Inimitable and Powerful

Empty tomb with three crosses on a hill side.

Inimitable and Powerful

Col. 2:9-15

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

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, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. 

Last week I had the privilege of briefly visiting with one of the elders who shepherded my soul as I grew up in my local congregation in Dallas. He and my father were both elders in that church and they were both surgeons. I thanked him for his hard and faithful work as a shepherd for over half a century.

He grabbed my arm and looked straight into my eyes and asked, “Do you preach to your congregation about the inimitable sacrificial blood of Christ?” Before I could answer he said, “You know what ‘inimitable’ means, don’t you? It means ‘uncopiable, unreproducible, and unable to be imitated.’” Then he said, “You need to preach this!” One thing I learned growing up is that surgeons don’t like to be told, “No.” It turns out they’re not very used to hearing that word.

I also learned in my youth that men called by Christ to be elders in His church are due my highest respect. So I promised Dr. Mims I would preach to you today about the inimitable sacrificial blood of Christ as a part of our focus upon Jesus’ death and resurrection this morning.

This passage in Colossians 2, and many others like it, connects our new life in Christ to a real sacrificial, blood-shedding death and a real, historical resurrection with real benefits for those who trust into Christ. It teaches us Jesus’ shed blood and resurrection provide three benefits for those who are united to Christ by trust in his perfect life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection: (1) new life; (2) new freedom; and, (3) new power.

  1. NEW LIFE (2:13)

    1. Dead and Buried (2:11-12)

      1. Look at Col. 2:11-12, where Paul writes: “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Col. 2:11-12).

      2. The bible is telling us that when we trust in Christ, we are united with Christ in his blood-shedding sacrificial death and in his glorious resurrection in a real and powerful way.

      3. Without trust in Jesus, we are dead to God with no hope of resurrection to glory. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world” (Eph. 2:1-2).

      4. Notice how Paul puts it in the first part of v. 13, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh” (Col. 2:13a).

      5. Without trust in Jesus you are dead, as dead as the Easter ham or lamb many of you will eat today. God looks on your sins and your sin nature and sees someone who must and shall face his wrath against all ungodliness.

      6. Nothing you can do will please God or earn his favor. “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isa. 64:6). Text says literally: our attempts to please God are like biohazardous waste. Dead people cannot compose good works that please God; they can only keep on decomposing.

    2. Resurrected Hearts (13)

      1. But Jesus offers resurrection to dead hearts. 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” (Col. 2:13).

      2. He offers to perform a miracle, to raise you from death to life. What Jesus offers is better than “look good/feel good” religion. Religion can only offer you the false hope of “self-improvement.”

      3. But Jesus offers true life together with him. He offers new life to dead hearts: “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17).

      4. To trust Jesus is to be united to him in his death and resurrection so that you become a new creation. That word “creation” means “something that has not before existed.”

      5. You must be made alive by God alone. You cannot resurrect yourself by trying to be moral, by reciting self-affirmations, or by doing nice things for others. God made [you] alive together with [Jesus] (13).

      6. It is because Jesus is alive that you can have life in him. If he is only “raised in your heart” then your heart is still dead and without hope this morning. God says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9).

      7. Thank God that Jesus’ bodily resurrection is real because that makes my life in Christ real. And it gives me new freedom.

  1. NEW FREEDOM (2:13b-14)

    1. From What?

      1. The questions are, “freedom FROM what?” and “freedom FOR what?”

      2. From WHAT are we made free? Verses 13b-14 tell us that in Christ, God has “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” (Col. 2:13b-14).

      3. Jesus satisfied God’s wrath against the sins of his people. Jesus drank the bitter cup of God’s just punishment and God’s hatred of sin. He drank it to the very last drop.

      4. On your bulletin this morning is a passage from Hebrews 10. It points us back to the Old Testament laws of sacrifice, which demanded that when someone sinned they had to take their most-perfect animal (the very best breeding stock), confess their sin over it and slit its throat before God and the Jewish priest.

      5. But that didn’t really PAY for the person’s sin; it only postponed God’s punishment of sin until the next blood sacrifice. Day after day, year after year people slaughtered animals and priests burned animal parts on altars to postpone God’s punishment of sinners.

