In many parts of the world today, and in nearly all cultures, there are a lot of superstitions, religious rites, and more that have been conjured up to help protect people from the very real threat of what we know to be demons, even if they go by other names elsewhere. Thankfully, we who belong to Christ never need to worry about these beings gaining power over us. Paul tells us in today’s passage that the work of Christ on the cross not only cancelled the debt we owe to God on account of our sin, it was also the means by which God disarmed “rulers and authorities,” which is a reference to pagan societies and their gods. Make no mistake, even though our Father ordained the cross to deal with sin, Jesus was nailed to the cross via the actions of secondary agents —rulers and authorities — such as Pilate, the Sanhedrin, and even Satan (Luke 22:3–6; Acts 2:22–23).
The “rulers and authorities” of Rome and Israel, as well as their father the Devil, disarmed Jesus, stripped Him naked, held Him up to open shame, and celebrated what they thought was their triumph over Him. But despite these horrific details of the death Jesus died, Paul sees in it something paradoxical: on the cross, God was disarming the powers, stripping them naked, triumphing over them, and holding them up to public contempt (which is an allusion to the practice of Roman generals who, after a significant conquest, paraded through town in triumph, showing off the treasures taken from conquered peoples and often leading those people as prisoners through the streets as a public spectacle). What he thought to be the end of his hated enemy once and for all, Satan found to be the complete opposite. Death did not have the final say, for God raised His Son from the dead, proving that He is sovereign and evil does not get the last word (Eph. 1:20–22; 1 John 3:8b).
The ancient Colossians, like others of the day, had a past in paganism that knew nothing but fear of how evil, invisible beings could harm them. Teachers who promised protection from these beings through special rites and secret teachings were a dime a dozen, and even Christian converts could be tempted to look to these heretics for help. But as Paul says in Colossians 2:15, Jesus’ victory is sufficient to crush the Serpent and his minions. Nothing more is needed.