I suggest that every believer ought to be a part of a small Bible reading group. Our group reads one chapter a day and exchanges emails with our takeaways. Two tangible benefits flow from participation in our group. First, we engage the Bible in community. Second, we share some of the stuff going on in our lives.
In reading Colossians 2, verses 13-14 struck a chord because it reveals the infinitely high price paid by God for me whereby He erased my debt I could never pay and gave me the gift of salvation which I could never obtain on my own. Colossians 2:13–14 (ESV) reads:
13 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, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
For this post, I plan to use the Graphoble( Bible study method) visualization tool to comprehend better what Paul intended to say to his audience and apply it in my life. A copy of my “artwork” is at the following link: https://stevebelsheim.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Once-Dead-Now-Alive-Visualiization-288.pdf
OBSERVATION OF THE TEXT
Oftentimes, it is helpful to consider multiple English translations that range from more literal to more “dynamic” or thought-for-thought. For example, the ESV is more literal and the New Living Translation (NLT) is more thought-for-thought. In the New Living Translation, Colossians 2:13–14 (NLT) reads:
13 You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. 14 He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.
Paul began these verses with BAD NEWS: before salvation, a person was dead in their trespasses (i.e., because of their sin), and their sinful nature was not yet cut away. He touched upon two aspects of sin; namely, a person’s sin nature inherited from their parents (possibly could include imputed sin from Adam) and a person’s actual sins they commit. Paul’s point was that at some point in the past, those in his audience were in bad shape, i.e., on the road to hell.
Paul then transitioned into the GOOD NEWS that God made those in his audience who were hell-bound alive together with Christ. The ESV translates the Greek verb syzeōopoieō as “made alive together.” Syzeōopoieō means to cause to live again together with others—‘to raise to life together with.’[i] The grammar of syzeōopoieō shows that Paul intended to convey that the action of “made alive together” was a snap-shot event in the past. Next, Paul spelled out the reasons they were made alive together with Christ.
They were made alive because ALL of their sins were forgiven. Forgiveness was accomplished by canceling the “record of debt” with legal demands that stood against them when they were in their spiritually dead condition. God set aside this “record of debt” through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, i.e., “nailing it to the cross.”
The ESV translates the Greek verb airo as “he set aside.” According to Louw et al., it means to lift up and carry (away)—’to carry (away), to carry off, to remove, to take (away).’[ii] By his use of the perfect verb tense, Paul intended to convey that the airo took place in the past, but its effects remain. The perfect verb tense describes:
a completed verbal action that occurred in the past but which produced a state of being or a result that exists in the present (in relation to the writer). The emphasis of the perfect is not the past action so much as it is as such but the present “state of affairs” resulting from the past action.[iii]
SINGLE VALID INTERPRETATION OF THE TEXT
In my opinion, what Paul intended to say to his audience was that they were once spiritually dead, but God made them spiritually alive together with Christ. God achieved this death-to-life transformation through forgiveness of all their sins which was accomplished through the death and resurrection (atoning sacrifice) of Jesus Christ.
APPLICATION OF THE TEXT
One application of this text is that I owe my all to Jesus Christ through His atoning sacrifice on the cross. Therefore, I should strive to live every minute “sold out” to Jesus in obedience to God’s Word. The following words from the song “This Blood” come to mind:
So pour it out and To cleanse my soul
And let its liquid Glory flow
Because He lives To make me whole
I owe my life I owe my all
If you are reading this post and are not a Christian, unless God intervenes, your eternal destination is hell. But, your destiny can change.
Today can be the day of your salvation! Please see my blog (https://stevebelsheim.com/2020/04/20/for-god-so-loves-you-2/) for a description of how you can be saved. You can also go to another article at my blog (https://stevebelsheim.com/2020/10/20/there-is-hope-even-when-there-seems-to-be-no-hope-2/ ).
Please send me any comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or use the comments feature of the blog.
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[i] See Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 262). New York: United Bible Societies.
[ii] Louw et al. supra at Vol. 1, p. 206.
[iii] Heiser, M. S., & Setterholm, V. M. (2013; 2013). Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology. Lexham Press.