Colossians 2:11-17: Paul's Review of the Faith

B. Review of the Faith you were taught. 11In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made wiyout hands, by putting off the body of the sins* of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.

11-13: Paul in this passage reviews the faith that had been given to them. He forms it in such a way as to combat the strain of Gnsoticism that was subverting the purity of the Gospel. This form of Gnosticism had been combined with the necessity of Jewish ritual. It was like the Judaizers of Galatians had met with the Gnostics of Asia Minor and syncretism occurred.

The act of circumcision, like all the OT ritual, was a foreshadow of the Incarnation. Christ would remove from us the “ the body of the flesh” or the old way of life. Circumcision was the act that entered the OT Jew into the covenant relationship with God. It is clear from this passage that circumcision was replaced by baptism. The major difference between this OT act and the NT fulfillment is that Baptism was not just an outward sign of God’s covenant but an inward transformation. This is true for all OT practices fulfilled in Christ, the sacrificial system was a shadow of what would become a reality in Christ.

The words for buried-with-Him and raised-with-Him are one word in Greek. It could be translated awkwardly as ”co-buried” and “co-raised” and “co-alive”. The idea of communion is essential here. God is not merely declaring something legally true. There is an ontological reality at work in which we are made one with Christ.

”forgiven” - Christ did not just remove something outwardly but actually removed our sins from us. Once again this is not a mere legal declaration of not guilty but and true ontological change whereby we are released from sin’s power.

vs. 14 ”wiped out the handwriting of requirements” Paul is using the image of an IOU. Circumcision was in effect a signed agreement to keep the law and to default would put us in debt; as a result the law became “contrary” to us or adverse to us. Christ took the certificate and nailed it to the cross.

-vs.15 “disarmed principalities...” The Cross which looked like a defeat was actually a victory in which Christ vanquished the Enemy and stripped him of armor and weapons. Thus we sing on the Elevation of the Cross, it is a “a weapon of peace; a trophy invincible (Konatkion of the Feast)”.

C. Falsehood to Avoid.
1. OT regulations. 16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.

-”let no one judge you” The Gnostics were condemning the believers for not keeping the Judaic Law. This passage is not intended to be used as an excuse for liberty, whereby we yell at the world, “I will do as please, don’t judge me.” Paul is merely stressing that these Christians should not feel condemnation for not keeping the Mosaic regulations. His next statement gives the reason for this. He calls the OT rules “a shadow” meaning that these things were there to point to Christ, and have now been fulfilled in Him. This not only places the Law in its proper context but embraces the Christian hermeneutic for the OT. The OT is now read in the light of Christ, and much that was not understood fully is now revealed because the image that cast the shadow is here.
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