6So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, 7rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. 8See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. 9For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. 11In Him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ,12having been buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him through your faith in the power of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
The Christian life is characterised by faith in Christ, freedom in Christ and fullness in Christ. But how do we receive these things? It is all through the power of the cross.
Before coming to faith in Jesus Christ we had three major problems that kept us from God: our sinful nature, the law and satan. Our sinful nature made us desire sin and choose sin over God. The law showed us our sin and brought us condemnation. And satan was our tempter and accuser, both tempting us to sin and then accusing us before God when we gave in to temptation to sin. We were under the power of our sinful nature, the power of the law and the power of satan, and it is these things from which we needed deliverance.
Fortunately there is a greater power than the power of our sinful nature, the law or satan. And that greater power is the power of the cross. That’s what our passage in Colossians is all about this morning: the power of the cross to free you from those three major obstacles that kept you from God: sin, law and satan. We’ll look at each of those this morning.
Firstly, how does the power of the cross to free you from sin? If you are a Christian, you have been freed from sin by receiving new life in Christ. Paul uses two religious symbols to teach us this truth – those of circumcision and baptism. We must understand though that this freedom is only symbolised by circumcision and baptism. No religious ritual has power on its own. These are symbols or pictures of a deeper reality.
Verse 11 of Colossians 2 says, “In Him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ.” Jesus is central to the Christian life, and we cannot live the Christian life apart from Him.
But what does it mean that we were circumcised in Christ? Circumcision was the sign of the covenant for the Jews, but the Colossian Church was a mixture of Jews and Gentiles, which means that many of them were not circumcised.
Paul spent a lot of his time teaching that Gentile converts to the Christian faith did not need to be circumcised first, and that faith in Christ was all this was needed.
So what is this circumcision in verse 11? Paul is not talking about physical circumcision here, but rather spiritual circumcision. Physical circumcision was only a symbol pointing to the deeper reality of commitment to God.
Even the Old Testament distinguished between physical and spiritual circumcision – between circumcision of the body and circumcision of the heart. Deuteronomy 10:16 says, “Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer.” And Jeremiah 4:4, “Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, circumcise your hearts, you men of Judah and people of Jerusalem.”
Even though the people were told to circumcise their hearts, the Bible also teaches us that this is something that really only God can do. This is what Moses meant when he wrote in Deuteronomy 30:6: “The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.”
We are freed from sin by new life in Christ, and here in Deuteronomy we are told that God will perform this spiritual circumcision of the heart so that we will live. Sin brings death, but spiritual circumcision from God brings life.
And so physical circumcision was only a sign of a deeper reality. Without circumcision of the heart, physical circumcision had no value. As Paul writes in Romans 2:28-29, “A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.”
Paul makes it clear that true spiritual circumcision of the heart is accomplished by God, not by man. True circumcision is circumcision of the heart by the Spirit of God. So what is this spiritual circumcision that Paul is talking about in Colossians?
We need to remember that we don’t become sinners because we commit sins. It’s actually the other way around and a much deeper-rooted problem than that. We are first and foremost sinners, which is why we commit sins.
We are all born with a sinful nature that makes us desire sin and makes us slaves to sin. But in Christ you have been set free. The sinful nature has been cut off. Jesus’ death on the cross overcame the power of sin in our lives. This was a spiritual circumcision not done by the hands of man.
Spiritual circumcision means that through the power of the cross your sinful nature has been cut off and it no longer has power over you. Of course, Christians do still fall into sin, because it is only when we are finally in glory that the sinful nature will be completely destroyed, but for now, in Christ, you have a new spiritual nature that seeks after God and desires true righteousness and holiness.
Paul then goes on to talk about baptism.
Baptism symbolises your identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. Paul writes in Romans 6:4-7, “We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin, because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.”
This is quite similar to the picture that Paul referred to when speaking about circumcision. Spiritual circumcision was the putting off of the sinful nature. Here we are crucified with Christ so that the whole body of sin might be done away with.
Once again, baptism symbolises your identification with Jesus in His death, burial and resurrection. When you put your faith in Christ, you are united to Him by faith. That simply means that whatever happened to Jesus also happened to you. Jesus died which means you died with Him. Jesus was buried which means you were buried with Him. Jesus rose from the dead which means you were raised with Him.
That is the power of the cross. If you are united to Jesus Christ by faith, then you died with Him at the cross, and anyone who has died has been freed from sin.
In Colossians 2:13 Paul writes, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.” You were dead in your sins. Your problem wasn’t that you sinned here and there. You were spiritually dead. You didn’t need a new direction. You needed a new creation. You were spiritually dead, separated from God, dead to holiness and righteousness. The wages of sin is death, and you deserved to die.
Many people ask the question, is there life after death? The real question is this: Is there life after birth? The point is that at birth we may be alive physically, but we are born spiritually dad. The good news of the gospel is there is life after birth, because by God’s grace you are given new life in Christ.
And it is all by God’s grace.
