April 10, 2013
Saint Paul was a Roman citizen, born so because his father was a citizen of Rome. Although he was a dedicated Jew who strictly followed the Mosaic law according to Pharisaical standards, Paul also was well-versed in Roman culture. And this shows forth in Colossians 2:13 through 15 (NKJV):
And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh,
He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which
was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the
cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle
of them, triumphing over them in it.
This gem, gleaming forth from its setting of Roman law, has done much for me in helping me realize I am Forgiven and Free! Years ago I read a book by Hal Lindsey called Satan Is Alive And Well On Planet Earth. In it he explains how Colossians 2:13-15 works out in the lives of Christians, and I am indebted to Mr. Lindsey for his research. If you can find a copy of his book, read pages 201 through 204 to get his full explanation.
What is referred to above as “…the handwriting of requirements that was against us…” is called in the New American Standard Bible, “…the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us….” You see, when a prisoner was convicted under Roman law, the court scribe would prepare a certificate of debt listing every crime for which the convict was guilty. If incarcerated, this certificate of debt was hung on the cell door. It remained there until the person had served his full sentence. Upon release, the certificate was written over with the word meaning “It is finished”, then handed to the one set free. Under Roman law, the debt was fully paid, and that person could never be charged with those same crimes again!
When a man was condemned to death by the Roman court, the most cruel method of execution was crucifixion, reserved for slaves, pirates and enemies of the state, and later for lower, non-Roman citizens. When a man was so condemned, a certificate of debt was written out to be carried around his neck on the way to the crucifixion site. Once there, that certificate would be nailed to the cross above the condemned person’s head. All who passed by, could then read the crimes for which this one was being crucified.
Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, wrote out the certificate of debt for Jesus. Eerdmans, The New Bible Dictionary, article on Superscription, says, “…the superscription [certificate of debt] is the placard, consisting of a board smeared with white gypsum and bearing in black letters the name of the condemned criminal and the offence for which he was being executed.” Jesus certificate was written in three languages, Greek, Latin and Hebrew (Luke 23:38; John 19:20) proclaiming the heinous crime of the condemned Lord. What was the crime? From the four gospels, the complete inscription was, “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”. Jesus was (under official Roman law) crucified for treason against Caesar, the Lord having claimed to be King.
But there was another certificate of debt nailed to the cross, according to Colossians 2:14, and it was invisible to the human eye. On it were written all the crimes of every human being against God – sins against His holy standard of perfection – and the Father was acutely aware of every one! Being sins against God, they stood against us, separating us from the Father both now and forever. But it is written that Jesus, “…having forgiven you all trespasses; having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us…. He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”
Now here is the summation: Jesus died on the cross in our place. He paid for the crime of our sins against God. Those sins were and are paid in full! What words did Jesus cry out? They are recorded in John 19:30? “It is finished”! “It is finished” is over-written on the certificate of debt that listed your sins and mine! Now, under Roman law (which, by the way, is the basis of western legal systems), no one – not us, not Jesus Christ, nor any other person – can be charged with those crimes again! Legally, before God, our sins are gone!
Colossians 2:15 states, “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” Anytime Satan tries to accuse us before the Father, Jesus simply has to wave that fully paid certificate of debt before his evil face. The devil has to slink away in defeat, a public spectacle to all the saints and angels in heaven! He is a disarmed foe! Jesus has triumphed! The only way he can hinder you is if you don’t understand the victory Jesus won on your behalf!
“It is finished”! Why, on earth, should you or I be burdened down with sins that have been nailed to the cross and paid for? Think about it – we are Forgiven and Free!