In verses 11-13, Paul explains what Christ did for us and how those who have believed in Him are now spiritually circumcised. The subject under discussion is the means of our justification. Paul is saying that, when we repented and were baptized, the "old man" of sin was buried in a watery grave, and our sins were completely forgiven through our faith in the sacrifice of Christ. After being raised out of the water, we were "made alive" with Him and imputed to be righteous in God's sight. Paul refers to this process as "circumcision made without hands," that is, spiritual circumcision.
Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Was God's Law Nailed to the Cross?
In verses 11 through 14, Paul shows how Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins and now our past sins, brought about by conforming to the ways, practices, and philosophies of this world, are completely blotted out and nailed to His cross. He reminds them that Christ has completely conquered all of the evil spirits who continue to rule this present, evil world and who inspire the pagan philosophies that had so influenced the Colossian society: "Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it" (verse 15).
Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Are the Sabbath and Holy Days Done Away?
In Colossians 2, Paul warns the churches at Colossae and Laodicea against any philosophy or system of beliefs—specifically mentioning “the tradition of men”—that detracts from Christ's sovereign position and role under the Father (verses 4, 8-9). He points out that the brethren there were already “complete in Him” (verse 10). This does not mean that they had already achieved spiritual perfection or that their salvation was assured, but that they had no need of anything supplementary to what was already available in Christ.
Many see Satan's binding (Revelation 20:1-3) as the fulfillment of the Day of Atonement, yet if these Colossians were still awaiting Satan's binding—after having been resurrected to glory, no less!—before their sins were completely removed from view, how could the apostle write that they were already “complete” in Christ? On the contrary, those who come under Christ's blood are not awaiting the final resolution of their transgressions when Satan is bound; their previous sins have already been completely taken care of.
And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14)
Notice the definitive wording. There is no hint here—or anywhere else—that God's people are awaiting Satan's binding so their sins can finally be expiated. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), and those wages have already been paid in full. Therefore, we are alive in Christ now, and not waiting for an imagined final payment on the debt when Satan is bound.
The phrase “having wiped out the handwriting of requirements” in Colossians 2:14 is often misinterpreted as meaning that God's law has been done away, yet in the Greek sentence structure, it is parallel with “having forgiven you all trespasses.” The “handwriting of requirements” is the written record of violations against God's ordinances. Paul says that this “handwriting”—the record of sins, not the laws—was expunged, reiterating that our sins have been forgiven. Other translations say He “erased,” “blotted out,” or “destroyed” it. The record is completely obliterated, in God's reckoning.
Verse 14 says that Christ has “taken it out of the way.” Strong's Concordance states that the Greek word for “taken,” airo, means “to lift up; by implication, to take up or away; . . . by Hebraism to expiate sin.” It means the same as the Hebrew word used for “bearing” in Leviticus 16:22, nasa' (Strong's #5375).
In addition, airo is in the perfect tense, indicating action completed in the past. The live goat lifts up, carries, and takes away the sins placed on its head by the high priest (Leviticus 16:21-22). In Colossians, Christ is declared to have lifted up, taken away, and expiated the record that was against us—an exact match to what is said about the goat of departure.
David C. Grabbe
Who Fulfills the Azazel Goat— Satan or Christ? (Part Three)
Symbolically, our baptism imitates what our Savior did for us, and therefore, by our participation in it, we show our desire to be united—at one—with Him in both His death and resurrection (Romans 6:5). Paul writes in Galatians 2:20: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." This is what our decision to be baptized tells our Father in heaven.
Being put into the water represents the death of the "old man" with his sinful way of life. Being completely covered by water symbolizes burial, and being raised from the water pictures a resurrection to "newness of life." After baptism we consider ourselves dead to sin, that is, we have completely divorced ourselves from living a sinful way of life (Romans 6:11). Once baptized, we are to give our lives to God and use our time to become "instruments of righteousness to God" (verse 13).
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Basic Doctrines: Water Baptism
Paul shows that circumcision typifies putting off the old man of sin that is buried in a watery grave at baptism. After being raised from the water in newness of life (Romans 6:4), the repentant sinner stands before God perfect, holy, and sinless. The process of spiritual circumcision is complete, and the symbol of physical circumcision is fulfilled.
Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Why We Must Put Out Leaven
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