Living the Christ-centred life does not mean turning over a new leaf and trying harder. The Gospel is not about trying to be a good person. The Gospel is about receiving a whole new live, and we receive that new life when we are united with Jesus by putting our faith and trust in His death, burial and resurrection. That’s the power of the cross. You have been freed from sin by receiving new life in Christ.
Secondly, the power of the cross frees us from the power of the law.
We have not only been freed from sin, but from the law. You were freed from sin by receiving new life in Christ, and you have been freed from the law by the forgiveness of your sins. Colossians 2:13-14 says, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross.”
God has forgiven us for all our sins. Not just some of them. Not just part of them, but all of them. We don’t deserve God’s forgiveness, and we certainly could never have earned it on our own. But God, in His grace, forgave us all our sins.
In Christ, He has cancelled the debt we owe. That’s what the first part of verse 14 means. “Having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us.”
The law spells out our obligations to God – obligations which we have not met and which we cannot meet on our own.
Galatians 3:10 says, “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’” We owe God obedience to His law and we have failed. And so instead of a blessing we were under a curse.
But those who come to Jesus know the blessing of having their debt cancelled. Psalm 32:1-2 says, “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him.” The debt of sin cancelled was by Jesus Christ at the cross.
And the news gets better. Jesus not only cancelled our debt to the law, but He also took away the law as a condemning force in our lives.
That’s what the rest of verse 14 says: “He took it away, nailing it to the cross.” When Jesus died at the cross, the condemning force of the law died with Him.
One commentator wrote that God not only removed the debt, but He also destroyed the document on which it was recorded. Just like the charges against Jesus were nailed to the cross, so the charges against us were nailed there and died with Him.
When you put your faith in Him, you are freed from the law because the law no longer has any power to condemn you. Paul writes in Romans 6:14, “You are not under law, but under grace.” And in Romans 8:1-2, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”
That is the power of the cross. You have been freed from the law by the forgiveness of your sins.
You have been freed from sin by receiving new life in Christ, you have been freed from the law by the forgiveness of your sins, and thirdly, you have been freed from satan by Jesus’ defeat of all the spiritual forces of evil.
Verse 15: “Having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”
The cross not only brought you freedom from sin and the law. It also brought you freedom from satan.
At the cross Jesus disarmed the powers and authorities. A soldier who is disarmed is powerless. Hebrews 2:14 explains it like this: “Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death - that is, the devil.”
When Jesus died on the cross, satan was defeated and all his spiritual forces were disarmed. Had they known what was coming, they would never have gone through with it. 1 Corinthians 2:8 tells us, “None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”
The great irony here is that satan focused all his power and forces on getting Jesus to the cross, and yet it was at the cross that Jesus disarmed him.
Jesus though not only disarmed the spiritual forces, but he triumphed over them. Verse 15 again: “He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” To make a public spectacle means to expose publicly.
In ancient times victorious armies would hold victory parades. The conqueror would return home leading the defeated captives behind him in chains. It was a public display of the conqueror’s victory as well as a public humiliation of his enemies.
That is what Jesus did to satan and his spiritual forces at the cross. He made a public spectacle of them. Jesus was publicly mocked and humiliated on the cross, but as it turns out, it was really satan and his forces who were humiliated.
Just before Jesus went to the cross, He said in John 12:31, “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.”
This is precisely what He achieved on the cross.
We tend to think that Jesus defeated satan at the resurrection, that the victory was won when Jesus rose from the dead. But the Bible teaches that Jesus defeated him at the cross. The resurrection was simply the proof that Jesus had won.
Think of a boxing match, when after the fight the referee holds up the winner’s arm. That’s what the resurrection was. The fight was already over. The cross was the knockout punch. satan lost and Jesus won. The resurrection was God lifting Jesus’ arm up in victory. The power of the cross has defeated the power that satan once had over you.
Before you came to Christ you had three major obstacles that kept you from God: your sin, God’s law and satan. But through the power of the cross, you have been set free from all three.
As a Christian your sinful nature no longer has power over you. It is still there, and that is the struggle we all have, but sin is a defeated enemy. When you put your faith in Jesus, you were united with Him in His death, burial and resurrection. You were spiritually dead, but God made you alive with Christ. You have been freed from sin by receiving new life in Christ.
As a Christian the law no longer has power over you. God cancelled the debt that was against you, and then He took it away, nailing it to the cross. You have been freed from the law by the forgiveness of your sins.
And as a Christian, satan no longer has power over you. Jesus disarmed the powers and authorities, and He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. You have been freed from satan by Jesus’ triumph over the spiritual forces of evil.
You have been freed from sin, the law and satan. That’s the power of the cross in your life.
Homegroup Study Notes
Read Colossians 2:11-15
- The power of sin.
How does this conflict with the belief that we are essentially good people?
How does the power of the cross overcome the power of sin?
- The power of the law
In verse 14 we’re told that God has cancelled our sin debt, but this does notmean that He merely writes it off, and lets bygones be bygones. How does the death of Jesus cancel our debt?
- The power of satan
How does the power of the cross help us in our daily struggles?