life where you were under the mastery of sin, that is not gone because you’ve been circumcised in the heart where it really matters and so at that point of repentance when Jesus became your savior and your Lord, you put off that old master and you receive Jesus as your new Master, your new King, your new Lord, and you transferred your allegiance to Him and that means you’re no longer an enemy of God. Chapter 1 verse 21 ‘Because you receive God and his lordship through Jesus in your life’ and that means you’re now part of His people and so you’re fully integrated into God’s people and that is represented and displayed and affirmed in baptism, particularly the baptism of immersion, is particularly helpful to portray this and so Paul writes in verse 12 ‘Having been back 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.’ So the idea here is that in the baptism of immersion where you go under the water to be baptized that that is a dying a picture of dying going underneath the ground that you’re buried with Christ, you’ve died to your old way of life, you’ve died to your other masters, and you’re rising to a new life in Jesus, to having Jesus as your Lord and submitting to Him. That’s what Paul is getting at here and so through these verses Paul is saying, have confidence in Jesus because you’re fully integrated into God’s people, you’ve had the true circumcision, the true circumcision of your heart, which the Old Testament physical circumcision was meant to point towards and help facilitate, that inner circumcision has happened and so you don’t need that other circumcision because your allegiance is now in Jesus who is God after all, and so you are part of the people of God and you can have confidence in Jesus.
Reason number three, have confidence in Jesus because you are fully forgiven. Paul says in verses 13 and 14 ‘When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ he forgave us all our sins having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness which stood against us and condemned us. He has taken it away nailing it to the cross’ and so Paul says that these Colossians, before they had faith in Jesus, were dead in their sins which every human being is before faith in Jesus, and in the uncircumcision of your flesh that that sin, your flesh, was your master in that previous state. You were dead, you were estranged from God, the source of life but then God made you alive and He made you alive by forgiving your sins by forgiving you fully through Jesus’ death on the cross. Now, the phrase in these verses where Paul says ‘the charge of our legal indebtedness’, that phrase, the charge of our legal indebtedness, that’s Paul’s shorthand here of referring to the Old Testament law. The Old Testament law would simply build up a list of things that we failed to do, a list of ways that we rebelled against God, ‘that we were enemies of God in our minds by our evil behavior’ Chapter 1 verse 21, and as such, the law simply put us under a doomed future, a curse, because we sin and we sin and we sin, and we send some more and all that means is that our future, the only future ahead of us, without receiving forgiveness, the only future that was ahead of us is eternal separation from God because of sin, but Paul is saying that now, through Jesus, you can have that debt taken away, not ripped up and forgotten about, but actually borne by Jesus on the cross. There it is nailed with Jesus and He dies our death, He bears the punishment of our sin. God can’t simply ignore it because He’s a holy, righteous God but, out of love, He dies in your place and in my place and if we put our faith in Jesus, we can be fully forgiven such that the law, the charge of our legal indebtedness has no charge against us now when we have faith in Jesus, when we belong to Him because we’re fully forgiven, we’re reconciled to God. Chapter 1 ‘and so let’s have confidence in Jesus because of his death on the cross.’
Reason number four, have confidence in Jesus because you are fully secure. Paul says in verse 15 ‘and having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them triumphing over them by the cross.’ Now there’s various references in this letter and in other letters of Paul’s to the spiritual forces to powers and authorities and it’s not exactly clear what Paul means by that language. Here he doesn’t really expand upon it overly much so it could refer to demonic powers, it could refer to foreign gods, it could simply refer to the Roman government even. Of course, it could refer to all three and whichever one, it is ultimately Paul’s point is still the same, that Jesus has disarmed these powers, Jesus has disarmed any embodiment of rebellion against God and so that means that Colossians, by having faith in Jesus, don’t need to fear these powers, they don’t need to submit to these powers. Again, they don’t need to try and appease these powers once more, rather they’ve to see that, in Jesus, they have the true God of true Gods, they have the Lord of all creation who, through his death, has won the final victory and such that one day His kingdom will be established and that will be all there is. So, have confidence in Jesus because you’re fully secure through Him.
Those are the four reasons that Paul gives to the Colossians. Reasons to have confidence in Jesus and I wonder friends, which reason do we need to take heed of today in our own life?
Do we need to have confidence that in Jesus? We have the one who is fully God, so why look elsewhere? Why look for faith and another God, or by another name? Simply come to Jesus.
Or do you need to have confidence that through Jesus you’re fully part of God’s family? So, why are you taking other steps to try and earn it, earn your way into God’s family, earn your status or your welcome in God’s family. You are part of God’s family.
