April 12, 2020

The Victory of Christ

Passage: Colossians 2:13-15
Service Type:

Bible Text: Colossians 2:13-15 | Pastor: Craig Wilson | Defeat is the opposite of victory. There may be things in our lives that we are able to defeat on our own. For instance, we may be able to beat or to gain victory over a bad habit. We may be able to gain the victory in changing a negative, character trait. But as the COVID-19 virus demonstrates, many things, if we are honest, many things are more powerful than we are. There are things in life over which we have absolutely no hope of victory. Perhaps soon, with God’s blessing, we will be able to find a vaccine for this virus which would be a victory, but at this moment, that victory is elusive. So, there are many things in life that we simply are powerless to defeat. There are numerous things that, despite our best efforts, we will never be able to claim victory over. And of course, if somehow we were able to find a cure for every disease, all of us would still succumb to our ultimate adversary, which is death.
Why is it that so many fear this virus? Because it has the potential to kill. And why do we die? You know, how we die varies. Some people die because of an accident. Other people die because of disease. Other people die on the battlefield. Some people die through the recklessness and the anger of others. But underlying and underneath every death, there’s the same problem. It’s sin. The Bible is clear that the wages of sin is death, and that the soul that sins shall die (Rom. 6:23a). Why do we die? Sin is why we die. Sin is why we get sick. Sin is why there is a virus that can spread around the globe. Now, coupled with the reality of death is the reality that to be human is to be a sinner. There is a direct correlation between sin and death. There is a direct link between the cause and the effect. Why do we die? We die because we are born sinners. And if we stop and think about the virus for a moment, it’s not really the virus that we fear. It’s the potential for death that drives our fear.
But the good news is for us, as Christians, for those who are in Christ, there’s nothing to fear. There is no fear in death. I know we don’t look at death this way, but perhaps we should. Death is the vehicle that delivers us to glory. That’s why Paul wrote to the church at Philippi. He said, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ…” Now, listen to what he says. “…for that is far better” (Phil. 1:23b). Now, when Paul says, “My desire is to depart”, that is a kind and gentle way of saying, “my desire is to die.” Why Paul? “Because I will be with Christ, for that is far better”. I can’t help but think of the Good Doctor’s, some of his last words. As he lay on his deathbed, he told his family, “Do not pray for healing.” Why did he say that? He said, “Don’t rob me of glory.” And he, like Paul, understood that death was the transport vehicle that would deliver him to that which was far better. Death does not deliver the believer into the arms of the Grim Reaper. Death for the believer delivers them into the arms of the Great Shepherd.
And so, in Matthew chapter 26, 27, and 28, we read the historical record of the details of the betrayal, the arrest, the trial, the verdict, the Crucifixion, the death, the burial, the Resurrection, and ultimately, the Lord’s ascension to the Father’s right hand. And rightly so, they are chapters that move us, emotionally. We’re outraged at the perversion of justice demonstrated against the justest man who ever lived, or disgusted by the disloyalty of Judas against the One who said that He would stick to us closer than a brother. We’re saddened just how quickly the disciples deserted, deserted a man who assured them that He would never leave them or forsake them. We’re shocked to see the unfaithfulness of Peter against God’s faithful One. We’re brought to tears over the brutality of the beatings and the torturous nature of our Lord’s death. But then, we experienced a tremendous sense of joy and relief, as the stone is rolled away to reveal that empty tomb. So, the empty tomb brings us to exclamations of praise, and our praise continues as we see our resurrected Lord ministering to the same ones who denied and deserted him. That’s all glorious. But there is a very real danger if we focus too narrowly on the resurrection event. If we’re not careful, we can be so carried away emotionally, that we fail to understand the significance of the Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection. As we read the account of the Crucifixion and Resurrection in Matthew’s Gospel, and in the other gospel writers as well, one thing is missing. And this is by God’s design. These accounts do not contain the results, the benefits, and the meaning of the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus. To fully understand their significance, we have to turn to other passages in Scripture that help us understand this glorious significance of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. And one passage that I’m going to use this morning is the passage that Paul wrote to the church at Colossae.
So, let’s read these verses again, with that background and keeping this context in mind. So Paul says, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Col 2:13-15). So, what Paul is doing here is, he’s spelling out for us if you will, the impact of the events that we read about in Matthew chapter 26, 27, and 28. And so, I chose these verses from Paul, to help us understand these events of Holy Week. The events are more than dates on a church calendar, and there are so much more than holidays to be celebrated. It is right and proper and good for us as Christians to recognize and to celebrate these special days. But our celebration must be guided by, informed by an understanding of their significance for all and their impact for some. Now, I’ll leave you to think that statement through.
