In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not done with hands, by putting off the body of flesh, in the circumcision of the Messiah. Having been buried with Him in baptism, you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive with Him and forgave us all our trespasses. He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them publicly; He triumphed over them by Him. (Colossians 2:11-15, HCSB)
This passage is one of the classic themes of the Apostle Paul expressed here in what I believe to be one of his most powerful statements. Whereas elsewhere Paul teaches through concepts (It is by grace you have been saved by faith and not of yourselves…), here he uses a word picture.
He pictures Jesus on the cross – and nailed to the cross with him is the Law…the old covenant…the “certificate of debt”. No longer is our righteousness measured by religious works (i.e. circumcision) or adherence to the law. Our righteousness is measured against Jesus.
Of course, in that light, we all fail. We are all debtors. We are all sinners. But through the cross he “forgave us all our trespasses” and “erased the certificate of debt,” he removed all the outward “obligations” that beat us down. We have been set free.
Because of the cross of Christ, our righteousness is now found IN him. His triumph is now ours! Thanks be to God!