Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Grains of Sand, Part 2 of 2

The apostle warns the Colossians, as he did the Galatian churches (Galatians 5:8) that this teaching does not come from God but from the carnal minds of men, 2:22. We learned in Galatians 5:6 that only by faith in Christ manifesting itself through love is our sanctification affected; the apostle goes on to inform these Christians that this teaching about adding anything to the gospel of grace hinders its efficacy.

As he pointedly asks: who hindered you from obeying the truth? He finishes his thought by informing them that this persuasion (false teaching) does not come from God; it is in fact contrary to grace, Romans 11:6. The Galatians added circumcision to their list of things needed to be sanctified; the Colossian church added the mandatory observance of Jewish holidays and dietary laws. With unflinching terms Paul dismantles both as false teachings serving only to lead the listeners astray. They had been removed from the Head, Jesus, Colossians 2:19. Their spiritual growth was stymied as they endeavored to be sanctified by their legal efforts rather than God’s continued grace and their reliance on the Holy Spirit’s dominance in their new life.

In verse 23 Paul calls this teaching “self-imposed religion.” Track backward to verse 20 once more and recall his language with them regarding the regulations that were being set up within the church. The Colossians subjected themselves to this mandatory observance that went beyond Christian liberty and became a necessity for sanctification, perhaps even the retention of one’s salvation. There is an appearance of wisdom in this self-imposed religion, or “will worship” (KJV). It is the appearance of the flesh, for that is all the farther man can see, Galatians 6:12-13. Man’s wisdom is highly flawed, especially if we do not submit it to God’s wisdom. If we are obedient we must be accepted, our wisdom dictates. By the deeds of the law no flesh shall be justified in His sight, God answers, Romans 3:20. By man’s appearance there is wisdom; God sees only hopeless condemnation.

This finally leads us to the original topic of conversation after a brief (and I pray edifying) detour. Colossians 3:1 begins with the assumption that if in fact the believers in Colossae were raised with Christ that they should not have their attention occupied with earthly things (rituals, ceremonies, observations of holidays, laws) but on heavenly things. He emphasizes that this is where Christ sits at God’s right hand, letting us know that in fact it should be Jesus Himself that we set our minds on and nothing else; for our Savior is the object of our faith after all. Verse 2 states this succinctly. What are things on the earth? Well, we have already seen that legal obligation to adhere to holidays, dietary laws (including fasting), and circumcision are all earthly things even if such things were ordained by God. Such earthly things are symbolic to demonstrate heavenly truths and of themselves have utterly no efficacy to regenerate or sanctify a believer. Likewise with New Testament ordinances such as water baptism and the Lord’s Supper; both ordained of God again.

I would like to focus our attention especially on verse 3, which again states: “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” How is a believer dead? Positionally speaking we are dead to the Law, sin, and sin’s punishment which is spiritual death or separation from God for eternity. We are not practically dead in the respect that we are presently perfect and incapable of sinning; anyone who espouses this dangerous and ludicrous notion is not following the New Testament or even reality, but a peculiar theology of their own devising. We press on to find the apostle telling us that our life is hidden with Christ in God. Now this may seem a rudimentary thing to clear up, but in case there is confusion on this verse, Paul is not telling us that Christ is hiding in God and our life coincidentally happens to be there with Him.

No; this is not cohabitation. Verse 4 elucidates the subject by telling us that Jesus IS our life. So returning to verse 3 briefly we understand that our life is hidden with Christ in God. In other words Christ has hold of our lives; He is in possession of them, John 10:28-29. But more than that, our life derives directly from Him. This is why if we do not hold fast to the Head by faith our ability to avail withers. If you lost one of your fingers its usefulness would instantly end. It is of no more use to the body, being disconnected from it, and of itself it can do nothing. So it is with a believer who detaches himself from Christ to pursue the Christian life without Him.

Here I implant my first analogy. As a believer we will be represented as a dollar bill. Christ is an envelope into which this dollar bill is inserted. We are effectively in Christ. The envelope is then sealed and placed in an open book that represents God the Father. That book is then closed, effectively securing the envelope (and the dollar bill) within. To remove the believer from his position in Christ the book would have to be forced open, the envelope rent open, and the dollar bill snatched out. I strive to demonstrate to my brothers and sisters in Christ that as far as security for the believer goes we are safe in Christ. Our life is hidden with Him in God.

Verse 4 informs us that when Jesus appears at the Second Coming we also will appear with Him in glory, or in our glorified resurrection bodies. Why? Christ is our life. The apostle follows this logic to its conclusion by informing the Colossian church that their life is safely tucked away, and the ultimate fruit of this union—being in Christ and becoming a new creature, 2nd Corinthians 5:17—will be manifested when Christ our Lord comes to reign. This is why the apostle could also write: “For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed unto Him until that Day,” 2nd Timothy 1:12.

Do we follow the carnal persuasion of men and their doctrines, Galatians 5:8? Or do we follow the persuasion of the Holy Spirit who only and always directs our thoughts, faith and worship to the One capable of keeping us eternally secure: Jesus Christ? The Judaizers made their position clear in the Jerusalem council when they said, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses you cannot be saved,” Acts 15:1. Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, made the church’s position equally clear: “We believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus we shall be saved,” Acts 15:11. The Judaizers were guilty of bringing the Galatian churches another gospel which Paul condemned, Galatians 1:6-9. Any additions to grace that endeavor to create in the believer’s life a mandatory response of obedience by threat of salvation’s prevention or loss is a perversion of the New Testament gospel. Believe and keep the Ten Commandments, believe and be a part of this denomination, believe and be baptized; every single one of these perverts grace. By grace are we saved; by that same grace are we sanctified, and in that same grace is our salvation kept by the power of God.

I offer one more example, altered from the usage Pastor Ken Anders utilized it for. Picture two vials of sand, with a third empty container in the midst. One full vial represents you and it is black. The other our Lord and Savior, and it is purest white. When the believer places their faith in Jesus Christ the vials are mutually raised and poured into the empty vial; but the amazing thing that occurs is that when the sands mingle the white blots out the black. Like the leper whom Christ touched contrary to the Law and made clean, Jesus’ righteousness makes us entirely clean from the guilt of our sin. Now this third vial is filled with white sand, and since it is indivisible, not knowing which grains were natively mine and which were natively my Lord’s, there is no way to remove me from Christ if I am in Him. The two shall become one, says the apostle, 1st Corinthians 6:17; Ephesians 5:32. I truly pray this imparts both comfort and grace to the reader. May we all learn to trust fully in our Savior’s ability to do what we cannot and to walk in the Spirit, loving one another rather than fighting to bring Christians back into the darkness of legal bondage. God bless.

For another post defending eternal security please see Lessons from a Chair.

1 comment:

  1. Great Post Ian. As you pointed out many of the things wherein we are expected to act like a Christian are solely for appearance sake, just as the hypocritical Pharisees were doing. They have nothing to do with our salvation or staying saved. We were sealed in Christ by the Holy Spirit. Praise the Lord.

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