It was the cross, that instrument of shame and torture, which brought hope and salvation to the world. The disciples were but humble men, without wealth, and with no weapon but the word of God; yet in Christ's strength they went forth to tell the wonderful story of the manger and the cross, and to triumph over all opposition. Without earthly honor or recognition, they were heroes of faith. From their lips came words of divine eloquence that shook the world.—Ellen G. White, Lift Him Up, p. 228, pr. 2. Basically there are three great teachings in Colossians.
A. The incarnation of Jesus Christ
1. He was a real human being of flesh and blood and bones, not an apparition as some of their false teachers had said,
a. He was God in all that God is and not just an intermediary being as others had taught them,
b. The high-water mark of the New Testament is this: "For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (2:9).
B. The supremacy of Jesus Christ.
1. He is supreme in creation and over all created beings (1:15-16);
a. He is supreme in the church (1:18);
b. He is supreme over all principalities and powers (2:10,15).
C. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the meaning of it.
In two ways these heretical teachers had attacked the Christian teaching of redemption through the death of Christ on the cross.
1. "Christ did not have an actual physical body," some of them said. "He only appeared to have." Therefore they maintained that the Crucifixion was not an actual event but only a non historical apparition.
2. Others among these heretics said, "Christ had a real physical body, but He was not God's Son. An Aeon, called 'Christ,' came upon Him at His baptism and departed from Him on the cross. Hence," they contended, "the Crucifixion, though a historical event, had no saving power."
II. THE FACT IS THIS: THE TRIUMPH OF THE CROSS.
Notice the phrases Paul piles upon one another to emphasize this: "Having forgiven us our trespasses ... having blotted out the bond ... having despoiled the principalities and powers,... he triumphed over them in it" (that is, in the cross).
A. The triumph of the cross is a historical fact.
1. That Christ died an actual death on the cross cannot be disputed. "The blood of his cross" (1:20) was an actual, witnessed, historical event (John 19:34). "Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:3b).
B. The triumph of the cross is a theological fact.
1. This is a fact of great significance. In his first epistle John tells us: "The blood of Jesus ... cleanses us from allsin"(l:7b).
a. Look at Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, with the shadow of the cross falling across His very being. What did He do with it? He laid hold of it. He wrestled with it. He lifted it up in His mighty passion. He transformed it. He made it an instrument of redemption.
2. The communion ritual has this idea. It tells us that Jesus Christ suffered "death upon the cross for our redemption and made thereby the offering of Himself, a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the whole world."
C. The triumph of the cross is a spiritual and personal fact.
1. "And you, being dead through your trespasses ..., you, I say, did he make alive together with him having forgiven all our trespasses" (Col. 2:13).
a. This triumph of the cross becomes a personal victory in our lives when by faith in Christ we accept what He has done for us on that cross.
b. That is the fact of our text, "The Triumph of the Cross."
III. THE SCOPE: THE VAST REACHES OF THAT FACT.
This fact has both a legal and a spiritual aspect.
A. The legal aspect of the triumph of the cross.
Verse 14 tells us that the sentence of our condemnation was the sentence of death. That sentence has been taken from us, satisfied by another, canceled forever. By the cross three things have been done about this sentence of death.
1. "Having blotted out the bond ... that was against us, which was contrary to us." The debt is canceled, marked Paid, like a canceled check; and we have peace with God.
2. "He hath taken it out of the way." It's gone, thank God! That sentence is over our heads no longer. It is removed! How could it be taken from over us? The perfect law of God must be satisfied. Nothing can thwart it, escape it, or rewrite it.
3. "Nailing it to the cross." What does that mean? It was customary for the Romans to nail the crime for which one had been condemned on the cross of the one being crucified just above his head. Over Jesus' head Pilate wrote: "JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS" (John 19: 19b). But that was not the real indictment. Had Pilate known, he could have written: "Crucified for the sins of men."
B. The spiritual aspect of the triumph of the cross.
1. Listen to Paul: "Having despoiled the principalities and the powers ... triumphing over them in it" (that is, in the cross).
a. What appeared to be the defeat of God and the triumph of the powers of darkness proved instead to be the triumph of God and the doom of Satan and sin. The cross was God's field of victory, the implement of His triumph.
Let us ask this question in closing: "What is or what should be the significance of this great fact,
'The Triumph of the Cross' for our own personal lives?"
We ought not to serve those things from which we were set free by the cross. "We who died to sin, how shall we any longer live therein?" (Rom. 6:2b).
We ought to follow and do and think and say those things worthy of a life redeemed by His blood. This is the way to victory.
The relation to Christ, the meaning of our atonement, the risk one runs to have God at his elbow, the inevitable concomitant of our salvation means that at this cross there is no place for observers. There is no detached ground; there are no uninvolved ones. We are caught here. Cross means nailed here. There are no spectators ... we are all on stage. You are in it: the drama of the redemption of the world. But not alone—there are no single crosses anywhere, anymore. All our crosses participate in His. (Carlyle Marney, The Carpenter's Son).
The cross is the only ladder high enough to touch Heaven's threshold. (George Dana Boardman)
It may take a crucified church to take a crucified Christ before the eyes of the world. (W. E. Ochard)
Ellen G. White Quotations
In this life we must meet fiery trials and make costly sacrifices, but the peace of Christ is the reward. There has been so little self-denial, so little suffering for Christ's sake, that the cross is almost entirely forgotten. We must be partakers with Christ of His sufferings if we would sit down in triumph with Him on His throne.—Ellen G. White, God's Amazing Grace, p. 90, pr.3.
When Christ died on the cross, Satan triumphed, but his triumph was short. The prophecy was made in Eden. "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; It shall bruise thy head, and thou shall bruise His heel" [Gen. 3:15). Christ was nailed to the cross, but thus He gained His victory. Through death He destroyed him that had the power of death. By becoming the Sin-bearer, He lifted from the human race the penalty of transgression. In His own body He paid the penalty of that on which the power of Satan over the human race is founded, even transgression.—Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 12, p. 398, pr. 2.