Considerations of Eternal Security and Colossians 2:13-15

 

Introduction. 1

Context 4

Translation. 7

Verse 13. 7

Verse 14. 12

Verse 15. 13

Conclusion. 16

Introduction

In snow covered lands hundreds of thousands of flightless birds leap or stumble or swim out into what we would consider the frigid ocean, each of them after a meal of good hearty fish.  There is no food to be had on land, and so it is their lot to go out and come back again, to fill their own stomachs and, during part of the year, to feed their babies.  In the ocean they may feel free and lithe, yet it is not here that is their home.  They feel the call to return, each day, to nest and care and live the life of a penguin on land. 

            Some of the locations are especially well protected, sheltered from any easy access and that means rather a difficult return for a small penguin.  They gather near the shore, looking up the fifteen or twenty feet, waiting for a swell of water to come and launch them on to an outcropping of rock or a thin ledge from where they could start the trek inland.  Most take a bit of time and many false starts.  They get launched up but can’t find a foothold, so they fall back down into the sea.  They get launched up, and land on a rock, but it’s too small or they can’t quite get a grip on it, so they tumble back down.

Others don’t make it.  There are predators, you see, not roaring lions but more subtle whales and prowling leopard seals who know where it is the penguins will come in order to find their way home.  So the killer whales, leopard seals, and other flesh eating beasts, haunt these spots, finding their own meals among the exhausted, less wary, or plain unlucky.  Unless the penguin is able to finally, after many attempts, get itself onto the land it will become food itself.

            Growing up in an Evangelical culture reminds me a lot of this nature tale.  It is, I think, a rite of conservative Christian passage to accept Jesus at least once a year, though some of the especially earnest will make sure to do it every week.  One never can be quite sure if it “catches” at any particular time, and what with the often pressing realizations of sin, and mistakes, and other manifold missings of the mark it is always good to be safe rather than sorry.  Sorry is where the killer whales and eternal damnation reside, and it would not do at all to give up to those things when all it would take is a short little prayer every once in a while. 

            It’s a confirmation.  It’s a checking in to make sure that an appointment given is going to be honored. Sometimes, like with Luther, this is a matter of minutiae.   Sometimes we’ve done something particularly bad, and have a good cause to worry.  Or maybe it’s nothing quite so moral.  We’ve just become a little distracted, lost sight of our salvation, and have not acknowledged the Lord of our life as being the lord of any life. 

            The fact is we worry, and in our worry we create a theology, even if it is not a good theology, it is a theology that makes sense to us in our fleeting world as being the sort of thing God would do.  We worry about our salvation, and we worry that it can be as fleeting as the wind or the waves, always needing to be re-affirmed, always in danger of being lost, so that we too become quite lost.

            Not surprisingly the New Testament has something to say about this.  As with most aspects of our interaction with the Divine we have a lot of things wrong, even and especially when we really are trying to get it right.   When we lose sight of the core of the teachings we easily slip into “hollow and deceptive philosophy which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world.”. [1]   Instead of Christ we look to that which is not Christ but for some reason we think will lead us to Christ.  We do something for him he does not ask, and in doing that miss out on that who he has called us to be.

            The whole book of Colossians could be considered a reminder of right thinking. Here Paul calls us to finally get to being who it is we already are. [2]   There are not necessarily specific issues at hand, rather there is more of the reality that in a complicated world we need reminders of who God is and what he is doing. [3]   It is for this reason that Colossians is such a helpful letter even to our generation.  Though it does not deal with specific ethical questions it is superb in framing our Christian life in such a way as to contribute to a much better understanding of God, and of ourselves.  This framework, this understanding of our higher reality, affects everything.  God works, as all of Scripture reveals, in ways which are not always in keeping with our expectations, and he often works in ways which far surpass our expectations, even if his ways are also often surprising. 

