Colossians 3:11

Christ is All and In All

 

DEAD TO EARTHLY DISTINCTIONS


A. Earthly Distinctions

1. Greek or Jew – a NATIONAL distinction.

a. Jews and Greeks were not the best of friends.

b. Jews were a thorn in the flesh to the Greek speaking world… and the feeling was mutual.

2. Circumcision or Uncircumcision – a distinction in CUSTOMS.

a. Different nations and cultures had developed their own customs, many of which were related to their religion.

b. The Jews practiced circumcision and looked down upon those who did NOT practice this ritual.

c. You often read about the uncircumcised Philistines!

d. Paul makes it clear that in Christ there is no advantage in BEING a Jew.

e. Now he states that there is no advantage in BECOMING a Jew.

f. Christianity does not revolve around a nation, a set of Laws, or rituals, but it centers on a Person: the Lord Jesus Christ.

3. Barbarian or Scythian – a CULTURAL distinction.

a. Scythian denotes a group of tribes who lived north and east of the Black Sea.

b. The Greeks and Romans consider the Barbarians, well, barbaric… uncultured… uncivilized… crude… the bottom of the barrel culturally.

c. The Barbarians considered the Scythians even worse! If the Barbarians were the bottom of the barrel, the Scythians were the scum on the bottom of the bottom of the barrel.

d. Herodotus said of them: They drank the blood of the first enemy killed in battle, and made napkins of the scalps, and drinking bowls of the skulls of the slain. They had the filthiest habits and never washed with water.

4. Bond or Free – a distinction of SOCIAL STATUS

a. The ancient world was divided into bond and free.

b. This was especially so in the Roman Empire.

c. Slavery in the New Testament had nothing to do with race, but with power.

d. The wealthy and powerful could afford servants.

e. The poor and weak found it necessary to sell themselves into slavery or were taken as slaves by a powerful invading army.

f. Of course the Bible NEVER condoned slavery. But knowing human nature, God regulated it to prevent abuse. Slavery certainly was not God’s idea!

g. This distinction existed too often in the world. But in Christ, God doesn’t even recognize that distinction.

B. We Died to the World and Its Earthly Distinctions

1. Col. 3:3 – we died with Christ.

2. Gal. 6:14 – we were crucified to the world.

a. That death separated us from our former relationship to the world. Thus, this world is not my home…

b. We don’t march to their drummer any more. We don’t think that way any more. Even our speech is new.

c. Our old man thought just like the world. We all had our biases and prejudices.

d. But that old man died and we are new creatures in Christ.

e. In Christ we died—separated—from all those former earthly hang-ups, phobias, and prejudice.

f. Nationality, race, customs, culture, education, and social status mean absolutely nothing to a dead man!

3. Positionally, NONE of these earthly distinctions have any significance in the Body of Christ. They are entirely meaningless.

a. Differences exist here on earth. We don’t deny their earthly existence. Yes, on earth there IS male and female… black and white… rich and poor.

b. This has been the cause of many wars, bloodshed, and hatred over the centuries.

c. But in Christ those distinctions are meaningless… not even a consideration.

5. Everyone enters the Body of Christ in exactly the SAME way:

a. I Cor. 12:13 – Jew and Gentile; bond and free—all baptized.

b. Nationality doesn’t help or hurt. Circumcision doesn’t help or hurt. Being wealthy or poor matters not. Social standing is not a consideration.

c. The only thing that matters is Christ: have you trusted in Him or not? Are YOU born again?

ALIVE UNTO HEAVENLY DISTINCTIVES


A. The New Man is Alive In a New Realm: In Christ

1. WHERE

a. ‘Opou = where… which or what place.

b. Metaphorically it is used in a wider sense including time, manner, circumstances (Col. 3:11; 2 Pet. 2:11).

c. In Col. 3:11, Paul is not speaking about a literal place or location that could be pinpointed on a map. He is speaking of a place metaphorically—a set of circumstances.

d. Wuest translates this as “in which state.”

e. In context, the apostle is speaking about the new man in Christ who is experiencing this inner renewal into the image of God by means of the Holy Spirit.

f. The significance of ‘opou: In other words—a born again person—IN Christ—who is filled with the Holy Spirit… and in whom the fruit of the Spirit or Christlike character is being manifested.

g. In THAT state… there is neither Greek nor Jew… etc.

