Putting Off Of The Body Of The Flesh

“In him you also were circumcised - not, however, with a circumcision performed by human hands, but by the removal of the fleshly body, that is, through the circumcision done by Christ. Having been buried with him in baptism, you also have been raised with him through your faith in the power of God who raised him from the dead (Colossians 2:11-12—NET).”

Coram Deo

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An article of a similar topic was written previously under the title “Mortify The Deeds Of The Flesh.” This article is not a rewrite, but another look at it from a different angle based on a different verse. It is inspired from a sermon I heard at a Summer camp based on Colossians 2:11-12. During the sermon, the speaker refered to R. C. Sproul’s Coram Deo on the same verse. Interestingly, as I queried the world wide web to take the pulse of the general population in how they interpret these verses, R. C. Sproul’s Coram Deo on Colossians 2:11-12 showed up as follows:

Our old Adamic nature has been mortally wounded, but it refuses to stay buried. Having a new nature in Christ, we must put sin to death when it rises up. This means that we must resist temptation and repent when we give in, for we will not be perfect until we are in heaven. Calvin comments on today’s passage that “burial expresses a continued process of mortification.” Sin is powerless to control us, but it is still dangerous and must be resisted.

(excerpted from original article at: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/dead-and-buried-with-christ/).

Several key concepts in this Coram Deo of R. C. Sproul need to be checked against foundational truths found in Scriptures, and especially in the immediate context of the verses in question. These concepts are embraced by virtually all in Christianity though they’re unbiblical and can wreck havoc in the life of believers.

Mortally wounded

Coram Deo: Our old Adamic nature has been mortally wounded, but it refuses to stay buried.

We know that we’re sinners not because of the sinful things that we do, or the good things that we fail to do, but because of what comes from deep inside: our sin nature. Whether or not we commit any of these sins, we’re sinners. Jesus said so himself: “What defiles a person is not what goes into the mouth; it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles a person (Matthew 15:11).” Then how can it be that our sin nature is “mortally wounded” yet still manages to produce sins? No, our Adamic nature will never be completely dead until we as believers put on the incorruptible (1 Corinthians 15:52-54). Until then, it’s alive and well.

Therefore, our Adamic nature is only mortally wounded in the sense that its sin no longer has the power to condemn us as we have been released from the law (Romans 7:6).

Put sin to death

Coram Deo continued: Having a new nature in Christ, we must put sin to death when it rises up. This means that we must resist temptation and repent when we give in.

There is no doubt that any transgression causes great pain to both the transgressor and those who are in its path of destruction. With few exceptions, all Christians know the painful consequences of sins, and they know that should, and must, resist temptations. Even unbelievers know and are fearful of what price they have to pay when they fall. They don’t need to go to church to learn what even a child knows, as wisdom cries out in the marketplace (Proverbs 1:20).

What about repentance in the context of the Coram Deo? By the time a sin had been committed, repentance would be useless. So is an apology as it would be just lip service. It’s better not to fall into sin at all.

The Lord, however, provides us with a way to deal with sin in the event we fall into temptation. Not repentance, not remorse, not shedding of crocodile tears, not lip service of apology, but an assurance that our citizenship of God’s kingdom will still be in tact:

My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 2:1).

Because we have Jesus, the Advocate, who sits besides God the Father to plead our case. What do you think is stronger? Our repentance or Jesus’ defense? Even our offering of ourselves to be nailed on a cross for our sins would be no match for the powerful defense of the Attorney-at-Law—as a matter of fact, God will not accept our own crucifixion on the cross as a substitution for our sins as none of us are “unblemished” enough to qualify. This is where God’s way is not our way is exemplified.

Furthermore, if our lifelong goal is to battle sins, we’d be fighting a losing battle, or going about it the wrong way. It’s infinitely better to fix our eyes on Christ than on our enemy the devil. I have a great real-life example to demonstrate this.

There is a Christian sister at our church who works in the service industry. She asked me for an advise on how to deal with someone among her customers who frequently tried to seduce her. My advise to her was to fix her eyes on Jesus, to regularly come to Him to draw from Him strength that comes as a result of an assurance of her salvation, His unconditional love, His total forgiveness of her sins, and many other wonderful gifts that God gave her along with His Son.

Now if she chose a different approach, the one suggested by the Coram Deo or common exhortations, she would, throughout the day, even while she is at home, prepare herself to say no to the temptation. She would most likely imagine herself being in the same situation, going through different scenarios, and so on so forth. Do you get the drift of where this is going? She would end up, in her mind, being with the man all day long even while she is at home. Is this the way you prepare yourself to resist temptations?

