These small group studies of Colossians contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Colossians 2:13-17 Inductive Bible Study

Summary– I was dead in my transgressions, and He made me alive in Him, forgiving ALL my transgressions, canceling out the certificate of my debt by nailing it to the cross. In doing so, he disarmed the rulers and authorities, publically triumphing over them. Because HE has already won the battle, no one can judge me for not following the laws regarding food, drink, festivals, etc. They are shadow, but He is substance.

Central Teaching– Because He has already canceled my debt and triumphed over all, I am no longer bound to follow laws in order to be saved.

Key Words– dead, flesh, alive, transgressions, canceled, debt, hostile, disarmed, rulers and authorities, triumphed, judge, shadow, substance, Christ

Key Verse– 2:13

Ten Things this Passage Says-

1. I have been buried with Him in baptism.

2. I have been raised up with Him through faith in the working of God.

3. God raised Christ from the dead.

4. I was dead in my transgressions and the uncircumcision of my flesh.

5. He made me alive together with Him, having forgiven all of my transgressions.

6. He has canceled out the certificate of my debt and the decree against me.

7. He has nailed that certificate of debt to the cross.

8. He has disarmed the rulers and authorities, making a public display over them and triumphing over them through Christ.

9. No one is to act as my judge in regard to food, drink, festivals, new moons or Sabbaths.

10. Those things are a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

Ten Things this Passage does NOT Say-

1. Baptism saves.

2. There was something alive and good in me that caused me to seek after Christ.

3. I can earn forgiveness.

4. I can be alive apart from Christ.

5. Only some of my transgressions have been forgiven.

6. I can/should repay my debt to Christ.

7. My sin debt didn’t really affect my life.

8. We might have victory in the eternal life, but we can’t have victory over earthly rulers or trials.

9. I am more righteous if I eat or drink in a certain way, or observe festivals, new moons and Sabbaths.

10. What we can see and feel now is real and matters more than what we cannot see or have not experienced.

What does this passage teach me about God?

He buries us with Him in baptism and raises us up with Him through faith in the working of God.

God raised Christ from the dead.

He made me alive from my death in transgressions.

He forgives me completely.

He has canceled my debt, which was hostile to me.

He is all-powerful, disarming rulers and authorities, making a public display over them, and triumphing over them.

He is sovereign.

He does not want to weigh us down with a bunch of rules and observances. His yoke is easy, and His burden is light.

He is real, true and weighty. Things here on the earth pale in comparison to Him.

How does this passage apply to my life?

Do you have unconfessed sin in your life? Confess it! Do you have a sin that you’re holding onto, refusing to die to? Forsake it! Write down these sins on a scrap of paper and burn them in the bowl on the table. (V13-14)

Memorize 1 John 4:4 “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” Quote it when in situations of spiritual warfare or temptation. (V15)

I cannot earn more righteousness or approval by following a list of rules and observances. Nor can or should I hold others to unbiblical or legalistic lists of rules. Realize that my righteousness is in Christ. So, what are some things that I might hold myself to, or judge others because they do not do, that are extra-biblical? (V16)

I need to have a proper perspective on the importance of things here on the earth versus the eternal, weighty things of Christ. Kind of like Mary and Martha- one was concerned about the things of the earth, and the other wanted to sit at the feet of Christ and learn. When interruptions or changes of plans come, realize that they are from God, and concentrate on learning His character lessons through it, instead of fretting that I couldn’t carry out my plan for that time. (V17)

Discussion Questions-

What does it mean that we were dead in our transgressions? (V13) We were so bound (enslaved) in the world of sin, the world, the flesh, and the devil as to be unable to respond to spiritual stimulation. We were totally devoid of spiritual life. In other words, we were unsaved.

What does it mean that He made us alive together with Him? (V13) Only through union with Jesus Christ can those hopelessly dead in their sins receive eternal life. Note that God takes the initiative and exerts the life-giving power to awaken and unite sinners with His Son; the spiritually dead have no ability to make themselves alive or to react or respond in any way.

