Chapter 25 – Colossians to Titus Atonement Passages

Author: Kevin George

This book is a work in progress. Posts on this blog are to enable readers to examine the manuscript and make commentary. These blog posts are NOT the final version!

Colossians 1:12-14 “Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 In whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” ESV

The word “redemption”, “apolytrōsin”, means “to release” or to “free from”. (See Chapter 10 of this book for additional research about the word “redeem”.) This is how that word is used in Hebrews 11:35, “Some were tortured, refusing to accept release…”.

The word “forgiveness” is “aphesin”, and it means “sent away, released”. It can mean forgiveness in the sense of being released from an obligation, but releasing is the act of forgiving.

In Colossians 1:14 we see that the second phrase, “the forgiveness of sins”, is a restatement and clarification of the word “redemption.” It would be like saying, “…we have redemption, [which is] the forgiveness of sin.”

Furthermore, a careful reading of the passage shows that it is “we” who have “redemption, the release of sins”, not God. Jesus enabled us to be released from addiction to sin, it is not God who is released from some inability to forgive our sins. 

Based on the above, an alternate translation of Colossians 1:14 would be, “In whom we have freedom through his blood, the release/letting go of sins.” When the entire passage of verses 12-14 is read with this understanding we can see that the Father qualified us, made us fit, to share in the coming inheritance. How did He do this? By delivering us from the sinful domain of darkness, thereby transferring us into His Son’s kingdom of righteousness. It is in His Son that we have this freedom from the dominion of darkness, which is the release of any addiction to sin.

Were we transferred into the kingdom of God’s Son by means of the Son making a literal payment, a purchase transaction? No, it was by means of the Son who enabled us to see our sin and obtain release from sin by being in Him, which is our way of saying, by joining His team, linked up with him. We were not transferred from one kingdom to the other by means of getting a new legal label, a mere declaration of righteousness, but rather by the Son enabling us to leave sin behind and live according to his version of righteousness.

Colossians 1:19-23 “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. ESV

Colossians 1:20 has God, through Christ, reconciling all things to Himself, including us, in verse 22. Please notice that we and all things are reconciled to God, it is not God who gets reconciled to us! PSA teaches that Jesus offered himself to God so God could be satisfied, enabling God to interact with fallen humanity, but this is backwards. God has been pleading with humanity since Adam fell, begging humans to return to Him. God has no problem being able to interact with fallen humanity, it is fallen humanity that has a problem interacting with God.

Jesus offered himself to facilitate our reconciliation with God. God has sought reconciliation from us, even when we “were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds.” Notice that this reconciliation is conditional on presenting us “holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith.” This indicates that faith is understood as resulting in becoming blameless and above reproach, which means ceasing from living in sin. This kind of faith is not a mere doctrinal statement, a faith-on-paper; it is a living faith which affects our mind, will, emotions, and actions.

A lot of PSA teachers have a big problem with accepting this living faith, as they are deathly afraid of works. This distorts faith to be a hollow claim with no substance. It is as if they do not trust God enough to know someone’s faith, to discern whether their faith is living faith or merely intellectual. But Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness!’” Matthew 7:21-23 ESV.

All those who prophesied and did miracles in Jesus’ name had faith, but it was a dead faith, a doctrinal statement. They are not told to depart from Christ because their faith was inaccurate, but because they were lawless, which shows that their faith claim had no effect in their lives. Their works, good or bad, are the evidence of the reality or falsity of their faith. “Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”

Colossians 2:11-17In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. 16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” ESV

Verse 13 of this passage is regarding the fact that Gentile believers, who had not been part of the Mosaic covenant, are favored and accepted by God as demonstrated by them cutting off their sinful past and receiving God’s forgiveness. The word “forgiven” in verse 13 is the Greek word “charisamenos”, which is “to show favor”. The favor is in releasing us from transgressions, the Greek word “paraptōmata”.

Verse 14 is not translated accurately in the ESV. The Berean Literal Bible matches the Greek text: “having blotted out the handwriting in the decrees against us, which was adverse to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” The ESV is trying to make this verse be about Jesus cancelling a sin debt, but the phrase “record of debt” is not even in the verse! Paul’s point is that not only have the Gentile believers been forgiven of their sins, but they are also benefiting from the cancellation of “the handwriting in the decrees”, a reference to the Mosaic law. That is why Paul goes on to explain what this second blessing signifies, which is that they should not accept as valid any criticism against them for not following Jewish customs “in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.”

The ESV is not the only translation that takes inappropriate liberties with verse 14. The NIV shows the same corruption, “having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness…” Various other versions have the same problem. This verse, when translated properly and read carefully within its full context, is not about cancelling a debt of sin, but about cancelling the ordinances of the Mosaic law, to the benefit of both Jews and Gentiles. (Read more about this Mosaic law cancellation topic in Chapter 26 of this book, regarding Hebrews 9 and 10.)

Colossians 3:12-14 “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” ESV

This is a fascinating passage about forgiveness. Notice that we are to bear (endure) faults, and forgive each other as the Lord has forgiven you. How then did the Lord forgive you? Was it by receiving a full payment, an exchange, a retribution, or full justice? Obviously not! Furthermore, the passage continues saying, “Above all these put on love.” So, love trumps forgiveness, or perhaps we could say that love is better than forgiveness because it includes forgiveness and more. Love seeks to do good for the offender, so it is not merely a release of the offence. God loved us and took the initiative to not only offer forgiveness, but even eternal life. We are to follow His example of loving others with forgiveness and more, without demanding retribution.

1 Thessalonians 5:8-10 “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.” ESV

The word “for” in verse 10 is the Greek word “peri”, which means around, with regard to, or concerning. It does not mean “for” in the sense of “this in exchange for that”. Jesus died with regard to us, so that…we might live with him.

Titus 2:14-15 “Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. 15 Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.” ESV

The word “for” in verse 14 is the Greek word “hyper”, which means over, above, on behalf of, or concerning. It does not mean “for” in the sense of “this in exchange for that”. Jesus gave himself on behalf of us in order to redeem/free us from lawlessness and to purify for himself a people who are zealous for good works.