What are the realities of the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus? In other words, so what? Why does it matter? Well, Paul, draws some pictures for us here in Colossians chapter 2 that help us understand. First of all, the first reality is life and forgiveness. Because of the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus, all who repent of their sins, all who turn from their sins, and turn to Christ in faith are made alive with Christ, and their sins are forgiven. Now, from our study of Ephesians, you probably recognize that verse 13 contains, contains what I would like to call Paul’s classic salvation language or his language of salvation. He frequently used such language to describe the condition of the unsaved man or woman and the activity of God. For example, in Ephesians, chapter 2 verse 1, Paul writes, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you walked…” Then, in chapter 2, verse 5, he continues, “Even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…”, virtually the same language that he uses in both passages. So, what Paul is showing us is that without or apart from the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ, we would have forever remained in a state of spiritual death. But through the Crucifixion, through the resurrection of Christ, we have, by the effectual working of God, brought from a state of spiritual death to a state of spiritual life, and our sins are forgiven. This is the reason for celebration. This is the… This is our source of praise. You know, I was thinking, this morning. The passage here in Colossians can be very easily be turned into a prayer of praise. We can thank God, we can praise God for bringing us from a state of spiritual death to a state of spiritual life. We praise God that as a result of the crucifixion and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, He can now with integrity forgive our sins. So, the first reality of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection is life and forgiveness.
Second, Paul says, “you’re no longer a debtor.” You’re no longer a debtor. We all want to be debt-free. Listen, the greatest debt that humanity has is not to a bank, or a mortgage company, or a credit card company. The greatest debt that humanity has is to their Creator, is to God. And because of the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ, our sin debt has been paid, and we are no longer in debt to God. Notice at the end of verse 13, Paul writes that God made the believers alive with Christ, having forgiven us all our trespasses. Then in verse 14, excuse me, he draws a word picture to illustrate how God was able to forgive our trespasses. So let’s look at this. First, Paul says, or he teaches us that God has canceled our record of debt. This was a written record of debt. So, the picture, here, is one of God wiping the slate clean. In ancient times, they didn’t have paper like we have, they would have papyrus or animal skins or vellum or something like that, and the ink that they wrote with didn’t have any acid in it. So, therefore, you could take a wet sponge, basically, and wipe it clean. That’s the image that Paul is giving here. In our day and age, we would say that God is able to erase the whiteboard of our sin clean.
Think about this. What if God had a literal whiteboard for every human being, and every time you sin… Big sin, little sin, God put it on the board. Would you want to read that board? Would you want anybody else to read that board? I daresay not. But because of the crucifixion, and the resurrection of Christ, God is able to cancel our debt, which means that He is able to erase that whiteboard that contained the record of our sin. And because of the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ, God has wiped that whiteboard clean. So, guess what he now sees when he looks at our whiteboard? He sees the brilliant, white righteousness and holiness of Christ. Another way of understanding this is to think about an IOU. Every sinner has a huge IOU. It’s a debt that we owe to God that we can never, ever repay. And the picture here is that God takes that IOU… He doesn’t just tear it up and throw it away. First, He stamps it, ‘Paid in Full’. Then, He takes it, and tears it up, and throws it away. See? That’s what it means for God to cancel our debt. But Paul goes on to say that, not only did He cancel our debt, He also set it aside by nailing it to the cross. So, this image illustrates how our record of debt has been canceled.
If you remember the Crucifixion story, when Pilate crucified Jesus, a sign was made… A placard was made that was nailed above the head of Jesus, so we read about Matthew 27:37, “And over his head, they put the charge against him, which read, ‘This is Jesus, the King of the Jews’.” So, what Paul is picturing here is that, along with a charge against Jesus, which by the way, was a legitimate charge… It was the correct charge, He was the King of the Jews. There’s also another sign, nailed to the cross that said, “Craig Wilson, sinner in debt for the sins of…” And a huge, long, ugly, vile, wicked list of sins were nailed to the cross. And if you are in Christ, so to were yours. This listing of all my sins was nailed to the cross, and Paul states that God the Father canceled my sin debt by nailing it to the cross of Christ. He gives us this visual image… How, how are my sins taken care of? How was the record of my debt canceled? Here it is… God took all of your sins and nailed them to the cross of Christ, meaning that your sins were judged at the cross, and that is why Paul could say in Romans 8:1, what? “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1). Why? My sins were nailed to the cross, and they were judged at the cross.
Again, we can easily turn this into a prayer of praise. We think of the words of the songwriter who wrote the hymn, “It is Well”. You recall that verse that rises to that great crescendo of praise as we sing, “My sin, oh the bliss of the glorious thought… My sin, not in part, but the whole…” What’s he say? “…is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, oh my soul!” Here’s a songwriter, thank God, who knew His Bible. He understood the significance of a sin being nailed to the cross, and, which led him to write this hymn of praise that continues to be sung today. So, the shed blood of Jesus paid my debt, canceled my record of debt, satisfied the legal demands of God’s law, and my debt having been satisfied, I’ve been declared righteous in Christ.
