The Supremacy Defended: Totally Complete in Christ! (Col. 2:11-15)
I like it when things are complete. One of my pet peeves is when I order something, to find out there are parts missing. The other day Jenny ordered some books and when the box came, they sent all the books we ordered but one wrong book. That is frustrating! The order was not complete. I like complete meals. I feel incomplete without a little dessert after a meal. I am sure with your paychecks you make sure you are always getting the complete amount you are owed. I get upset at myself when I do not complete a book I started. I know professors are disappointed when papers or projects are incomplete. We moved into our new place around March and we have been getting things for our house since then, but there was always something we felt was missing. We got the baby room done, but then all our pictures still had to be hung up. Then we needed a kitchen table. Then we needed a painting for the living room. Jenny has assured me that our home is now complete. I liked that feeling. In fact, one of my favorite lines in film is from Jerry Maguire where you guessed it, “I love you…You complete me.”
The theme of chapter 2 of Colossians so far is that Jesus Christ is totally sufficient and we are complete in Him. Sometimes we may feel so incomplete as a person. We don’t always have it together. Relationships fail. Work load is heavy or not enough work for those of you who are self-employed. Sin patterns have a hold on us. Satan seems to play with us like a puppet. Marriage is straining. We may be physically exhausted. Parents are demanding. Despite our feelings, the Bible says that ultimately we are created for the Lord and to have a relationship with Him. I can tell you from experience that when I am right with God, I experience His fullness and receive the grace to endure whatever I am facing. We are complete in Him.
In Colossians 2, Paul says He is sufficient for us to be a true church (Col. 2:1-7) and sufficient for us in light of the deception of the world (Col. 2:8-10). No need to look anywhere else or follow any other teaching. We have it all in the person of Jesus Christ. The world is looking to “live it up!” and the “full life,” but really only believers can experience it, for only believers know who they were made for. Jesus said, “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come to give you life and life abundantly!” (John 10:10). Today we are going to look at the “so what?” of the truth: You are complete in Him from Col. 2:11-15. Look at Col. 2:10. My translation says, “You have been filled in him.” Other translations say, “You are complete in Him.” How complete are you? In our text this morning, we have four different aspects of being complete in Christ. On our own we are incomplete, but in Christ we are complete. Notice all the references to him. We are going to look at four ways He has made us complete.
I. Complete Relationship: I am no longer caught in religion (Col. 2:11).
In Col. 2:11, Paul brings up circumcision. When you see circumcision, think, “Old Testament Israel.” Every Jewish boy was circumcised on the eighth day of his birth (Lev. 12:2-3). It was the sign that he belonged to God and that he belonged to Israel. So for the rest of his life, he would know he was different, set apart by God. Also, it was a picture of the desperate need that man had for the cleansing of his heart.
In Deuteronomy 10:16, Moses told the people of Israel, saying “Circumcise then your heart, and stiffen your neck no more.” Deuteronomy 30:6: “Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live.” The Lord commanded the Israelites of Jeremiah’s time to circumcise themselves to the Lord and remove the foreskins of their hearts (Jer. 4:4; cf. 9:26). God was always concerned with your heart; the internal, not the external. Paul said in Rom. 2:29: “But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.”
Here’s where the people of Israel made the mistake. They got caught up in the fact that they were circumcised and thought that made them right with God. They got caught up with religion without a relationship. They went through the ceremony, had the symbol, but not the reality. At times they worshipped idols and committed all kinds of wicked behavior, but assured themselves, “but we were circumcised, so we’re good.” Before they knew it, they were carried off into exile and God in His grace, brought them back again 70 years later.
Perhaps the false teachers said that all the males at Colossae need to be circumcised. Now after all, they were predominately a Gentile congregation and God couldn’t accept them unless they were circumcised, they might have said.
Paul understands religion. He was caught in that trap himself. But Paul here doesn’t really address the issue itself, but flips it by saying, “If you want to talk about circumcision, it was already done when you believed on Christ!” Look at what he says:
a) It was a God thing, not man. He says it was a circumcision “made without hands.” In other words, it was not something man can get done. It was totally something God does. It happened when they became believers. Religion is a man thing. Say this prayer 200 times. Climb these steps over and over. Travel to this city and kneel 100 times facing west. God is after our heart.
b) Only God can cut the power of sin in our lives, which religion can never do. Notice he says, by “putting off the body of flesh.” Our flesh is the impulse within us to rebel against God. Our flesh is what says, “me, myself and I.” It is your flesh that is always pulling you away from God, even after you believe. But before you are a believer, there is no fight against sin or desire to please God. When sin says, “jump,” you replied, “how high?” But when you became a believer, the Holy Spirit lives inside you and cuts that power cord and help you live a life pleasing to God. We will talk about this more in a second. But religion can’t set us free from sin. You can go to church every Sunday of the year or repeat the Lord’s prayer every second of your life, but the power of sin will still reign in your heart.
c) Only experiencing Christ’s work on the cross will get you the relationship. The latter part of verse 11 says, “by the circumcision of Christ.” This does not mean when Christ was circumcised when he was eight days old. Rather it is a gruesome picture of the cross. Christ was circumcised that day as his whole body was “cut off” to pay for our sin.
