“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” (Col 2:13-14)
The most shocking message in the Bible is that God became man to become sin. This is a scandal to us because we don’t want our gods to get dirty. We want our gods to be powerful and pure, not weak and wicked. Yet throughout the entirety of Scripture we see that God means to get mixed up in the mire and mess of sin in order to put an end to shame, debt, death, and the law.
The Apostle Paul talks about salvation as dead people being brought to life a lot in his letters. He consistently states that this resurrection is God’s work alone. God finds us dead in our sins and speaks a word of life. Ezekiel says “live” is the very word He speaks to us (Ezek 16:6). Paul says we’ve been made alive in Christ having all our trespasses forgiven. “Your sins are forgiven” and “live” are the same word. When God says “live,” he is forgiving the sinner. When God says “you are forgiven,” he is raising the dead. Absolution is the word God speaks to cause his sin-dead creation to live. We are made alive through absolution.
When God makes a sinner alive through absolution, he is making them new.
When God makes a sinner alive through absolution, he is making them new. He does this by canceling out everything that made them dead in the first place. Paul says God does this by “canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.” Sin has no power apart from the law (1 Cor 15:56) and so it uses the demands of the law to kill us. Absolution is the cancelation of all debts and shuts the mouth of the law. And where the law cannot speak, sin has no power and can bring forward no record of wrongs (Rom 5:13).
Paul is always trying to get us to Christ crucified for sinners. This Colossians passage is no different. He tells us we have been made alive through absolution and that which killed us has been canceled… but what has happened to sin? Where did it go? This is the scandal of the cross. All sin is crucified there. When Paul says our record of debt was “nailed to the cross” he is speaking of Christ himself. It was Christ who took the nails and public shaming. It was Christ who became sin for the world and died. The Son of God hanging on a Roman cross is your record of sin. It doesn’t look powerful and certainly isn’t pure. God has become weak and wicked in order to speak a life-giving word of absolution to the world. He died that we might live. He has defeated death in his resurrection that we may know his word of forgiveness is sure and certain. He has now given us this gospel word to speak into the ears of the sin-dead everywhere. God says “live” because your debts are all canceled, and sins all forgiven.