2. The New POSITION of the New Man In Christ

a. Gal.3:27-28 – these distinctions do not exist in the Body of Christ positionally.

b. As God looks at His Body, He makes no such distinctions.

c. In Christ speaks of our heavenly position…

d. In Christ EVERY believer shares exactly the SAME position.

e. There is no advantage to being rich; skin color; social background etc.

f. Paul told Philemon, concerning his slave Onesimus, after his slave got saved, that he is no longer to view him “as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved.”

g. In Christ we are all ONE.

3. The CONDITION of the New Man In Christ.

a. Unfortunately, there are born again people, members of the Body of Christ, who are justified by faith, saved to the uttermost… and yet they still MAKE those distinctions!

b. The condition of those in Christ does NOT always match their position.

4. Problems of the earthly church: It took a while for their NEW POSITION to sink in and have an effect on their behavior.

a. Acts 6:1-3 – a controversy arose in the early because this positional truth was not being practiced.
• This was a matter of prejudice over ethnicity.
• The Greeks and the Hebrews were disputing.
• The Greeks (including Hellenistic Jews) were upset because the Jewish widows from Jerusalem were getting preferential treatment over their widows.
• What a terrible picture this sent out to those observing the early church.
» God said the body was ONE—but observers would never see that.
» God said that there was neither Greek nor Jew in Christ—but observers would never see that.
» God said that those who are being renewed by the Spirit in Christ are DEAD to all earthly distinctions… but onlookers would never know that.
» God said that the church was without spot or wrinkle positionally… but the wrinkles were sure showing here!
» The CONDITION of this church was sending out a completely distorted picture of their POSITION in Christ.
» It is a much more serious matter than that of hurting people’s feelings, of being unkind.
» It was a fundamental, doctrinal matter. It got to the very heart of what the church IS and its PURPOSE in the world!
» This was no trivial matter… which is WHY it is recorded in the Scriptures for us.
• Vs. 2 – the apostles themselves heard about this conflict and told them how to resolve the conflict immediately.
• Vs. 3 – they were to appoint men who were FILLED with the Holy Spirit.
» The men chosen were not just men in Christ, but new creatures in Christ in whom the renewing work of the Holy Spirit was taking place!
» These were the men chosen to oversee this important matter.
• Vs. 5 – the list of Spirit filled men is given. Note that most of the names are Greek… displaying the grace of the Jews.
• Vs. 7 – they resolved the matter and God BLESSED that assembly!
» Evidently, His blessing was being withheld as long as there was ethnic bias in the Body.
» Prejudice HINDERS the work of God.
• Had this issue not been dealt with properly in the early church, we could have ended up with the churches divided along ethic lines.

b. Acts 15:1-2 – Yet another dispute arose in the early church: prejudice over religious customs.
• Vs. 1 – Some men came into the church and began teaching that it was necessary for GENTILES to submit to Jewish rules (circumcision) in order to be saved.
• This pitted Jewish rituals and customs against pagan rituals and customs.
• Vs. 2 – When Paul and Barnabus heard of this, they were outraged and immediately determined to go to Jerusalem and deal with this issue before it spread.
• This issue nearly divided the church. We almost had TWO churches: one Jewish and one Gentile.
• Paul realized the significance of this issue and held a church council in Jerusalem to settle it once and for all.
• Gal. 6:15 – ?For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
• Earthly rituals mean nothing to a heavenly people.
• There were several elements to this error.
» It related to soteriology: salvation. (Was the work of Christ enough? Faith alone or faith plus works? What IS the gospel message?)
» It related to legalism: is the Mosaic Law over or isn’t it? Are believers of this age expected to keep the Law of Moses?
» It related to the ecclesiology: church truth: what IS the church? Is it a body of Jews and Gentiles on equal footing or isn’t it? Is the church a New Testament Israel or is it a new Man entirely? Is the church ONE Body or not?
• The PRACTICE of the early church in this instance was a very POOR reflection of what the church IS.
» Bias for one’s own traditions and customs divided the church.
» Their behavior BELIED their glorious position in Christ… where there is neither circumcision nor uncircumcision.
» They weren’t behaving in a manner that accurately reflected who they WERE in Christ.
» Paul traveled there in order to adjust the condition of the church to match its position.

