Week of Feb. 10: Full life in Christ
Week of February 10
Helen and Rev. Sam Rogers
Lesson Scripture: Colossians 2:6-15
Last week we learned there was some kind of teaching bringing confusion to the Christian walk for the Colossians. This week Paul begins to show how that teaching would lead the people away from Christ. This teaching is a threat to their salvation because other loyalties besides Jesus are competing for their allegiance.
There must be a connection between “talking the talk” and “walking the walk.” When Paul says, “as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him,” he is affirming what should be obvious, but what is evidently not obvious to the Colossians (or sometimes us!). If Jesus is your Lord, your identity as a person is completely determined by Him. Jesus Christ is not just one among many important factors in life. Everything we do and say is under the imperative of Christ’s lordship.
We are very prone to divide our lives into segments— career, family, friends, recreation, and church—rather than understanding how all of life is tied together by Christ. Paul uses three metaphors to stress how we are “rooted,” “built up,” and “strengthened” in Him, with the wonderful result of overflowing gratitude. Moreover, this living in Christ is not just a vague possibility, it is real. The consequence of receiving Jesus as Lord is to open the life of the believer to all the fullness and joy of living God created us to have in the beginning.
We do not just accept the message about Jesus as true, but we claim Him as a living reality within us (Gal. 2:20). Thus, Jesus living in us is not just a sermonic idea, but what being a Christian is. “What Would Jesus Do?” becomes far more than a bumper sticker; it is an honest question about each decision made in each circumstance.
Paul now warns how easily we are deceived by what we believe, which determines what we do. Like in Romans 12, he is warning the Colossians not to live by worldly standards. Here is where Paul is attacking the heresy undermining the church. Yes, the world can squeeze you into its mold. Yes, there are hollow and deceptive teachings that have and will tempt Christians to follow other “Christs,” but there is only One in whom the very fullness of God dwells. When the world says, “Show us God,” we answer as Jesus did Philip: “When you’ve seen me, you have seen the Father.” Jesus is the ultimate power and authority over all the powers of the world. The memory verse today is Col. 2:10. Read it in your Bible now!
Then, Paul introduces a powerful and new figure of speech for what happens when we become Christians. He speaks of a new kind of circumcision—one not done with human hands, but done by Christ himself! What is cut away in this circumcision is sin itself.
In Jewish practice, the male child was circumcised on the eighth day after birth as a sign of the covenant between God and Israel. In this covenant relationship, the people would be obedient to God by keeping God’s laws and ordinances, and God would be faithful to watch over and keep Israel. Paul immediately makes a connection between baptism and Israel’s ancient practice. As he describes being buried and raised with Christ, he reinforces the powerful picture enacted at the time of baptism.
Across 54 years of ministry in South Georgia, Sam has had persons requesting to be baptized by immersion. We United Methodists accept every mode of baptism. Without baptismal pools, he usually asked a Baptist minister friend to use their facility. Without exception, the minister always reminded him of what he was doing—the baptismal candidate was being buried and raised with Christ. Paul precisely describes the same experience in verses 11-12! Dead in our sins, we are buried with Christ. Like him in his glorious resurrection, we are raised to new life. Thus, baptism should never be treated as mere ceremony! (PLEASE NOTE: United Methodists offer baptism to infants in the same way Jewish boys were circumcised. The child is incorporated into the covenant family. However, this covenant must be personally affirmed at the time of Confirmation.)
Here is the heart of the good news and baptism becomes the constant reminder of who we are as children of the Father. Our new life is a gift of grace made possible by what Jesus did once at Calvary for all who believe.
In this experience of grace, a major change has been made in our relationship with God. Unlike the ancient Hebrews, we are freed from written codes. Dr. Jerry Sumney, the writer of the New International Lesson Annual, is right to correct the attitude that Paul is talking primarily about the Mosaic Code when he was writing to the Gentile Christians of Colosse. Jewish Law would have had little meaning to Gentiles. The proclamation in 2:14-15 is much broader than Jewish laws about the practices of diet, worship, and sacrifice.
The freedom of which Paul writes is the wonderful liberation coming from knowing that the past is completely forgiven, and we start afresh with God. This freshness is not just a one-time experience after our affirmation of “Jesus is Lord.” Each day in the relationship is a new day for living, loving and serving our God. All the “principalities and powers” of which Paul frequently speaks no longer have control over us. All our sins – past, present and future – are nailed to the cross of Christ. We can shout and sing with Dr. King, “Free at last, free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
Helen and Rev. Sam Rogers are a retired clergy couple. They can be reached at email@example.com.