Paul returns to a controversial topic with Colossians 2:6 as he says “As you therefore received Christ Jesus as Lord.” Two camps divide on this thought. What is the implication of the Lordship of Jesus?
One viewpoint says there is no other way to receive Christ Jesus than as Lord. How does one come to the foot of the cross and give oneself to the Savior in an exchange of life; His for ours, and not then follow with submitting to His Lordship?
The other viewpoint, while arguable less well-received, is the position that receiving Jesus as Savior and making Jesus Christ Lord are two distinct acts. This viewpoint (as fiercely argued against by John MacArthur and others) separates an otherwise inseparable reality.
A.W. Tozer wrote that “there is a view that is popular in modern Christianity that one may receive Jesus as Savior and then, when it is more convenient, follow Him in Lordship.” This is an untenable position, according to Tozer and many others.
So why was Paul laboring this point as if one were possible without the other. Can Jesus be received in ANY way but “as Lord?” Maybe for Paul it was a reminder that Jesus did not just come to redeem, but to transform. Not just to “justify” us before God, but to transform us in sanctification and discipleship.
Some of the argument is dependent on our understanding of repentance. Has a person fully repented if they have not turned the entirety of life over in Lordship to follow Jesus? Repentance is not just the cleansing of past sins and failure, but also is to be a continuing posture for the person redeemed. We never stop repenting, if repenting truly means more than simply saying “I’m sorry for sin.” Our lifestyle is now one of repentance and turning “toward” Jesus as Lord.
Paul was probably also referring to their “receiving” as hearing the Gospel from Epaphras. “As you therefore received it…” with eagerness, with faith, with confidence. So continue in that same course and attitude as you had at the first.
But this could also have been a slap at the Gnostic heretics. The idea of “Lordship” had strong overtones, not only in religious circles, but political ones in the Roman Empire.
For the Roman, faithful to the empire, only the Caesar was called Lord. It implied ownership of and oversight of everything within the sphere of the empire.
The Gnostic heresy had reduced Jesus to a part of the puzzle, but Paul here reminds the Colossians that Jesus is OVER the puzzle; He is Lord of all…not a piece of life’s puzzle but the reason for it…and the Maker of it!
This verse is actually an excellent summary of the entire book of Colossians. (Lucas, BST). What does it look like to “live in Him?” When we “receive Christ as Lord,” there are demands this places on our lifestyle and choices, decisions, and thinking. We “live” in Him, but what are the implications and outworkings of that?
Lucas suggests that Paul is actually laying out three principles of Christian development here.
As you received……so live in Him
As you were rooted….be built up
As you were taught…be established.
We received Christ as Lord through no good work on our part. God does the work of opening our eyes, and minds, and hearts to Who Jesus Christ is. We received Christ the Lord by grace, but then we are to go on from there and LIVE in Him. What does that look like?
We are to be rooted in the truth….and so be built up. Our Christian growth depends, not just on our receiving Christ as Lord, but we are also to “earth” or “root” ourselves in the truth. We are to embrace the systemized teaching of Jesus Christ and the doctrine taught by the apostles, this Gospel “once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3)
We are to be taught…and so be established. We are to be established, like a strong tree deeply rooted and stable, and now as a building that is constructed.
We received; we are rooted; we are established in Christ. (BST)
“As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord…” (so Melick offers). The positioning of “Lord” at the end of the phrase is only done here by Paul in all of his epistles. The positioning emphasizes “the Lord.” Using the word “received” with its object being “Christ Jesus” is also an unusual positioning. Normally “received” has to do with “teaching,” or “doctrine” or “Gospel.” The implication of this is that the Colossians actually embraced HIM, not just the teaching about Him.
This is one of the oldest and simplest statements about what it means to be a Christian: “You have received Christ Jesus the Lord.” The journey for some from initially hearing and being exposed to Jesus/the Gospel to committing to become a Christian is on average four years. (Tidball, The Reality of Christ). We are not just “receiving a new teaching” or “embracing a new lifestyle” as we come to Christ. We are receiving HIM into our lives, a life eternal, a spiritual power and dynamic, and out of that decision we will live a different kind of life.
“As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so live in Him…” (2:6). We are making no cavalier or thoughtless decision when we say YES to Jesus. Paul puts no barrier in the way of that process: no formulaic prayer, no church or denominational issue, no promises to be made by us. Simply “RECEIVE” Him.