            Among the important topics considered is the idea of eternal security, that concept that once we are saved we will continue to be saved.  Even if and when we slip we will not slip off the land, down the rocks and back into the water.  Instead, the God who has saved us shall keep us saved to the end of all things until we enter fully into our salvation.  This is an important concept as it goes beyond mere theological suppositions, indeed affecting how we shape our religious life and worship, and how we walk through the entirety of this present world. 

Here, then, I would like to take a closer look at Colossians 2:13-15, verses that deal more specifically with the topic of eternal security, and which deal with it in a rather extraordinary way.  Because this is not simply an exegetical exercise, however, I am going to discuss these verses with a slightly different approach.  Rather than seeking to determine merely the grammar and setting of this letter to the Colossians I hope to put these within a framework of theology, allowing it to integrate with the cohesive testimony of Scripture on this most important topic, with the assumption there is in fact a cohesive response the earliest leaders would have given to the question of God’s faithfulness even in the face of our frustrations. 

This approach is straying slightly from the standard exegetical model because of this, as I am going to primarily consider these verses in terms of a single theme and this theme within the context of the broader community.  There are, for that matter, significantly better works treating the specific exegetical issues at hand.  My goal is theological, not exegetical, discussing the nature of security in our spiritual lives, using Colossians 2:13-15 as a starting point and as illustration of a broader message presented throughout Scriptures, a message which we too often forget or ignore, to our peril. 

Context

The whole of letter of Colossians has a rhythmic feel to it in which Paul essentially repeats important information, emphasizing it in order to make sure this is what sticks in the minds of his readers, and makes sure that in the rhythms of his presentation the essential qualities of his Gospel are able to overcome the temptations of a foreign gospel, that false testimony which mimics wisdom without wisdom. 

This rhythm is established by first saying who God is and then following this by saying what it is God does.  The appropriate response to this is told only once Paul has properly presented the reality of what it is God has done.  Because God has worked his people can work, only because God has worked in a certain way his people should work in a certain way and for certain reasons.  It is not to earn salvation, or to make the right marks, or otherwise show an earned worthiness. Rather the response is based solely on God’s work, and it is his work with which all things must first begin.  

Following the introduction in which Paul sketches this pattern we enter into the body of the letter at 1:15.   We are given a taste of the fullness of Paul’s Christological consideration, establishing who Christ is, what he has done, and how God has worked through him.  In verse twenty one we read of humanity’s condition, and humanity’s salvation, focusing the work of Christ onto each person, so that those who were once enemies could now be found within the community of God, gathered together by the work and power of Christ who overcame all things.   If a person takes hold of the hope offered, Christ will bring full and total reconciliation.

Paul relates his own response in 1:24ff, emphasizing, albeit subtly, how he exhorts to action only because he is among the first in acting.  He has responded to Christ’s call to an extent few can match, making his authority both one of words and of actions.   Paul struggles for Christ more than most, and so when he makes note of the content of the Gospel and its freedoms he is doing it having already proven his own commitment.  He has worked, and striven, and fought, and bled, for Christ, but this is not so that he can earn his salvation.  By no means.  He fights and struggles so that he can encourage others to embrace the fullness of God’s mysterious gift, in whom has been given “treasures of wisdom and knowledge”.  He struggles not to earn but to share, not to grasp after but to embrace.  The gift has been given and Paul is so overcome by this gift he commits his life to the call of making it widely known.  Because of this reality he urges his readers not to fall aside into false conceptions of God or his work, which create burdens and frustrations and indeed are a missing of the mark. 

Then in 2:9 Paul comes around once more, beginning in a similar fashion to how he began 1:15.  In doing this he creates a three fold structure set within a threefold structure, an exhortative triple jump of sorts in which each of the successive three sections have an emphasis on who Christ is, what Christ has done, and what we should do in response, with each point getting a special treatment respectively through the course of the letter. In the first section (1:15-2:8) he emphasized more who Christ was, then discussed briefly what it is Christ did for humanity, before moving on quickly through the ways to respond.  This second run through he spends a brief amount of time on who Christ is (v.9), and puts the focus more on what it is Christ has done for his people.  All of this is to establish a specific pattern of understanding, so that his readers do not act in a way out of wrong understanding of what Christ has done, and in doing this apprehend a completely wrong picture of Christ himself. 

