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Monday, November 28, 2022

Christ and Baptism in Colossians

The fact that baptism is essential to becoming a Christian and being saved is written on page after page in the New Testament despite being rejected by most who call themselves Christians.  I have never understood how something so clearly taught can so readily be rejected by so many other than through the power that tradition and religious heritage exerts on people.

Error believed has the same faith effect upon a man or woman as truth believed and can thus provide peace and comfort until the time truth exerts itself with such force that it cannot be denied.  Saul, before he became Paul the apostle, believed error and acted in all good conscience (Acts 23:1) while persecuting Christ (Acts 26:14).  He believed error and was at perfect peace with himself while sinning continually -- that is until the force of truth was exerted with power on him on the road to Damascus. 

Sincerity will never change error into truth nor will it ever lead to a pardon for disobedience.  The fact that Eve was deceived by Satan in the garden did not free her of her sin.  “And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression.” (1 Tim. 2:14 NAS)  We need to read the Bible, even more, we need to study it, “a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of God.” (2 Tim. 2:15 NAS)  We need to read the book of Colossians and see what it teaches about Christ and baptism.  What Paul teaches there he teaches elsewhere in the New Testament as well.

“Christ in you, the hope of glory,” (Col. 1:27 NAS) is a central theme of the first two chapters of the book of Colossians.  Christ is all that is needed in a person’s life for in him “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col. 2:3 NAS)  In him we are “made complete.” (Col. 2:10 NAS)  We are not therefore to be taken “captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men.” (Col. 2:8 NAS)  We are not to submit ourselves to decrees “in accordance with the commandments and teaching of men.” (Col. 2:22 NAS)

With Christ we have all we need and should thus stay far away from all impositions upon our faith not found in the word of Christ which is just another way of saying stay away from the commandments of men.  “Anyone who goes too far (‘Lit., goes on ahead’-side margin note in the NAS reference edition, 1963 and 1995 – DS) and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God.” (2 John 9 NAS)

In chapter 2 Paul lists some examples of things we should not concern ourselves with because of men--food, drink, respect to festivals, new moons, and Sabbath days. (Col. 2:16); he does likewise in verses 21 and 23.  In 1 Tim. 4:3 he speaks of “men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods” going so far as to refer to such teachings as “doctrines of demons.” (NAS)  Does this remind you of any famous religious bodies today?  I remember when going to a state university back in the 60’s when Friday’s (I believe it was a Friday--it has been a long time ago) were special days in the college cafeteria because of what one religious body could and could not eat on that day.  Their numbers were such that they had that influence on the menu.

The bottom line is Christ is all a Christian needs.  Christ is found in his word and not in things that cannot be found in his word.  If one cannot find a book, chapter, and verse for his teaching and practice in the New Testament then his doctrine ought to be ignored.  This eliminates all creed books, church councils making decisions, etc.  Christ is the head of the church, “He is also head of the body, the church.” (Col. 1:18 NAS)  “He is the head over all rule and authority.” (Col. 2:10 NAS)  He says directly, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.” (Matt. 28:18 NAS)  Paul teaches in the book of Colossians that all we need is Christ, him and him alone, him and nothing else.  Christ is found in his word and not outside it in someone else’s ideas, thoughts, or imaginations, or as Paul says in the NAS “in self-made religion.” (Col. 2:23) 

If Christ in me is “the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27 NAS) how does Paul tell us this is brought about?  One must remember Paul is writing to people who have already heard, believed, and obeyed the gospel and thus are already Christians.  He says they had already been “delivered…from the domain of darkness, and transferred…to the kingdom of his beloved son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col. 1:13-14 NAS)  How had that happened?