c. Jas. 2:1-10 – James had to deal with that unfortunate situation: prejudice over wealth.
• Those in Christ positionally—where there is neither rich nor poor—were BEHAVING as if there WAS a distinction between them!
• Showing respect of persons in practice is virtually a denial of what the church IS!
• It is a serious violation of truth! It is a distortion of the marvelous work of God in the Body of Christ!
• Vs. 4 – they are judges of EVIL thoughts!
• Vs. 5 – the poor in Christ are actually quite rich!
• Vs. 6 – the condition… the practice of these believers was interpreted by God as “despising” the poor!
• Vs. 6b-7 – He shows the folly of assuming that earthly wealth denotes a superior quality of life.
• Vs. 8 – the royal law of love makes NO distinctions between rich or poor… Jew or Gentile… etc.
• Vs. 9-10 – making distinctions in the Body of Christ is called transgression… and makes a person a lawbreaker… putting him in the same category as an adulterer and a murderer!
• God hates bigotry, racism, and social prejudice much more than we might think!
• It should be treated in the same way in the local church as adultery or murder. Unless there is repentance, that member is to be rejected from the fellowship of the saints!
• That biased Christian may be in Christ positionally, but his behavior is sending out a most distorted picture of who Christ is and what His Body is.
• That biased believer is NOT undergoing the renewal process spoken of in Col. 3:10. He is NOT being renewed in the image of God.
• He is being outwardly CONFORMED to the world and its ways!
• That is worldliness to the core—and it has no place whatsoever in the Body of Christ.

d. The prejudices over ethnicity, over customs, and over wealth nearly destroyed the early church.
• It painted the wrong picture of what the church is.
• Their belied their position of unity in Christ.
• Paul states that in Christ NONE of those earthly distinctions apply. They are not recognized.
• Those are distinctions of the earth… of the world system… that’s the way the OLD MAN used to think and behave.
• But we are NEW CREATURES in Christ and are DEAD to that kind of thinking.

5. Risen with Christ (Col. 3:1)

a. We are seated with Him at the right hand of God!

b. The rich don’t get special box seats in that throng!

c. We are not going to be divided according to race, ethnicity, social standing, or gender.

d. Rev. 5:9-10 – Before the throne of God the redeemed are from EVERY kindred, tongue, people, and nation! They are ALL kings and priests!

e. When believers divide over such issues on earth, God’s purpose for the existence of the church is frustrated!

f. Eph. 3:10 – God’s grace is seen in Jew and Gentile fellowshipping together!
• Red, yellow, black, and white!
• Palestinian and Israelis worshipping side by side!
• Indian and Pakistani!
• Red Sox fans and Yankee fans!
• Young and old… farmers and lawyers…
• Things that never occur in the world ought to occur naturally in the Body of Christ.
• Therein lies the power of our witness before the world: a supernatural work of God in the hearts of men… powerful enough to erase centuries of hatred!
• Imagine the impact on observers to see Jews, Greek, Barbarians, Scythians, bondmen and free, all singing together with one united voice… and partaking of communion together!
• No sermon by Apollos would have nearly the impact that that scene would have on a visitor!
• John 13:35 – “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
• In a simple gathering of saints, fellowshipping together (it need not be an auditorium of 5000), men witness that which the United Nations has failed to accomplish; the Peace Corps has failed to accomplish; that which the New Deal has failed to accomplish; that which Communism and Capitalism have failed to accomplish; that which international summits and peace treaties have failed to accomplish; that which Vatican councils have failed to accomplish: TRUE unity around the TRUTH!
• It absolutely blew the minds of observers in the first century to hear of Gentiles sending a financial love offering to the Jews in Jerusalem during their famine.
• It is a powerful witness today too when believers who shouldn’t be able to get along… DO! And genuinely love one another.
• Col. 2:2 – knit together UNTO the full assurance of understanding… experiential knowledge that comes through learning to function together as a body…
• In the Body, they are not just STUCK together and bearing up with one another. They are knit together in love!

