Summary: God disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame by triumphing over them in Christ’s work at the cross.
Please turn in your Bibles to Colossians chapter 2. We’ll read verse 15 this morning as we continue in the letter to the Colossians.
This verse completes Paul’s paragraph in which he is helping the Colossian believers and us to understand all that we have in Christ; all that is true for those who have salvation by faith in Christ. This ‘gospel awareness’ is Paul’s primary strategy for protecting believers from false teaching that claims there is some other way to find hope and satisfaction outside of Christ.
We learned that God has given us everything for life and godliness in Christ, that he has taken away our old sin-enslaved self and given us a Spirit-regenerated and Spirit-empowered new self to love and serve God. That’s what God has done in us through Christ’s work on the cross. And he has also done two things for us.
We learned last week that he has forgiven us our sins by paying the debt we incurred by sinning against him. That debt is the obedience due him and which we have withheld from him every time we go our own way. Since we cannot pay that debt, since we cannot go back in time and do it over again or make up for it, the only way the debt can be cancelled is by the sin penalty being paid for the obedience that was withheld. That sin penalty is the wrath of God poured out on the sinner, the penalty paid by our Savior Jesus Christ on the cross.
Today we learn the second thing he did for us on the cross. It’s in verse 15. So let me read that sentence and then we’ll pray for the illumination of the Holy Spirit as we consider this text.
READ COLOSSIANS 2:15
He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame by triumphing over them in him.
This text is about the defeat of the power of spiritual beings who seek to harm us. And the title of this message is ‘Rulers Disarmed in the Death of Christ’.
Originally I was going to include verse 15 in last week’s message because there is a connection between this concept of the rulers being disarmed and our debt being cancelled. And we’ll see what that connection is this morning.
But the imagery and truth in this sentence from Paul is so rich that it seemed to call out for a full treatment on its own. This text is a great gospel truth that explains why we can follow the Lord with confidence and without fear in a world that is full of evil and evil spiritual beings. Though we are like sheep in the midst of wolves, we have a Shepherd who has snatched us out of the lion’s mouth.
I pray we will see that more clearly as we work through this text.
We’re going to answer three questions. Who are the rulers and authorities? How have they been disarmed? And where does that leave us?
So let’s begin with…
1. WHO ARE THE RULERS AND AUTHORITIES?
Well we can discover that by reading a similar statement that Paul made in Ephesians 6:12 where he expands on what those words mean. There he said,
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
The rulers and authorities are the cosmic powers over this present darkness. That is, they are the beings which have power over the kingdom or domain of darkness which we were told about in Colossians 1:13. That’s the kingdom that everyone belongs to because of their sin, unless they escape it by being delivered by God into the kingdom of his beloved Son Jesus. And that kingdom of darkness is ruled by spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
In various places, we are told who those evil rulers are. John said in 1 John 5:19 that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” Jesus called him “the ruler of this world” in John 12:31. In Revelation 20:2 he is called the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan. And he is accompanied by legions of angels who are also called demons. Therefore Jesus, in the parable of the sheep and the goats, speaks of the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41).
These are the rulers and authorities of Colossians 2:15.
And these rulers exercise their cosmic powers for their own purposes. Jesus told us what those purposes are. One good summary of those purposes is what Jesus said of the devil in John 10:10. He said the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. That is, his mission which the demons also take up with him is to steal glory from God, and to seek to kill and destroy those made in the image of God. This arises out of their rebellion against God.