Number 3: The believer lives in victory. The believer lives in victory. Because of the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ, the believer no longer lives in defeat, but victory. Let me say it again. Because of the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ, the believer no longer lives in defeat, but victory. In verses 13 and 14, the apostle Paul talks about the death of Jesus. But now, here in verse 15, he turns his attention to the resurrection of Jesus, and at the cross, Jesus achieved victory over death. That victory was declared. That victory was announced. God went public with that victory, if you will, in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, here’s what Paul wants us to understand. He wants us to understand the extent of our Lord’s victory. Paul says, first, He disarmed the rulers and authorities (Col 2:15a). Literally, Paul’s using the language of warfare here. He uses the language of warfare to picture the Lord Jesus as the conquering King, as the triumphant general, as an unstoppable hero. Paul portrays Jesus as the victorious Savior who strips all the demonic forces, all the rulers, all the authorities of their weapons. And Jesus is depicted as taking their weapons and rendering them harmless. He has exposed them to public disgrace and shame. Jesus conquers them and makes them as they were, toothless tigers. Yes, they can still roar. Yes, they can still harass. Yes, they are still present. But they are defeated foes awaiting their ultimate punishment and eternal doom. Never, ever forget that.
Say, “Well, what does this mean for me as a Christian?” First, you are more than a conqueror. Now notice, that doesn’t mean that someday, you will be more than a conqueror. It doesn’t mean that you hope that someday you will be more than a conqueror. It’s not something that you have to work for. It’s not something you have to work to achieve. It’s not something you have to dare to dream about. No, the Bible says you are more than a conqueror. Right here. Right now. Easter 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic, you are more than a conqueror. Do not run scared! Because Christ is victorious, you, the believer, are victorious. You live in victory. I have to ask you, do you believe that? Better yet, do you live as if you believe that? Now again, when I say don’t live in fear, do not take that so far as to live recklessly. Take necessary precautions. But listen, ultimately, we have nothing to fear. We are victorious in Christ.
Second, Paul says Jesus has put these rulers and authorities to open shame. He’s exposed them to public disgrace. He’s ruined their reputations. He’s exposed them for what they are. It’s a modern-day perp-walk if you will… shows them for who they are. Well, how has Jesus done this? How’s He put them to shame and disgrace? Paul says, by parading them, so that all can see what they really are. Paul says, God triumphed over them in Christ. What does Paul mean there? What does it mean that God triumphed over them? One commentator is helpful here. He says, “After a victory, the conquering general would ride through the streets of Rome in a war chariot drawn by four horses. Marching behind in chains was the defeated enemy as captives with the generals to be executed and the soldiers sold into slavery. Here,  Paul pictures Christ as exalted and demonstrates His glory publicly for all the believers, for all the heavens, to see by stripping the satanic forces of their power and leading them captive behind His victory chariot on His way through the heavens. Paul’s point is that both the evil powers and their minions, the false teachers had been defeated, and Christ’s followers experienced the spoils of that victory.” We often say that the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ was the Father’s stamp of approval, and that is true, and that is right, and that is correct. But you know, also, know what the resurrection is? It is a sign of victory.
Well, let’s bring this down one more level. When the accuser of your soul comes to you and begins to accuse you and remind you of past sins or present sins, you need to remind him that I saw you in a very special, Easter parade. And you were exposed for what you truly are. You’ve been disarmed. You’ve been disgraced. You’ve been stripped of all your power. You’re nothing. You have no authority over me. That’s who you are. Here’s who I am. I’m more than a conqueror. I am in Christ. My pastor said, “When, when the devil reminds you of your past, remind him of his future. He’s doomed to hell.” We need to remind Satan, we need to remind the rulers and authorities, that he’s been stripped of all of his weapons of intimidation. And because you live in the victory of Christ, his… all of his threats are empty threats, and they are devoid of any power over you. He can threaten all that he wants, but he has no power over you.
So, as you celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ today, please guard against your celebration becoming mere sentiment. I saw churches on Facebook this week asking for help to be able to put easter eggs on the front of their website. God help us. You have boiled down the central tenet of the Christian faith to a colored egg? And you wonder why the world doesn’t take us seriously. In the midst of a global pandemic, we’re worried about putting easter eggs on our websites? Mere sentiment. I don’t need an Easter egg I need deliverance, I need victory. Make sure that you guard against the celebration becoming mere sentiment. The resurrection of Jesus is vital to your faith in Christ. As Paul said and Christ and was mentioned a couple of times in our prayer meeting… If in Christ, we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. We’re fools!
But because the Resurrection is true, you have been made alive together with Christ. Because the Resurrection is true, your sins are forgiven. Because the Resurrection is true, your record of debt has been canceled. Because the Resurrection is true, your sins have been nailed to the cross. Because the Resurrection is true, Jesus is the victor, not just over death, but hell and the grave, but over all the rulers and authorities. They’ve all been put to open shame and disgrace by the Lord Jesus. Listen, what is it that has you depressed and discouraged and fearful right now? Know this. Jesus has already conquered it. Live in the victory of Christ. I close with the words of Paul to the Romans in chapter 8. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37).