Fulfilled in Christ Alone

Rob Green February 26, 2017 Colossians 2:8-23

→ Click to view the Sermon Outline

Colossians 1:9-10 - For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God…

 3 ways that we can be fulfilled in Christ Alone

I.  Beware that you do not accept false teaching of any kind (v. 8)

Colossians 1:8 - …and he also informed us of your love in the Spirit.

A. The origin of false teaching will be human tradition rather than God and Christ 

B. The content will not be consistent with the sufficiency, supremacy, and sovereignty of Christ

C. The motivation will serve self rather than Christ

II. Be confident in Christ and His Word in you (vv. 9-15)

A. Christ is fully God (v. 9)

Colossians 1:9 - For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form

Philippians 2:6-8 - …who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

B. Christ made you complete in Him (v. 10)

1. By making us a part of the people of God (v. 11)

Colossians 2:11 - …and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ

1 Peter 2:9-10 - But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

2. By making us spiritually alive (vv. 12-13a)

Colossians 2:12-13 - …having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him…

3. By forgiving our sin (v. 13b)

Colossians 2:13b - …having forgiven us all our transgressions…

4. By cancelling our debts (v. 14)

Colossians 2:14 - …having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

5. By giving us victory over our enemies

Colossians 2:15 - When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.

III. Embrace the freedom you have in Christ alone (vv. 16-23)

A. We have freedom from legalism (vv. 16-17, 20-22)

Colossians 2:16-17 - Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

Colossians 2:20-22 - If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men?

B. We have freedom from self-righteousness (vv. 18a, 23)

Colossians 2:18a - Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels…

Colossians 2:23 - These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.

C. We have freedom from mysticism (v. 18-19)

Colossians 2:18b-19 - …taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.

Outlined Manuscript

Two weeks ago, during the BCTC my schedule was full with not just teaching, but with meetings, eatings, and greetings.

  • The eatings portion of my day normally did not conclude until 9:30 pm.
  • One particular evening, I was having a delightful time engaging with people and I kept eating and eating and eating.
    • Then it was time for dessert. I was done … no more needed!
    • But the table was convinced that my wife (who was not with me) and I needed to have dessert when I got home. So at 10:00 we were each eating this massive dessert. Mind you …they were good. But after I finished I thought I was going to explode. I could see the headline in the paper. “Pastor explodes after conference guests encourage him to eat too much.”
    • I was completely and utterly fulfilled!

Do you know that God wants you to be completely and utterly fulfilled in your relationship with Jesus?

  • Do you know that God wants you to be so satisfied, so confident, and so comforted by Jesus that you do all things to please him?

That is one of the reasons our annual theme is “In Christ Alone.” We want everyone in our church absolutely convinced that satisfaction, confidence, comfort, and fulfillment is found in Christ. This morning our session is titled “Fulfilled in Christ Alone.”

With that in mind please turn in your Bibles to Colossians 2:8. That is on page ___ of the back section of the Bible in the chair in front of you.

As you are turning there, I would like to emphasize two things we have learned so far in Colossians.

  1. Paul is writing to a church that has accomplished many great things. This church has a reputation. He did not know them personally, but he knew them by their work. He heard of their faith (1:4), their love for one another because they understand the glories of heaven yet to come (1:4-5), and that they have love in the Holy Spirit (1:8). Not a bad reputation.

But Paul then prays … as he normally does in his letters … for something that is very important to that particular church. This is no generic prayer. This is a prayer addressing the needs that they have.

Colossians 1:9-10 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;

 

Paul wants them to understand God’s will with all spiritual wisdom and understanding.

  • Requests like these in the Bible are normally focused on the revealed will of God. He wants us, for example, to be sexually pure, to give thanks in all things, to live for the glory of Christ among others.
  • So Paul prays that the Colossians would be Word centered, obedient Christians. By focusing on Christ, all that he is and all that he does and all that he has done specifically for them, then they will please him in all respects.
  1. There were also false teachers. They were alive and active.

Enough of the church was following the false teachers that Paul decided to write about it. Let’s read the text. Colossians 2:8-23.

Not only are we going to study this text, but we also have the privilege of celebrating the Lord’s Table in our morning service today.

  • It is my goal that we leave this morning fulfilled in Christ. Almost like I was that evening … filled up to the max.

Let’s consider three ways that we can be fulfilled in Christ Alone.

I.  Beware that you do not accept false teaching of any kind (v. 8)

We have spoken several times about the false teaching or heresy present in the church. But nowhere in Scripture does anyone tell us exactly what that false teaching was.

  • Maybe one of the reasons is that false teaching would be present until the day Jesus returns.
  • Thus, God’s people reading God’s Word must be on guard against all false teaching regardless of its source. Thankfully, the Bible says some things about false teaching that really help us.