      6. But when Jesus willingly shed his perfect blood upon Calvary’s cross, he drank ever last drop of God’s wrath against his sinful people. Heb. 10:12 says, “12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God….”

      7. Jesus’ blood is sacrificial because it paid for your sin. Jesus’ blood is inimitable because it was shed only once for all time. It cannot be repeated. It cannot be copied by our attempts to be good. It is the ONLY real payment for sin.

      8. Sin is any failure to perfectly perform God’s laws. And, if you trust Jesus, any sin you have ever done or ever WILL do was nailed to the cross of Christ.

      9. Verse 14 literally says, “having blotted out the handwritten document that was against us.1 We had an un-payable bill that demanded impossible perfection and a never-ending payment of eternal death. “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).  The soul who sins shall die (Ez. 18:20). At the cross, God shreds that bill by shredding himself instead of his people.

      10. If you are in Christ, you are free from sin’s debt; you are free from its guilt; you are free from its punishment; you are free from its power! “For freedom Christ has set us free” (Gal. 5:1).

      11. You don’t have to pretend to be better than other sinners. If you are in Christ, he has given you a purified conscience, sprinkled clean by his blood.

      12. You don’t have to try to look like the perfect church person. Heaven is God’s trophy room for his people; the earthly church is a hospital for sinners – sinners whose medicine is confidence and hope in the inimitable sacrificial blood of Christ and in his glorious resurrection.

      13. So the Bible says, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:19-22).

      14. God seals his promises to us with the signs of water, bread, and wine so that we can confidently draw near to him because of the inimitable blood and the empty tomb.

    2. For What?

      1. For what are we set free by the power of Christ’s death resurrection?

      2. We are set free from trying to make God love us. The cross is God’s announcement that he loves his people in a way no other creature in the universe can possibly love!

      3. We are free to let that love wash over us like a waterfall and to dive into it like crystal pool. We are free to respond to that love by loving others sacrificially. You are accepted in the beloved; live that way!

      4. We are free from the burden of trying to create our own “I’m better than you are” righteousness. If you understand what it means to be clothed in the perfect righteousness of Jesus, you don’t have to exhaust yourself trying to make God or other people love you.

      5. When the Father sees those in union with Jesus, he sees the perfect law-keeping life and blood-shedding death of Jesus and he is infinitely pleased.

      6. He’s not impressed with your wardrobe, your house, or your car. Do you dare to think any of those petty things are better than being clothed with the righteousness of Jesus?

      7. Are you living out the righteousness of Christ this morning? Do you know that you are covered with his perfection? You CAN know that this very morning!

      8. Finally, we are free to live a life that is no longer enslaved to sin. If you are dead IN sin, all you can do is sin. But when you are made alive with Christ, your affections begin to change.

      9. Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:3-4).

      10. When you see God’s one-way love offered at the bloody cross, you want to do what God desires for you and you want to live a life of gratitude to him. When you are made alive together with Christ by that power that raised Christ up from the grave, you begin to desire to live for Christ.

      11. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor. 5:14-15).

      12. You can put on a good face on Sunday morning and you may be able to convince the people you see once a week that you have a well-managed life, but Jesus offers to deal with the sins you hide away and don’t want anyone else to know about.

      13. You are set free from the “bootstrap religion” that tells you to just try harder and do better at managing your bad behavior. You are given a new power.

  1. NEW POWER (2:15)

    1. Power of the Spirit

      1. Jesus promised that when he really and truly rose from the dead and took his place in the throne room of the universe, he would pour out power upon his people.

      2. I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment….  When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (Jn. 16:7-15).

      3. A Jesus that has only risen “spiritually” in your heart means that YOU must generate the power of moral goodness in your own life. And that’s impossible for any of us! That’s why we celebrate the fact that there is a man in heaven – a real, physical man with a physical body!

      4. A Jesus that only rises in your heart is not Biblical Christianity but pagan Gnosticism: “Spirit good, flesh bad.” The truth of the gospel message becomes a subjective experience that you alone empower and control.

