Nailed to the Cross

by Daniel Rieke

As a child and teenager, I used to pray every night before bed that God would forgive me of all my sins, particularly those that I might’ve forgotten to already repent for throughout that day. I did this because I was afraid if I forgot to repent for each specific sin I committed that day, that if I died in my sleep, I might wake up in Hell.

In high school and college, I walked through life feeling a weight of guilt and shame for sins I’d committed (and repented of) as a believer. I could understand and feel forgiven of my sins pre-conversion, but I struggled knowing how to process my sins as a believer, since “I should’ve known better.”

In both of these situations, I misunderstood a clear implication of the gospel, namely that after trusting in Jesus, I was secure, and the penalty due my sin had already been paid in full. Had I understood the truth of 2 short verses in the book of Colossians, my life would’ve been full of much greater joy during that season, as I would’ve seen the massive impact that Jesus’ death and resurrection had on my sin as a believer.

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, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.   - Colossians 2:13-14 (ESV)

A few beautiful, life-giving, freeing truths we see in these two wonderful verses of Scripture:

We were dead in sin, but God made us alive

Verse 13 says that we were dead in our sinful nature. Before we trusted in Jesus, we were spiritual dead and unable to have life. But we see later in that verse that God made us alive. He did it. His Holy Spirit regenerates us through faith and gives life to our dead hearts.

Through this work of God, we have been forgiven

The passage goes on to tell us that God has forgiven us our trespasses (i.e. sins) and canceled the record of debt we owed Him for our sin (i.e. His wrath on us for our sin). He set it aside and nailed it to the cross of Christ.

In other words, God poured out His wrath onto Jesus instead of onto me. And He nailed all the penalty I deserve for ALL of my sin onto the cross of Christ, so that I no longer own it. I no longer have to bear the penalty due to me for my sin.

The most life-changing implication of this passage to me is one tiny word in verse 13: “all”. All of my trespasses and sins against God have been paid for when Jesus took the cross 2000 years ago.

Here’s where that really impacted my two situations I mentioned earlier: I was struggling with sins I’d committed since knowing Christ, my “future sins” if you will. I couldn’t understand how God could forgive me for sinning after trusting in Jesus.

But then the truth of Colossians 2 came crushing down on me, and with it, the realization that when Jesus died on the cross – when all my sins were laid upon Him and He bore the wrath for those sins – ALL of my sin was “future sin”. So all of my sins – past, present, and future – were laid on Jesus, and I could rest that the full weight of my sin had been paid for at the cross.

In this staggering realization it finally clicked to me the massive implications of the gospel. Jesus has already paid for my sin – all of it – at the cross. By faith, I can simply rest in the beautiful truths of Colossians 2. To quote the famous hymn, “It Is Well”…

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought: my sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!