We can say that the prayer in Col 1:9-14 encourages people to move in the opposite direction as the false teaching. If you want to know what a NT book is about … read the prayer.

  • Paul almost always prays at the beginning of the letter and then explains further the issues raised in his prayer.
  • So whatever the heresy was it moved them away from being obedient to the will of God and whatever it was it moved them away from being pleasing to Christ.

From that description and from the wording of v. 8 we can surmise a series of tests. We need the tests because we need to beware! The phrase in v. 8 is “beware that you are not kidnapped.”

  • What happened to those girls from Delphi is horrible. We pray for God’s justice for those involved. We pray for healing for the parents, friends, classmates, and the entire town. Someone took those girls captive.

That is the kind of imagery used in the text. Pay attention … there are teachings that want to capture you.

  • As is often the case, false teaching does not say, “Come, listen to me so that I can destroy you.” False teaching is far more subtle.

How do we believers recognize it? How do we become aware of its presence? Sometimes, a teaching will pass one part of the test but fail miserably at the others.

  • Unless teaching can pass all three, it is false and we must not accept it.
  1. The origin of false teaching will be human tradition rather than God and Christ 

The language of the text is “according to the tradition of men.” Sometimes false teaching comes in the form of research. Sometimes it comes in the form of opinions. Sometimes it comes in the form of history.

The argument seems compelling. It seems to make logical sense. But the person never opens their Bible and proves the validity of their comments.

  1. The content will not be consistent with the sufficiency, supremacy, and sovereignty of Christ.

The language of v. 8 is that the content of this false teaching will be philosophy and empty deception. These words in the NT are pretty broad.

  • They function as umbrella terms for systems of thought and the implications of that system.

During the BCTC Phil and Robin Byars were speaking. Shortly after their daughter was killed there were people who encouraged them to curse God. Curse God for what the Lord allowed to happen to your daughter.

With power in his voice Phil said, “I will not curse God.” I don’t know what to do, I don’t know how to feel or what to think right this moment. But I know this … I will not curse God.

Do you see what he was doing? These were well intentioned people and yet Phil was able to run the words (the content) through the truth of Scripture that he already knew.

While Phil confessed that he did not know what he should be doing right now, he knew what he couldn’t do. Curse God … no way!

  • Cling to God … yes
  • Run in God’s direction … yes
  • Confess his hurts to God … yes
  • But Curse … that’s what Job’s wife wanted Job to do

False teaching gives itself away. Sometimes, the teaching does not come with an open Bible. Other times in comes in content that does not scream out Jesus.

  • It leaves people stuck in this sin cursed world rather than transporting them to the feet of the glorious savior who died for them.

False teaching gives itself away because sometimes it does not come from an open Bible, sometimes its content is not consistent with the supremacy, sufficiency, and sovereignty of Christ. Then, it gives itself away because …

  1. The motivation will serve self rather than Christ

According to the elementary principles rather than Christ is the language of v. 8. The elementary principles is a difficult subject. Some translations differ on the English words they put into the text. However, what is very clear is even the motivation behind such teaching is that we will receive the benefit.

Imagine completing these sentences …

  • I will be happy if _________”
  • I have a right to _____________”
  • I will earn favor from God and others if I ________”
  • I will be blessed if ____________”

Biblical motivation is about Christ. If he decides to grant us favor and blessing then that is his decision. If he wants to give us a particular thing then that is his decision. But what I do is put my focus on Christ.

False teaching does not come from an open Bible, with content straight from Scripture, and with our motives set on pleasing Christ. When those moments come … we must beware that we are not captured by that teaching.

Song … “All I have is Christ”

And it is awesome to have Christ!

II. Be confident in Christ and His Word in You (vv. 9-15)

I wish I had a whole sermon for this section by itself. Because it is loaded with awesome truth. You could camp here for an entire week.

The reason that you can be confident is …

  1. Christ is fully God (v. 9)

Colossians 1:9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form

If you have been attending an ABF then you know we have been working through the gospel of Mark. The first 8 chapters are dedicated to the question, who is Jesus? One answer, given in several different ways and different sections is Jesus is God. He is full deity in bodily form.

Philippians 2:6-8 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

We can happily sing All I have is Christ. Because it is in him that I have so many blessings.

  1. Christ Made You Complete in Him (v. 10)

Paul is doing something really clever here. Why is it that you would need to listen to false teaching that leads to focus on statements outside the Bible, that are not consistent with the Bible, and do not lift up the name of Christ?

  • You are already full!

That night during the BCTC, I did not need any more food. In fact, I did not even need breakfast the next day. I was complete … I was filled up.

