I like to watch professional football and to see a well-executed game. Occasionally, however, you notice even professionals getting sloppy regarding fundamentals, like blocking or tackling, which is why coaches at all levels must constantly remind their players that you can’t execute the basics poorly and still expect to be successful.
This truth is played out in many aspects of our lives and is particularly relevant for our spiritual walk with the Lord. There are some fundamentals—basic training, if you will—that our Father always wants us to remember, even if you’re the greatest spiritual warfare tactician that has ever lived. One of these basic but critical elements we must keep in our remembrance is the triumph of the cross.
One particular time the Lord brought this to my mind, I heard Him say, “My cross is not empty.” As I pondered this, I heard Him again, “My cross is not empty. I nailed something to it.” Well, I immediately remembered that the apostle Paul had written something about that, so I grabbed my concordance. Sure enough, I found it in the second chapter of Colossians. Here’s what it says:
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross. (Col. 2:13, 14, emphasis added)
I also have to include the next verse. It’s so good!
And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Col. 2:15)
I believe this refers not only to what Christ did on the cross, but also the triumph He was authorized to lead because of nailing the law to the cross!
The context of this chapter relates to Paul’s concern that the young Colossian and Laodicean Christians would become entangled in the corrupt religious structures based on human commands and doctrines. Paul wrote that the way to avoid such entanglements is to remember Christ’s triumph on the cross.
Triumphant in Christ
I want to draw a distinction in typology at this point. Christ was nailed to the cross. The written code against us was also nailed to the cross. Christ was resurrected—He’s no longer on the cross. The written code against us was not resurrected. It’s still nailed to the cross! Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible points out that ancient laws were said to have been abolished by nailing them to a post. Paul indicates in Colossians that Christ triumphed over principalities and powers because of this.
The word translated as “triumphing” in the English is the Greek word triambueo, which means “to lead in triumph,” used of a conqueror with reference to the vanquished.1 There is some thought that Paul was using the word picture of a Roman triumphal march in which the conquering leader’s sons, along with various officers, rode behind his chariot.
Imagine Jesus, pointing to the cross where He has nailed the law of sin and death, triumphantly leading to heaven those who acknowledge His kingship. As they arrive there, His faithful followers, formerly Satan’s captives, begin to shout in victory. Maybe their words were something like, “Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of Glory shall come in! Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty; the Lord mighty in battle” (Psalm 24:7, 8).
Wow! Makes me want to shout too! Well, we know that the King of Glory is Jesus. Who did He battle, fight, or make war against? Powers and principalities—just like Paul says we do (see Eph. 6:12).
What were His weapons? The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (see Eph. 6:17), and in this case, the word as it relates to the cross. It was the word of God that gave Jesus the authority to substitute the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus for the law of sin and death, which He nailed to the cross. As a result, those who acknowledge His Kingship are translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. Their names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
Jesus even performed this work of salvation for a thief while on the cross! And how many since the thief have responded to the cross? Untold numbers! Maybe you’re one of them! How did you do it? You looked to the cross and acknowledged your sin, Jesus’ innocence, and His kingship. And Jesus responded. In 1 Thessalonians, we’re told that Jesus will descend once again some day, so you and I will get to participate in yet another triumphal procession to heaven.2
Christ Has Given Us Authority
What hinders everyone from participating in this triumphal procession? Principalities and powers (see 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 6:12). Who has authority to do something about them? Well, Jesus has the authority, and He’s given it to us so we can overcome the wicked one.3 That’s where spiritual warfare comes in, and that warfare begins with a “basic training” understanding of the scope of Christ’s triumph at the cross.
Eventually, this triumph will culminate in you, me, and the souls that have been stripped from Satan’s kingdom as we meet our Lord in the air. Then we’ll get to shout, “Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of Glory shall come in!”
Wow! Makes me want to shout right now!
Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words
1 Thessalonians 4:13-17
Matthew 28:18-20; Eph. 1:20-23; 1 John 2:14