"Alive With Jesus"
(Delivered Sunday, March 11, 2001 at Bethany Bible Church. All scripture quotes, unless otherwise noted, are from the New King James Version.)
There's a story told in the Gospel of Matthew that, ordinarily, doesn't get much attention. But it should receive more attention than it does, because it describes something quite remarkable.
It's the story of what happened at the dark time when our Savior died on the cross for us. At the very moment that He cried out with a loud voice and yielded up His spirit, the Bible tells us that several amazing things happened. For one thing, we're told that the veil of the temple was torn in two. This veil covered the most holy place in the temple - the place into which only the high priest was permitted to enter only once a year; and only in order to make atonement for the sins of the people on the Day of Atonement. When Jesus died, the veil that separated the presence of a holy God from sinful people was torn in half by an invisible hand, from top to bottom - showing vividly that full atonement had been made for sins by Jesus, and that pardoned sinners were now welcome to draw near and have fellowship with a holy God.
And the Bible then goes on to tell us that, immediately after Jesus died on the cross, there was an earthquake so great that it split open the rocks in Jerusalem, even opening up the graves of people who had died. The Bible says, "... and the bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many" (Matthew 27:52-53).
What a remarkable event that was! Numbers of people came up out of their graves, and walked into town alive - actually seen and spoken to by eyewitnesses! This one passage contains all that the Bible tells us about it; and I have often found myself imagining what it must have been like for those people - whom the Bible describes as "saints" - to have been raised up with Jesus from out of their graves, and to walk into town alive to their families, friends and neighbors. I like to imagine how different their lives must have been from what they had been before.
This wasn't the only time that Jesus raised people from the dead. The Bible tells us of other resurrection stories. For example, Jesus raised His friend Lazarus from the dead; and from then on, Lazarus was never the same. He became known as he 'whom Jesus had raised from the dead' (John 12:1). The Bible even tells us that large numbers of people came to the place where he lived, "not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead" (v. 9).
Jesus had also raised the son of a poor widow from the dead - just as he was being carried out of the city in a large funeral procession. Jesus stopped the funeral procession, touched the open coffin, and said, "Young man, I say to you, arise" (Luke 7:14); and it says that "he who was dead sat up and began to speak" (v. 15). (I would love to know what it was that he said; wouldn't you? If you suddenly awakened to find yourself in an open coffin, being carried along in a funeral procession, wouldn't you 'begin to speak' too?) How different life must have been for this young man from then on!
Jesus also restored life to a little girl. She was the twelve-year-old daughter of a man named Jairus, a ruler of the Jewish people. Jesus came to her room as her body lay cold and still on her bed; and He took her by the hand and said, "Little girl, I say to you, arise" (Mark 5:41). To the overwhelming amazement of her parents and relatives, she immediately arose and walked; and - just like any other twelve-year-old - she was hungry and wanted something to eat. But just imagine how different life must have been for this little girl from that day on!
And the Bible tells us of these others, whose graves were opened at the time of Jesus' death, and who rose up alive out of their graves at His resurrection! All of these people had lived lives just like anyone else; and then they died just like everyone else. But then, they were raised again to new life with Jesus; and whatever life was like for them before that time, it certainly couldn't help but be radically different afterwards. No doubt, they went back home to their villages, and to the same families and neighborhoods that they had lived in before they had died. Some probably went back to their former workplaces, and resumed their old jobs or trades. They most likely walked along the same streets and pathways as they once had, and probably wore the same clothes as they had worn before. They probably even looked the same. But from deep within them, things were radically different. There were many things that they used to do that, from that moment on, they would never do again; and there were many things that they began to do from that day forward, that they probably never imagined that they would have done before.
How could life be anything but profoundly different for someone who had been resurrected with Christ? Such a person would be living and working for the remainder of his or her days as someone that Jesus had raised from the dead.
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I thought much about this as I came to this morning's passage; because it says that we, too, have been resurrected with Jesus to newness of life. Paul writes;
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, 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. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it (Col. 2:13-15).
This passage affirms that we who have trusted Jesus as our Savior have been raised spiritually, together with Him, unto a new life - no less so than those "saints" who were raised physically with Jesus at His resurrection. What is it, then, that's different about us? How have things changed for those of us who have been spiritually resurrected with Jesus?
