The Expository Files.

Faith in the Working of God

Colossians 2: 12

To be saved from sin, one must be willing to put his or her faith in God's redeeming love and power. We cannot save ourselves by any power of our own, nor by the inventions of the minds of other men. Salvation is far too important of a matter to be left up to the devices of human religious councils and conventions.

There have been various remedies for sin suggested by human beings. We love to tinker with things to try and make them work better or run faster or expend less energy. Or sometimes we invent rituals which actually increase our work, but when we have accomplished the ritual, we can feel better about ourselves.

Men have long tinkered with God's remedy for sin. One group of false teachers of the first century taught that circumcision was necessary to be justified (Galatians 5:1-4). Another group seemed to say one could continue in sin "that grace may abound." (Romans 6:1,2). Still another denied that Christ had "come in the flesh" and died for our sins (1 John 4:3). In the centuries since, other systems have been suggested by men. There is the penance system, the Calvinistic system, the various cult systems and the reincarnation system. When these systems are complied with, then you have people putting their faith in the working of man, because these things are of man and not of God. Things such as these are described in Scripture as "matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion" but are only "the commandments and teaching of men" and therefore are said to be "of no value" (Colossians 2:22,23).

Jesus once asked some of His opponents, "The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?" (Matthew 21:25). You see, this is an important question in religious matters,. Many seem to think today that such a question is silly and it really does not matter. But it does matter. Jesus said so (Matthew 15:9) and so does the rest of the New Testament (i.e. Colossians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 John 9). So then, since John's baptism is gone we would like to take Jesus' question and rephrase it according to our covenant which now has been ratified by His blood: "The baptism in Jesus' name for the remission of sins was from what source, from heaven or from men?" (Acts 2:38). If you find yourself as uncomfortable answering this question as the opponents of Jesus were in answering His, then maybe you, like they, need to take a closer look at your belief system!

Now, let us consider the following text: "Having been buried with Him through baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead." (Colossians 2:12)

Having Been Buried With Him in Baptism
"Having been buried with Him in baptism..." (Colossians 2:12a). In the act of baptism by faith, we are buried with Christ. The Bible does not say that baptism is only a symbol of our burial and spiritual resurrection. It does not say that a sinner is buried and raised with Christ by faith alone, saved, and then is baptized to symbolize that spiritual burial. That doctrine, quite plainly, is not from heaven but from men.

It is true that baptism is a symbol, but not of our own spiritual death, burial and resurrection. Rather, baptism is a symbol, or likeness, of Christ's literal death, burial and resurrection (Romans 6:3-5).

The reason that this is an important distinction is because some deny the necessity of baptism by saying it is only a symbol that we have already undergone a process by which we have already been saved. But it is not a symbol of what we have done at all, but rather of what Christ has done for us. It is at the precise moment that we are put under the water that by faith we are "buried with Christ."

In Which You Were Also Raised Up With Him
" which you were also raised up with Him..." (Colossians 2:12b). Again, in the act of baptism we are being raised up with Christ; we are not merely symbolizing our being raised up with Him at an earlier time. No passage in the New Testament says that baptism symbolizes this.

Later, Paul talks about the new life we are to live following our baptism. He said, "If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God." He adds, "Therefore, consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry." (Colossians 3:1,5). The putting aside of the old life and the beginning of a new life is referred to as "walking in newness of life" (Romans 6:4b).

Through Faith in the Working of God
"...through faith in the working of God..." (Colossians 2:12c). Another objection to baptism being necessary is the idea that if one accepts that it is necessary to be saved then he would be trusting in his or her own merit or work or power. Since we must trust in God's power alone to be saved, then baptism cannot be a requirement, because baptism is putting our faith in our own efforts.

This passage clearly states otherwise; that in baptism we are placing our faith not in ourselves but in "the working of God". In fact, this being the case, then one who has not yet been baptized for the remission of sins has not yet put his faith "in the working of God"! What's more is the fact that if I deny the necessity of baptism then I am denying my need to put my faith "in the working of God" . Again, the question: "Baptism for the remission of sins, is it from heaven or from men?" Friends, it is from heaven!

One other point on this matter; if by chance someone goes through the motions of baptism as he places his faith in himself or his own power, or in some church, and is not putting his faith in God's working, then such activity is vain. Certainly it is possible to do the right thing for the wrong motive. But if my obedience is from the heart, then God will take away my sins; "But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness." (Romans 6:17,18).

Who Raised Him From the Dead
"...who raised Him from the dead." (Colossians 2:12d). God's power to raise up is wonderfully evident at the resurrection of Christ from the grave. The grave could not hold Him, for God's power is too strong. Likewise, sins cannot hold us when we are raised up with Christ from baptism. They are left behind, their chains broken. Whatever they have been, they are remembered no more. We who were once "dead in (our) trespasses and sins" are "made alive together with Christ." This is by grace through faith, according to God's mercy, and not as a result of human works (Ephesians 2:1-10). But baptism for the remission of sins is not a human work at all; rather, it is an act of "faith in the working of God."

By Jon W. Quinn 
From Expository Files 4.9; September 1997