In verses eleven and twelve Paul begins, again, to make note of what it is Christ has done, alternating who it is people are with what Christ accomplished.  In this he establishes that the work is not one of people, but a work of Christ.  This is what makes the efforts after human regulations so foolish.  It is not up to us.  This is a story of Christ in which we are participants.  We share in the work, we are not the actors of the work. This is Christ’s story through and through.  With similar thoughts as in eleven and twelve we reach Colossians 2:13-15:

Translation

Colossians 2:13-15

13     And when you were dead in your wrongdoing and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he made you alive together with him, pardoning all of our wrongdoing.

14     He wiped away the records of the regulations which were opposed to us and he removed these from sight and nailed it to the cross.

15     Putting off the rulers and the authorities, he disgraced them openly and publicly, leading them in a triumphant parade with him.

 

Verse 13

Paul begins this section by clearly laying out who his audience is without God.  They were first “dead in wrongdoing”.  Although it can be used as a term of sin against anyone in general, as in Matthew 5:14 and 15, this term [4] is primarily utilized in reference to the sin of people against God.  It is the collected list of things which alienate humanity from the divine, the sins which he had left unpunished thus far yet which are certainly to be reckoned with in one way or another. [5]   Those who are dead in this way follow the patterns of this world, listening to counsel which is opposed to God and not in tune with God’s work in this world, giving false wisdom and spurring people into a disobedience, whether intentional or not. [6]   The captive and hollow philosophies Paul mentions in Colossians 2:8 were part and parcel with this sinful nature, indications of its desires and thoughts, leading people away from God, and into God’s wrath. 

This is nothing new.  Man’s first disobedience came long before and humanity faced the wrath of God for generations.  However, God’s wrath had been quelled for those he called his own, his own by covenant and commitment, for whom he would work in and through history to bring redemption, even if particular circumstances may have elements of harsh punishment.  God was committed to the people of Israel , a commitment solidified in the Torah, and symbolized by the rite of circumcision. 

I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan , for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God.  (Gen. 17:7-8 NSRV)

 

All they had to do to confirm this covenant with God was to circumcise all the males.  Those that were not circumcised  “shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant” (v. 14).  The circumcision is here called an everlasting covenant, a sign in perpetuity indicating the relationship between God and his people, and separating those blessed and those cursed, those chosen from those left out. 

The Colossians were wrongdoers and they were uncircumcised. They did what was in violation of God’s law and they had no recourse to reconciliation. They did not have any standing.  They are not, in the words of the Dred Scott decision of 1857, “constitutive members of the sovereignty and therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens.”  The Colossians are wrongdoers and have no rights worth respecting in any attempt to assuage their guilt.  They have only to be excluded from the kingdom, and all the benefits which derive to the people of God. 

Being included among those who were uncircumcised was a considerable barrier to the earliest Jewish Christians.  With the loss of the land and even the Temple at various parts of their history the Jewish people had held onto their rite of circumcision and their dietary laws as the defining characteristic of their commitment.  It was an act of separation and it defined who was in and who was out, especially when outward circumstances could not be trustworthy indications. 

The Gentiles were sinners and thus the only path to restitution with God was through circumcision and the Law.  They were “at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel , and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” [7]

So what to do?  “The Gentiles,” some Christians said in Acts 15:5, “must be circumcised and required to follow the law of Moses.”

Not so said Paul, and not so said Peter, whose earlier dream and experience with the Centurion in Acts 10-11, indicated that Christ was no longer limiting the covenant of God to those who had been circumcised.    

In the first phrases of Colossians 2:13 Paul uses words of separation.  “You” were dead in wrongdoing, “you” were lost in the uncircumcision of the flesh. That is what the Gentiles could do.  They could do wrong and they could not find any salvation, no matter the methods suggested by so-called religious leaders.  Ah, but then Paul makes a transition.  From “you” he begins to use “with”.   