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Before we consider what has changed about us because of our resurrection with Christ, think back with me to something Jesus said early in His earthly ministry. He promised that He would, one day, bring about two kinds of resurrection; one kind would be physical, and the other kind would be spiritual. He taught that we should not think it a strange thing that He would raise some people up from 'spiritual death' by their hearing and believing the gospel, because He said that He would also raise all people up one day from 'physical death' as well. He once told the Jewish people,
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My words and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth - those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation (John 5:24-29).
Jesus taught that everyone would experience physical resurrection - some to the resurrection of life, and others to the resurrection of condemnation. Not everyone would experience the spiritual resurrection Jesus spoke of, however; because that would only be true of those who have heard the gospel and placed their trust in His sacrifice for them on the cross. But Jesus said that the man or woman "who hears My words and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life."
And what's very interesting about this is how Jesus described the "life" of those whom He would raise from spiritual "death". He described those who have heard His words and have believed in the One who sent Him as having already been resurrected spiritually to everlasting life; saying that they would not come into judgment, but have already been passed from death into life. He didn't say that they "would one day have everlasting life after death"; but that they already have it. In other words, they don't have to wait until the resurrection of their bodies from 'physical' death before they experience the resurrection of their souls from 'spiritual' death. Those who believe are already raised by God unto that new life.
If we're in Christ then, we're already living - right now - the "resurrected" life. Eternal life wont begin for us when we get to heaven; it already began when we were spiritually raised up with Him! And the proof Jesus offers that He is fully able to raise people from spiritual "death" and impart spiritual "life" to them is the fact that He already has raised people - and will raise people yet still - from physical "death".
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This "spiritual" resurrection is what Paul is talking about in our passage this morning. Look at how he begins it. He says, "In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 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" (Col. 2:11-12).
Paul is speaking here of how sufficient the sacrifice of Jesus is for us. He is showing us how our union with Jesus in His death on the cross provides us with everything that we need in order to be made complete before God - everything we need to be able to stand in God's total favor.
He says, first, that because of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross on our behalf, we have experienced a spiritual "circumcision" - an operation, if you will, by which God has cut off from us "the body of the flesh" (as it is in the original language). God has severed from us the dominating, enslaving power that the principle of sin held over us. The principle of sin is still present in us, waging war against us; but now, we no longer have to turn ourselves helplessly over to the sinful passions within us as if we were their slave. Instead, we have been set free to give ourselves progressively and increasingly over to Christ as His instruments of righteousness (Rom. 6:12-14).
And second, Paul says that because of Jesus' sacrifice for us on His cross, we have been made to die to our old oppressive, impossible obligation to the law of God which was given through Moses, and have been raised to a new life with Jesus under the principle of grace. The law still remains good, because it's from God; but we have "died" to the law as a means of being made acceptable to God, and now no longer live under the dreadful curse of the law because of our failure to keep it. Our disobedience to God's law required that we die; and the good news is that we have already been put to death in Jesus, who died as our Substitute. Paul says that we have been "buried with Him in baptism" - "dipped", as it were, into Him; and thus identified with Him in everything that He did. As He died, so we died with Him. As He was buried, so were we buried with Him. And, as He was raised from the dead, so too were we raised "through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead."
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And so, because of what Jesus has done, we are - by faith - men and women who have been spiritually resurrected with Him. The life we currently live in Jesus is the very same eternal life that we will live in heaven. All that we're waiting for now is to, one day, have our weak and frail bodies resurrected from physical death, and to be made to catch up with what has happened to our spirits. We are no longer living the "old life" we used to live. That "old life" is dead and gone. We are, right now - right this very minute - living the "resurrected and eternal life" by faith in Christ.
Being spiritually "resurrected" with Christ is a reality. God really, truly sees us as "raised with Christ". God no longer looks at us as what we used to be. He now looks upon us as "resurrected" people - saints whose graves have been burst opened, and who have been made to rise up in Jesus and walk into town "alive from the dead". And that's exactly how God wants us to look at ourselves.
So many of our problems in the Christian life come from a failure to see ourselves as God now sees us in Christ. That was part of the problem that faced the believers in Colossae. Paul wrote to these Colossian believers and told them,
Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations - "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle," which all concern things which perish with the using - according to the commandments and doctrines of men? (2:20-22).
He urged them, instead, to live like people who had been raised to a brand new life. He said,
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory (3:1-4).
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If this is all true of us who are in Christ, then we obviously can't go back to living life in the same old way as before. Things are no longer the same! Such a "resurrection" must mean a completely different kind of life-style; a whole new set of attitudes and practices. And so, what is it that has been changed? How are we to understand what is different about us now that we have been raised up with Jesus? I believe that, when you make the wonderful discovery of what it is that God Himself says is different about you, you'll never live the same old way again!