But once we have received, we must then also “LIVE” in Him. There is no way a person can be married and RECEIVE another into their lives without being changed by that transaction. As imperfect an analogy as that is, it makes the point that some change is expected.
Think then how deeply the change will be when we receive Christ. We are to LIVE in Him, being “rooted (earthed) and built up in Him…” (2:7)
We have two metaphors at work in this statement. One is taken from agriculture; the other from construction. But we are to be “rooted” (“once and for all having been rooted”) in Christ, and allow (as a new plant would do) our roots to grow deeply into the soil of Christian truth. At the same time (and in relationship to the depth of our root system) we can be “built up” in Him. The deeper the roots, the more solid the foundation and the taller the building. We grow taller as we grow deeper.
But we are also to be “strengthened.” Our strength is tied to our faith, but not just to our faith as in the faith that saves us. That faith is a gift, and is a constant, and cannot be forever lost. This is a reference to “the faith,” or the systematized truth of the Christian life. While we cannot lose “faith,” we can lose “the faith” by adulterating it with false teaching and watering down its truth.
It is precisely there that we have the ability to build spiritual “muscle.” We can “bulk up” our faith by adding knowledge and aligning life with the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. (2 Peter 1)
It is here that many fail. We want this part of the journey to be automatic, too. But it is here that discipleship becomes a necessity. In discipleship, we are introduced to and deepened in “the faith.” And it is here, again, the church has sometimes let down.
We must disciple our children, since we learn that by age nine or ten their worldview is set. They are making important and life-altering decisions out of a worldview that may NOT be Christian.
Parents must learn the art of discipling. Students need to be discipled. Adults must be discipled. Seniors must be discipled. It is here that the faith of the church is strengthened.
To stand firm in the day in which we are living, and to oppose the false doctrine and religious systems that would challenge our faith it is more important than ever.
But finally we are to be thankful. One of the primary marks of a mature Christian’s faith, according to Paul, was gratitude. We are to “overflow” in gratitude for the gift of salvation and for our growth in that grace. Gratitude is one of the hallmarks of the true followers of Jesus. The Gnostic teachers obviously promised their followers an “abundant” or “overflowing” life. Paul is saying, “You are to overflow…in gratitude for what God in Christ has done for you!”
Paul’s First Defense of the Faith
There are three primary warnings issued by Paul in Colossians:
1) Don’t let anyone kidnap you! (2:8)
2) Don’t let anyone condemn you! (2:16)
3) Don’t let anyone disqualify you! (2:18)
In Colossians 2:8-15, we encounter Paul’s specific defense against the threats encountered by the church in Colossae. These were the threats that were attempting to lead them out of freedom and into captivity. “Don’t be taken captive by anyone…” Paul warns them. And if we are wise, we will hear and heed the same words of warning.
We do know that at least one threat was the insurgency of the Gnostic heresy. This has already been discussed at some length. Then, there was the threat of human traditions. Finally we encounter with Paul what he calls “the basic (elementary or elemental) principles of the world.”
The Gnostic Insurgency: “Deceptive Philosophy”
Paul first of all tackles what he calls the “hollow and deceptive philosophy” that was being presented to them. What all this philosophy entailed we cannot be certain. But we know at least some dimensions of this was the philosophy of the Gnostic system.
Lightfoot translates this verse “I wish to warn you against anyone who would lead you astray by specious argument and persuasive rhetoric.” (Colossians 2:8). People who fall prey to “questionable arguments and persuasive speech” are those who are weakest in the faith.
Often cults and other anti-Christian groups attack the marginal believers; those who are not grounded and rooted and established in the faith. They are the “low hanging fruit” that are the easiest to reach for those with a “new” take on the faith.
The Colossian Christians were awash in different and “new” philosophical thinking. The trade route that Colossae occupied, both by road and by sea, brought people with new ideas, new thoughts, and new philosophies. Their arguments were “persuasive” and their rhetoric attractive.
Such threats are always present in the church of every era. We have our own particular “philosophies,” including the Prosperity Gospel movement. This movement is attractively packaged with clever rhetoric and charismatic personalities. But the content of this viewpoint is “specious” and “hollow.” There is no depth; no substance to it. Yet many are led astray by this modern day heresy.
