Nailed To The Cross
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. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. (Colossians 2:13-15, NKJV)
This is the place of every person before they are raised with Him through faith in the working of God as Paul described in Colossians 2:12. Before we have a new life, we are dead. Before a person comes to new life in Jesus, he is not a sick man who needs a doctor; he is a dead person who needs a Savior.
We are not only made alive but made alive together with Him:
“It is true that He gave us life from the dead? He gave us pardon of sin; He gave us imputed righteousness. These are all precious things, but you see we are not content with them; we have received Christ himself. The Son of God has been poured out into us, and we have received him, and appropriated him.” – Charles Spurgeon
Before we have new life in Jesus, we are dead in our trespasses. A trespass is a specific kind of sin: overstepping a boundary. We are dead because we overstep God’s boundaries in our sin and rebellion.
We can’t make ourselves alive, but God can make us alive together with Jesus. We can never be made alive apart from Jesus.
The new birth (made alive) and cleansing (forgiven you all) go together as features of the New Covenant, as prophesied by the Old Testament:
Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. (Ezekiel 36:25-27)
And the New Testament:
Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (John 3:5)
Having forgiven us is the ancient Greek word charizomai, a verb form of the ancient Greek word charis (grace). We are forgiven by grace.
The handwriting of requirements has in mind a list of our crimes or moral debt before God, a debt that no imperfect person can completely pay. But it can be taken out of the way, by payment from a perfect man, Jesus Christ.
The term handwriting is a general word for a handwritten document and has been understood in various ways. Some take it in a legal sense and say it represents the charges against a prisoner or a confession of wrong made by a prisoner. Others take it in a financial sense and see it as a debit or ledger sheet that shows we are bankrupt before God. Either way, it means that the document that once condemned us is now taken out of the way, having been nailed to the cross.
“It might even be said that he took the document, ordinances and all, and nailed it to his cross as an act of triumphant defiance in the face of those blackmailing powers that were holding it over men and women in order to command their allegiance.” – F.F. Bruce
According to Marvin Vincent, the ancient Greek word translated wiped out is a compound of the word to anoint and the prefix that means completely. The idea is that something was completely wiped over, and in the ancient world, the term was used of whitewashing a wall or overlaying a wall with gold. It means that the accusations against us were completely wiped away and covered over.
Jesus not only paid for the writing that was against us; He also took it out of the way, and then nailed it to the cross. He did everything possible to make certain that the handwriting of requirements that was against us could no longer accuse us.
We remember that the accusations of Jesus’ crime were nailed to the cross and hung above His head (Matthew 27:37). Since we are identified with Jesus in His death on the cross (Romans 6:3-8), it is as if the handwriting of requirements that was against us was also nailed to the cross, just like the accusation against Jesus.
Another aspect of Jesus’ work on the cross is that He disarmed principalities and powers. These ranks of hostile angelic beings (Romans 8:38, Ephesians 1:21, Ephesians 3:10, Ephesians 6:12) don’t have the same weapons to use against Christians that they have against those who are not in Jesus.
“These powers, angry at his challenge to their sovereignty, stripped him naked, held him up to public contempt, and celebrated a triumph over him.” – N.T. Wright
Here Paul shows us again the paradox of the cross; that the victorious Jesus took the spiritual powers animating these earthly powers and stripped them, held them up to contempt, and publicly triumphed over them.
We can only imagine how Satan and every dark gleeful demon attacked Jesus as He hung on the cross on our behalf as if He were a guilty sinner.
“As he was suspended there, bound hand and foot to the wood in apparent weakness, they imagined they had him at their mercy, and flung themselves on him with hostile intent. But, far from suffering their attack without resistance, he grappled with them and mastered them, stripping them of the armor in which they trusted, and held them aloft in his outstretched hands, displaying to the universe their helplessness and his own unvanquished strength.” – F.F. Bruce
Paul wrote in another place that if the rulers of this age, by which he meant both the spiritual powers of darkness and their earthly representatives – had known what would happen on the cross, they would have never crucified Jesus (1 Corinthians 2:8). They were defeating themselves and they didn’t even know it.
Against the believer, what weapons do demonic spirits therefore now have? They are disarmed, except for their ability to deceive and to create fear. These are effective “weapons” that are not tangible weapons at all. Demonic spirits only have power towards us that we grant them by believing their lies. The weapons are in our hands, not theirs. We will one-day see how afraid they were of us.
Paul used similar phrasing in 2 Corinthians 2:14, where he had in mind the Roman victory parade where a conquering general led his defeated captives through the streets in triumph.
Perhaps Satan, for a moment, thought that he had won at the cross. But Hell’s imagined victory was turned into a defeat that disarmed every spiritual enemy who fights against those living under the light and power of the cross. The public spectacle of defeated demonic spirits makes their defeat all the more humiliating.
“Christ, in this picture, is the conquering general; the powers and authorities are the vanquished enemy displayed as the spoils of battle before the entire universe.” – Curtis Vaughn
“The death of Christ was not only a pardon; it also manifested might. It not only canceled a debt; it was a glorious triumph.” – Charles Erdman
Gracious Father God, thank You that our sins and rebellion have been nailed to the cross. We praise You for Your inherent goodness to us. In Jesus name, Amen.
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