by Robert Brow February 1999


In the second chapter of Colossians I was grabbed by three different pictures of what the eternal Son of God did in his death and resurrection. These come in just seven verses, so I assume they must have had some interconnection in Paul's mind. We might call them three models of being made by faith in Christ (the atonement).

(1) -sunygerthyte dia tys pisteos tys energeias tou theou tou egeiranto auton ek nekron- by faith in the working energy of the God who raised Jesus from the dead, you were also raised (Colossians 2:12). This is similar to the model that underlies Paul's explanation of Christ's dead body being raised by the Spirit in Romans 8:11.

(2) God -charisameno ymin panta ta paraptomata- forgave all your false steps (transgressions, 2:13) -exaleipsas to kath' ymon xeirographon tois dogmasin o yn upenantion ymin- by wiping out what was written against you in the religious laws (2:14) -prosylosas auto to stauro- having nailed all that written to the cross (2:14). This is similar to the model that seems to underlie Romans 7:4 & 6. It is not a legal substitution, rather the ending of the old legalism by Jesus death and resurrection.

(3) -apekdusamenos tas archas kai tas exousias- when God disarmed the powers and authorities, -thriabeusas autous en auto- have won the victory over them -en parrysia- in open combat (2:15). This is the model that Irenaeus worked with, and Aulen called Christus Victor.

Since these three models come in just five verses, I have to believe there must be an underlying logic or model that unites them. What could such a model look like? This is a shot at a possibility that might work:

From the beginning God made us in his own image (Genesis 1:27) with the intention of perfecting us in love as his children. (Genesis 1:27). Satan and the forces of evil managed to trick us into legalism. We die spiritually when we try to perfect ourselves by the legalism of trying to live by rules and our own power. The victory of Christ was that he went through death, was raised by the Spirit, and then empowered us to live by the power that he lived by.

If we have been raised with Christ in that way (3:1), we can put to death (3:5) all the things that need correcting in Lent, not by mighty self effort, but by -ta ano zyteite- setting our minds on the Spirit who alone can do this in us. This then corresponds neatly with the model in Romans 8:1-9.

I am not totally satisfied with that composite model, but it will do for me to live by until someone produces a better model. What will never convince me is the explanation that Paul was muddled, and he ignorantly threw out hints of different models that have no connection with one another.

1 Thessalonians .....