Victory over Spiritual Powers (Colossians 2:15) ~ A Devotion for October 17, 2014

“He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” ~ Colossians 2:15

Explanation of the Text: “Having urged the Colossians not to be taken captive (v. 8), Paul now focuses on the disarming of the forces that oppose Christ and his followers. As Christ rules over ‘every ruler and authority’ (v. 10), here God is said to have disarmed them through Christ.”[1] Having established the need to be firm in the faith, to stand against false teachers, Paul is writing to the Colossians believers to encourage them, indicating that they are on the side of God (verse 14) and He has disarmed the opposing forces. Recognize here, that when Paul writes of the rulers and authorities, he is referring to the spiritual powers, i.e. Satan and fallen angels, as those that God has put to shame. While it is used as other parts of speech elsewhere, the verb ‘disarmed’ used in this text is found in only one other place in Scripture….Colossians 3:9. There it refers to the putting off of the old self, which is commonly the insinuation that it is associated with. Literally, it refers to undressing or getting out of one’s clothes. In the context of Colossians 2:15, it could be rendered to say “He stripped them of their armor and power.”[2] That is to say, God disrobed the spiritual authorities from anything that made them appear authoritative. In other words, He has conquered and defeated them, which He did by the way of the cross of Christ, in which both Christ paid the penalty for sin and the certificate of debt given to people was nailed and cancelled at.

Paul writes further though to say, not only did he disempower the rulers and authorities, but he also put them to shame. The language here draws on imagery from the Roman military. When they overtook their enemies, Roman generals would dress as the god Jupiter and parade down the streets with their captives in tow; they would humiliate them and strip them of their possession, and of course, the more prominently known the captive was, the more impressive the sight.[3] This is what God did to those who oppose him. Interestingly, he did it through Christ on the cross, as noted in the previous verse. It was the cross that was often used as a tool for shaming and disgracing, and yet, that very tool that the spiritual powers meant for the shame of God and His people was used instead to shame Satan and his followers. “The very instrument of disgrace and death by which the hostile forces thought they had him in their grasp and had conquered him forever, was turned by him into the instrument of defeat and disablement.”[4]

Examination & Application of the Text: If nothing else, these should be comforting words to the believer because it demonstrates both the power of God and the control He has. As such, it should be easy to find trust in Him and His plan. No longer is there need to fear Satan or his followers. Likewise, no longer is there need to fear man. Instead, a complete trust in God because of what He did through His very Son should make logical sense.

Out of a recognition of God’s control comes trust in Him. Trust should then lead to a willful submission to Him. When we trust someone, a friend, a family member, or whomever it may be, we are willing to let them lead and guide us in areas of our lives. We often will seek them out for advice. How much greater than is God, who has demonstrated His control over ALL things. Therefore, ALL trust should be given to Him, and ALL submission should be the response to Him.

To close, I want to share the writing of Douglas Moo in the Pillar New Testament Commentary. As he writes to bridge the gap and show the relationship between verse 14 and verse 15, he writes the following:

“Paul insists that God, by sending Christ to the cross as the final and definitive means to take care of the sin problem, has removed any power that these evil spirits might have over us. This victory, celebrated and displayed in the resurrection and ascension of Christ, is what believers need to grasp as their own. Christ’s authority over the rulers and authorities (v. 10) has been decisively manifested; and ‘in Him’ believers share that authority.”[5]

[1] David Poa, Colossians & Philemon, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 172.

[2] Murray J. Harris, Colossians and Philemon, B&H Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2013), 98.

[3] Craig Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Colossians 2:15

[4] F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1984), 110-111.

[5] Douglas J. Moo, The Letters to the Colossians and Philemon, Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008), 216.

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