Summary: The salvation we have in Jesus is pictured for us in symbols, is based on forgiveness made possible through his atoning death, and ultimately results in an altered universe.
Reality and Symbols of Reality
1. All of us know what it is like to search for something that is broken or wrong.
2. Perhaps your car won’t start: it is not the battery or alternator. What is it?
3. Somewhere you have a hole puncher; it is not with the stapler, ruler, and office supplies. Where?
4. You took something apart, repaired it, and put it back together. But you have some extra parts left over. Where do they go?
5. Your stomach is not right. Not your gall bladder; they have ruled out an ulcer. What could it be?
6. We spend lots of time, energy, and money in our attempt to solve mysteries.
7. The errors Paul was combatting in Colossians are a mystery. We can only take our best guess.
8. What was the Colossian heresy? Or were there several? Perhaps a proto-gnosticism that said the body was evil but the spirit good. This belief took two directions. Some said, because the body is evil and spirit good, it doesn’t really matter what you do in life because only at death will the spirit be released from the body, so live it up. The other viewpoint suggested that, because the body was evil, we should strictly discipline it to develop our spiritual nature now.
Biblical faith says neither of the above. The body and soul are both created as good, but both have been messed up because of the curse that came about when our first parents sinned. The problem is not our bodies, per se, but the evil inclination we call the flesh or sin nature. The good inclination — what we call the spirit — is intensified through the new birth.
Main Idea: The salvation we have in Jesus is pictured for us in symbols, is based on forgiveness made possible through his atoning death, and ultimately results in an altered universe.
I. The SYMBOLS of Salvation (11-12)
We must assume that the false teachers adopted a mechanical view of rituals, that altering physical things could effect spiritual changes. Paul demonstrates, however, that physical rites foreshadow or remind us of spiritual realities, they do not create them. A war of rituals is taking place here.
A. CIRCUMCISION (11)
1. Symbolizes the new BIRTH (regeneration)
2. Symbolizes the work of Jesus on the CROSS
According to Ex. iv. 24-26, the circumcision of the first-born son was omitted by Moses, and the Lord therefore "sought to kill him"; whereupon "Zipporah took a flint and cut off the foreskin of her son, and made it touch [A. V., "cast it at"] his [Moses'] feet," saying, "A bridegroom of blood art thou to me." Thus Moses was ransomed by the blood of his son's circumcision. [Jewish Encyclopedia.com]
3. Symbolizes saying “no” to the FLESH (sinful nature)
B. BAPTISM (12)
1. Our BURIAL with Jesus
2. Our RESURRECTION with Jesus
The proto-gnostics may have portrayed the body as a tomb from which we must escape, but Paul says that Christ already provided for our resurrection and we begin experiencing a spiritual resurrection when we come to Jesus, as portrayed by the Christian initiation rite of baptism…[ideas from Keener]
3. The actuality of all these truths is realized by FAITH
C. Temptation: To make salvation MECHANICAL and confuse symbols with what is symbolized
The salvation we have in Jesus is pictured for us in symbols, is based on forgiveness made possible through his atoning death, and ultimately results in an altered universe.
II. The BASIS of Forgiveness (13-14)
A. God makes we who were spiritually dead ALIVE with Jesus
1. About one half of the verses in Ephesians are also found in Colossians in very similar language.
2. The detailed exposition of this process is found in Ephesians 2:1-10
B. God forgives our SIN
C. He does so because Jesus legally paid our DEBT
1. This refers to I.O.U’s. Every time we sin, we owe God (sins = debts); the Law makes sin clear
2. Jews believed sins blotted, repented in prep for Yom Kippur…but really when Jesus died [paraphrased from Keener, IVP Bible Background Commentary]
3. Jesus is a redeemer; he is not merely a philosopher or enlightened man, but a redeemer; those who do not see the need for redemption try to turn Jesus into some sort of guru or peacenik.
D. So much anguish over GUILT
If people could be freed from guilt, the course of the world would change dramatically. People expend great effort to suppress guilt, and they try to change society so that society says what they are doing is not wrong, or, if it is wrong, it is justifiable. People drown themselves in alcohol or drugs or any of a variety of addictions to escape the pangs of conscience. The best well to deal with guilt is forgiveness and cleansing through Jesus Christ.