The All-Sufficient Christ

May 1, 2023 | Articles, by Guest Writers, Marrow Ministries Free Content

I am a bi-vocational pastor, and for my full-time job, I am a plumber. I have been a plumber for just over eight years. One of the things you quickly learn as a plumber is how important it is to keep your glue joints clean. The glue used to seal together fittings and pipe creates a strong bond. Once that glue joint has dried and sealed, it is very difficult to rip the fitting out of the pipe. Even Popeye would find it a challenge. But if that glue is diluted with just a little bit of water or corrupted with just a smidge of dirt, then its power is diminished. The seal is compromised. No longer is that glue sufficient for its use. The glue is rendered insufficient.

Many people today dilute or corrupt the gospel by having an insufficient view of Jesus Christ. But if we tamper with who Christ is or what He has done, then we have tampered to our own damnation.

It is based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ that all men, women, boys, and girls will be judged. John 3:18 says, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” Who you believe Christ is and what you believe about what he has done is a matter of eternal significance. But many believe in an insufficient Christ:

  • Many believe that Jesus was crucified but deny his resurrection.
  • Many believe that Jesus existed but deny that he is the Christ.
  • Many believe that Jesus was born of a woman but deny that he is the eternal Son of God, equal in power, substance, and glory with the Father and the Spirit.
  • Many believe that Jesus is a powerful moral teacher but deny that he alone can save sinners.

If any of these things are true, then we are left with an insufficient Christ. If Christ is an insufficient Savior, then we are sufficiency doomed in our sin. Any subtraction or denial of the gospel of Jesus Christ is a denial of the sufficiency of Christ.

In writing to the church at Colossi, Paul reminds the Christians there that Jesus is the all-sufficient Christ. False teachers had crept into the church, claiming that the gospel was lacking. Jesus’ work for sinners needed a supplement, an upgrade, or an addition. They claimed that Jesus plus ascetic practices, Jesus plus keeping the ceremonial law, or Jesus plus Greek philosophy would earn salvation. Paul reminds the Christians in the letter to the Colossians of the all-sufficient Christ. We, too needed to be reminded of the all-sufficient Christ, and consequently, we need to be warned of the ways we can undermine the sufficiency of Christ in our lives.

The Situation of Sinners

Paul in Colossians 2:13-14 drives home the sufficiency of Christ vividly. Paul begins with a contrast in the first part of verse thirteen, reminding us who we were without Christ in our sins and who we are with Christ in his righteousness in the second part of the verse. We were once dead in our sins. Paul speaks similarly in Ephesians 2:1-3. We were spiritually dead, with our whole person corrupted by and in bondage to sin. We were guilty before God in our sin and alienated from communion with him because of our sin. Paul further accents this deadness by referring to our misery as “the uncircumcision of the flesh.” This spiritual circumcision is the spiritual marking off of God’s people through regenerating work of the Spirit (Colossians 2:11, 13b; see also Titus 3:5; Deuteronomy 30:6). This circumcision gave God’s people new natures and new hearts, able and willing to love and worship God unlike like the circumcision made by human hands (Ephesians 2:11; Romans 9:1-8). But before our union with Christ and our new life in him, we were dead in our sins and marked off from God’s presence and people by our deadness.

The misery of our state of sin highlights the kind of Savior we need. We are spiritually dead debtors to God’s justice, unable to satisfy the debt and escape the guilty verdict hanging over us. If we fudge on our situation as sinners without Christ, then we will fudge on our need for the all-sufficient Christ. We will instead turn to all sorts of false saviors: moralism, mysticism, and self. If we are going to see Christ by faith as our all-sufficient Savior, then we cannot misunderstand ours.

God’s salvation in Christ is completed definitively and perfectly at the cross. He is the all-sufficient Christ. Click To Tweet

The Satisfaction of Christ

But Paul does not stop here. In contrast to our dead state, Colossians 2:13b teaches us that God made us alive with Christ. This is a divine resurrection. Just as man is incapable of creating himself in the original creation, man dead in his sins is unable to bring himself back to life. Jesus shows Nicodemus this in John 3. But God, according to his mercy, makes dead men alive in the gospel (Ephesians 2:5). This divine resurrection is coextensive with a divine union. In other words, our spiritual resurrection follows Christ’s resurrection and flows from our union with Him. He is the first fruit of the resurrection (Colossians 1:18; 1 Corinthians 15:20,23), and God makes us alive with him based on Christ’s resurrection (Romans 4:25; 6:1-4).