When a child of God live, breath, and rest in their identity as children of God, as they set their minds on things above, they will be more ready to battle sins when they come. But if they are constantly thinking of sins, even thinking of how to resist sins, they will more likely fall when temptations do come, they will be like soldiers who are worn out from sleepless night worrying about their enemies.

Fix your eyes on Jesus then you will be more able to resist sins.

When the Israelites were bitten by snakes in the desert, God instructed Moses to hang a bronze snake on a pole so whoever lift up their eyes upon the snake after being bitten would not die. There was no need for Moses to remind folks to try to avoid getting snake bites, or to repent upon getting bitten, but that they just needed to lift up their eyes to behold the bronze snake. The bites are painful and deadly enough as a deterrence.

… if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 2:1).

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:14-15).

Perfecting the self

Coram Deo continued: … for we will not be perfect until we are in heaven.

This part of the Coram Deo says that our life’s purpose is to pursue perfection though we will not be able to reach it until we’re heaven. This idea of Christians working toward perfection is unbiblical in several aspects.

Firstly, Jesus had stated in Matthew 5:48: “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” which means if you’re not ALREADY perfect, you will not be ushered into God’s presence.

Secondly, the apostle Paul also expressed his dismay in Galatians 3:3: “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” Having begun in the Spirit, having been born again from above, having what it takes to boldly enter the throne of grace, and you’re still trying to get more perfect through your flesh? By battling with your sin? Didn’t Christ already circumcise you? And if He already removed your corrupt nature (verse 11), which part of you is still not perfect? (Keep in mind that though you will still sin until the day you die, you’re perfect in God’s eyes as He sees you through His perfect Son)

Thirdly, Hebrews 10:14 says this: “For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” By one sacrifice, the sacrifice of the Lamb or God, not by the continual resisting or repenting in relation to sin. And if Christ already made you perfect forever then what are you perfecting?

All these verses, and many more that can be found in Scriptures, point to the fact that our perfection is not arrived at through our personal effort in dealing with sin, but through what Christ did alone. All our effort in dealing with sins is like trying to deal with pimples while there is a cancerous corrupt nature inside that only Christ could deal with.

Continued process of mortification

Coram Deo continued: Calvin comments on today’s passage that “burial expresses a continued process of mortification.” Sin is powerless to control us, but it is still dangerous and must be resisted.

Are we being buried alive? Being buried and continue to die? The Bible doesn’t say this is how we die. It says:

Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life (Romans 6:4).

We have been buried with Christ. It’s a done deal. Furthermore:

Having been buried with him in baptism, you also have been raised with him through your faith in the power of God who raised him from the dead (Colossians 2:12).

This verse gives further clarification that we were not only buried with Christ, we died with Him, too, as no one can be raised unless he’s already dead. Jesus spoke of this truth in no uncertain terms:

Truly, truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit (John 12:24).

The being raised back to life is implied here in the “bears much fruit” part of the verse.

These verses show us clearly that the “continued process of mortification” concept is not found at all in the Bible, yet we find it underlying messages virtually throughout Christiandom—or perhaps it is a milder version of purgatory? The Bible passages cited in this writing is, by no means exhaustive but sufficiently representative, to show gross misinterpretations and applications of Colossians 2:11-12 as a case in point.

In conclusion

Do you notice the contrast between Colossians 2:11-12 and the Coram Deo?

The Scripture passage conveys a sense of liberation, of triumph, with Christ as the prime mover in accomplishing the great task of taking away our sin nature. But most importantly, a sense of finality, that the work to present us as being ready to enter into the presence of the Most High, to boldly enter the throne of grace, has been accomplished. Christ the Giver, and us the recipients of an undeserved favor. Therefore we keep looking up to Christ the starter and the finisher of our faith.

The Coram Deo projects something completely different. It tells us to engage in morbid introspection, to take our eyes off of Christ and focus on ourselves and the enemy of our souls. It tells us to go back to the desert as there are formidable giants in the promised land. It tells us that now is NOT the acceptable time, now is NOT the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2).

Don’t believe in the Coram Deo, but believe in Colossians 2:11-12. Take it at its face value. There is now no longer a bronze snake, but there is Christ who sits on the right hand of God to plead your case that you are perfect—despite numerous snake bites. You were buried with Christ and now alive with Him in the newness of life. It’s done. It’s finished.

Nghi Nguyen

- Scripture quoted by permission. All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: This is my own opinion on the topic, which does not necessarily reflect the church's theology, or beliefs of the individuals in it — Nghi Nguyen

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