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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Colossians 2:13 – Life apart from Christ

Paul mentions three features of the Colossians before they were converted. They were Gentiles, they were dead in their trespasses, and they were bankrupt.
His description of them as Gentiles is seen in the phrase ‘the uncircumcision of your flesh’. A religious ritual is a symbol of an inner reality, although in itself the ritual does not give inner reality. Still, in the case of the Colossians, the absence of the ritual was a powerful statement that they did not belong to God’s special people, Israel. The Colossians had not experienced national deliverances such as Israel had enjoyed, they did not know how to worship the true God, and they did not have any prophecies about a coming Deliverer. Instead they were in spiritual darkness, unable to find God and discover a remedy for their situations, lost and detached from their Creator.
In addition, the Colossians ‘were dead in their trespasses’. A trespass is a deliberate violation of a law. It is an activity, it is an expression of animosity, and it indicates the trespasser prefers to live in a different atmosphere from the lawgiver. Since the Colossians were not Israelites and therefore had not received the Ten Commandments, how can they be described as breakers of God’s law? The answer to this question is that God’s law was written on their hearts, and that they knew that many of their actions were expressions of rebellion against a higher Authority.
While they were aware of their wrongdoing, they were not appalled by it. Instead they delighted in it, and had no wish to regulate their lives by the divinely-given conscience in their hearts. Instead they freely and gladly expressed their desire to live sinful lives. Even their pre-conversion religious behaviour was an expression of defiance against the true God.
This activity and animosity revealed the spiritual atmosphere in which they lived. Paul’s calls it ‘death’. By this he means an environment marked by death. It commenced with death, it expressed death, and it led to death. He is not speaking about physical death, but spiritual death. This environment began when Adam first sinned against God, and the atmosphere of spiritual death is the setting in which people have lived since then. The breathe it in and express themselves through the energy it gives, but it is the demonstration of spiritual death. And it is the way to greater death, eternal separation from God.
The third feature of the Colossians pre-conversion state was spiritual bankruptcy, the ‘record of debt that was against them with its legal demands’. A person can be in debt for a number of reasons. One business may collapse because people have not paid their bills; a person may become penniless because of war or disaster; or a person may become a debtor because of inability to pay a penalty imposed for wrong behaviour. The debt Paul has in mind is the last option. The Colossians had disobeyed God and his penalty was eternal punishment, a penalty which they could not pay. They were in danger of being eternal bankrupts.
Paul reminds the Colossians of what their spiritual state had been before the met Jesus. They had been distant from God, they had been disobedient to God, and they were in debt to God. The Colossians needed help, and the help came only through Jesus. And Paul tells them how he did it. And we must remember that we were like the Colossians. We were Gentiles, we were deliberately disobedient to God’s requirements, and we were bankrupt before the court of heaven. The dilemma of the Colossians and our dilemma was the same. But Jesus came to our rescue, and we will think about that tomorrow.

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