Thursday, April 22, 2004

Colossians

We have been reading Paul's letter to the Colossians in Morning Prayer this week, and a couple of things have struck me.

The first is the way that Paul describes salvation in Col. 2.13-15:

"when you were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him [Christ], when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it".

What struck me here is the way that Paul holds together models of salvation that theologians normally separate. Here Paul speaks of forgiveness in a legal setting (often called the 'Satisfaction theory' of the atonement) and of the triumph of the cross (often described as a Christus Victor model). All of these are dependent on an account of our being raised with Christ. This latter strongly recalls Paul's language about baptism in Romans 6. As yet, I am not sure what to do with this observation, but I think it is significant and certainly undermines various attempts to play one model off against the other.

The second thing to note is related to the baptismal identification of the believer and Christ already observed. In 3.3-4, Paul writes that:

"you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory".

What I find significant here is the way in which our identities as believers is bound up with Christ, so much so that it is 'hidden'. It is only in Christ that we can find our true nature, our true identity. This has huge implications, but it seems to me that it makes part of the Christian life a calling to find our true nature. This is emphatically not about our inner selves, this can only be about death. Rather it is about finding our identity in Christ, and in and with him rising to new life. This is a great challenge to the therapeutic approach to Christianity that is common place.

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