Monday, August 18, 2014
Grace and legal documents
And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, 14 erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:13-14 NRSV
This brief passage of scripture provides us with a legal picture of grace. Paul is describing the way that physical circumcision illustrates the spiritual circumcision that brings us to Christ. Israel's law and religion were closely intertwined and circumcision represented the religious, legal and political aspects of a Jewish man's life. Circumcision is a covenant or agreement between God and Abraham. It was an outward sign of a spiritual pledge to honor and worship only the LORD, and when a man became circumcised (usually as a baby), he became a political part of the lineage of the nation of Abraham, and subject to its laws and customs.
In verse 12, Paul is speaking to the Colossians, and the pronoun "you" is addressing the members of the church in Colossae. The pronoun "him" refers to Christ, and the pronoun "us" refers to Jewish and Gentile Christians, or in other words, all of the followers of Christ.
The church at Colossae had many Gentiles among its members, and Paul is reminding them that although they are uncircumcised, they are still included when Christ forgave all of us of our trespasses. Circumcision is a rather hazy issue for modern Christians because we associate circumcision with health procedures, and associate the religious aspect of the procedure with Jewish practices. In Paul's time, circumcision was hotly debated as a requirement to become a Christian. Since Christianity started with Jewish men, the first Christians were circumcised. However, Paul is reminding the Colossians that God saved them when they were uncircumcised, and He forgave them just as he forgave the Jews who were circumcised.