Author: Ron Graham
Christ, Perfect Example of All Suffering
—plus “A Journey With Christ”
We now come to our fifth and final theme in our study of Colossians: Your Full Salvation. The main idea in this theme, is that the death of Christ on the cross made possible our full redemption, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
Furthermore, when we ourselves suffer, and our faith is tested, we can identify with the perfect example of the sacrificial suffering of the innocent Christ.
Although there is a strong emphasis, in Paul’s letter to the Colossians, on the divinity of Jesus, Paul also makes reference to the Christ in such a way as to clearly identify him as Jesus the human being.
In chapter one Paul refers to “Jesus Christ” or “Christ Jesus” (Colossians 1:1,4). Thus Paul deliberately identifies the human Jesus as the divine Christ. Paul understands that the human sufferings of Christ accomplished the divine will.
1 His Suffering was “Sensible”
We commonly use the word “sensible” to mean wise. Certainly Christ was showing his wisdom in suffering death on the cross, because he came out of it "triumphing over them" (Colossians 2:15). However...
I am using the word sensible in its less common meaning, “perceptible to the senses”. The point is that Christ suffered in a way we are able to understand. His suffering was in his "fleshly body" (Colossians 1:22).
Jesus Christ shed "the blood of his cross" (Colossians 1:20). He experienced physical and emotional suffering in this world as human beings do. His was a suffering we can easily identify with.
Christ did not suffer in some way that humans don't experience and can't comprehend. Paul was able to identify with the sufferings of Christ. He felt he could share in them. "I fill up in my flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions" (Colossians 1:24).
Paul here has Christ’s suffering as a paradigm or pattern and goal for himself. This helped Paul to see purpose in his sufferings and to therefore to endure them, and even live joyfully with them. Paul did not see Christ’s sufferings as beyond human experience
2 His Suffering was “Sacrificial”
What was God’s purpose in sending His Son to suffer death on the cross? It was the redemption and reconciliation of human beings. Paul says, "In God’s beloved Son we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:13-14).
"He made peace through the blood of his cross, and you who once were alienated in your mind by wicked works, yet now he has reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and blameless, and above reproach in his sight" (Colossians 1:20-22).
So the flesh and blood of Jesus became, in his death on the cross, a sacrifice for our sins. What is more, no other sacrifice could redeem and reconcile humankind, nor was any more sacrifice than this called for.
3 His Suffering was “Sufficient”
Paul says that Jesus "wiped out the handwriting that was against us, which was contrary to us, and has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross" (Colossians 2:14).
While this refers specifically to the law of Moses, it must logically refer to all laws and commandments that would result in our condemnation rather than in our redemption. All "commandments and doctrines of men" (Colossians 2:22).
Paul calls such laws "philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world and not according to Christ" (Colossians 2:8).
All this he was able to cancel by his suffering on the cross. Moreover, he was able to deliver us from all contrary powers including "the powers of darkness" (Colossians 1:13).
So he was able to erase and nullify all condemnation from these sources, so we could be "forgiven all trespasses" (Colossians 2:13). The word “all” there signifies the complete sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice.
No other sacrifice could do this, nor was any more sacrifice called for. Christ’s redemptive suffering was completely sufficient.
Such is his sufficiency, that Christ makes you no longer sinful, but "...walking worthy... fruitfull... strengthened... qualified... delivered... redeemed... holy and blameless... above reproach..." (Colossians 1:9-14,22).
A Journey With Christ
As you think about the sufferings of Christ crucified, your view extends beyond his death to what followed —his burial, his rising from the dead (resurrection), his going into heaven (ascension), and his sitting on God’s throne as King (accession).
Paul does not think of this chain of events (death, burial, resurrection, ascension, accession) as merely facts to be believed about Christ. Paul sees the gift and experience of redemption and eternal life as a journey with Christ which takes you through each of those events of sufferings and triumph.
1 You Die with Christ
Paul sees each Christian as having "died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world" (Colossians 2:20). You no longer live by worldly beliefs, attitudes, and desires.
You have "put to death" your earthly bodies as to their former manner of life: "fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness which is idolatry" (Colossians 3:5).
Paul describes this death and rebirth with Christ as "putting off the old self with its practices" (Colossians 3:9)
You are no longer "alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works" but are "now reconciled" (Colossians 1:21-22).
You now "let the peace of God rule in your hearts" (Colossians 3:15).. This new peace is the reconciliation made possible by Christ’s death.
2 You are Buried with Christ
Paul sees our putting off the old ways as being buried with Christ. "You have been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him" (Colossians 2:12). This is the same likeness that Paul makes in more detail in Romans 6.
The old self, the condemned sinner you were, is buried and done with. People often contradict this by saying that we are sinful people. Paul does not see it that way at all. Your old self “died with Christ” and was “buried with Christ” —it no longer lives. Paul wants us to keep it dead and buried (Colossians 3:5-10).
3 You are Raised with Christ
Not only is the old self dead and buried, but a new self has emerged, and in the passages above Paul says "you were raised with Christ... and have put on the new self" (Colossians 2:12, 3:1,10).
This is the new birth —being “born again” as our Lord described it. Paul has a wonderful description of this state in his opening words to the Colossians (Colossians 1:9-14).
According to that passage, in Christ you are "...walking worthy... fruitfull... strengthened... qualified... delivered... redeemed... holy and blameless... above reproach..." (Colossians 1:9-14,22).
Paul gently warns the Colossians to remain in that state: "continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and be not moved away..." (Colossians 1:21-23).
4 You will be Revealed with Christ
The journey is not over, indeed it has hardly begun. For you are under this promise: "When Christ who is our life is revealed, then you also shall be revealed with him in glory" (Colossians 3:4).
Jesus Christ is "the firstborn from the dead" (Colossians 1:18). His journey is complete. Yours isn't. But in Christ and with Christ you shall complete it. His own ascension and accession assures you.
Christ is in glory now, reigning as your King. One day he will appear and take you into glory which is "the inheritance of the saints in light" (Colossians 1:12).