Second danger & answer
5d. Baptised into Christ (1)
Christ lives in me Married to Christ The flesh crucified The world crucified Preaching Christ crucified
Continuing with the theme of the second danger of being carried off by men’s philosophies and vain (=empty) deceit after men's traditions. We note the following general observations.
Life without Christ is vain indeed. By rejecting Christ and His Gospel one is left to wander about in emptiness finding something to fill the void, but no matter what man looks for and invents nothing can truly fill that void. It is all vanity. Solomon throughout the book of Ecclesiastes shows us that life without God is the ultimate vanity of life. In it Solomon demonstrates that no matter what area of life one explores, without God it is all vanity. Men’s philosophies and vain deceit would fall into this category. Eccl.1:2
These philosophies etc. are after the rudiments of the world. In I Jn.2:16 we see what these rudiments are: the lust of the eyes; the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. Vain philosophy, indeed any false way, is always based on the rudiments of the world. Comparing this with the temptation in Eden (Gen.3:4-6) we can see that vain philosophy, where the aim is self-realisation, would fall into the category of ‘to make one wise’ - the pride of life.
It is worth reiterating that God’s answer to all this is that we are complete, or filled up, in Christ (who is the fullness of the Godhead bodily). All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ Col.2:3. Also we saw that Christ is the Power and Wisdom of God, and the Cross is the power of God. There is nothing outside of Christ that we need. The only true fulness of life is in Christ. (Jn.10:10) Hence we preach Christ Crucified. I Cor.1:18-2:2. We are complete in Him indeed.
Each of the four aspects of this answer to vain philosophy has to do with the cross. Having dealt with circumcision Paul now introduces the theme of being baptised into Christ, and its consequences. This is quite a common metaphor for salvation in the NT and so it is important to have a sound understanding of it.
In these verses we note that: it is by faith of the operation of God. That is, it is an inward and not an outward work, just as the circumcision made without hands is inward. This excludes its meaning as being water baptism. Just as physical circumcision is a symbol of the reality of heart circumcision so water baptism is a symbol of an inward baptism of God. Though, of course the former ritual has been abolished alongside the Old Covenant.
The language in our Colossian passage is similar to that of Eph.2. Ephesians was written at about the same time as Philippians, Colossians and Philemon, when Paul was imprisoned in Rome for the first time. The Ephesian passage above says that we were dead in sins and trespasses, and we are now made alive in Christ, and seated in heavenly places.
The language used is similar to that in Colossians. Buried WITH Him; Risen WITH Him; quickened together WITH Him. As we consider both scriptural quotes we note that the theme is the same. Once we were dead in sins and trespasses (Colossians adding the uncircumcision of the flesh, further emphasising the previous verses) but then something happened. We were quickened (=made alive) together with Christ, and raised us to be seated with Christ in the heavenlies. To put it in terms already considered: translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son Col.1:13.
Putting these thoughts together Paul starts off by saying we were dead in trespasses and sins and then we were buried with Him in Baptism, from which all else follows. The language is one of identification, and it this identification with the Lord Jesus that is the key to understanding this baptism.
We shall trace this thought through scripture, and then look briefly at some OT types that will give us a wider understanding of it and the implications for our lives.
First of all we shall need to see what Baptism is in the context of what scripture meant it to be. After which we will see the application to us.
Jesus was telling His disciples of His forthcoming crucifixion when two of them made an unusual request: to be so appointed that they could sit on Jesus' right and left hand. They wanted to be identified with Him in the glory! But Jesus' answer is very illuminating.
Jesus talked of having a baptism and a cup to drink with and the disciples will too drink of the same cup and be baptised with His baptism. They would indeed be identified with Jesus but not in the way that they were expecting!
In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus asked His Father that if possible the cup He was about to drink would pass from Him. Clearly He was talking of Calvary. This, together with the context of the passage in which two of the disciples made this strange request, leads us to conclude that this baptism and cup is the cross.
The cup in particular has a significant meaning in scripture. For example:
We see that in these scriptures, and indeed throughout the whole of the Bible, the cup is a metaphor for God's judgment. It is suggested that the reader traces for themselves this theme. So Jesus drank of the judgment of His father.
Jesus was made sin for us! In the Corinthian quote Paul makes it clear that Jesus identified Himself with our sinful condition so that we could be identified with Him in His righteousness.
Christ being made sin for us is the same type of language as used in the Day of Atonement ceremony as instructed in Lev.16. Two goats were taken, one was slain and its blood sprinkled. The other had hands laid on it to symbolise that the sins of the nation were laid on it, and then it was sent away into the wilderness, signifying that the nation’s sins were cast out. This second goat was ‘made’ sin, it was identified totally with the sins of the nation. Thus we have a picture of what Christ did on the cross. He was made sin and carried our sins into the wilderness.
That Isa. 53 speaks of Christ and His atoning sacrifice there is no doubt, for the Bible itself makes this clear cf. Acts 8:26-35. The Ethiopian Eunuch was reading Isa. 53 and wanted someone to explain of whom it was speaking. Phillip spoke to Him of Jesus! So scripture gives testimony that Isa. 53 is prophetic of the Lord Jesus.
The 53rd chapter in Isaiah is one of the cross. He was smitten of God, the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all, His soul an offering for sin. What could be clearer?
Yet there are many today denying these plain scriptural truths. Some deny that Jesus was a sin offering for us, but instead they come up with novel interpretations ignoring the Biblical witness. They explain such passages in ways contrary to scripture, but in line with their vain philosophy. Denying inerrancy they then are free to interpret the Bible in whatever way pleases their fleshly ideas.
Scripture is clear, God has spoken let those who dare tamper with holy writ be gone! Jesus bore the wrath of God for us and reconciled all those who truly put their trust in Him.
Jesus' death then was a total identification with our condition. He was made sin for us . By that death He bore the penalty for our sin and carried our sins far away never to be remembered anymore. If we are in Christ we no longer have to face the wrath of God.
It is this death, burial and resurrection that we are identified with. The question is: how? Jesus called His death and resurrection His baptism. He also says that we too would be baptised with it. It is not a physical death and burial but a spiritual one, but what and how? The answer is that we, too, must have a personal baptism. And it is to that we will turn to next.