To get the spiritual reality of all of this fixed firmly in our minds, notice first how Paul affirms ...
I. OUR RESURRECTION WITH CHRIST (v. 13).
He takes this truth out of the realm of abstract theology and wonderfully applies it to his readers in a very personal way. He says, "And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him ..." (If you have trusted Jesus as your Savior, then when you read that he says, "And you ...", you should joyfully respond in your heart by saying, "Yes! Even me ...! He has raised even me from the dead with Jesus!")
Before God made us alive in Jesus - before we encountered the gospel message of what Jesus did for us, and before God gave us the ears to hear it and the heart to believe it - the Bible tells us that we were spiritually "dead". Simple logic would tell you that you can't be physically "resurrected" unless you are first physically "dead"; and likewise, you can't be spiritually "resurrected" unless you are first spiritually "dead". Apart from God's grace toward us in Jesus Christ, that's what we were - spiritually "dead" in God's eyes.
In what ways were we dead? First of all, Paul said that we were 'dead in our trespasses'; that is, we were spiritually unresponsive to any sort of life that was, in any respect, pleasing to God; and that we were giving proof to our "deadness" by living a life of continual disobedience and rebellion against Him. Paul wrote elsewhere that, apart from Christ, we were ...
"dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) and raised us up together, and made us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. 2:1-6).
And not only were we formerly dead in trespasses but, as Paul says, we were also dead in 'the uncircumcision of our flesh'; that is to say, we were living in a condition of alienation from the God of Israel. We were not 'His people', and He was not 'our God'. The "uncircumcision of our flesh" was a symbolic expression of our helpless and hopeless existence as "Gentiles" - a people both ethnically and spiritual "distant" from the covenant promises of God. We were "outside, looking in". But Paul wrote;
Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh - who were called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands - that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Eph. 2:11-13).
Our former condition apart from Christ was that we were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of our flesh in God's eyes. But now, Paul says, "You ... He has made alive together with Him ..." The Bible tells us that "if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection" (Rom. 6:5); and that "if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him" (Rom. 6:8). And as those who have been raised together with Christ, we're welcomed to draw near to God - He being Our God, and we being His people.
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As Paul puts it, "You ... He has made alive together with Him." And if you look closely at our passage, you can see that three dynamic elements were involved.
First, you can see the One who performed this act - God Himself. We, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of our flesh, were utterly helpless to do anything for ourselves; but we have been rescued from that state by "Him" - the almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Second, you can see the action that God took on our behalf - He made us "alive". Only God can raise the dead. We were dead before Him; and apart from an act of grace on His part, there was no hope that we would ever live again. But in love, He has made us alive and raised us up from our condition of death.
Third, you can see the means by which God raised us - He united us to Jesus Christ. We were formerly separated from God, and powerless to save ourselves. There was no life or strength within us; and so, God joined us to the life and strength of Another. We were "raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead".
The unmerited grace of God toward us; the powerful action of God upon us; the union of Christ with us ... all these have resulted in our having been wonderfully and permanently "resurrected from the dead"!
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And if I may, I suggest to you that coming to terms with all this as a personal, real experience is one of the most important things you can do to grow in your Christian life. If ever there was a case in which the old adage -"God said, it; I believe it; that settles it!"- should apply, it certainly is this one!
If you have placed your faith in Jesus, then you can take it as a fact that you have been spiritually "resurrected" with Him. God has already given you life. In fact, in the mystery of the sovereignty of God, you couldn't have even believed on Jesus if it weren't for the fact that God had first given you "life" (Eph. 2:8-9). But you must, by faith, operate in the practical world as if this were so. You must learn to look at yourself in a brand new way - as someone who has been raised up with Jesus unto new life. The Bible's way of putting it is that you must "reckon" it, or "consider" it, or "count it" to be so. Paul wrote that, just as Jesus died and was raised, "Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 6:11).
Paul himself is our great example in this. He had learned to see himself as God now saw him - considering himself to have been raised up with Christ in newness of life. He said, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Gal. 2:20).
That's what Paul "reckoned" to be true of himself. And it's how God wants us to learn to see ourselves as well. We must take to heart Paul's great affirmation, where he says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (2 Cor. 5:17). We must "reckon" ourselves to be new creations in Christ - raised up from the dead with Him.