Usually there is enough truth and enough mentions of the name Jesus to make it sound plausible, and even difficult to oppose. Who doesn’t want to get rich and never suffer? But this argument has led many out of a solid, Biblical-based ministry to follow its hollow philosophy.
The Jewish Threat: “Traditions of men”
It is commonly believed by Bible scholars and students that Judaism was a very real threat to the Colossian congregation. Most likely the Colossian congregation was populated by those with Jewish backgrounds.
As such, the Jewish community (remember, about 50,000 strong in the Lycus Valley) would have had a dramatic pull on those who had left the synagogue to follow Jesus.
Their demand that God’s followers must be circumcised was part of what Paul spoke about later in verse 11 when he said, “and you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands…” This would have stood in dramatic conflict with commonly held Jewish teaching and practice.
When the Jews left Egypt for the Promised Land, and before they entered it, they were marked and identified as unique by the mark of circumcision. In its day, it had a place and even was a necessity.
But we have entered the Promised Land through Christ. Our identity is not in circumcision or in any religious observance that can be performed externally. It is an inward circumcision, one of the heart, and this circumcision is effected by the Holy Spirit. As this happens, it will have outward effect, and so identify us as one of God’s people.
Paul was saying, in essence, that the traditions of men (i.e. the Jewish traditions) were not required to have a complete faith. They were just that: traditions. And they have no power to help us and no power to penalize us if we refuse to follow them.
“According to the rudiments of the world…”
The third threat Paul confronted was almost certainly mystical teachings which may or may not have been related to the Gnostics. The word “rudimentary” or “elemental” is a word, in the Hellenistic world of the day, to mean “the spirits of the world.” The NIV translates this phrase “the basic principles of this world,” but probably doesn’t go far enough.
This would have been a warning against following those who believed the stars or heavenly bodies controlled life. These were the superstitions of the world, like doing or not doing things on certain days.
Paul quickly turns to affirm that Christ is exalted “over every power and authority.” (2:10). And not only is that true, but since “in Christ dwells all the fullness of the godhead in bodily form, you have been given fullness in Christ, Who is the head over every power and authority.” (NIV).
In other words, spirits whether embedded in the earth and rocks and trees and plants and storms, or angels that dwell above you, can control your life. Jesus Christ created them, and He is the One Who has authority over them.
We seem to have an unbroken stream of entertainment offerings that focus on demonic spirits that control and take over lives of people, sometimes children and sometimes adults. There is a fascination with these kinds of movies and themes, and maybe a hidden fear is living in some that says, “Could such a horrible thing happen to me?”
The Bible does not “debunk” the reality of the unseen spiritual realm, whether heavenly or demonic. It simply says, “whatever is out there, God has control of it.” Whatever seeks to overwhelm or overtake your life, the One in Whom is all authority dwells within you.
So unless we can come up with some demonic or spiritual force that can overwhelm the Son of God, Who has placed Himself inside of the believer, there is no way such a thing can happen. That spirit would have to be so supremely powerful as to be able to send Jesus running!
In Haiti and other countries oppressed by the practitioners of Santa Ria, Voodoo, or other forms of witchcraft, we find people who are tied to these “elemental spirits” they believe they can control. Their practices are very much rooted in superstition, and no doubt have demonic forces empowering some of their activity.
Sadly some in those countries, sometimes even believers, think these forces can control their lives, usually for evil. To live in a world dominated by forces unseen where they feel powerless and fearful gives us something of the flavor and influence that the Gnostic and mystic practitioners were steeped in. They were revered for their mystical, occult, and magic powers.
But no such power, in heaven or earth, the Universe we see or the unseen world we don’t, now has or will ever have anything like that kind of power and authority! Jesus is Lord over all!
In summary, the philosophical threat Paul was confronting had three primary characteristics:
- The philosophy was human. It “depends on human tradition.” This is man’s attempt to control his world with a nonrevelational approach. It started with man, and always ended with man. You cannot start with man and end up with God!
- The philosophy was elementary. Originally this term referred to the four elements: earth, wind, fire, and water. Usually these were seen in conflict with each other. Sometimes these “elements” were signs of the zodiac or the powers that ruled the planets. Normally in Jewish teaching of the day, the “elements” referred to supernatural beings or demons. In Galatians, Paul called them “no-gods.” (Gal 4:9). Often Paul considered these spirits as angels that sought to control man.
