Colossians 2:11-23

Dr. Steve Viars October 22, 1994 Colossians 2:11-23

- we've been working our way through the book of Colossians

- the theme that Paul emphasizes over and over is the pre-eminence of
  Jesus Christ
   - these are relatively young believers whom Paul has never met
   - and their faith is threatened because there is a group of false
       teachers who in a number of different ways are undermining the
       sufficiency of the blood of Christ, and the person of Christ, and
       the work of Christ.

- we've been saying that this book is "tailor-made" for our day and age.
   - there are all sorts of ways that the pre-eminence of Christ is under
      attack today
        - and we've been talking about those as we've gone through the

- our goal today is to finish up chapter 2, which is the conclusion of
   the argument Paul has been drawing throughout the chapter (and in some
   ways throughout the book).
    - I might mention that beginning next week, Lord willing, we're going
       to look at chapter 3 where Paul moves in to the practical
       applications of these truths to various areas of life.

- last week we ended on chapter 2, verse 10 - READ (another one of the
   great verses on the theme of this book)

- this morning, we're going to study the rest of this chapter where Paul
   makes the argument that:
     Because You're Complete In Him, Don't Be Intimidated!

- Picture this morning:

  1) Suppose someone came to you and said that you're not really
     spiritual (or perhaps you're not even saved) if you don't keep one
     of their man-made standards.
      - perhaps it is observing a particular holy day
      - eating or not eating a certain thing
      - having a certain length of hair
      - wearing a certain thing

         - suppose when you press them they have no biblical
           justification for what they are saying at all--yet they are
           legalistically seeking to impose that standard on you as a
           test of your spirituality, or perhaps your salvation...
             - what would be wrong with them doing it?
             - and what would be wrong with you letting them do it?

- now switch the picture:

  2) Suppose someone tells you that even though you're saved, you have
      really experienced all their is unless you've have some para-normal
         - where you've spoken in tongues
         - or you've had a vision
         - or you've found access to knowledge apart from the Bible

           - what would be wrong with them saying that?
           - what would be wrong with you being intimidated by it?
3) Or, suppose someone tells you that you ought not to live so
      - you ought not to drive a car
      - you ought not to have a washing machine
      - you ought not use modern conveniences
           - that if you were really spiritual, you'd live, dress, and
               act like some sort of a hermit.

               - what would be wrong with them saying that?
               - what would be wrong with you being intimidated by it?

- with those thoughts in mind, let's read 2:11-23

I. Recognize The Effects Of Being In Christ

    - verses 11-15 are a development (expansion) of 2:10
    - Paul is going to give 5 ways that believers are complete in Christ.

    A. Cleansed - v. 11

        - God instituted circumcision in the OT to be a picture.
           - it was never a means of salvation--salvation in both the OT
              and the NT is by faith.

        - circumcision was instituted by God to picture the sinfulness of
           man and his need for cleansing.
        - because that’s true, many of the OT writers used circumcision as
            a picture of spiritual realities.

            - cf. Deut. 10:16, 30:6

        - that same theme carried over in the NT:

             1) Acts 7:51 - Stephen accused the Sanhedrin as being "men
                  who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart."

             2) Romans 2:9 - But he is a Jew, who is one inwardly, and
                 circumcision is that of the heart.

        - Paul is obviously talking about circumcision in a spiritual
           sense in this passage
            - INPUT - how do we know that?  (circumcision without hands)

    - the point Paul is making is that -- in Christ, believers are
       cleansed and set free from the slavery to sin.

- that’s why the verse goes to say, "in putting off the body of sins of
    the flesh."

    - that verse is very much like Rom. 6:6 - the old man is crucified,
       that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should
       not serve sin.

    - so one of the great benefits of being saved (being "in Him" - v.
        10, v. 9) is that we no longer have to sin.
         - we've been set free from the slavery to sin.

- of course Paul used this particular image of circumcision in a
   spiritual sense to combat the false teachers who were saying that
   literal circumcision was necessary for salvation.

- we'll talk more about why that's wrong in a moment:
- Paul makes a very similar point at the beginning of verse 13:

    B. Died to sin - v. 12

       - Paul says that "we're buried with Christ in baptism"

       - now we know that that’s not talking about water baptism.
         - if it was, Paul would be trading one wrong kind of salvation
             by works (circumcision) for another (water baptism).

         - the Scripture teaches that when a person is saved, they are
            baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ (the church)
             - part of that baptism is our identification with his death

         - we've died to sin and to self.

         - a good verse to go along with this is I Cor. 12:13 - For by
            one Spirit are we all baptized into one body.

    C. Raised to new life - v. 13

        - change in the Bible is always two-factored
        - when a person dies to sin and self, they are raised to new life
           in Christ.

        - Paul will develop this idea more in chapter 3
        - he's also mentioned it earlier in 1:27 - when he spoke about
           "Christ in you, the hope of glory."

        - this is a blessed truth that comforts and motivates us in our
           service and growth
             - cf. Phil. 4:13 - I can do all through Christ that
                 strengtheneth me.

             - cf. Gal. 2:20

    D. Forgiven - v. 13 - 14

        - at the end of verse 13, Paul adds that in Christ, we are all
        - of course each one of these ideas deserves fuller treatment,
           but Paul is wanting the Colossians to think about all the
           great benefits they have in Christ.

        - the handwriting of ordinances is speaking about the law, which
           always condemned us and showed us our guilt.
- Paul uses a graphic image when he says that all of that was "nailed to
   the cross"
   - the blood of Christ was sufficient to cover all their guilt.