What a wonderful thing it is to be raised up together with Christ! How we should praise and thank God for our spiritual "resurrection" in Him! What a wonderful thing it is to have a "new beginning" in Christ! How glorious it is to know that everyone who trusts in Him has been resurrected - not just to a "second chance" in life - but a whole new life that never ends!! May God give us the eyes to see ourselves as He sees us in Christ! Once we learn to do so, we'll begin, with God's help, to live accordingly.
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But this leads to the practical question of what it is that has changed? What, specifically, is it that's changed about us now that we've been raised in Christ? Or to put it another way; now that our graves have been opened, and we've been spiritually resurrected with Christ, and made to walk back into town alive from the dead, how has the circumstance of our daily life before God been made different from what it was?
Paul answers that question for us next. He goes on to tell us about ...
II. THE BLESSINGS WE NOW ENJOY AS THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN RESURRECTED TOGETHER WITH CHRIST (vv. 13-15).
If we have been raised up with Christ, then there are, quite honestly, a multitude of things that are different for us. If Paul were to tell us everything that has changed, we'd never be able to carry our Bibles! Instead of mentioning everything that has changed, however, Paul spotlights only three things.
And he has a specific reason for mentioning just these three. His reason ties in with the whole purpose of his letter to the Colossians. He wanted to convince them - and us as well - that we have all now been completely and utterly saved by a totally sufficient Savior, Jesus Christ. He wanted to convince us that one of the glorious aspects of our resurrection in Christ is that we now stand in God's complete favor; and that there remains nothing more that we need to do in order to be acceptable in God's eyes - nothing more than what had already been done for us by Jesus. We can safely and confidently rest in the full work that Jesus has already accomplished for us.
Notice the first of these blessings. We see that, being resurrected with Christ, we now enjoy ...
A. THE FORGIVENESS OF ALL TRESPASSES (v. 13).
Paul told the Colossian believers that God has made them alive together with Christ, "having forgiven you all trespasses." The word "trespass" refers to the times when we've stepped out of God's moral pathways and stumbled onto one of God's moral "no trespassing" zones. It's simply another name for "sins". And one of the wonderful things that is now completely different about us is that we have forgiven of all our sins. Jesus paid the death penalty for all our sins to the uttermost; and now, they are completely removed from us. We have been washed thoroughly clean of all our guilt. What great news for "resurrected" sinners that is!!
People who are separated from God because of sin, and who are blind to the true nature of their situation, tend to interpret their own needs much differently than God interprets them. Such people believe that completeness and wholeness can be found in embracing a human philosophy, or in following human traditions and practices, or in being rightly related to the elementary things and principles of this world. And so, people build man-made philosophic, religious, or ethical systems around themselves, and entangle themselves in a complex set of ritualistic 'do's and 'don'ts' (Col. 2:8, 20-23) - all of human origin, and all in an attempt to meet what they believe to be the true and most basic need of their souls.
But from God's perspective, the greatest need that people have - more basic than anything else they might need - is something that can only be obtained as a gift of His grace; that is, to be forgiven of sins. Forgiveness is our most basic, most fundamental need before God; and until that need is met, nothing else in life will be right - no matter what else we may do.
There is a story about Jesus that illustrates this. He was once in a house, teaching and preaching to the crowds of people stuffed inside. Meanwhile, circling around the outside of the house, there was a small group of men tying find a way to get in to Him. They were carrying a friend with them that was paralyzed, and they wanted to get him to Jesus so that he could be healed. Because the house was so crowded that they couldn't get in, they simply dug a hole in the roof and lowered the man down to Jesus on ropes. Perhaps you've heard that story. Jesus eventually responded by healed the man completely, so that he was able to carry his own bed and walk out of the house to his friends. But did you notice that that's not what He did at first? Everyone watching all this thought the man's chief need was to be healed; but to the surprise of everybody there, the very first thing Jesus did was to tell the man, "Son, your sins are forgiven you" (Mark 2:5).
Forgiveness from God - more than anything else - was what that poor man really needed. And the situation is the same with every single one of us. Whatever else men and women may think that they need from God, the thing they really need most of all - the thing they need before anything else can be right with them - is the forgiveness of their sins. And the good news is that, in Jesus, "we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace, which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence" (Eph. 1:7-8).
The guilt of sin is a dreadful thing. People who feel the guilt of sin before God live in constant fear and dread of Him. They are either forever trying to avoid God, or they are forever trying to make themselves right before Him through their own efforts. But praise God that He doesn't raise us from spiritual death just to make us walk back into town as guilty and as condemned in His eyes as before. Instead, He completely takes the guilt of our sins away from us, so that we are resurrected to newness of life totally "forgiven"! He lifts us from our graves alive, and sends us walking back into town, having met our most basic need - having completely released us from all of our trespasses and pardoned us of all our sins.