- The philosophy was non-Christian. It was not “according to Christ,” and therein lay the danger. It was completely antithetical to the teaching of what Christ did on the cross to accomplish salvation.
Collectively, these three dangers comprised the “Colossian heresy.” (NAC, V 22)
The Presentation of Christ as Redeemer (Colossians 2:9-15)
The primary error of the Gnostic heresy was its effort to teach that the “fullness of God,” (literature of the time shows they frequently used the term “pleroma,” or fullness) was in fact distributed among heavenly powers.
Jesus, in their teaching, was one dimension of that. Paul corrects this view powerfully in his assertion that “the pleroma (fullness) of God in bodily form lives in Jesus.” Jesus is the pleroma. There is no other. In fact, he emphasizes the fact by a modifying word “all.” “All the fullness of deity dwells in Jesus.”
Legally I am told the word “all” is defined as “including everything and excluding nothing.” There is nothing about God in His nature, His character, or His being that is excluded from Jesus. Everything is included in Jesus. Lightfoot characterizes this as “in a bodily manifestation.”
Wiersbe interprets this to mean “all of God’s divine being and attributes” dwell bodily in Jesus. “Why,” Paul can be heard asking, “would you need anything else?”
If Christ is Creator (and He is), and all the fullness of God indwells Him (and it does), what else could we possibly need? Because in that “pleroma,” that “fullness,” Christ has come to “fill us full” with His fullness.
The fullness of deity was every bit God. However, Paul avoids the thinking of modalism in not saying Christ was all deity. The Father and Spirit are equally divine. Christ embodies the fullness of God, but does not exhaust the dimensions of deity. The Father and the Spirit still are active. The distinctions of the Trinity remain intact.
Though we will never exhaust the wonder and fullness of meaning of God’s fullness indwelling Jesus, we have to go one step further with Paul, because “you have been given fullness in Christ!” (2:9)
All that is in Christ now is filling the believer. This does not imply that any man is elevated to the level of Jesus Christ, nor that it means that we somehow become deity in this process. But as in Christ, the fullness of God dwells in bodily form, now Christ dwells in the believer. In the “form” of Christ, we have the reality of God. This passage reflects some of the highest Christology in Paul’s writings. (Melick)
These thoughts and Paul’s teaching here sets the table for the most mind-churning reality, that this One Who is the fullness of Deity bodily, Who is God embodied fully in flesh without diminishing either, now has taken up residence in us.
No other epistle delves more deeply into this “mystery” of being “in Him,” or “in Christ” that Colossians. This particular section uses that phrase seven times. The indwelling Presence of Jesus Christ in the believer is one of the hallmarks of this epistle.
Numerous times before this verse Paul has referred to the believer as being “in Him.” Now He reverses the reality slightly (holds it to the light in a different way) and says “and He is IN YOU.” This “in Him-in you” relationship is a philosophy that no man, no matter his level of brilliance, could have arrived at. There is no logical way that a human mind could generate the idea of this reality, that somehow God could not only dwell with or dwell among His creatures, but could actually embody them fully.
Scores of books have been written seeking to understand this. An entire movement broke out in the nineteenth century centered on this thought, led by Andrew Murray and other writers and preachers. But none have gotten to the bottom of understanding this truth. It is a mystery that can only be proclaimed, but not fully explained.
But with the “pleroma” of the One Who has all authority given dwelling with us, Paul dismisses any attempt to relegate Christ to a lesser being than He is. Gnosticism was one among countless attempts through the centuries to try and do this.
FF Bruce reminds us that Paul’s emphasis here was to point to Christ’s dominance and ruling over every power, every so-called spiritual authority, and every spiritual authority. None are exalted over Him. He is the ultimate and final ruler over them all. So Paul’s eagerness that the Colossians not be “taken captive” by those who would sweep them away through persuasion, threat or fear. The final authority lives in them through the Presence of Christ. There is none greater.
Before Paul returns to a final statement about spiritual authorities that would seek to usurp the place of Christ, he turns to deal with the essential matter of our salvation. Salvation, you remember, has three component parts:
Justification: Being declared “not guilty” by the verdict of God, the Judge of the Universe. “Who can bring an accusation against us? It is God Who justifies.”
