Monday, January 21, 2019

A Response To Catholic Nick On Colossians 2:14

  • Discussion:
          -Catholic Nick wrote an article in which he parallels Colossians 2 with Ephesians 2 and argues against a "Protestant" understanding of Colossians 2:14. Following are excerpts from the author along with a critique of specific claims:

          "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. Paul is working to unite Jews and Gentiles. That is the whole point of Ephesians 2:15. That portion of it is missing from the Colossians passage.

          The author fails to understand Colossians 2:14 in its immediate context, which is most certainly speaking about our debt of sin. Christ suffered the penalty for sin on our behalf on the cross. He cancelled out our sentence of death when He made atonement. We are no longer under condemnation for that reason. Nick is correct in saying that the Jews and Gentiles were separated, but denies what is taught in terms of our justification in this passage. Moreover, the metal nails and the wooden cross are vividly representative of Christ's propitiatory work.

           Nick is correct when he says that the phrase ("certificate of debt with its legal demands") can be understood as "blotting out the handwriting." However, it is best that words be translated in their respective contexts. This is true especially with phrases that are not used very often. Colossians 2:14 in no uncertain terms addresses justification before God in terms of our sin. Most words have a semantic range of possible meanings.

          "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 in order to pay 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. 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 texts which speak of internal transformation are about justification, but they are associated with other aspects of salvation such as regeneration.

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