Some of the best laughs in life come while watching kids play. The growing mind of a child is always searching for words to describe what they’re seeing and experiencing. Being able to wrap words around experiences is simply part of the learning process as they make it their own. But sometimes, they encounter something so new they simply don’t have the vocabulary yet to articulate what it is they are seeing. So, they simply make up new words. They invent the necessary vocabulary that lets their brain process and file away that which is entirely new. You’ve probably watched this happen before. Maybe you remember doing it yourself as a child.
When reading through Paul’s letters in the New Testament, we see that every once in a while he encounters some concept about the Christian life that is so unique to being in Christ that there simply isn’t language in existence to describe it. So, just like a child at play in a newly expanding world of possibilities, he makes up new words. It’s true. In some teaching sections, Paul employs words that we simply can’t find in any other ancient works of literature. He has to because there is simply no historical framework in which to fit what Jesus is doing. On the other side of the grave, new possibilities exist because of the resurrection of Jesus. Things will never be the same. My favorite instance of this in Paul’s writing is found in Colossians 2:13-15, where Paul writes about new realities in light of the resurrection:
13 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, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
In the passage Paul is highlighting what it is exactly that Jesus accomplished for us. He wants us to see how the main character in the story of history won the ultimate victory and how that benefits us—how his victory is ours as well. The selfless one accomplished the greatest feat ever undertaken and yet is so quick and so liberal with his generous sharing of its benefits. And in verse 13, when he says that “God made you alive with Christ,” a way to describe this simply didn’t exist in Greek at the time. How could there be? All the other gods of the world were angry, vindictive, and selfish. So what does Paul do to describe this incomprehensible work of Jesus? He invents new language. He creates one of the sweetest words ever conceived in any language or dialect of any people or culture the world has ever known. The word in Greek is a new verb: syn-zwo-poiesen: “to be made alive together with.” It’s all one word. And the result of Paul’s efforts to describe this new reality is more than simply a new entry in the Greek dictionary. It changes everything.
You and I were made alive together with Christ. So when he was raised from the dead, so were we. When he conquered sin and death, and hell, and all its final implications, in a very real way, so did we. When he disarmed the powers and authorities and made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross, in many ways, so did we. Not because we did any of the work. He did. He did it all. But remember, that’s the message of grace: when God does the doing. When he is the subject of the verbs. We just consistently happen to be the beneficiaries of his amazing work, time and time again throughout the pages of history. Our God came to rescue us in Jesus, who has now invited us to come and die with him so that we might also be raised with him. He invites us to put off our old self so we can receive what he can give us instead. You and I were made alive together with Christ. The concept is mind-boggling. No wonder there weren’t the words to describe it. So Paul gave us a new one.
Today we remember and celebrate that we were made alive together with Jesus!
- Article adapted from Vivid: Deepening Your Colors by Syd Hielema and Aaron Baart