Illus: I understand religion. For 17 years I thought going to church and being a good boy will get me into Heaven. I prided myself in those things. I knew a lot about God. You have heard me say many times now that you can know a lot about Michael Jordan, but not know Michael. I knew Bible stories and read the Bible sometimes, but I had no relationship with God. I thought I would always go to heaven because I did a lot of religious stuff. But in reality, I was a sinner. You may think, “What do you mean you were a sinner? If you were a good boy, what sin did you do?” Well the Bible says in James 2:10 that if you break one of the commandments of God, you are guilty of breaking them all. That makes me a sinner! But one night, a man of God shared with me about the love of Christ. I heard that if I confess my sin to God and believe in my heart that Jesus died for my sins, I can have a real relationship with Christ. I heard that He loved me so much to die for me. On that night in 1995, this religious hypocrite, for the first time in my life, experienced a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Do you have religion today or a relationship? Are you going through the motions week after week? If you died tonight, where would you go? If you are trusting in your religious activities, you will be in a big shock when you have to stand in front of Christ and hear Him say, “I never knew you!” (Matt. 7:21).
Being complete in Christ means you have a relationship not religion.
Secondly, being complete in Christ means:
II. Complete Transformation: I am no longer the same (Col. 2:12-13).
Paul moves from one image to another in verses 12-13. In verse 11, he used circumcision as a picture of what Christ did in our heart, but now moves to the image of baptism. He is not talking about literal baptism here because that would mean that water baptism would save you here. Paul would not condemn one ceremony which cannot save us replace it with another ceremony to save us.
Just like he was referring to spiritual circumcision, he is referring to spiritual baptism, which happens at the moment of salvation, where the believer is baptized into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12-13). Water baptism is a picture of that reality. It is an outward symbol of an inward change.
With water baptism where the person is immersed, he/she goes under the water and comes back up. Going under the water is a picture of death and burial and coming back up is a picture of resurrection. This is God’s extreme makeover!
a) The old me is dead.
So this is what he is saying. On the day you became a believer, a spiritual transaction took place. The old you, the worn out, useless, selfish, getting my-needs met self, became dead and buried. It went “under the water.” When you bury something you say, “I’m done with that.” It’s final. In a sense the old you was transported back in time by our timeless God and nailed to the cross with Christ, buried and a new person arose out of the grave with Christ.
We will talk about the new you in a second, but the old you is dead. The cross is an “I” crossed out. The idea of being buried is that the old me is gone, I will not turn back. Sometimes you will be tempted to look at the rear view mirror and remember the past. What happens if you drive looking at the rear view mirror? You will crash! Is your past haunting you? Don’t look back. It is buried. You may be suffering consequences of it, but you don’t need to be in the guilt of that.
Illus: The family of a 10 year old boy once buried a cat. They put the kitten in a box, but noticed that the tail would not fit. So they punched a hole in the back of the box so that the tail would stick out and buried it in a shallow grave, but a portion of the cat’s tail still stuck out from the ground. Every two or three days, curiosity would get the best of the little boy and he would go and pull the tail and eventually the tail came off!
This is what we do with our past, the old us before becoming a believer. We need to keep it buried.
b) The new me is alive.
We are totally complete! I have a new relationship and with my old me gone and in verse 12 he says, “My new me is alive with power.” The same power that raised Christ from the dead is ours to live for Christ. We were dead to God (notice: Dead in trespasses. Death means an inability to respond) and alive to the world. Now we are alive to God and dead to the world. Everyone in the world is either one or the other.
That is why Paul says “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is passed and the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17).
When Christ stepped on the cross on that Good Friday and died when he said, “it is finished,” the penalty of sin was paid. When Christ stepped out of the tomb on that first resurrection Sunday, the power of sin was broken. Sin can no longer take control of us in Christ. It cannot tell us what to do or boss us around. And when Christ steps off His throne and come to take us by death or the rapture, we will be free from the presence of sin.
