A marshal in Napoleon’s army—a man who was devoted to the emperor—was mortally wounded in battle. As he lay dying in his tent, he sent for his chief. Napoleon came. He earnestly pleaded with his leader to save his life. The emperor sadly shook his head and turned away. As the man was dying, he was heard to shriek out, “Save me, Napoleon! Save me!”
What man cannot do, God did. Through his death on the cross, Jesus Christ provided full and complete salvation.
In Colossians 2:9-10, Paul stated that because Jesus Christ is fully God, believers have been given fullness in Christ. In 2:11-15, Paul explains that our salvation is complete, our forgiveness is complete, and our victory is complete.
When it comes to salvation, we have a problem. We have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard of absolute holiness. If we want to be saved, rituals are not enough. Pilgrimages do not make a difference. Hours of devoted service do not help. For all our modern medical sophistication, no surgery can cut out our sinful nature and give us new life.
In verses 11-12, Paul uses two metaphors to demonstrate that our salvation is complete. Circumcision illustrates we identify with the death of Christ (11), while baptism pictures our identification with the burial and resurrection of Christ (12). We are saved totally and exclusively through the work of God, not through any human activity.
In 13-14, Paul says that God wiped off our certificate of debt. Christ took the IOUs and nailed them to the Cross above his head (just as the charges were nailed over him by Pilate), and then completely forgave us all. Not a trace of it remains to be held against us. God erases the document and cancels the debt. When Jesus died, he hit the “delete” key. The condemning document was destroyed. Our forgiveness is complete.
Martin Luther experienced the reality of this truth in a dream in which he was visited at night by Satan, who brought to him a record of his own life, written with his own hand. The Tempter said to him, “Is that true, did you write it?” The poor terrified Luther had to confess it was all true. Scroll after scroll was unrolled, and the same confession was wrung from him again and again. At length, the Evil One prepared to take his departure, having brought Luther down to the lowest depths of abject misery. Suddenly the Reformer turned to the Tempter and said: “It is true, every word of it, but write across it all: ‘The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin.’”
Verse 15 explains that our victory is complete. Through his death on the cross, Jesus Christ won a decisive victory, making clear to the universe that Satan is a vanquished foe. First, He “disarmed the powers and authorities”, stripping Satan and his army of whatever weapons they held. Second, Jesus “made a public spectacle” of the enemy, exposing Satan’s deceit and vileness.
In the early 1900s, there was a man in the Russian army who had the job of paymaster. His job was to accept and then distribute the pay to the soldiers of the units in his area. This young paymaster had a problem with gambling. After having received a large sum of money for a company of soldiers he became caught up on a game and lost not only his own pay for a month but the pay of the entire unit. He knew there was no way he could ever repay the money and knew there was no hope but prison or a firing squad.
He decided the only thing he could do was to take his own life. He sat at his desk with a pistol and wrote this note. “So great a debt. Who could ever repay?” As he sat in anguish thinking about what he must do, he fell asleep. Nicholas, Tzar of Russia at the time, happened to be out for an evening walk and noticed the light still on at the paymasters’ quarters. He decided to stop in on the young man. He found the door open and the young man asleep with the pistol on his desk and the note. He took the pistol and wrote on the bottom of the note, “Nicholas can.”
Like the young paymaster, we have a great debt we cannot possibly ever repay. Not one of us can ever earn enough to deserve the reward of heaven. We have so great a debt. Who can ever repay? Jesus can—and he did.
Because Jesus Christ is completely God, we are complete in him. Our salvation is complete. Our forgiveness is complete. Our victory is complete.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on January 27, 2013. It is part of a series on Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.