“He made you alive together with him.”  Christ’s work made you alive, not “separate from”, or “also along”, but “together with”.  It was not a separate act of salvation.  Ephesians 2:4-7 says much the same thing: 

But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ -by grace you have been saved-  and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (NSRV)

 

The Gentile believers had no rights worth respecting and yet they were given a gift beyond measure.  Christ who was the salvation of the Jewish people, the promised Messiah foretold as the continuation and completion of the covenant given to Abraham transcended the symbol of circumcision in allowing even those who were uncircumcised in the flesh to partake in the bounty of God’s salvation. [8]    This salvation is not an religious symbol or a covenantal act.  Rather, as the work of enlivening it is at the core a work of the Holy Spirit, [9] it is in union with Christ through the Spirit that people find life where only before they had known death. 

Along with this journey out of death there is a washing away of anything that would be held against the people.  The Spirit did not enliven only to accuse, and Christ did not rise again so as to be in a better position to blame.    The message is not “see what I can do, what can you do now?”  The message, rather, is “see what I have done and what I have done for you, and with you.”  It is a gift that has been given, not a challenge that has been thrown down. 

Because of this, Paul writes, the wrongdoing and sin which was mentioned as the source of death in the first part of verse 13 has been pardoned.   It is not just those of the uncircumcision who have been pardoned, for “with Christ” both the circumcised and the uncircumcised have been pardoned together, leading Paul to say all of our wrongdoing.  Even if the Jewish people had a path to God through the covenant of the circumcision they still were not whole, and were not free.  They, along with the Gentiles, were needing a fullness of life, and that was the precise gift of Christ to all those who would believe. 

The word for “pardoning” here is carivzomai (“charizomai”) which is the verb form of that potent New Testament word for “grace”.  In Luke 7:40ff. Jesus tells a story to a Pharisee emphasizing this word:

Jesus spoke up and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you."

"Teacher," he replied, "speak." 

"A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii,  and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?"

Simon answered, "I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt."

And Jesus  said to him, "You have judged rightly."

 

It was not because of their merits or efforts their debts were canceled. Indeed it was for the very reason they could not pay.  Their debts were cancelled because they had absolutely no hope of paying their debts, and so in his generosity the creditor forgave them both, each according to what he owed, so that neither owed at all anymore.   More than being a mere dismissal of a debt, the word here emphasizes something more active, as if in the releasing of the debt the creditor is actually giving a gift.  In most usages this word suggests the actual act of giving, for instance in Romans 8:32 where Paul writes that God will give “all things” to those who have faith, as shown by the fact he has even given up his Son for his people.  In 1 Corinthians 2:21, it is the Spirit who God’s grace the inheritance was given to Abraham, an inheritance which is also given to all those who have been raised with Christ.  

The pardoning of the wrongdoing is itself a gift that entails a great deal more.  It encourages a responsibility.  It is not, however, to earn the gift that one responds, but just as something has been given, so too should one give, inspiring Paul in Colossians 3:13 to exhort each person to forgive, and thus give to, others, as they had been forgiven in 2:13.   Hans Conzelmann notes, “Forgiveness is mutually required in the community.  The demand is based on the model of the giving of Christ.” [10]   It begins with Christ, however, and Christ’s gift, so there is no hint that any response can be thought of as contributing to salvation to begin with. 

Verse 14

In case his readers missed it in verse fourteen Paul says the same thing again.  He wants to emphasize that what can be held against them, whatever they have done or been, is no longer a consideration.  It’s gone.  It’s done with.  It’s abolished.  The curse itself has been cursed.  Indeed, it’s been nailed the cross.  That which would crucify has been crucified by the crucified one who rose again. 

