“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” ~ Colossians 2:13-14
Explanation of the Text: Colossians 2:13-14 is an expression of the same truth as Colossians 2:11-12 that we just finished reviewing, however it is from a different perspective. In Colossians 2:11-12, Paul emphasizes that one’s salvation can be made complete apart from religious rituals of people; he expands on that here in order to emphasize that forgiveness is complete apart from any human work. He begins by noting that those who were dead in trespasses and uncircumcision were made alive by God. First off, death does not mean annihilation, but simply separation from God because of the spiritual state of a believer, remembering that even the unsaved person still bears the image of God, but nevertheless is also still separated from God. Separation of course exists between God and men because of sin. It is this sin that keeps people from life, and hence, Paul writes that they were dead in trespasses. However, he also says they were dead in their uncircumcision of the flesh. In our devotion on Colossians 2:11, we noted a difference between the circumcision of the flesh versus the circumcision of the heart that God desires. Paul writes more of this in Ephesians 2:11-12, noting that the Gentiles were without the circumcision. By being uncircumcised, they are considered to be outside of covenant of God, as such they are worse off than even the Jews. But, because of the work of God, they were made alive in togetherness with Him. God put into fruition, a plan that reconciled the state of dead men, to life with Him.
This plan included forgiveness of sin. Paul compares sin to a certificate of debt, noting that because of sin, men are in debt to God. During Paul’s day, a certificate of debt was given to people listing both their debts and penalties. This has been equated to our relationship with God in which we are in debt to him because of our sins. However, in Old Testament times, sin was forgiven once one had repented, and on the Day of Atonement, it was completely blotted out by God, but Paul now puts a different spin on that to say that the atonement now is found at the day of the cross of Christ when the debt was nailed with Christ and the penalty was ultimately paid then. There is reconciliation with God through Christ in the forgiveness of sins, with the penalty paid by Christ. This is true freedom in Christ, in which one is no longer under the weight of debt. “A reality of spiritual fullness is total forgiveness.” This total forgiveness is seen in that God has erased the certificate of debt that was given to us. He expects no repayment, because Christ paid it in full, thus spiritual fullness in the total forgiveness. There are two important things to note about this certificate of debt. First, it has a list of rules and regulations that must be met, but the second part is the most important, which is that the word ‘Cancelled’ has been written across it. Those rules and regulations written on the certificate of debt cannot be met by sinful humans, but according to Matthew 5:17, Christ came to fulfill the law. Only Christ alone can fulfill the requirements of the law, which he came to do, and once again, because of it, the debt we owe can be cancelled.
Examination & Application of the Text: In his commentary on the book of Colossians, John MacArthur notes six characteristics of God’s forgiveness that are extremely important to recognize:
- God’s forgiveness is gracious
- God’s forgiveness is complete
- God’s forgiveness is eager
- God’s forgiveness is certain
- God’s forgiveness is unequaled
- God’s forgiveness is motivating
Understanding this aspect of God’s forgiveness should be an encouragement to life in Him. It should push one to desire this very forgiveness. “The Colossians were complete, whole, because they had been released from the bondage of guilt (and) there is no tyranny like that of guilt.” One without Christ should desire the same completeness that the Colossians enjoyed. Quite simply, it is to believe in Him, call on Him, and have faith in Him. However, we know that a life in Christ is so much more. If you are reading this without Christ, I urge you to a relationship with Him (for information on how to do that, I suggest finding someone you know who is a grounded Christian or visiting a website by clicking here. If you have more questions, please feel free to contact me at the contact me link above). Likewise, for those that already have Christ there are two responses that must be considered. First, is to rest in the comfort of forgiveness and find joy in that completeness. Second, this should be a motivation to share the Gospel with those around us who are unsaved.
 John MacArthur Jr., Colossians, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), 108.
 Norman Geisler, Colossians, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Volume 2, Ed. by John F. Walvoord and Roy Zuck (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985), 678.
 John MacArthur Jr., Colossians, 109.
 Craig Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Colossians 2:13-14.
 Craig Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, Colossians 2:13-14.
 Max Anders, Galatians – Colossians, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 307.
 Max Anders, Galatians – Colossians, Holman New Testament Commentary, 307.
 John MacArthur Jr., Colossians, 110.
 R. Kent Hughes, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon, Preaching the Word (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013), Location 4546