Sanctification: The ongoing process of being conformed to the likeness and image of Christ. We grow in grace by learning and obedience and living out our faith. No one ever fully completes sanctification. It is a lifelong process.
Glorification: This is the final and eternal stage of salvation that happens when the believer is taken into the Presence of God at death.
Therefore it is true and proper that we can say “We have been saved “(past tense) through justification. We “are being saved” (by sanctification ongoing and “we shall be saved” at the final stage when our bodies rest in death and our spirits fly into God’s eternal Presence. And one day, even our mortal earthly body will be glorified (made like Christ’s).
The Implications of the Hidden Life
In 2:11-15, Paul turns to dealing with the implications of what it means to be “in Christ.” Along the way, Paul confronts the Jewish critics who were seeking to “take captive” the Colossian believers but seeking to return them to Judaism and its legalistic forms.
“In Christ: His Death, His Burial, and His Resurrection”
Paul deals first with the issue of circumcision. In the Old Testament, the rite of circumcision was an identifying marker for His chosen people. But with the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the marker for His people became being “in Christ.”
Old Testament circumcision cut away a small piece of flesh from a man’s body. Jesus underwent a circumcision of the entirety of His flesh for us on the cross. His body was “cut away” into death. Therefore no external marking is necessary to identify us with Jesus. With the arrival of the Holy Spirit, Christ is now in us.
“In Him you were circumcised….by the circumcision of Christ made without hands, by the putting off of the body of flesh, by the circumcision of Christ.”
As His flesh died on the cross, so ours must die in crucifixion of our self. And since we are dead, we are also “buried with Him in baptism…”
The necessity of baptism has been a subject of much debate throughout the years. Is it a symbol? A ritual? A cleansing act? Is it necessary for salvation to be effected?
The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, a statement of common beliefs held by the Southern Baptist Convention, says this about baptism:
VII. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper
Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper. (Baptist Faith and Message 2000)
So Baptist belief is that baptism is not a sacrament (an act that imparts grace to the one who receives it), but is a symbol of the act of the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
In fact, baptism properly administered, is an incredible picture of the Gospel. It is a visual portrayal of Jesus’ passion. As the one who has professed belief in Christ stands in the water, they are saying visually “I believe Jesus died for my sins.” Then, when they are placed under the water, they are saying, “He was buried.” And finally, coming out of the water, “and He rose again on the third day.”
But not only is the Gospel being proclaimed in baptism. The reality of our union in Christ through our faith in Him is also being proclaimed. The testimony we are sharing is, “In Christ, I was crucified. In Christ, I died and was buried. In Christ, I have been raised with Him through faith in Him.”
Baptism, therefore, is a proclamation of what the Gospel IS, and a proclamation of what the Gospel DOES. Baptism is certainly an important aspect of and, in fact, is the public profession of our faith. But we will not add baptism in the category of “necessary” for salvation since to do so would seek to add to what Christ has done for us on the cross.
“As the burial of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:4) set the seal upon His death, so the Colossians burial with Him in baptism shows that they were truly involved in His death and laid in His grave. It is not as though they simply died like Jesus died, or were buried as He was laid in the tomb…The burial proves that a real death has occurred and the old life is now a thing of the past.” (Peter O’Brien, WBC)
“…in which (in Him) you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, Who raised Him from the dead.” (Col 2:12 NASB)
“Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over Him. The death He died, He died to sin once for all, but the life He lives, He lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”(Romans 6:8-11)
We must never forget that we actually have participated in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ! Our fullness includes this reality, and is born out of it. It should dominate all that is in us!
In Christ: Delivered from Death and Bondage (vv 13-15)
“Dead” is an apt description for the state of every person who is apart from Christ. They may look alive, but spiritually outside of Christ, every person is dead. Ephesians 2:1 states, “…and you were dead in (because of) your trespasses and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world.”
This word captures the reality of sin’s severity. “The wages of sin is death,” we read in Romans. Death was promised to Adam and Eve as a result of their rebellion against Him and disobedience in the Garden. Something that is dead cannot reproduce life. So every person, tied by the cord of the human race to our first parents, can only receive death from them. “In sin was I conceived…” the Psalmist says.
But this death is something that, while not physical YET, is a part of every human being’s existence. We are spiritually disconnected from our Creator, and alienated and hostile in mind against Him. We are also continually alienating ourselves from one another, thus providing that we have a problem we cannot cure ourselves.