One of the great blessings of being raised with Him then - one of the great things that has changed about our situation - is that we have been raised to the complete forgiveness of all our trespasses. God makes you alive in Christ, "having forgiven you all trespasses." It's first of all a gracious act - Paul using a word for 'forgiveness' here which, in the original language, emphasizes the display of God's free and gracious gift. And second, it's a comprehensive act - Paul here saying that God's forgiveness includes "all trespasses"; past, present and future. What a wonderful difference that should make in the way we now live!!
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A second blessing of being raised up with Jesus is ...
B. THE RELEASE FROM ALL INDEBTEDNESS (v. 14).
Paul said that God has made us alive together with Christ, "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."
What does Paul mean here by "handwriting of requirements"? I believe that a clue to Paul's meaning is found in verses 16-17, where he says, "So let no one judge you in food or in drink or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ."
In God's Old Testament law, He specified certain ceremonies, regulations, festivals, sacrifices, ordinances, and dietary laws; and these all made the Jewish people a distinct people on the earth. As they followed these patterns, they were conforming - in an imperfect way - to the sort of standard of holiness before God that would only be perfectly realized one day in and through the Person of Jesus Christ. That "handwriting of requirements" in the law was only the "shadow"; but Christ Himself was the "substance". Once the Son of God came to be born into the human family, lived a sinless life on earth before God, and died on the cross to make full atonement for our sins, those old rituals and ceremonies - having been perfectly kept in Him - fulfilled their purpose, and were no longer needed as the way to conform to God's standard of holiness.
Throughout the centuries, as the Jewish people awaited the coming of the Redeemer, they esteemed God's system of rituals and laws - and yet, the law simply proved to be a "handwriting of requirements" that was "against" anyone who tried to live under them. Those who sought to live under God's laws found that the laws were "contrary" to them. People could never truly please God by them, because the principle of sin that indwells all of us us would never permit them to keep God's requirements perfectly. And so, all that those commandments and ordinances did was condemn them as sinners.
I remember hearing a story that illustrates this. A man was on his way home from a Promise Keepers' conference in a major city. As he was boarding the plane, the flight attendant stopped him because he had three pieces of luggage with him; and he was only permitted to carry two on board. He was carrying two duffel-sized bags; but he felt that the the third piece of luggage was so small and insignificant - just a small bag strapped onto his shoulder - that he ought to have been allowed to sneak it on.
The flight attendant wasn't buyin' it, however. She insistent that he check it in at the baggage desk. He, in turn, began to get angry, and insist that wasn't about to do any such thing. An argument ensued; and eventually, the flight attendant won out and took the piece from the man. He stomped down the aisle and to his seat, plopping in with a very visible attitude. He whipped off his baseball cap in anger and threw it on his lap. And as it sat there, he read the words embroidered on the cap; "Promise Keepers: Men of Integrity". And at first, he was even more angry; because now - on top of everything else - he felt like he needed to hide that stupid hat!! But then, he began to feel ashamed. They really were fine words that he'd been wearing on his head - "men of integrity". He believed strongly in those words; but they had only served to condemned him, because he had failed so terribly to act in accordance to them.
That's what God's "handwriting of requirements" do to us. God's laws were never meant to perfect us. They were only meant to show us to be sinners, and to point us to the One who died for our sins. And it's our union with Him alone that perfects us.
And this, once again, points to another wonderful change that has been brought about for us who have been raised up with Christ. God has made us alive, "having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us." He didn't simply deal with those requirements by ignoring them, or by ignoring our failure to keep them. Instead, He extracted the full penalty that "the handwriting of requirements" demanded, by sending His own Son to pay the death penalty for us. "And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross."
Look at how God has dealt with this condemning handwriting of requirements. He "wiped" it out - that is, blotted out and completely erased all the "poor marks in our grade book" that were against us. Second, He took the requirements completely out of the way - that is, removed them as a barrier that stood between ourselves and Him (Eph. 2:15-17). And finally, He demonstrated that the price for them had been completely covered - nailing that "bill of debt", as it were, to the cross of Jesus where it had been paid in full.
And now, because of the thorough way God has dealt with the condemning power of the law against us, He has established us in a relationship of peace with Himself by removed all our indebtedness toward the law completely from us. Think of it!! He has resurrected us to newness of life "debt-free!!" And what's more, He sets us free from ever having to fall into debt again because of that old "handwriting of requirements". That's yet another thing that has changed, now that we've been raised from the dead with Christ.