It’s been wiped away, like tears have been wiped away from eyes, [11] “so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” [12] Although not an uncommon word at the time ceirovgrafon [13] (“cheirographov”) is not found elsewhere in the New Testament.  It is, one might suggest, a rather plain sort of word, indicating little more than a certificate of indebtedness, written by the person responsible for it. [14]   God has a charge against us, and wrote down a legal notice of what is owed to him.  People owe him a debt.  Everything in regards to the moral, spiritual and eternal state is invested with his judgment.  He is the prosecutor, and he is the judge, and he is the plaintiff.   

So with all this authority what does he do?  Because of Christ and with Christ he wipes away the records, leaving behind nothing as an adversary which can accuse the person of any fault.  There is no evidence of crime. There is no paper trail. There is nothing anymore which can be held against the sinner.  It is gone. 

Even better than this it is not just gone.  In case wiping the record clean wasn’t enough God made the records disappear, out of sight and mind. [15]   If that didn’t do the trick, God took this wiped clean, now invisible, record and nailed it to the cross, condemning it for its condemnation, ensuring for all time there is no life to be found in these charges, for they will never be revived.  This isn’t merely  a cancelled debt.  This is a debt that has been forgiven, erased, pushed aside, and executed. I imagine Paul would not have minded continuing on with the analogies.  This is a record that has been smashed, demolished, burned, drowned, shot, frozen.  It has been given the treatment of Rasputin, not given the barest chance to survive and spread more condemnation.  It has been sent to the hell which it sought to send people.  And now, because the Colossians have been raised with Christ, this record absolutely, totally, one hundred percent, no mistake, can no longer make any accusation. 

Just in case they happened to miss this important piece Paul makes sure they absolutely get it.

Verse 15

      Paul continues with his emphasis by sharing what else it was that happened in regard to the record of wrongdoing.  Not content to make a private arrangement erasing the obligations under the Law, God has gone a step farther.   Using the same word he used in verse 11 to describe the putting off of the body of flesh when the people turned to Christ, Paul writes that God, literally, put off the rulers and authorities. 

            Although the general translation of “disarm” is certainly more understandable, it seems Paul is intentionally making a connection between the people who put off their old lives and God who “puts off” the rulers who are the authorities of their old lives. All throughout Colossians Paul is making a point about what is visible and what is real, always trying to break through the surface of what seems in order to help his readers see the actual way of things.  They are being directed towards living in the way that Christ has already instituted, even if this way is still yet hidden to this present world. [16]

            Just as the old moral self is washed away, then, so too are those who claim power over spiritual selves.  In the choosing of Christ, the putting off of the flesh, God proceeds to put off any binding control over that which has been put off.  He not only wipes away the charges and records, he entirely dismantles the whole court, with the rulers and authorities no longer a part of the life with Christ.  They are signs of the old person, signs of sin and struggle, and signs of slavery.  They are put off, left behind along with the old body of flesh so as to have not even the slightest voice. 

            Again, however, this is not done quietly or with a thank you for their services.  Like the Babylonians of old, used by God but not of God, these rulers and authorities served their purpose in judgment, yet in doing this they brought judgment on themselves.  God will not let them slip away, and here we enter into the public arena of God’s action.   The Colossians are told first how they are dealt with by God, and now they are told how God deals with those who have condemned them.  This is a work of God of salvation and God does not skimp in his work but carries it to the utmost. 

            Christ is above all these rulers and authorities, [17] and so for Paul Christ’s authority alone is  what matters.  When Christ steps into the scene their authority is unmasked for what it is, a temporary sham.  When they are put off, unceremoniously removed like an old garment, they are disgraced before all people, for their pride and worth came from the appearance of their power, which had no basis in God’s fullest reality.  His intent for his people is “through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” [18] But more than being made known it is to ultimately conquer as he writes in 1 Corinthians 15:24, “Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power.”            In Colossians, Paul makes known that this time is coming and is now already here.