We don’t always feel like the power of sin is broken, but our feelings deceive us. When I was told that I was a husband some four years ago in that church, I didn’t all of a sudden feel like a husband. But that did not eliminate the fact that I was a husband. I will now how the rest of my life to experience it.
Illus: Imagine a large oak tree in the center of a forest. The whole forest is full of oak trees, but this one is in the center is the strongest one with a big, tall trunk extending up into the sky. But planted at the bottom of the oak tree is a very thick, strong vine. It’s been there for so many years and has grown all around the tree and wraps itself tightly around the tree. After many years, the entire tree is covered with the vine.
The oak tree represents our life and the vine represents sin. When you are not a believer, the way you try to get rid of the vine of sin in your life is by trying to untangle and maybe cut here or cut there. But when you become a believer, God comes with an ax and goes up the base of the vine and cuts it. But notice it starts out being all over you, but when you cooperate with God and you make choices to walk in newness of life, sin will start to wither away and you can live the life the way God intended you to live it.
A lot of times we look for a crisis point to come along in our lives at a conference or retreat to make commitments to follow Christ. Those are great times, but I think true victory comes in the moment by moment decisions to know, consider and present. With each temptation to make that choice by the power of God’s Spirit and then another and then another, before you know it, you are experiencing victory.
III. Complete Forgiveness: I am no longer in debt (Col. 2:13-14)
We have said so far how we are complete in Christ. We were into religion, He gave us a relationship. Our old self which only thought of self and sin, He completely buried and He completely transformed us. One day we will be totally complete in mind, body and soul. Amen!
Two more ways we are made complete. Look at the latter part of verse 13 and all of verse 14. We have complete forgiveness.
a) Our past hopelessness
We were dead, we didn’t respond to God. Paul also calls them the “uncircumcision of the flesh.” This means they are Gentiles. It’s bad to be dead in sin and it is even worse to not have the truth. The Jew might be dead in sin, but they were in an environment where God was working. They had no revelation or information. Eph. 2:11. They were outside the covenant, dead in sin, outside the promise, with no hope and without God in the world. That’s a really bad situation. What does a dead person need most? Life! And God gives it to us by forgiving our sin problem.
b) Our pardoned sin
“Having forgiven us all trespasses.” It is the past tense, meaning it is already accomplished. How many of our sins were forgiven? ALL!
Col. 2:14 tells us how he forgave us. The word “record of debt” which other translations use “handwriting.” It literally means “autograph.” It was a handwritten note of a debtor acknowledging his indebtedness. It was literally an I.O.U. “I, Robin Koshy, owe you a million dollars. Signed, Robin Koshy.” That is a “record of debt.” Now we owe God a debt we could never pay for our sin. My sin would not be on a piece of paper, probably books and books worth! It is “against us.” In other words, it would destroy us or condemn us. We can never pay it.
It says it is filled with legal demands. He is referring to the law. All the commandments we have broken and all of the law of God we have failed to keep. The pardon comes when we are willing to sign it and say, “Yes, I agree with this document. I will sign my name on the line. These are my debts.” Then God steps in and erases the debt.
The word “canceling”…means “to wipe off,” like erasing a blackboard. Ancient documents were commonly written either on papyrus, a paperlike material made from the bulrush plant, or vellum, which was made from an animal’s hide. The ink used then had no acid in it and did not soak into the writing material. Since the ink remained on the surface, it could be wiped off if the scribe wanted to reuse the material. Paul says here that God has wiped off our certificate of debt, having nailed it to the cross. Not a trace of it remains to be held against us. Our forgiveness is complete.
When you received Jesus Christ and signed your confession, that’s when God nailed it to His cross, paid the penalty and wiped it clean. Do you know what is left? Not one trace. He remembers it no more. It doesn’t say he taped it or even glued it or screwed it but he nailed it. What do you do if you want to build something and you are not planning to take it out, you nail it in. The Carpenter of Nazareth became the Carpenter of Calvary, nailing our record of sins to the cross.
“Santa Claus makes a list and checks it twice in order to find out who’s naughty and nice. Our Father, on the other hand, makes a list and checks it once. Then He nails it to the Cross, where the blood of His Son covers it completely. The list of our sins, shortcomings, and stupidity is blotted out in totality by the blood of the Son of God.” 
Illus: Martin Luther experienced the reality of this truth in a dream in which he was visited at night by Satan, who brought to him a record of his own life, written with his own hand. The Tempter said to him, “Is that true, did you write it?” The poor terrified Luther had to confess it was all true. Scroll after scroll was unrolled, and the same confession was wrung from him again and again. At length, the Evil One prepared to take his departure, having brought Luther down to the lowest depths of abject misery. Suddenly the Reformer turned to the Tempter and said: “It is true, every word of it, but write across it all: ‘The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin.’”