Paul uses that idea to describe believers. We have all we need in Christ. In him, the fullness of deity dwells.

  • When I say things like “All I have is Christ” people should not feel sorry for me, they should be jealous! After all … notice what Christ offers.

The only thing I have is Christ … that sounds like bad news. All you have is Christ? But the reality is that when I have Christ … I have all that I need and more. From vv. 11-15 we see 5 ways that you and I are complete in Christ.

  1. By making us a part of the people of God (v. 11)

Colossians 2:11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ

In the OT, we know that physical circumcision was a sign that a male was a member of the covenant community of Israel. It was a big deal. In fact, circumcision is a practice that still occurs today because of the OT practice and the significance that it was for God’s people.

  • But beginning with Moses he spoke about a circumcision of the heart.
  • He recognized that it would be possible to have physical circumcision but never adopt the practices and concerns of the Lord.
    • He recognized that an outward behavior would never change the workings of the human heart. Only God could do that.

Paul uses that same imagery to remind us that one of the ways we have completeness in Christ is that he made us part of his people.

Peter would also write along this theme …

1 Peter 2:9-10 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

What better status symbol could we ask for? We were once not a people … but now you are the people of God. All you Bible scholars know that is from the book of Hosea.

  • Where the marriage of Hosea and Gomer was an illustration of the relationship between the Lord and the nation.
  • Peter selects that wording to celebrate what we have now in Christ. We are selected among the people of God because our hearts have been circumcised by Christ.
  1. By making us Spiritually Alive (vv. 12-13a)

Colossians 2:12-13 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him …

We know that we were once dead in our trespasses and sins. Yet, God through the work of the Holy Spirit made us alive together with Christ.

I understand that I am, in some ways, rebellious and hard-hearted before the Lord. There are areas that I do not want to change. So I can relate to that experience. But I also know this… I respond differently to the Lord’s word than some others.

There is a sensitivity, there is an alive and awake condition that not all people share. The Lord’s Word finds it way in my mind. Even if that word does not bear fruit immediately it is there. But some … the Lord’s word goes in one ear and out the other.

Friends, if you are struggling to relate to this experience. It may be that your heart has never experienced the circumcision of Christ. It might be that you have never been made alive together with Christ. It might be that you remain in your spiritually dead condition.

  • Can I please urge you to understand the significance of your sin?
  • Can I encourage you that the wages of sin is death?
  • Can I encourage you that there is an answer in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ?
  • I urge you to repent of your sin and trust in the finished work of Jesus for your salvation.

Not only has he made us part of the people of God, not only has he made us alive together with Christ, but also

  1. By forgiving our sin (v. 13b)

Colossians 2:13b having forgiven us all our transgressions

What a blessing to know that our sin is removed as far as the east is from the west. What a blessing to know that my sin has already been paid. So when I sing “All I have is Christ” it reminds me that I have forgiveness of my sin.

  1. By Cancelling our debts (v. 14)

Colossians 2:14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

I hate being in debt. The characteristic of debt is that debt is hostile to us. Man alive, is that true. If you are out of debt praise the Lord. May your tribe increase.

But when you have debt it is hostile. It says to you… you owe me … every month. It says to you … I own what you are driving. I own what you are living in. I own you.

  • That is why the Proverbs explain that the debtor is the lender’s slave.

I have to ask my mortgage company for permission … that is because I have to write them a check every month for a certain amount of money.

  • I am tired of writing them checks and asking them permission to buy, to invest, or to give.

Our sins put us in debt. We were in debt to a holy God for refusing to live a perfect life before him. We refused to follow his word and his commands and chose to do things for ourselves and that put us in debt.

  • The debt we owed was eternal punishment from a Holy and Angry at sin God!

Hallelujah … God be praised. He’s risen from the grave. Oh that rugged cross my salvation … now my soul cries out Hallelujah praise and honor unto the

The last way given in this section is …

  1. By giving us victory over our enemies

Colossians 2:15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.

We know that we have enemies. Satan and his host are opposed to all that is Christ and for Christ. But why are we complete? Why does our confession of Christ mean that we have everything we need and more?

Because God disarmed them and by virtue of the cross demonstrated that through Christ believers enjoy victory.

This table represents so much. We have a perfect passage to celebrate it. We see reasons why we should be confident … we are part of the people of God, we have been made spiritually alive, we have had our sins forgiven, we have had our debts erased, and we have been given victory. Praise the Lord.

Men, would you please come so we can celebrate the victory we have in Jesus through his sacrifice.

