Monday, January 21, 2019

A Response To Catholic Nick On Colossians 2:14

  • Discussion:
          -A blogger named Catholic Nick wrote an article titled What is the "certificate of debt" that Jesus canceled for us?, where the author parallels Colossians 2 with Ephesians 2 and says:

          "Given the above, it is pretty obvious that "canceling the certificate of debt with its legal demands" means essentially the same thing as "abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances". That is, the Mosaic Law was canceled, abolished, fulfilled, etc, (all terms the NT uses) through Christ's death on the Cross. This is an undeniable theme throughout the NT (e.g. Acts 13:38-39)."

          First of all, it is not enough to say, “Look at those two passages. They are parallel. Therefore, they are saying the same thing.” Ephesians 2 contains an element that the Colossians passage does not have, which is Paul is working to unite Jews and Gentiles. That is the whole point of Ephesians 2:5. That portion of it is missing from the Colossians passage. Here is a helpful note on Colossians 2:14 from the Reformation Study Bible:

          "2:14 canceling the record of debt. The law is compared to a certificate of indebtedness written in the debtor’s own hand. Jesus was born “under the law,” subject to its demands and curses (Gal. 4:4). On the cross, He was “made . . . to be sin” (2 Cor. 5:21) and endured the law’s curse against unrighteousness (Gal. 3:13). In the execution of the death sentence on Jesus when He was nailed to the cross, Paul sees the cancellation of the death warrant that stood against transgressors of the law. Paul also sees here the fulfillment of their obligation to keep perfectly the law’s demands in order to enter into life. The believer is no longer subject to the threat of the law’s condemnation."

          The author fails to understand Colossians 2:14 in its immediate context, which is most certainly speaking about our debt of sin. The excerpt from the study Bible quoted above is relevant here. Nick is correct in saying that the Jews and Gentiles were separated, but is denying what Scripture teaches in terms of our justification in this passage. In addition, the metal nails and the wooden cross are vividly representative of Christ's propitiatory work.

          The author is correct when he says that the phrase ("certificate of debt with its legal demands") can be understood as "blotting out the handwriting." However, especially with phrases that are not used frequently, we must translate the phrase in its respective context. Colossians 2:14 is clearly speaking of our justification before God in terms of our sin. With almost all Greek and Hebrews words, there is a semantic range which is appropriate. While the word"cheirographon" can mean handwriting, it can also mean "certificate of indebtedness." That word is translated such from the context. Responsible translators of the Bible do not simply apply that meaning to that word to fit their theology.

          "I would say appealing to Colossians 2 is terrible for Protestants for a few reasons. My favorite reason is that the reference to "being dead in trespasses but made alive" (Col 2:13; Eph 2:5) is speaking of inward transformation. This passage is clearly talking about Justification, which Protestants say is purely legal in nature and by Imputation, yet Paul says it is about being made spiritually alive."

          Contrary to the claims of the author, justification being legal in nature (the process of Christ taking our place and our debt) does not exclude regeneration of the heart. In other words, the concept of inward renewal is not incompatible with a forensic justification framework. The two are not mutually exclusive. That is a completely false argument made on behalf of this Catholic apologist.

          Justification is never separated from the work of the Holy Spirit to make us holy. We would only seek to maintain that specifically the declaration of us being righteous (justification) is not based on our good works. We are made alive in Christ by faith, as Ephesians 2:5 says. Nick assumes that the texts which speak of internal transformation are about justification. That would be wrong because such an interpretation would result in a system of works righteousness, which is condemned by Scripture. These texts are associated with other aspects of salvation such as regeneration.

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