A fable is told about an eagle that thought he was a chicken. When the eagle was very small, he fell from the safety of his nest. A chicken farmer found the eagle, brought him to the farm, and raised him in a chicken coop among his many chickens. The eagle grew up doing what chickens do, living like a chicken, and believing he was a chicken. Many of us would say to the eagle, “Stop being a chicken!” But the reality is, I think for many Christians, this is how they live their lives.
In Colossians 2:13-15, we read, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”
One of the keywords in Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae, which many Christians fail to understand and live out is the word, “were.” Paul was addressing a group of believers who had forgotten what Christ had done on their behalf. The death and resurrection of Christ was a complete and final victory over sin. Paul was telling the believers there, “Stop being dead!”
Christ not only died for our sins, so that we might be reconciled to God and saved from the consequences of sin, which is eternal separation from God, but He also died unto sin so that His life would become our life and the strangle-hold that sin held over us would be broken forever. Jesus died for our sins; to take the punishment that we deserve but He died unto sin, so that sin would no longer have power over us – for all our transgressions, (past, present and future) were nailed to the cross of Christ forever, and we are forgiven of all our sins, once and for all.
Before that day when God entered our lives and we were born of the Spirit and brought into the kingdom of His Son, we were dead in our transgressions and sins. It meant that our spirit was dead toward God and not functioning as God intended. Our spirit is that part of man that was created to be in fellowship with God. Sin caused our eternal separation from Him until the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost. Jesus came to pay the price for all the sins of humanity. All who were dead in their sins and as Paul says, we were enemies of God.
Not only were we dead in our sins but our hearts were still hard. In the Old Testament circumcision was a special, physical sign of God’s covenant with Israel but it also had great spiritual significance. Israel had been chosen by God to be separated or set apart for the Lord. They were a people called by Him to be a nation of priests, a light to the Gentiles and a blessing to all the nations. They were to be a people with circumcised hearts who were holy devoted to the Lord.
Before our salvation, Paul likens us to the unbelieving, pagan nations that surrounded God’s chosen people, Israel, and he described them as dead in transgressions and uncircumcised in flesh. But after salvation, Paul reminds us of Christ’s complete and final victory over sin. God made us alive together with Him because we have been forgiven of all our transgressions.
As believers, we are not required to keep the Law of Israel including not having our physical bodies circumcised, but that does not negate God’s call for us to be holy. We are called to be different and consecrated to the Lord. All the expectations God placed on Israel, God puts on us – to be a people called by His name, a nation of priests, a light to the Gentiles, a blessing to all the nations and finally a people with circumcised hearts who are holy devoted to the Lord.
From this passage, we can see six characteristics of God’s forgiveness that are extremely important to recognize. God’s forgiveness is gracious. There is nothing we can do to earn it. God’s forgiveness is complete. There is nothing we can do to lose it. God’s forgiveness is eager. God wanted to do it. It was a part of His plan. God’s forgiveness is certain. It is not conditional. It is not based on us. God’s forgiveness is unequalled. The promise of God is God Himself. What could be better? God’s forgiveness is motivating. What does God demand of us?
Understanding these aspects of God’s forgiveness should be an encouragement to live for Him. It should push us to desire this very forgiveness. The Colossians were complete, whole because they had been released from the bondage of guilt and if we are completely honest, there is no tyranny like that of guilt.
Unbelievers, those without Christ, should desire the same completeness that the Colossians enjoyed. Quite simply, it is to believe in Him, call on Him, and have faith in Him. However, we know that a life in Christ is so much more.
Let me close with two responses that must be considered. First, is to rest in the comfort of forgiveness and find joy in that completeness. Second, this should be a motivation to share the Gospel with those around us who are unsaved.
Praise God that the death and resurrection of Christ was a complete and final victory over sin and we are not under law but grace. We have been saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus, and we have been made alive in Him. “We need to stop being dead!”