What does it mean that He has forgiven us all our transgressions? (V13)  God’s free and complete forgiveness of guilty sinners who put their faith in Jesus Christ is the most important reality of Scripture. There is no sin so large or so small and insignificant that His blood is not sufficient to cover it. He keeps no record of it, but in fact (as we see in V14) nails it to the cross.

What are the ramifications of this promise? (V13)

What does it mean that He has canceled out the certificate of debt? (V14) This refers to the handwritten certificate of debt by which a debtor acknowledged his indebtedness. All people owe God an unpayable debt for violating His law, and are thus under sentence of death. Paul compares God’s forgiveness of believers’ sins to wiping ink off a parchment. Through Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, God has totally erased our certificate of indebtedness and made our forgiveness complete.

Before He dealt with it, what effect did our decree of debt have on us? What recourse did we have to repay it? (V14)

What does it mean He has taken it out of the way? (V14)

Why does it say that He nailed it to the cross? (V14) This is another metaphor for forgiveness. The list of the crimes of a crucified criminal was nailed to the cross with that criminal to declare the violations he was being punished for. Believers’ sins were all put to Christ’s account, nailed to His cross as He paid the penalty in their place for them all, thus satisfying the just wrath of God against crimes requiring punishment in full.

What has he done to the rulers and authorities? What does that mean? Who are the rulers and authorities? (V15) This means the ultimate doom of Satan and his evil host of fallen angels. He has taken away their weapons, so they can no longer harm us or have the victory over us. While His body was dead, His living, divine spirit actually went to the abode of demons and announced His triumph over sin, Satan, death, and hell.

What does it mean that he made a public display of them and triumphed over them? (V15) The picture is that of a victorious Roman general parading his defeated enemies through the streets of Rome. Christ won the victory over the demon forces on the cross, where their efforts to halt God’s redemptive plan were ultimately defeated. All the world, weather in heaven, or on the earth, or under the earth, is going to know of Christ’s victory and Satan’s defeat.

How did God ultimately triumph over Satan and his forces of darkness? (V15)

According to this verse, in what areas are we not to allow anyone to act as our judge? (V16)

How were people judging on food and drink? What are the biblical standards for this? (V16) The false teachers sought to impose some sort of dietary regulations, probably based on those of the Mosaic law. Since they were under the New Covenant, the Colossians (like all Christians) were not obligated to observe the OT dietary restrictions (Mark 7:14-19; Acts 10:9-15; Romans 14:17; 1 Cor. 8:8; 1 Timothy 4:1-5; Hebrews 9:9-10).

What are the festivals spoken of here? (V16) The annual religious celebrations of the Jewish calendar (such as Passover, Pentecost, or Feast of Tabernacles).

What are the new moons spoken of here? (V16) The monthly sacrifice offered on the first day of each month.

What are the Sabbaths spoken of here? What is God’s view of keeping the Sabbath now? (V16) The weekly celebration of the seventh day, which pictured God’s rest from creation. The NT clearly teaches that Christians are not required to keep it. After Christ’s resurrection, the church gathered to worship on Sunday, because that was the day He rose. Scripture does not require Christians to observe the Saturday Sabbath because: 1) the Sabbath was the sign of the Mosaic Covenant, whereas Christians are under the New Covenant; 2) there is no NT command to keep the Sabbath; 3) the first command to keep the Sabbath was not until the time of Moses; 4) the Jerusalem  Council did not order Gentile believers to keep the Sabbath; 5) Paul never cautioned Christians about breaking the Sabbath; and 6) the NT explicitly teaches that Sabbath keeping was not a requirement.

What things are mere shadows of what is to come? Why are they called shadows? What are some characteristics of shadows? (V17) The ceremonial aspects of the OT law (dietary regulations, festivals, sacrifices) were mere shadows pointing to Christ.

What is the substance? (V17) Since Christ, the reality has come, the shadows have no value.

Study Colossians 2:18-20