The answer is found in Col. 2:11-13, “And in him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.  And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he made you alive together with him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.” (NAS)

The passage begins with the phrase “in him.”  In him, in Christ, is life, a new creation.  While Paul is speaking of a spiritual circumcision here in Colossians back in Galatians he speaks of a physical one when he says that the physical one does not matter one way or another but he says there is something that does matter -- a new creation.  “For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” (Gal. 6:15 NAS)  The side margin note in the New American Standard Version (reference edition previously referred to) says “Or, creature.”  That is what matters.  “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Cor. 5:17 NAS)

Only in Christ does this spiritual circumcision take place in which “the removal of the body of the flesh” occurs.  One is baptized into Christ.  We are, Paul’s exact words, “baptized into Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 6:3)  See also Gal. 3:27.  It is “in him” where we “were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands.” (Col. 2:11 NAS)

Paul in talking about this circumcision in Col. 2 connects it directly with “having been buried with him in baptism.” (Col. 2:12 NAS)  The body of flesh, or as Paul calls it in Romans the “old self” (Rom. 6:6 NAS), is put to death in baptism for we are baptized “into death” (Rom. 6:4 NAS) but the good news is “you were also raised up with him through faith in the working of God,” (Col. 2:12 NAS) “he made you alive together with him.” (Col. 2:13 NAS)  But, this one who is made alive is a new man.  He is not the man that went down into the water and died.  This one that comes up from the water “made… alive together with him” (Col. 2:13 NAS) was raised to “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4 NAS) for he is a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17 NAS).

He forgave the Colossians all their transgressions.  When?  When upon their faith they repented and were “baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” (Acts 2:38 NAS)  This is what was required on the Day of Pentecost when the first gospel sermon was preached by Peter; Paul teaches the same thing to the Colossians.  Does one want to say Peter and Paul were at odds?

There are a few other passages in Colossians teaching the same truth.  Paul in Col. 2:20 speaking to the Colossians says, “if you have died with Christ.” (NAS)  He is not expressing doubt but emphasizing a point.  He is saying, in so many words, if you are a Christian “why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees?” (Col. 2:20 NAS)  Question--how does one die with Christ?  He says, “if you have died with Christ.”  The answer is found in inspired words, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death?” (Rom. 6:3 NAS)  Thus Paul teaches baptism in a verse many overlook without a thought.  We died with Christ in baptism.

Another verse along the same line is found in Col. 3:1, “If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above.” (NAS)  You cannot be raised up with Christ unless you have first been buried with him, can you?  “We have been buried with Him through baptism into death.” (Rom. 6:4 NAS)  Paul goes on in that same verse, “as Christ was raised from the dead…so we too might walk in newness of life.” (NAS)  When do we do that?  When we arise from the waters of baptism.  Many think they have been raised up with Christ who have never been buried with him.  Only in baptism is one raised up from spiritual death to spiritual life.

Paul says to the Colossians in Col. 3:3, “you have died.” (NAS)  We know how and when they died from what we have already read and studied but the question for men today is have we died and risen again as they did?

I close this with one more passage, Col. 3:9-10, “Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the one who created him.” (NAS)  When does one lay aside the old self?  Paul speaks of having “died to sin” in Rom. 6:2.  When one dies to sin the old self has been laid aside.  We die to sin, and thus to the old self, in baptism.  “We have been buried with him through baptism into death.” (Rom. 6:4 NAS)  Death to what?  To ask is to answer -- death to sin.  When we were baptized (if we were) “our old self was crucified with him, that our body of sin might be done away with.” (Rom. 6:6 NAS)  “He who died is freed from sin.” (Rom. 6:7 NAS)

The book of Colossians teaches clearly that salvation is found in Christ and that Christ is all any man or woman needs for salvation.  However, there are many today who are in error concerning how one enters into salvation in Christ Jesus.  Remember it is, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27 NAS)  Why not clothe yourself with Christ which Paul says in Gal. 3:27 is done by being baptized into Christ?  “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ.” (Gal. 3:27 NAS)  If you are clothed with Christ then certainly, if you live faithfully, you have “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27 NAS)

Remember it was Jesus himself who said, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved.” (Mark 16:16 NAS).  It is man who has said, “He who has believed and has not been baptized shall be saved.”  One gets to choose – choose Jesus’ way or man’s way.  The book of Colossians teaches you ought to choose Jesus’ way over man’s.

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