What does Colossians 2:14 mean?
ESV: by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
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.
NASB: having canceled the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
CSB: He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it away by nailing it to the cross.
NLT: He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.
KJV: Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
NKJV: 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.
Verse Commentary:
This verse continues the thought begun in verse 13, explaining how the Colossian believers had been forgiven. Though the Colossians were once dead in sin, and uncircumcised, now they are alive and "spiritually circumcised" in Christ. In this verse, Paul makes special emphasis on several aspects of the forgiveness we have in Jesus.

First, Jesus cancelled the record of our debt, in the same way a legal pardon cancels the penalty for that crime. In the day and time Paul wrote this, a person could be arrested or enslaved to pay off financial debts. They could also be enslaved as punishment for committing a crime. The image Paul's original readers would have gotten is a person's financial debt being erased along with the legal consequences. A believer no longer lived under the threat of punishment or enslavement to sin.

Second, Jesus "set aside" our sins as believers. This is a separate action from the legal or financial metaphor. Declaring someone "pardoned" does not necessarily mean they are "welcomed." However, according to Paul, those who put their faith in Christ have their sins removed from His sight. The failures of a saved believer are no longer a barrier between them and God. God's forgiveness not only means freedom from the eternal punishment of sin, it means we can have a living relationship with God, now.

Third, for the believer in Christ, the death of Jesus on the cross is sufficient payment for all sins. Paul uses a graphic metaphor here, of sin itself being crucified. In that era, crucifixion was not merely a brutal form of execution, it was a sign of absolute rejection. There were many other ways to execute people at that time, but crucifixion carried a sense of shame and disowning. So, when God crucifies sin, He is not merely killing it, He is completely and utterly ignoring it and cutting it off.

This thought is further emphasized in verse 15, where Paul says that Christ's victory over sin is a mark of "open shame" for the spiritual powers which oppose us.
Verse Context:
Colossians 2:6–15 describes Christ's superiority in defeating sin. This is shown in stark contrast to the failure of the unbelieving world. Paul encourages the Colossians not to be tricked by deceptive arguments. This passage also explains the drastic nature of salvation. Those who put their faith in Christ are ''spiritually'' circumcised and are identified with God through their faith. This act of forgiveness by God frees us from the eternal penalty of sin, restores our relationship, and defeats the evil forces fighting against us.
Chapter Summary:
In this passage, Paul warns Christians not to be taken in by deceptive arguments. These claims are attractive, but are merely tricks: they sound true, but they are not. Arguing for self-denial, legalism, visions, and other practices only looks good to observers. None of these are the real source of spiritual growth. Paul emphasizes the way Christ accomplished everything we need to be justified before God. As a result, there is no reason for believers to pursue these false, shallow ''shadows.'' We have the real substance: Jesus, so we should follow Him.
Chapter Context:
Chapter 1 introduced Christ as supreme over all of creation. Chapter 2 refines this argument by showing how the salvation offered through Jesus is superior to false, alternative systems. Paul specifically refutes several ideas, such as legalism, asceticism (self-denial), and mysticism. These are not how God intends us to grow, spiritually. Later chapters will contrast these false, external attempts with the true, inner spiritual growth which comes only by faith in Christ.
Book Summary:
The book of Colossians describes Christ as superior to all other teachers, faiths, and philosophies. In this letter, written from prison, Paul once again tackles false teachings. Among these errors are claims that Christians need to give up all physical enjoyments, that they should worship angels, and that they need to rely on the wisdom of an elite few. These problems are consistent with an ancient heresy known as Gnosticism. In response, Paul explains that Christ is supreme, and sufficient for our salvation.
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