6. Our new life is hidden with Christ (Col. 3:3)

a. This is the new life of a new man.

b. It is hidden away in heaven… its source is not from the things of earth, but from heaven itself.

c. The world does not understand such things, nor can they.

d. The spiritual man is discerned of no man.

e. The body of Christ was designed by God to be unique, unusual, eye catching, to arouse curiosity, and as such, be a witness of God’s power and grace to men and angels.

f. But in reality, when men and angels observe, they are usually quite disappointed by what they see.

7. We have been raised up ABOVE all earthly distinctions.

a. We are “seated in heavenly places.”

b. There, none of the earthly distinctions make one speck of difference.

c. Do you really think that the saints around the throne of God in heaven are lined up according to who went to Harvard? How much money they had in the bank on earth? The color of their skin? What political party they belonged to? Their ethnicity or their ethnic traditions of food, clothing, or holidays? Social status on earth?

d. The new man in Christ is to LIVE that way NOW.

e. The church is to FUNCTION according to this truth.
• What a travesty when we DIVIDE the body according to color, ethnicity, or social status! What a mixed message that sends to men and angels observing!
• Service and leadership in the local church have NOTHING to do with any of those earthly distinctions.
• In the church, the state governor has no advantage over the chimney sweep—if they are both saved and members of the same church!
• We should witness to ALL those God puts in our pathways—regardless of these earthly divisions! Thus, a church should look like the demographic region in which it is found.
• The knowledge of our position should affect our earthly condition!

B. Christ IS All

1. Christ is what matters in the Body. (Col. 1:18)

a. It doesn’t matter what your position in the world is. As believers we share exactly the SAME position in Christ.

b. It doesn’t matter what your ethnic background is. As believers we share the SAME Christ.

c. If you have Christ, it doesn’t matter what we possess in the world, does it?

d. If you have Christ, you are rich indeed. It doesn’t matter what kind of earthly treasures we have. We have a rich inheritance reserved in heaven for us!

e. If you have a deep, experiential knowledge of Christ you are an educated man! It doesn’t matter if you have a degree from Harvard or not. Lots of Harvard grads are quite ignorant when it comes to the knowledge of Christ… the knowledge that counts for eternity!

f. If you have Christ, your national heritage doesn’t matter. Your Savior is the Savior of the world. He is the King of ALL kings of the world. And you know Him! And I have access to Him 24-7.

g. Col. 3:4 – For the regenerated, Spirit filled believer, Christ is not an important part of our life. He IS our LIFE.

2. That which men glory in on earth (riches, might, power, prestige, social status, etc.) has NO GLORY compared to Christ.

a. Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches:? 24 ?But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD. (Jer. 9:23-24)

b. It is like the dazzling noon day sun which outshines all other stars in the heavens. They are still there… but they have no glory. The presence of the sun obliterates it all.

c. What a silly thing to glory in your Cadillac when you have Christ. Glory in Him!

d. What a foolish thing to boast that you are Jewish, or Italian, or Brazilian… when our real glory is the fact that we are Christians in Christ! Glory in Him!

e. Phil. 3:4-8 – What folly to glory in earthly status—when compared to the knowledge of Christ, they are but dung!

3. The illustration of the mirror.

a. We are like a mirror… and a mirror reflects the image of that which it is facing.

b. When we, like a mirror, point towards the Lord Jesus… beholding His glory as in a glass, HIS glorious image is reflected in us.

c. When that is the case, we discover that He is ALL. He fills all our vision. He is all we need… sufficient for whatever may befall us on earth… because our life is hidden with Christ in heaven… safe as can be.

d. When our attention and affections are single-mindedly focused on Christ… His image is reflected in us… and He is then our ALL in all.
• Fill all my vision, Savior I pray; Let me see only Jesus today;
• When thru the valley thou leadest me, Give me Thy glory and beauty to see.
• Let me see only Thy blessed face; feasting my soul on Thine infinite grace.

e. When Christ does fill all our vision… His grace and strength fill our souls… and we are thus equipped and ABLE to walk in newness of life… regardless of our earthly condition.

f. But when we are focused elsewhere… when our mirror is pointed at all the problems in our lives (finances; health; family; job; etc.) we will not be experiencing the closeness of Christ.

g. When Christ does not appear in our mirror, we might be tempted in our trials to cry, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?”

h. With a simple attitude adjustment… refocusing that mirror on the Lord Jesus… and suddenly, there He is where He has always been… right by our side… closer than ever… we sense His presence and discover anew His grace is all sufficient.

i. He never moves. He never leaves us. But WE often turn our faces away from Him… towards sin… self… problems… the world… and the longer we do, the harder our heart grows towards Christ.

j. But what JOY and POWER is ours when we realize each morning that Christ is our ALL… we need nothing else.