Are you needing to have greater confidence in the forgiveness you have through Jesus? And so, you don’t need to look to your own solutions, you don’t need to try and appease God with your good behavior. Come to faith in Jesus and a confidence in what He’s achieved on the cross.
Or do you need to know that you’re fully secure in Jesus, that you don’t need to fear other powers, you don’t need to trust in other sources of security or salvation? Trust in Jesus, have confidence in Him, for in Him you’re fully secure.
Friends, where is it you need to grow in your confidence in Jesus today? Where is it you feel undermined? In these four areas of life, we can feel undermined by so much, so Paul exhorts us, as he exhorts the Colossians, to have confidence in Jesus and Jesus alone, because of these four ways.
And so, Paul has seen seeking to safeguard and strengthen the Colossians faith in Jesus as Lord and he gives those four reasons but actually, Paul said something else as well, something I skipped over just to help me structure this sermon.
In a useful manner Paul earlier on said this ‘So then, just as you receive 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.’ Paul doesn’t want to see this group of Christians just hang in there with a lukewarm or dry faith. His picture of the Christian life is not that someone comes to faith in Jesus and just hangs in there until the day they see Jesus’ face to face. No, no, Paul has a greater vision for the Christian life. He wants to see these Christians continue in Jesus, to continue exclusively in Jesus, to continue strong in Jesus, to continue in Jesus with thankfulness. That’s his heart and vision for these Christians and so he says ‘Continue to live your lives and him keep trusting in Jesus. Pursue Jesus with passion and with excitement, with overflowing with thankfulness because’ as he says you’re rooted in Him already, you’re rooted in Him when you received Him as Lord, you’ve become rooted in Him so now, be built up, don’t be undermined, don’t just hang in there, with the smallest amount of faith or knowledge or joy or passion, be built up, build on the foundation you have in Jesus Lord so that your strength, faith is strengthened and then you’re not taken captive by other false philosophies which are empty, which are dead, which don’t lead to life, don’t allow your allegiance to be transferred from Jesus to something or someone else keep your allegiance in Jesus and evidence that by continuing to live in Him and grow in your faith.
And don’t we need to hear this as well church? There is so much in life, whether it’s on social media, in the newspapers, and what we see on the TV and the demands of the marketplace to try and get us to buy different things. There is so much around us in our culture which seeks to draw our allegiance away from Jesus and give our allegiance to other things, to find our security, to find our salvation, to find hope and confidence and authority in other places rather than in Jesus. And you know friends, there are local groups, local institutions which you might even be a part of on a voluntary basis, which are seeking to lead you astray. They might even claim to be Christian in nature. They could even involve the Bible in certain ceremonies and rights, but you know, they might prevent you from mentioning the name of Jesus, they might bar you from mentioning His name in prayers or in other activities and meetings. And if that’s the case friends, if you’re part of a group that’s like that where the name of Jesus is banned then it’s seeking to draw you away, it’s undermining the authority of Jesus, it’s not encouraging you to have Jesus as your Lord, truly and so I caution you there.
But whether that applies to you or not friends, all of us at times can feel an emptiness in faith, even in life and all of us at times can have faith feel like it’s waning a little bit or that God seems more distant than He once was, there are times in all of our lives when our confidence in Jesus is undermined but the answer is not, it is not to go looking elsewhere. The answer is to seek Jesus, to pursue Him afresh, to continue in Him, to continue exclusively in Jesus and keep our allegiance to Him because, let’s remember these great promises of Jesus ‘Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, for everyone who asks receives, the one who seeks finds’ and then later in the same gospel He says ‘Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’
Friends, do you need to come to Jesus afresh today maybe this year? Do you need to come to Him, to find the rest of knowing God that you don’t need to look elsewhere? In Jesus, you have God in all His fullness so come to Jesus. Do you need to know the rest of being part of God’s people, His family through Jesus, that you’re safe and secure in Him for all eternity? Do you need to know the rest of being forgiven, of reconciled to God through Jesus death on the cross? Do you need to know the rest of being secure in Jesus that He has disarmed all powers and authorities? You don’t need to fear them. Have peace through Jesus and come to Him afresh today because friends, Paul exhorts us to continue in Jesus, to come to Jesus that we might have confidence, that we might overflow with thankfulness for all that we have in Him because, in Jesus, we have the one who’s fully God in Jesus, we are fully part of God’s people now and for all eternity, in Jesus we are forgiven, we are secure, so let’s continue confidently and thankfully in Him. I pray it may be so. Amen.
We close our service with our final hymn, How firm our foundation. We’re going to sing it to a different tune than we know it would normally but it’s a tune that should be well known to you. We sing together then, How firm a foundation.