Do we believe this? If we did:
a) We would spend less time regretting the past and more time living the present.
b) We would be less concerned about keeping people at "arms distance" (for fear they discover the "real you") and be more willing to be open with those around you.
c) We would justify less and confess more
d) We would spend less time licking our wounds and more time counting our blessings
e) We would find it easier to forgive others
f) We would increase in our love for the Lord
Oh the wonder of the Lord’s grace! A complete relationship, complete transformation and complete forgiveness.
IV. Complete Victory: I am no longer defeated (Col. 2:15)
Verse 15 reads that Jesus Christ “disarmed,” which literally means “stripped naked” “rulers and authorities” referring to demonic leadership he defeated on the cross. He then “put them to open shame.” This whole verse is an image of a Roman victory parade. “When a general won a victory, a triumphal procession made its way through the streets, with the successful general leading the way. His army followed, singing songs of conquest and reveling in their victory. Bringing up the rear would be the defeated king and his warriors, subjected to public ridicule and paraded for all to see.
Even before this parade, they were stripped of their royal garments. One commentator notes, “Clothing was the visible distinguishing mark of an authority figure. He could afford the best clothing, and he was obligated to wear the best to represent the people subject to him. When defeated or demoted, the first symbolic act was to remove the royal garments. The image Paul used here portrayed that action. God stripped his enemies of their “royal facade,” exposing them for what they really were. No one should follow them. They were defeated, disgraced, and powerless because of the work of Christ.” 
“When Jesus rose from the dead, Satan was disarmed. He was stripped of his weapons (the literal meaning of “disarmed”). He lost all of his ammunition, and he was rendered powerless (Hebrews 2:14)…The roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8) had his teeth pulled out. The devouring lion was overcome by the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and now Satan is on a leash.
We now have authority over Satan, not in and of ourselves, but because we belong to Christ.”
The cross was a consummation of a life of conquest of Christ over Satan. In Genesis 3:15, God had promised that a conqueror would come and crush the head of the serpent. When Jesus was born, Satan tried to kill him through Herod, but he lost. He tried to tempt Jesus in the wilderness, but he lost. Sin was Satan’s trump card. But Jesus defeated Satan by paying the price for our sin.
Commentator Max Anders writes, “We have a tendency to think of the death of Christ as his defeat and the resurrection as his victory. No. Christ won a victory over sin and Satan on the cross. The resurrection was God’s vindication of the victory already won. The resurrection was a declaration of power that Jesus is the Son of God; it is public demonstration that confirms that his death had been effective for the forgiveness of sin. What a paradox. Jesus hung naked and disgraced, publicly dying for sinners. The evil forces assumed that they had triumphed. In reality, through this act of sacrifice, the tables were turned. God had disgraced the evil forces. They are the ones stripped of their power in chains. They are defeated even though they have not conceded defeat. This is where we can have victory!
Are you being defeated by the lies of the enemy? You can stand up and say, “I don’t have to listen to you this morning. Jesus has given me complete victory!” Are you feeling incomplete today? Despite our feelings, the only way to find order in the chaos is to come to the cross. There you find relationship, transformation, forgiveness and victory.
Illus: A cloud of doubt hangs over home run king Barry Bonds. On August 7, 2007, Bonds hit number 756, the home run that broke Hank Aaron's record. Most of the talk about the new record, though, is whether it really should count, because Bonds is alleged to have used steroids. Sports buffs say if his name goes in the record book it should be accompanied by an asterisk. The asterisk, of course, means that the record is a sort-of record, a footnoted record. The asterisk means the record is tainted. The asterisk idea didn't go away. Mark Ecko, the man who bought the ball that Bonds hit to set the record, asked baseball fans in an Internet poll what he should do with it. The fans voted for him to brand the baseball with an asterisk and donate it to the baseball Hall of Fame. In the summer of 2008 that's what Ecko did.
Having an asterisk by your name is actually something we all should be able to identify with. Scripture talks about the Book of Life, in which the names of each believer is recorded. With all the sins we have committed in this life, you would expect that each of us would have an asterisk by our name in this all-important Book. Tainted. Don't really belong. But so great is our justification in Christ, so perfect is his work on the cross, so just is God in justifying you,that in the Book of Life there will be no asterisk by your name. Because of Christ's atoning work on the cross for you, you truly belong in the kingdom of God.
cf. confer (Lat.), compare
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 Craig Brian Larson, editor of PreachingToday.com; source: "Bonds'
756th HR ball lands in Hall," USA Today (7-2-08), 1C