2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 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. 13 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. ESV
Picture in your mind what your email signature would look like if your name was followed by all the initials you ever imagined. What new opportunities might those qualifications create for you. Don’t just picture the initials from degrees and certifications, include vocational initials like VP or CFO. If you had every credential you ever wanted, how much better would life be? How would it feel to have all of those initials attached to your name? How might those letters change your financial status?
Now wake-up and return to reality! You read earlier in 1:13 that your Father, because you believe his Son, has rescued you from the kingdom of darkness and planted you into the kingdom of his beloved Son. Remember that one? There are only two kingdoms in the universe, and that includes both the visible and the spiritual worlds. There are only two! Because those initials you just considered do not belong to the kingdom of Jesus, they are part of the kingdom of darkness. They aren't necessarily bad and if you have them, you most likely worked and studied very hard to earn those initials. But you must realize that those initials determine who is important and who isn't. Those initials are the primary way that our society determines a person’s value and that kind of thinking is most definitely from the dark domain.
The amazing reality of God's kingdom is this: These verses affirm that you have been fully credentialed with the highest qualifications that exist in both worlds. Your credentialing is confirmed by three little prepositions: by, in and with. Here’s what the passage proclaims:
· you have been filled in him - You have been filled up in Christ with everything you need to be qualified to belong to God. You are absolutely complete before God because you are in his Son. You are God's saint and nothing can change that.
· In him also you were circumcised - Circumcision, as awkward as it is to talk about, was God’s chosen symbol to Abraham in the first covenant of inclusion in the household of faith. It signified the cutting away of the sin-filled flesh, of being uniquely branded as God's people. When you came to Christ, you were born from above and given a new heart through the Spirit living in you (called regeneration). Your old nature, the flesh, was effectively cut away from you which qualified you to become a member of the body of Christ. The removal of the part of you that stood condemned before God is the analogy pictured here, a circumcision of the heart which is spiritual. (Deuteronomy 30:6, Jeremiah 4:4 and Romans 2:29)
· having been buried with him in baptism - This is a descriptive picture of the reality that your old sinful self, that part of you that was damned, was not only cut away from you like in circumcision, it was crucified, dead and buried. “Baptism” carries the idea of both the ceremony of declaring your allegiance to Christ through water, and that you are forever and completely identified with him, which is what water baptism symbolizes. In those days, if a boat sank in the sea of Galilee, they would have said the boat was “baptized”. When women dyed cloth from the original beige to a beautiful color like purple, they were “baptizing” the cloth. The word baptism carries the idea of a radical change of state. You have been completely immersed into Christ and the Bible says that the real you is actually hidden with Christ. Your soul was “dyed” into Christ and the color change is irreversible.
· you were also raised with him - The new you was raised to new life when the Spirit came to live within you, just as the old you was crucified with Jesus’ death and buried forever. Because you trust in the stunning power of God, he sees you as raised and seated with his Son in paradise. The only thing that stands between you and that reality coming to fruition is a little bit of time. When thoughts of death and dying make you fearful, focus on your sure position with Christ.
· God made (you ) alive together with him - This is stating the same truth in another way. God wants to make sure that you fully understand what he has done in you, through your faith in him. Because you are with Jesus in absolute and complete identification, you will not die. In the blink of an eye you will be with him. When life on earth is finished for you, you will live in the breath-taking presence of God for an endless age....together with Jesus.
· having forgiven us all our trespasses - “Trespasses” is another word for “sins” or “transgressions”. You are alive in Christ because every wrong you ever committed (and will commit) was effectively and judiciously nailed to the cross. Every charge against you has been cleared. Your sins were erased because they were put on Jesus and he was punished for them.
How does that help you to understand the spiritual credentials you carry? How do these truths help you to have confidence in who you are in Christ? How do these verses convey the unwavering love your Father has for you?
Each of these truths envelope every single follower of Jesus. The “you” in this passage is plural. This letter was written for the gathered believers in a local church. Embrace these realities for your church family, small group, Bible study and for all of your friends who are in Christ. Take in these doctrines as being the reality of every Christ-follower on the planet. Think of every believer in this light. See them for who they are in Christ. There is no one in the Kingdom who is more qualified or less qualified than anyone else. There is no place in the Kingdom for comparing, demeaning or elevating. We are all one in Christ and we are all equally endowed with the full credentials of Jesus.
- When you interact with someone who has credentials, remind yourself of your eternal credentialing. Which would you rather have?
- Take time right now to thank God for qualifying you to be in Christ. Thank him for your spiritual certification each time you interact with people who don’t yet know him. Pray using Ephesians 1:17-19.