85% percent of people outside of the church said that they think the word “hypocritical” describes Christianity.
A pretty startling statistic! And one that I believe can be particularly convicting when we examine our own lives in light of this claim. What people think about Christians influences how they respond to us—and not just to us, but also to church and to the gospel. So, when we claim to believe one thing and actually live another way, or when we pretend to be something that we’re not, or don’t follow through on things that we commit to, we contribute to the problem. Our actions create the perception that Christians are hypocrites and we (albeit unintentionally) push people away from the church.
Why are we so hypocritical? Why do we make compromises on our faith? This is the question that I left you with last week, and that Paul seeks to address with the Colossians in his second point of Colossians 2:6-15.
Let me remind you briefly of Paul’s beginning. He argues that the root of Colossian compromise is in their reliance on human wisdom rather than the wisdom that comes from the Lord—they’re not “rooted and built up in Christ” (v. 7). To avoid compromise, we need to guard ourselves against wisdom that comes from human origin and submit ourselves to wisdom according to Christ. And I think most of us can agree with that statement.
But we’re still hypocritical. Why? What causes us to ignore sound reasoning and so often follow after human wisdom rather than the divine?
Paul’s next point makes it clear—we aren’t “established in the faith” (v. 7). We’re forgetting what it is that we truly believe! And so, he reminds us in verses 11-15:
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.
This might sound weird at first, but Paul uses circumcision as an illustration of the change that has happened to those who have faith in Christ. Circumcision in the Bible is a symbolic action—part of your flesh is cut off and thrown away in order to represent that something new has happened to you; you’re different than you were before. And the circumcision that we’ve gone through isn’t the actual circumcision of our flesh like in the Old Testament—our flesh is put off by the circumcision of Christ (v. 11).
What’s the circumcision of Christ? It’s baptism! We put off our flesh by being buried with Christ in baptism, in which we were also raised with Christ through faith in the powerful working of God (v. 12). Baptism is a symbol of our own death, burial, and resurrection that has taken place when Christ died, was buried, and was resurrected by the powerful work of God.
Here’s what that really means for those who have faith in Christ: you were dead in your trespasses, but God made you alive together with Christ (v. 13). God cancelled the record of debt that was against us and the legal demands that we owed as a result (v. 14). The phrase “record of debt” is a pretty unique phrase in the Greek. It’s referring to a bill that we have to pay, and I think it helps us to picture what God actually did for us.
Imagine if there was a monetary penalty every time that you sinned—so, for example, for every time you swear you have to put a dollar in the swear jar. But you don’t have any money, so instead of putting a dollar in, it goes on your bill—and at the end of your life you end up owing millions of dollars for all of the things that you’ve done. But you can’t pay it! And instead, Jesus shows up and offers to cover your bill—he pays what you owe, and God cancels your record of debt.
Put that into context—what is the price we have to pay for our sin? Our lives. And Jesus meets that demand by giving his life for us when he was nailed to the cross (v. 14).
Now, don’t miss this last part: through what Christ has done for you, God “disarmed the rulers and authorities—he put them to shame and had victory over them in Christ” (v. 15). He ties it all together with last week’s argument. The rulers and authorities—human wisdom and deception—they have no power over you anymore because the head of all rule and authority lives within you. Remembering what they believe and how it changes who they are is what ultimately guides the Colossians in being able to live like Christ—to live without compromise.
You can live like Christ because by faith you have been filled with Christ. You can walk in him because he is already living in you!
If being hypocritical finds its roots in forgetting what we believe, then let my challenge to you be this: believe in and remind yourself of what Jesus has done for you. It changes who you are and will ultimately change how you live.
Interim Student Ministries Pastor