Nail-canceled Debt

Whitney Capps

Day: 22 | Plan: Christ Alone

Today’s Reading: Colossians 2

Colossians 2:14-15 (NIV) “Having canceled 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.”

In the Ancient Near East, agreements and business transactions between two parties were handwritten into formal contracts. Not unlike today, but with a few more brushstrokes rather than keystrokes. When one party was indebted to another, his name would be written below the agreement. When the debt was satisfied, the name would be scratched out, a line drawn through it, or one would hammer a nail piercing the name, signifying the debt had been cancelled.

In Colossians 2, Paul uses this same idea with the phrase “legal indebtedness.” The law of God was the written contract that held us in debt to Him. Sins stacked up, and our charges against Him were incalculable. But through Jesus Christ, God has canceled those charges!

Because of the very specific word choice Paul used in Colossians 2:14, his audience would have envisioned the nails in Jesus’ hands and feet blotting out the debt we owed God. Every charge against us was nailed to the cross. Our account with Him had been settled. He can forgive us because though we failed to uphold our end of the contract by keeping the law, Jesus paid the price for our crimes against God. We were unable to meet the terms of our agreement with Him. So Jesus did that for us by living a perfect, completely sinless life and taking on the shame of our sin by dying a criminal’s death in our place. This is referred to by scholars as expiation. To expiate our sin means that Jesus satisfied the legal requirement imposed by God.

This is the gospel. Our debt is paid! The nails that pierced Him declared us free and clear. What marvelous news!

But this isn’t all.

Paul says that Jesus made a public spectacle of the powers and authorities that opposed Him. His death and victorious resurrection stripped Satan of power. This is what Paul means when he says Christ’s death made a public spectacle of the rulers and authorities of this world! When that schemer looked at the cross, he foolishly thought he’d won. But the cross – meant to shame and humiliate Jesus – scorned and mortified Satan. This was the death of death.

But even as we walk in the victory, you and I know that death still stings. We still mourn. So where is the good news? 

We are sad when Christ-followers we love leave us. But friend, they are not sad. They have awaked in the glorious presence of Jesus. The victory of the cross is realized in heavenly high definition. They see Him face-to-face and proclaim, "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). They see their names have been written now in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:27) This handwriting indicates no debt, but a glorious inheritance, bought and paid for by the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, what a joy to see the shame that was on me nailed to the cross. I grieve what it cost You, but celebrate that I am no longer in debt to my sin. My account is clear. Oh sweet Jesus, I am forever indebted to You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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