… And ye are complete in him…Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses…
C8.1 Empty tradition
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
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.
C8.2 Together with Christ
In these verses in Colossians we note that it is by faith of the operation of God that we are baptised into Christ’s death and resurrection life. That is, this baptism 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.
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
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.
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.
C8.3 Christ’s baptism
And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again. Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.
And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.
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 too will 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 it were possible the cup He was about to drink would pass from Him. 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:
But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another. For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is full of mixture; and he poureth out of the same: but the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them.
Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem, which hast drunk at the hand of the LORD the cup of his fury; thou hast drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling, and wrung them out.
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.
For He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us alI He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare His generation? for He was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And He made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death; because He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief: when thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied: by His knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong; because He hath poured out His soul unto death: and He was numbered with the transgressors; and He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
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 abundantly clear . 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.
C8.4 Buried and raised
After His death He was buried and three days later raised from the dead.
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
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.