Paul mentions God’s antidote to their three problems connected to spiritual death that we thought about yesterday. First, spiritual death and separation from God are remedied by ‘made alive together with Christ’; second, disobedience to God is remedied by God’s forgiveness; and, third, debt is met by God cancelling it by nailing it to the cross of Jesus. We will look at them in the reverse order to that of Paul’s order because we experience them in that reverse way.
First, the debt of the Colossians (and ours) is nailed to the cross of Jesus. It was customary when a criminal was crucified to inform persons of his crime by nailing a board stating his misdemeanour above his head. This happened to Jesus literally when Pilate ordered that the statement ‘This is Jesus, the king of the Jews’ should be attached to his cross. Paul takes that literal nailing and uses it as a picture of what God did at the cross. We are to imagine God nailing a list of our sins above the head of Jesus, a statement that reveals he was dying in order to pay the penalty we could not pay. Since Jesus has paid the penalty, all those who trust in him are no longer bankrupt and can never become spiritual bankrupts again. But we only remember this reality by focusing on Jesus. If we take our eyes off him, we will forget what he has done for us.
Second, because Jesus paid the penalty of their sins, God forgave the sins of each of the Colossians when they repented of their sins and trusted in Jesus. Paul stresses that God forgave all their trespasses, not only the sins of the past life, but also the sins they would commit in the future. The payment of Jesus was sufficient to cover all their sins from God’s sight and therefore God gladly forgave them. To take their eyes of Jesus would be an expression of ingratitude as well as a means of losing their assurance of pardon. Yet that is what some of the Colossians were thinking of doing. And we can be distracted from Jesus as well. So we should always remember that forgiveness comes only through what he suffered on the cross.
Third, having forgiven the Colossians, God then united them to Jesus. Union with Christ is a massive subject and we have to break it up into individual parts in order to grasp it. What Paul has in mind here is practical (or actual) union with Jesus. When we believe through the regenerating power of the Spirit, we are united to Jesus practically for ever. We are no longer separated from God. But we have to keep focussed on Christ in order to understand the fullness of blessings that he has for us.
What a marvellous trio of spiritual benefits! Yet the fact that the Colossians were in danger of turning away from Jesus should lead us to pray that the Lord would enable us to focus on Christ day by day.