C. Christ is IN All

1. Christ indwells EVERY single believer.

a. Col. 1:27 – Christ in you, the hope of glory!

b. Every believer is equally indwelt by Christ… no one has any advantage in this: Jew, gentile, rich, poor, etc…

c. THAT is what we should glory in.

d. And when we DO glory in Him, we will be LOOKING unto Jesus… our affection will be on things above where He is… our eyes and hearts will be focused on Him.

e. Paul put it this way in II Cor. 3:18 – as we BEHOLD the glory of the Lord as in a glass…
• When that is the case, we, like a mirror, are pointed towards Christ, the SAME image—HIS image is reflected in us.
• When that is the case, when other see us, they will see Christ, not self.
• When the whole body practices this… we are being RENEWED into the SAME image.
• In other words, we will all begin to be ALIKE—yes, red, yellow, black, and white will all begin to walk, talk, and think like Christ!
• Rich and poor; educated and uneducated; all become likeminded… the mind of Christ…
• We will look at each other in a different light too… not according to how much gold you wear, or your skin color, or how big your house is… but we will see Christ… as our all in all.
• All earthly distinctions melt away into nothing. The things of earth grow strangely dim… in the light of His glory and grace!
• When we live as if Christ IS our life… we discover that in Christ, we are much more ALIKE than different.
• We are one in hope and doctrine, one in charity!
• Eph. 4:4-6 – One body, one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all…

2. In Christ, this is all TRUE. This is our glorious position in Him.

a. In our daily condition, this is not always the case.

b. Failing to acknowledge this position has been a serious BLIGHT on Christian churches for many centuries.
• Segregated churches in the South… shame!
• Ethnic churches that minister only to their own kind: shame!
• Churches where the wealthy donors are treated differently: shame!

c. When the TRUTH of all this really SINKS IN… we will begin to PRACTICE it in our daily lives.

d. As we ABIDE in our heavenly position in Christ… learn of that position… learn to love and appreciate it… dwell in it… and most importantly BELIEVE it, it will change our behavior.

e. If we BELIEVE we are superior to another ethnic group, that our race is superior, that our culture is superior, we will BEHAVE according to those beliefs.

f. When we BELIEVE that as Christians NONE of those earthly distinctions hold, that too will be manifested in our behavior.

3. When we are feasting on our heavenly position (unity; no bias or division), then it will MANIFEST itself in our practice down here on earth!

a. If there is any trace of bigotry in your heart, put it off like the dirty garment of the old man that it is! (Cf. vs. 8)

b. If there is any trace of superiority or inferiority in the Body of Christ… put it off like the filthy garment of your old life that is really is.

c. One man wrote: the foot of the cross is all ground level!

d. We are ONE in Christ. Believe God.

The CORPORATE sense of the new man.

1. Jew and Gentile united in the church = the new man corporately (Eph. 2:15).

2. The Body of Christ as a corporate body is also undergoing a process of being brought to the stature of the fullness of Christ – at least this is God’s goal.

3. The church corporately is a NEW Man… which consists of individual new men… new creations.

4. The fact that we are a new man in Christ indicates that we are part of something NEW God is doing.

5. When Adam, the Head of the old race sinned, the image of God created in man was marred.

6. The Second Adam, Christ, the Head of a new humanity… the new man… head of the Church… died to redeem men and restore the image of God…

7. God’s work of salvation not only saves us from hell, and enables us to go to heaven, we are part of the NEW creation… citizens of the heavenly city… the New Jerusalem!

8. A new Jerusalem, a new heaven and a new earth, will be eternally inhabited with new creatures with eternal life—an eternal city wherein dwelleth righteousness… inhabited by men created in righteousness and true holiness positionally… and conditionally are presently being prepared for that new creation…

9. In this new creation, ethnicity matters not; Christ is all and in all! (Col. 3:11)


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