            This revelation, triumph, and conquering is a disgrace to those who thought to manage this world for their own end.  Joseph did not want to expose Mary to public disgrace by making a issue out of her pregnancy before he had learned the truth.  He was a righteous man.  God, however, is also righteous, and has full understanding of this reality, with nothing hidden or mysterious to him.  Because of this, because of his judgment on those who would judge, in putting off the rulers and authorities he does want to expose them to that same public disgrace, making their dethronement a matter all would know about.  The old public records were to be destroyed, the new public records would be filled with the shame of these rulers and authorities who had lost their power and honor in full.    God was going to tell of their shame openly and with boldness, letting their downfall be a public display. [19] If the people will have boldness because of Christ’s work in raising them at the judgment, so too will God have boldness in judging those who brought condemnation. [20]    This boldness is a work of the Spirit, whether it be in raising from the dead, inspiring to preaching of the Gospel, [21] or bringing final judgment upon that which symbolizes the body of the flesh and death.

            Although often translated with the word “triumphing” [22] the word qriambeuvw (“thriambeuo”) has a more specialized meaning.  As in 2 Corinthians 2:14, the image is not merely one of triumphant, yet private, victory.  Rather, Paul is making reference to the triumphal procession, that parade in which the victor returns with the prizes, and captives, and heroes of a war well fought.  Paul Brooks Duff notes, “By the time of the empire the triumph was celebrated as an offering procession held to honor the gods in thanksgiving for the victory.” [23]   He continues by describing the procession, “The procession consisted of the entrance into the city of the Roman magistrates, the Senate, people carrying booty from the campaign, sacrificial Bulls, and enemy captives (who were executed at the end of the ceremony), followed by the victorious general on a chariot leading his army.”

            In 2 Corinthians Paul uses this word from the perspective of a victorious soldier accompanying the victorious general.  Here in Colossians he looks at the image from the different perspective, with those who have been put off and discarded, conquered themselves, being marched in public disgrace along with the triumphant king, at the end of which they will be finally executed. 

          Conclusion

            In the consideration of this passage as it relates to our theme of eternal security three primary aspects arise which are absolutely crucial for our understanding.  The first comes in verse 13 where the Colossians are told by Paul that it was because of God, with Christ, that they were able to find life. They were dead, and had no path to discover salvation.  They had reached an end of their hope, except for the fact Christ did a work, and the Spirit enlivened him and all those who follow him.  In short, there was nothing the people did, at all, to merit the work of God on their behalf. 

            The second point is that this work is complete and final.  There is no pending review contingent on whether the debts are eventually paid off.  Rather, the debt is entirely forgiven, and God has in all manner of descriptions erased any record of condemnation.  There is not a trial period, or a probationary time, or any other type of provisional acceptance.  Once enlivened with Christ the people have been, essentially, given tenure in Christ. 

            These two points go together.  In short, with this, Paul is saying it is not about us.  All too often salvation is considered a private and personal interaction with God in which our secret parts are somehow given new life by God, so that our secret selves can be newly polished.  In internalizing and privatizing salvation, then, we make it about our efforts, about our reactions, about our mistakes or gifts, thinking that even though salvation itself was a gift, it is still dependent on our making the mark until the end.  Paul is quite clear to say this is not it at all.  

            We are not the primary actors in the work of salvation.  Even as we are raised with Christ into new life, it is only with Christ that we participate in any aspect of even our own salvation.  This is not a story about the lives of various Christians, or the hopes and failures of religious zealots trying to make their way towards the divine. We are allowed to participate in this story, but it is not our story.  It is the story of Christ.  This is his story, this is his work, this is the activity of God in this world that must always be not only at the forefront but indeed can be the only topic.  We participate, and are allowed to share in the bounty, but it is not about us. 

The whole story of salvation is about God, and it is precisely this reality that Paul is trying to teach his readers.  The empty and vain philosophies of this world speak of methods, or approaches, or rules, or regulations, or habits, or all other sorts of things which would propel a person heavenwards.  This is all a waste, according to Paul, and a complete misunderstanding for it is only God’s work that matters.  The beautiful reality is that God has indeed worked, through Christ and the Spirit, in bringing salvation to this world, and bringing it so it can only be apprehended as a gift.  It can only be received, never worked for or earned. 

