And even though you were dead in your transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he nevertheless made you alive with him, having forgiven all your transgressions. He has destroyed what was against us, a certificate of indebtedness expressed in decrees opposed to us. He has taken it away by nailing it to the cross. Disarming the rulers and authorities, he has made a public disgrace of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
There is a lot to try to process in these three verses! Basically Paul is elaborating on the simple truth that he made in 2:8…You are complete in Him.
The Colossians were new believers who were starting to get hit with lots of different “Christian” philosophies. Judaistic Christians were telling them that they needed more than just faith in Christ. They needed to be circumcised and follow the rituals of the law. Gnostic teachers were telling them that they needed to get more into “deeper” spirituality with ascetic practice and mystical interaction with angels. It was a convoluted spiritual mess…much like today. New Christians today (or people who take the label of Christian) are equally enticed by spiritual “secrets,” legalism, mysticism, New Age practices, second blessings, the prosperity gospel, or a host of other spiritual philosophies which claim to add more to your Christian life. The implication is that Christ is not enough. You need something else.
Paul makes it as clear as possible that, in Christ, we are complete.
We have complete forgiveness in Christ. We were dead in our sins and separated from God but, through faith in Christ, we have been made spiritually alive and have received complete forgiveness. He forgave us all our sins. Did you catch that? All of your sins are forgiven in Christ…past, present, and future. In fact, in case you missed it, Paul reiterates it with an illustration from the marketplace. In those days, if you owed money to someone, you signed a certificate of indebtedness, an IOU. It was a written statement, signed by your own hand, that clearly stated your debt. Paul says we all had a massive debt against God that we could not pay. And we were all without excuse. Our own handwriting, our own conscience, condemned us. And, as habitual lawbreakers, the debt kept accumulating (sort of like our national debt). But God took this certificate of indebtedness and nailed it to the cross. The cross marked our debt, “Paid in full.” The debt is gone. The slate is clean. Our sins are wiped away. We stand before God, in Christ, completely forgiven, completely righteous. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Feeling like a failure today? Feeling like you are constantly falling short in your Christian walk? Feeling defeated? Feeling guilty? In Christ, you can rejoice because you are free from the condemnation and requirements of the law. You are free….not to live for yourself (which only leads back to bondage) but for God.
We have complete freedom in Christ. Freedom from sin. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from condemnation. Freedom from the burden of never measuring up. Freedom from legalism. Freedom from fear. One of the biggest fears in the ancient world was from demonic forces. People would go through all sorts of rituals and prayers to appease the spirits and wear all sorts of charms to protect themselves from demonic assaults. Paul says, “Stop! Don’t you realize that Christ has not only triumphed over sin and death but also over Satan and his demonic forces?!” Christ disarmed them and then paraded them through the streets to show that they no longer have power over believers. We do not have to fear or focus on the demonic world. The formula in Christ is simple: Submit yourselves then to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7). Satan only has the power that we allow him to have in our lives.
Thank You, LORD, for complete forgiveness and freedom in Christ! May I live in that freedom today.