We practice what we call open communion. In this church, that means that you do not have to be a member to participate. Instead, you have to meet two basic requirements given in Scripture

(1) that you know that you are follower of Christ … if not, we would encourage you to let the elements pass by (no one will judge you) … and then talk to one of us about how you can become a follower of Jesus and

(2) that you have examined your life and looked for sin and disunity in the body. Scripture wants us to celebrate this in a worthy manner.

1 Cor 11:23 says, “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread;”

Person to my right … would you please return thanks for the body of the Lord.

Ushers will not return immediately.

and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

How can we be fulfilled in Christ? Just like my meal filled me to overflowing!

  • Beware not to accept false teaching of any kind. We know that false teaching violates one or more of the following standards: it does not come from God’s word, its content does not match Scripture, and it motivation is selfish.
  • Be Confident in Christ. If all I have is Christ I have a ton. A new community, a new life, a soul free from the power and penalty of sin, a debt that is paid, and an enemy that is vanquished.

Here is number 3.

III. Embrace the Freedom you have in Christ Alone (vv. 16-23)

Well … it seems that if your sin is paid and your debt is erased and your enemies have been vanquished that you would not have any more problems. But, we are a challenging people aren’t we? That is one reason why sometimes we create problems with one another. Sometimes we are the false teachers… not in the sense of teaching another gospel, but in the sense of assigning commands to God that he did not make.

The Lord was so gracious to give us the next section.

  1. We have freedom from legalism (vv. 16-17, 20-22)

      Colossians 2:16-17 Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

Colossians 2:20-22 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men?

We have reasons that we like or dislike something.

  • Some people are convinced that things like “forks over knives” or “Atkins” or whoever has the best approach to eating.
  • Some are very passionate about certain days of the week or of the year.
  • Some are really wound tight about certain types of beverages.

When we focus there, we are focusing on the shadow rather than the substance. We are wound up about the food, holiday, or beverage that is consumed. We all know that we only have so much time and attention.

So let’s devote it to Christ. If someone disagrees with you about how you do Christmas or Halloween or the 4th of July or someone gives an easter basket … then just relax.

  • Christ is the substance and that person has freedom to enjoy their festival, new moon, or Sabbath the way they chose.
  • They can eat kale to the glory of God and they can eat a steak to the glory of God.
  1. We have freedom from Self-Righteousness (vv. 18a, 23)

Colossians 2:18a Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels … 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.

Maybe a greater danger is that we decide that the concept of penance is a good one. We will feel righteous when we beat ourselves up enough.

  • Of course, the reformation leaders are screaming at us to learn from their mistakes. Martin Luther himself struggled until he rested in the righteousness available in Jesus.

There is no form of self-righteousness that is going to work. God designed the world against that idea.

  • He specifically designed the world so that if you think you can earn righteousness you will be constantly exhausted and exhausting to the people around you.

Let’s enjoy our freedom from that bondage.

  1. We have freedom from mysticism (v. 18-19)

Colossians 2:18b-19 taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.

Some people are all excited about what seems like really spiritual. They attempt to find hidden messages in all sorts of things. You saw a vision … ohhhh … you had a dream … ahhhh. 

These things are “inflated without cause in his own fleshly mind.” What a great comment. It seems that the Scripture encourages us to think carefully and some thoughts do not deserve much time in our mind.

  • Some things take our focus from the beauty and glory of Christ
  • We pay attention to the things that do not matter and we miss all that is of substance.

I really like the song called “Man of Sorrows.” I have been referencing part of the chorus.

Hallelujah … God be praised. He’s risen from the grave. Oh that rugged cross my salvation … where your blood poured out over me … now my soul cries out Hallelujah praise and honor unto thee.

Men, would you please come and serve us. As they are coming do you see how this (communion) fills us?

  • It is a celebration of what Christ did and it looks to his future return.
  • I can be filled up because Jesus gave his life. His body was broken and his blood was spilt for you and me.

1 Cor 11:25a In the same way He took the cup also after supper

Person to my left … would you please return thanks for the blood of the New Covenant shed by Christ.

Ushers will not return

1 Cor 11:25b-26 This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

Friends, this is an awesome passage. It is so full of truth and passion. It is truly wonderful! You can be fulfilled (filled up to overflowing) in Christ Alone!

Let’s stand together to pray and sing one final song “Christ is Risen” confessing the greatness of Christ.

Rob Green

B.S. - Engineering Physics, Ohio State University
M.Div. - Baptist Bible Seminary
Ph.D. - New Testament, Baptist Bible Seminary

Pastor Rob Green and his wife, Stephanie, joined the Faith staff in August, 2005.  Rob’s responsibilities include oversight of the Faith Biblical Counseling Ministry and teaching New Testament at the Faith Bible Seminary. He serves on the council board of the Biblical Counseling Coalition and as a fellow at the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.

Read Rob Green's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Green to Faith Church.