            Salvation history is the history of God.  It the story of God who works, and God who loves.  This is not in a private or internal fashion. Rather, God is tremendously bold in proclaiming his own work.  That is the final point that must be grasped.  God has made this into something more than us, and he is now staking his own reputation on what he has done.  Because it is not about us, we have not earned our salvation.  Because it is now fully and publicly about God it is not our honor at stake in our salvation, rather it is God’s honor.  Having disarmed and publicly disgraced the rulers and authorities, marching them in a triumphant procession, he is not going to then see his public victory be mocked by those who have been shamed. They would mock him by pulling back those who God has enlivened, and returning to slavery those who God has set free.

            For his own sake now the sakes of his people are protected.   The lives of those who he has saved are shielded underneath his own publicly proclaimed honor and salvation, and it is under this banner of salvation that all those who are invited to his salvation can find their rest, and find their eternal security.  It is not about us.   It is, according to Paul, about God.  And God is faithful, especially to himself.   This gift gives eternally for our salvation.  We do not need to constantly leap out of the sea onto the rock for our life and safety like the penguins.  We have been given rest on the rock, where God has done and is doing all the work on our behalf.  It is all a gift, and all a blessing, and all a testimony of God’s power and love throughout eternity.



[1] Colossians 2:8

[2] Questions of authorship are outside the scope of this paper and “Paul” will be referred to as the author out of convenience rather than settled decision.  This author is of  the assumption, following Dunn, that while the Apostle Paul may not have had a direct hand in the forming of each word and letter he was intimately involved in the context in which this letter was written, and so Colossians could accurately be described as being fully Pauline. See James D.G. Dunn, The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon (Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1996), 35ff.

[3]   The so-called “Colossian heresy” should here be note.  However, attempts to discern a specific cause or issue at hand is notoriously complex and it seems much more likely Paul is addressing a general religious concern given the situation of the Colossians rather than coming to terms with any specific and looming conflict. 

[4] Paravptwma (paraptoma).  See also Mark 11:25 and Galatians 6:1 for use of wrongdoing towards other people. 

[5] See Romans 3:25

[6] Ephesians 2:1-3;

[7] Ephesians 2:12

[8] According to the BAGD, the aorist form of suzwopoievw (“suzo-opoieo”), translated “made alive together with” is only found in Christian writers, including here in Colossians 3:13. 

[9] Cf. Gen. 6:3, 17; 7:3, and depending how one would translate j~Wr (“ruach”)in Genesis 1:2 we could also find a very nice parallel. That which was being created in Genesis 1:2 was outside of God, but his spirit, as his essence, was hovering and ready to fill certain parts of this otherness, and in filling them with the essence of the divine, cause them to grow and live.  This enlivening power re-animated Christ, and as we are told in Colossians 2:13,  this same enlivening as encountered creation brings full life to those who are raised with Christ.

[10] Hans Conzelmann, “cavri"”, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, v. IX, edited by Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich; trans. Geoffrey Bromiley (Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1974), 397.

[11] Rev. 21:4

[12] Acts 3:19-20

[13] See F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1984), 109 n.91.

[14] See Dunn, 164.

[15] Lit. “removed from the middle”. 

[16] Colossians 3:4

[17] Cf. Eph. 1:21; Col. 2:10

[18] Eph. 3:10

[19] Parrhsiva is most commonly translated as “openly” or with “frankness”, suggesting nothing hidden and no reservation in the directness of the action.  Cf. Mk 8:32; Jn. 7:4, 13, 26; 11:14; 16:25

[20] 1 John 4:17

[21] Acts 4:31

[22] See the NRSV, NIV, NASB, KJV, others

[23] Paul Brooks Duff, “Procession”, Anchor Bible Dictionary v. 5,  edited by David Noel Freedman (New York:  Doubleday, 1992), 472

 


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