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And this leads us to a third blessing of being raised with Christ ...
C. THE VICTORY OVER ALL ACCUSERS (v. 15).
Paul said that God has made us alive together with Christ, "having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it."
It's wonderful that we have been forgiven of all our sins; and that we've been released from all our indebtedness. From God's standpoint, we are already made to be completely in His favor in Christ. But the Bible warns us that not everyone is receptive to that. There is one who still accuses us and seeks to discredit our position in Christ - the Devil.
The Bible tells us of how the Devil responds to those who are in God's favor. It tells us, for example, of a man named Job who was very much in God's favor. The Scriptures tell us that God pointed Job out to Satan and declared him to be a unique man on the earth; "a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil" (Job 1:8). But Satan responded by saying, "Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to your face" (vv. 10-11). Twice in the story of Job, we read that the Devil called Job's integrity into question (see also 2:3-6); moving God to prove Job's integrity through tests of his faith.
In the Old Testament prophecy of Zechariah, we read of a vision God gave Zechariah of Joshua, the high priest. Joshua was shown to be standing before the Angel of the Lord, with Satan standing at his right hand to oppose Joshua - or "to accuse him", as it is in the New American Standard translation. That's a vivid picture of how the devil operates toward God's redeemed saints. The name "Satan" means "the adversary"; and the name "Devil" means "the slanderer". Jesus said of the Devil that "he is a liar and the father of it" (John 8:44). And in the Book of Revelation, the Devil is referred to as "the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night" (Rev. 12:10).
The Bible tells us that God has "delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love" (Col. 1:13). And even though God calls us to rejoice in this and to give Him thanks, neither the devil, nor those who are under his power and authority, will never accept the idea of God being gracious to us and pardoning our sins. He is the author and director of an incessant, unrelenting "smear campaign" against the saints. In fact the Devil and his operatives continually seek to trip God's people up and tempt them into sin; and then, they hurl accusations at the saints, charging them with falling into the very traps they themselves had set for them!
But here again, we see yet another change that has been made for those who have been resurrected with Christ. God has rendered every accusation of the devil null and void through the cross of Jesus. He has "disarmed principalities and powers" and has "made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it".
The devil delights in reciting all our sins before God. And whenever we stumble, he wastes no time in taking advantage of our failures. But God our Father silences every single accusation the devil may make toward us by simply pointing to the cross of Jesus, where full atonement for those sins was already made. And now, as Paul wrote elsewhere, "Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us" (Rom. 8:33-34). Paul then affirms, "... I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." The devil's campaign against us is utterly defeated by the cross of Jesus Christ; and every charge that he might attempt to make against us has already been thrown out of court!
What's more, God has not only defeated all accusations against us; He also defeats our accusers. As Paul says, He "disarmed" the "principalities and powers" (that is, the Devil and his spiritual forces; see Eph. 6:12) - divesting them of their power against us; He "made a public spectacle of them" - turning their accusations around upon their own heads and shaming them in open view; and He "triumphed" over them through the victory of the cross; leading them, as it were, in the style of a mighty Roman general who returns home from a mighty conquest to a grand parade - with his humiliated enemies drawn in chains behind him in the view of all.
This, then, is another glorious blessing that is ours through having been resurrected with Jesus. Not only have all our sins been forgiven, and not only have we been set free from the dreadful bondage of the law; but all of the accusations that can ever be made against us, and all the oppositions that can ever be marshalled against God's favor toward us, have been rendered worthless and ineffective. The Devil may accuse us before God; but because of the cross of Jesus, none of his accusations will ever stick. We've been raised up with Christ in glorious victory; and he has been brought down in utter, shameful, ultimate defeat.
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Dear brothers and sisters; let these truths sink in!! If you have placed your trust in Jesus Christ by faith, then as far as God is concerned, you've been raised up with Him in newness of life. You no longer live the old life you used to live. You now live the very same "eternal life" in Him that you will forever be living in heaven.
God has opened up our graves, caused us to rise up from the tomb, and made us to walk back into town alive from the dead. He has raised us up to the complete forgiveness of all our sins before Him, to the complete release of all our debts to Him, and the complete victory over all those who would accuse us before Him. May He help us to, now, to go back to our homes, our jobs, our neighborhoods, and our daily lives, living from now on as those who have been made alive together with Jesus!
(copyright 2001 by Pastor Greg Allen and Bethany Bible Church. Reproduction without permission, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited.)
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