Paul then explains the quality of this life. It is a life in which “all” our trespasses are forgiven. But God cannot acquit what has not been atoned for. How can the God who is holy acquit guilty sinners? Paul uses two images to explain how all our trespasses are forgiven. First, God expunges the record of debt that stands against us with the law’s demands. The debt is erased, obliterated, and permanently removed, never to be reinstated. Francis Turretin, on this imagery in Colossians 2:14, writes,

as a creditor expunges from his account book a debt from which he wishes to release the debtor by destroying and blotting out the very handwriting that it may no longer have any force. Even so God destroys the sins which are written in his book and for which we are accountable (hypodikoi) when he pardons them by freeing us from the guilt which attached to us on account of them.[1]

But where does the debt go? In verse fourteen, Paul moves to his next image: “This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” God cancels our debt by removing it from our presence by nailing Christ on the cross. Just as Israel would see the scapegoat go out of the camp and over the horizon as a picture of their sins being removed from their presence, God removed our debt from our presence by nailing them to Christ. Every drive of the nail into Christ was an abolishing of the record of debt that stood against us. The sound of the driving of the nails into Christ reverberates throughout history, and every sinner who hears that sound looks to Christ in faith and lives! John Gil writes on the images Paul uses here in Colossians 2:13-14 to speak of the sufficiency of Christ:

Thus the Holy Ghost makes use of various expressions, to shew that there is nothing in the law standing against the saints; it is blotted out, and can’t be read; it is took away, and can’t be seen: it is nailed to the cross of Christ, and is torn to pieces thereby, that nothing can ever be produced from it to their hurt and condemnation.[2]

Christ did all this at once for our sins—past, present, and future. God’s salvation in Jesus Christ is not piecemeal, bootleg, or incomplete. God’s salvation in Christ is completed definitively and perfectly at the cross. He is the all-sufficient Christ.

A Warning for Christians

But some of you may say, “I already believe all that about Christ. He is sufficient to save me from my sins.” You are quite right. He is sufficient for that, but the danger is that all sorts of false gospels creep into our thinking which causes us to live like Christ is insufficient. While the false teachers of Colossi are long gone, their destructive teaching and the associated temptations have persisted. There are at least five “false gospels” or five false ways we can live that are inconsistent with the gospel and undermine the sufficiency of Christ.

    1. A Legal Gospel—Adding to what Christ has done. This generally comes in the form of adding man-made commands or traditions to God’s law and demanding that those laws must be kept to be right with God. A legal gospel claims to take holiness seriously, but it undermines God’s character by undermining his moral law. This false gospel either assumes it can earn something in addition to Christ’s work or assumes additional man-made laws are a necessary supplement to God’s moral law. But a more insidious form of a legal gospel is when it shapes the way we treat others. We demand grace for ourselves but demand perfect obedience from others. Here are a few symptoms to identify this false gospel:
      • Identity is in your obedience rather than in Christ’s
      • Anger and bitterness towards those that do not fulfill your demands
      • Lack of compassion, kindness, and charity toward others
      • Judging others based on your self-perceived holiness or your own personal convictions
    2. A Lawless Gospel—Demeaning what Christ has done. This is sinning so that grace may abound. It is a view of the gospel that lacks a heart of gratitude and presumes that if God’s grace saves sinners, then our sin as Christians does not matter. Here are a few symptoms:
      • Sinning high handedly
      • No repentance
      • No effort in sanctification
      • Sees the law of God as a burden rather than a delight
    3. A Christ-less Gospel—Severing Christ from the gospel. This is a gospel that prizes the benefits of Christ above Christ, places faith in faith, and treats the gospel like a magical token of good luck. Here are a few symptoms:
      • Salvation is about consuming benefits and not communion with God
      • Boasting in one’s faith rather than boasting in Christ, the object of saving faith
      • Faith is a sacred totem you wield for an optimistic life and not an instrument you use to cling to Christ
    4. A Guilt-Filled Gospel—Failing to cling to the Christ of the gospel instead of the burden of our sin debt. This is the Christian’s struggle to believe the gospel is true every day. They take their eyes off Jesus and pick back up their sin debt to carry it around. Here are a few symptoms:
      • Identity in your sin and not what Christ has done to deal with your sin
      • A heart plagued by guilt and fear of God’s wrath
    5. A Joyless Gospel—Failing to believe and live in light of the fullness of life and the fullness of fellowship that we now have with God through Christ. Christians should be marked by a disposition of joy because of what Christ has done. This joy is unshakably rooted in the unshakeable God who has redeemed us. Here are a few symptoms:
      • Despair
      • Discontentment
      • Distracted

The only cure for any false gospel is to repent and believe the gospel. May we consider with greater measure, by the Spirit, who Christ is and what he has done for us so that we may grow up in Christ, rooting out every area of our lives that is raising itself up against the sufficiency of our Savior.

[1] Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, ed. James T. Dennison Jr., trans. George Musgrave Giger, vol. 2 (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1992–1997), 16.5.3.

[2] John Gill, An Exposition of the New Testament, vol. 3, The Baptist Commentary Series (London: Mathews and Leigh, 1809), 190.

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