We were dead, lifeless, and empty living in darkness. Without Jesus, we can do nothing to receive life. Only in Christ is this possible. Kent Hughes reinforces this idea:
“There must be a sovereign communication of life from God. When Elijah stretched himself upon the dead boy, his heart beat against the stillness of the boy’s chest until it kindled life. Even so, Christ must lay His life on our deadness, and then comes life!” (Hughes, Colossians).
Now our life is no longer empty. We are no longer in darkness. We are no longer lifeless. There is LIFE, LIGHT, and FULLNESS in Christ alone!
Not only have we been set free from death, but we have been set free from the bondage of our guilt!
“God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross. (vv 13b-14)
Salvation begins at the initiative of God. We don’t just wake up one morning, decide we are terrible people because of our sin, and set out to knock on God’s door. The Holy Spirit “quickens” us (old English word for “make sensitive,” like the “quick” of your fingernail). As we are “quickened,” “made sensitive” to God we are awakened to the possibility of new life in Jesus.
We were dead…now we have been made alive in Christ! And as we are alive, and know the fullness of God through Christ, we find we are also being set free from the guilt that burdens us.
Being set free from our guilt is like being set free from the pull of gravity! It is elating to know our sin and guilt has been taken out of the way. “He forgave us all our sins…”
While “forgave” is past tense (already done) in English translation, the Greek is more definitive. It says “God has done something in the past (forgave you) that is continuing to work itself out in the present (we continue to be forgiven).
Some have mistakenly understood that this verse is teaching that all the sins forgiven at the cross that we had committed up until that time. If you continue to mess up, it’s your problem to fix! Those who believe this way find themselves entering a non-stop treadmill of trying to work for salvation, or believing they have “lost” salvation and need to “find” it again!
That is not what Paul is teaching, and it is not what God is doing. When Jesus died for you, remember, ALL of your sins were future. ALL of your guilt was future.
But when the Bible says, “He forgave us all our sins” this is a proclamation that the penalty due every sin we have ever committed or ever WILL commit in the future has already been paid for.
I’ve heard it explained this way. It is as though someone placed a $100,000 check in your account. It is there. It is good. But until you start writing checks or using your debit card, you will never receive the benefit of the gift.
We are to continue “writing checks” on the forgiveness that God has deposited in our “account.” “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just (righteous) to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
But further, Paul said that Christ forgave “the handwriting of ordinances” or “handwriting of debt” (ESV) that was against us. This was a common picture in Biblical times. Every criminal crucified had a “handwriting” of their crime nailed over their heads. For Jesus, the only crime that could be manufactured was “King of the Jews.”
In reality however, the debt of all our sin was nailed to Jesus on the cross. He paid the sin debt for every person who would believe. Another element was in play in this idea of our “IOU,” is the fact that the Romans would take a written legal charge against a criminal and nail it above the jail door until every last penalty was paid. When the criminal had done their time and paid for their crime, the jailer would take this document and write the word “tetelestai” over it. The word meant “Finished: the debt is paid.”
It is not a coincidence that, as Jesus hung on the cross and neared His death there, cried out the same word, “tetelestai:” which meant, “it is finished.” What was finished? Your debt. My debt. Our sin. Our guilt.
Written by the blood of Jesus across the “handwriting of debt” that was against us is the word “It is finished!” Once and for all eternity, our debt was paid by Jesus. He “set it aside, nailing it to His cross.”
But out of that victory, Jesus then “disarmed” the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame.” Paul here returns to the initial subject, that of those who would seek to enslave or “kidnap” the Colossian believers by the threat of deceptive or “hollow” philosophy.
Paul is saying here that these spiritual “emanations” have been taken captive by Jesus as a conquering general would take captives on a victory parade through the city. They would follow behind as shamed and defeated foes.
Jesus, by His victorious death and resurrection, “disarmed” and “shamed” these enemies who posed a threat to the believers in Colossae. He “triumphed over them in Him.” (v 15)
The victory of Jesus was not just over sin and not just to pay the “handwriting of debt.” His victory also conquered spiritual enemies in opposition to God, to the Gospel, and to believers. He “took them captive” and openly exposed them to shame in their defeat.
…so that at the Name of Jesus every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11)