      5. But the Bible teaches, “For in [Jesus] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority” (Col. 2:9-10).

      6. Back in the first chapter of Colossians, Paul says the glorious message of the gospel is this, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). Those who trust in Jesus are told, “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (Eph. 6:10).

      7. You cannot “try harder to do better” if you understand what God has done at the cross of Christ. It is NOT your strength God offers you, but the power that raised Jesus from the dead!

      8. Resurrection power drives Paul to write, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:12-13).

    2. Victory over Spirits

      1. The power of Jesus’ resurrection is poured out upon his people through the Holy Spirit. And the power of the resurrection also shames and disarms the Evil One and his minions.

      2. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Col. 2:15).

      3. On that Friday in Jerusalem as people watched a man being tortured to death on a cross, as they watched him being insulted and jeered at, angels watched as well.

      4. Satan and his army of fallen angels must have laughed and danced with glee as God the Son was put to death on a cross. But Sunday came! The Son rose in power and glory and he shined a great spotlight upon that bloody cross.

      5. What seemed to men and angels to be open shame upon Jesus was revealed to be open shame to all God’s enemies, be they men or angels. That word disarmed means “stripped naked.”2

      6. In Christ, we have no reason to fear any dark power or authority. The demonic realm has been totally disarmed of any power over the people for whom Jesus died and lives.

      7. But think about this: God displayed his power by hanging on a cross and letting his own rebellious creatures torture him to (bodily) death. There was upside down power in his suffering and humiliation. It was through a humiliating and agonizing death that God conquered evil and humiliated the dark principalities and rulers over men enslaved to sin.

      8. God doesn’t want your strength; he wants your weakness! “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).

      9. One preacher wrote: “For although in the cross there is nothing but curse, it was, nevertheless, swallowed up by the power of God in such a way, that it has put on… a new nature. For there is no tribunal so magnificent, no throne so stately, no show of triumph so distinguished, no chariot so elevated, as is the [cross] on which Christ has subdued death and the devil, the prince of death; [he] has utterly trodden them under his feet.”3

The bloody cross and empty tomb display the power that conquers death itself! That new power is yours today if you are trusting into Christ.

Paul boasts in that power, taunting death itself saying, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:54-57).

The power of God is at work in his church. Not even the gates of hell can hold up against that power that Jesus gives.

Because Jesus is alive (as the man in heaven), new life is yours. Because there is a man in heaven, new freedom is yours. Because Jesus rose bodily from the grave, new power is yours.

But it is ONLY yours if you are trusting in Jesus alone this morning. Your “dress up and come to church” righteousness cannot save you from God’s decree that all imperfection must and shall earn death. Your “good parent righteousness” cannot save you. Your “good politics” righteousness cannot save you. Your “I’m better than THAT person” righteousness can only compound you guilt before the perfect God who demands absolute perfection. And what he demands, he offers freely in Christ Jesus!

Only the inimitable sacrificial blood of Jesus, shed for the sins of his people, can bring you new life, new freedom, and new resurrection power. And you can come to the living Savior this morning by turning from all your failed attempts to please God and man by simply saying, “Thank you Lord Jesus for living the perfect life I could never live and dying the death that I deserve.

May you come to rest in Christ alone.

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.


 

1 William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, vol. 6, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of Colossians and Philemon, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953-2001), 118.
2 “ἀπεκδύομαιἀπέκδυσις, εως f: to take off or strip off clothing—‘to undress, to disrobe, stripping off.’  ἀπεκδύομαι: ἀπεκδυσάμενος τὰς ἀρχὰς καὶ τὰς ἐξουσίας ἐδειγμάτισεν ἐν παρρησίᾳ ‘he stripped off the clothing of the rulers and authorities and made them a public spectacle’ Col 2:15. ἀπεκδύομαι in Col 2:15 appears to be a case of figurative usage, but it may refer to the stripping away of weapons and hence the removal of authority and power.” Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, vol. 1, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, electronic ed. of the 2nd edition. (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 526.
3 John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries: Colossians, electronic ed., Logos Library System; Calvin’s Commentaries (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1998), Col 2:15.