    E. Overcame the adversary - v. 15

        - verse 15

- the point of all of this is that Paul wants them to see that in Christ
   they have complete salvation.

    - we've been cleansed, we've died to sin, we've been raised to a new
      life, we've been forgiven, the adversary has been overcome

- we have complete salvation
   - that means we ought to have complete hope
   - that means we can progressively be achieving victory

   - of course that ought to produce a devotion to Christ--because we are
       complete in Him.

- that idea is emphasized all over the Scripture

    - John 1:16
    - II Cor. 3:5

- even though that’s true--it's equally true that you and I will have all
   sorts of persons and groups of persons doing whatever they can to draw
   us away from this conviction.

    - II Cor. 11:3 - READ and comment

- that’s exactly the point that Paul goes on to make to the Colossians
- he's going to list three ways that the false teachers are trying to
   undermine their belief in the sufficiency of Christ
     - and they correspond to the three examples I used at the beginning
        of the lesson.

     - now each one of these groups deserves fuller treatment, but I'm
       going to try to summarize them quickly and draw some important

II. Don't Be Intimidated By Those Who Would Say Otherwise

    A. Legalists - v. 16-17

        - read 16-17

        - some of the false teachers had adopted all sorts of legalistic
           rules about what Christians were supposed to eat, and drink,
           and what they were supposed to do on certain days

        - now a person has a right to decide what he or she is going to
          eat, drink, wear, do on certain days, etc.
            - but that becomes wrong when that person tries to impose
               on others as a test of salvation or spirituality.

            - that’s legalism--and Paul was constantly fighting those who
               wanted to add rules and laws to go along with faith in

         - now we need to be quick to say that an equally insidious
            heresy is antinomianism (no law)
             - where there is to place for obedience to the Scriptures,
                biblical standards.

         - we also need to say that there is nothing wrong with a family
            or a church -- having some rules of the house
             - where we would say that we've decided it's best for us to
               live in this particular way as long as we're part of this
               family, or of this church.

             - it's important, though, that we make a clear distinction
               between "rules of the house" and clear objective biblical

- the overall point is--that the false teachers had set up a system of
  rules and in so doing, they had undermined the pre-eminence of Christ.
    - salvation comes through trusting Him, not through adhering to man-
       made rules.

    B. Mysticism

        - read verses 18-19

        - these false teachers also promoted angel worship, and other
            forms of mystical experiences
        - their view was, "you haven't had anything yet" until you've had
           some spooky experience.

        - of course, that too, is the order of the day.
        - Knowing God through the Scripture is passe'
        - learning how to live for God and solve the problems of life
           through the Scripture is passe'.

        - people today want to tell you about their experience.
           - they want to tell you what God told them directly (even
              though usually what God supposed told them contradicts his

        - or they want to talk about the special access they have to
           knowledge outside of the Scripture.

        - it's very important to note that people who talk mystically may
           sound super-spiritual--or super pious
              - but actually that kind of business is the exact opposite

              - God has said all He's going to say to us in His Son and
                His Word
                  - and any attempt to add to that is undermining the
                        sufficiency of Christ.

(if time - illustrate with letter to pastors from hospital on domestic
  violence//why do we do what we do conference
    -- quote Melody Beattie - Codependency No More

- Paul also mentions:

    C. Asceticism

        - read 20-23

        - these are people who want to prove their spirituality (or in
           many cases earn their salvation) by self-deprivation.

        - there are examples of this all through history.

             1) Anthony, the founder of monasticism, is said to have
                 never changed his vest or washed his feet.
                   - supposedly, that was spiritual

             2) Simeon Stylites spent the last 36 years of his life
                  perched on a 50 foot pillar.
                    - supposedly, by avoiding the pleasures and
                       influences of the world, he would be more

        - there are many contemporary examples, as well, of people even
          here in our community who might try to impose that on you or me
          as test of spirituality or even salvation.

- Paul's point all through this chapter is -- Don't be intimidated by
    - not just, don't do that to someone else
    - but, don't allow someone else to do that to you.

    - there are always going to be those who are going to want to draw
      you away from your simple devotion to Christ (II Cor. 11:3)
        - that’s why you and must be convinced about this matter of the
            preeminence of our Saviour

III. Why Shouldn't We Be Intimidated?

    A. Takes the emphasis off Christ's blood

        - legalism is a form of works righteousness
        - any forms of works righteousness is an attack on the
            sufficiency of the blood of Christ

    B. Takes the emphasis off Christ's glory

        - these three systems all take the glory from Christ and put them
           on man.

    C. Takes the emphasis off Christ's sufficiency

        - the cry of the day is "we need something more"

IV. What Will Happen To Those Who Do?

    - what about those who are intimidated by those who fit one or more
       of the categories we've studied?

    A. Love for the brethren is lost

       - legalistic people are often very unloving

    B. Energy wasted in constant bickering over rules

        - legalistic people are often engaged in fighting over
          picky/minor issues, while a world dies and goes to hell around

    C. Doctrinal deviations

        - if mysticism is your standard, there's no telling what false
           doctrine you could come up with.

    D. Hindrance to evangelism

        - we ought to be zealous about obeying the Scriptures
        - we must be sure, in evangelism, that we clearly explain what it
           means to trust Jesus Christ as Lord

           - but adding all sorts of extra-biblical rules/standards will
               needlessly drive unbelievers away.

Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

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