Commentary on Colossians, 2:13-17 (From Darkness to Light)

Colossians 2:13-17

“13 And you, being dead through your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, you, He did make alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses;”

“you, being dead through your trespasses”

The Colossian Christians, as all of us are, apart from Christ, were spiritually dead in their sins, separated from God, in need of regeneration. Paul is speaking in past tense before they came to faith in Christ.

“and the uncircumcision of your flesh, you, He did make alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses;”

“Uncircumcision of your flesh” refers to the Colossians as being Gentiles, known as “the uncircumcised,” in contrast to the Jews, who were known as “the circumcised.”

However, this has a further meaning. I believe this physical “uncircumcision of your flesh” is symbolic of, and a reference to, the absence of the “circumcision of the heart” that Paul talks about in Ro 2:29.  While they were “uncircumcised in the flesh,” God made them “alive together with Him,” through faith, resulting in spiritual circumcision (circumcision of the heart) and forgiveness of their sins (see commentary on Col 2:10-12).

The Tyndale New Testament Commentary:

“This uncircumcised state however spoke also of their hopeless spiritual condition outside the people of God, which made them strangers to the covenant with its rich promise of forgiveness and reconciliation to God. But the context here in Colossians brings out the meaning even further. Paul has been speaking of the circumcision of Christ as involving a repudiation of the old nature. Thus the literal uncircumcision of these Gentiles was but a symbol of the fact that they were subject to their old sinful nature until God in mercy had raised them from spiritual death, and, through their union with Christ, had made them spiritually alive.”

“14 having wiped out the certificate written in ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and He has taken it out the way, nailing it to the cross;”

“certificate”  (Gr. cheirographon – 5498)

A handwriting, something hand-written, a legal document.

In this context, is best understood as referring to a legal document. Our English word “certificate,” describes well what Paul had in mind here. gives this definition of this word:

“Law. a statement, written and signed, which is by law made evidence of the truth of the facts stated, for all or for certain purposes.”

“written in ordinances”

Consisting in ordinances.

These ordinances refers to God’s law.

“that was against us, which was contrary to us”

Referring to the fact that no one is able to obey God’s law perfectly, thus, it has no power to save. We’re all condemned as violators of God’s law.

“He has taken it out of the way”

Through His Son, God has removed the obstruction that stands between us and Him.

“nailing it to the cross”

In Paul’s day, there was the practice of nailing a notice of canceled debt in a public place to let everyone know that a certain creditor no longer had any legal claim against a certain debtor. This is probably what Paul has in mind here.

We all stand before God as guilty sinners, violators of His law, and condemned to death. Jesus took our place in death, dying upon a cross. Paul pictures a certificate that consists of God’s law (ordinances) as being nailed to His cross, representing the charges against us as violators of it in whole. Furthermore, this certificate also serves notice that our debt to God has been completely wiped away, that there is no longer any claim against. Through Christ, the debt that we owe to God has been fully paid for. We stand before God as forgiven of all our sins.

Some commentators discuss the fact that when criminals were crucified, the charges against them were nailed to the cross. Thus all the charges against mankind were nailed to Christ’s cross, and He, therefore, paid the debt that we owe through His death.  Either way, Paul is illustrating that the debt we owe as violators of God’s law has been canceled, and that notice of such cancellation has been nailed to the cross of His Son.

“having disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.”

“disarmed”  (Gr. apekduomai – 554)

To wholly strip off.

“rulers” (Gr. arche – 746)

First in importance or rank.

Speaks of preeminent rule or authority.

“authorities”  (Gr. exousia – 1849)

Powers of authority.

Has the idea of “right and might” to carry out one’s will.

Satan is behind all the evil rulers of this world,, Therefore, I believe that “rulers and authorities” primarily refers to Satan and the demonic powers of darkness (Eph 6:10-12), but would likely include, secondarily, the Roman government….and perhaps, the Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day, who rebelled against Him and cried out for His death.

“He made a show of them openly”

He made a public display, or spectacle of them.


“To make a public show or spectacle, such as in a triumphal procession of a victorious general home from the wars, leading his captives and booty in a procession through the streets of Rome. They exposed their captives and the spoils of the conquered enemies to public view in their triumphal processions.


“The terms used in this verse are all military, and the idea is, that Christ has completely subdued our enemies by his death. A complete victory was achieved by his death, so that everything is now in subjection to him, and we have nothing to fear.”


“The picture, quite familiar in the Roman world, is that of a triumphant general leading a parade of victory. The conqueror, riding at the front in his chariot, leads his troops through the streets of the city. Behind them trails a wretched company of vanquished kings, officers, and soldiers – the spoils of battle. Christ, in this picture, is the conquering general; the powers and authorities are the vanquished enemy displayed as the spoils of battle before the entire universe. To the casual observer the cross appears to be only an instrument of death, the symbol of Christ’s defeat; Paul represents it as Christ’s chariot of victory.”

In regard to this triumph over these powers of darkness, consider the following verses:

“31 Now is the judgment of this world: now will the prince of this world be cast out.
32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” (Jn 12:31-32)

Since then the children are sharers in flesh and blood, He also Himself in like manner partook of the same; that through death He might bring to nought him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;”  (He 2:14)

We all come into a world of sin and spiritual darkness, separated from God and from the truth. Satan is the “father of lies” (Jn 8:44) and the “deceiver of the whole world,” (Rev 12:9). Apart from Christ, we are in the dark about the truth, and we are deceived by the false ways of the world. Satan has “the power of death,” in the sense that he introduced sin into this world by deceiving Adam and Eve, which led to both physical and spiritual death. From that point on, everyone born, is born into a world of darkness, sin, and death. This darkness and deception leads to the ultimate death of eternal separation from God in the Lake of Fire (Rev 20:14-15).

Jesus, as the “light of the world” (Jn 8:12; 1:4-9), has defeated the powers of darkness through His death and resurrection, providing us the way out of this darkness.. Satan may have power over this world, but Jesus has “overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). No one has to remain in this darkness, for Jesus has provided the way of escape (2 Tim 2:25-26).

“16 Therefore, let no one judge you in regard to food or drink or in respect to a feast day or a new moon or a Sabbath day;”

Apparently, the Colossian Christians had been influenced by the Judaizers, who incorporated the observance of the Mosaic Law into the teachings of Christianity, which amounted to faith plus works. The law has no power to save, thus, Jesus saved us from that which cannot add anything to our salvation. This idea that we must add anything to faith in Christ, is part of the deception that Satan employs. Therefore, Paul is telling the Colossians, “Don’t listen to them!”

“17 which are a shadow of the things to come; but the body is Christ’s.”

“body”  (Gr. soma – 4983)


NET Bible:

“34tn Grk “but the body of Christ.” The term body here, when used in contrast to shadow (σκιά, skia) indicates the opposite meaning, i.e., the reality or substance itself.”

The ceremonial laws, and the whole Old Testament, all pointed to Christ, and is fulfilled in Christ. It was all a “shadow” of the Christ to come. A shadow is never greater than the actual body that casts the shadow.

Notice that Paul has us looking toward the body (Christ) from the viewpoint of the shadow. We normally view shadows from the vantagepoint of the body.  But in the way God has dealt with mankind, the shadow of Christ came first, before His actual appearance. This tells us that Christ has always been central, that everything in history and throughout time, proceeds from Him. He casts His shadow upon everyone who comes into the world, and is, thus, “drawing everyone to Himself” (Jn 12:32).