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).

I see dead people! Sounds like a good title for a move. But an accurate depiction of this frightening phrase is not fiction but, according to Scripture, fact. This fact may seem ridiculous since we see the unsaved breathing, moving and, in a natural sense, “living.”  But what Paul is referring to here is spiritual death. Using the same imagery of the Gentiles once being separated (“the uncircumcision of your flesh”) but now part of God’s eternal covenant we read, “remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). So we see that spiritual death is having no hope and being separated from God now and forever. And what has caused this separation? Our transgressions, our sin (Hebrews 9:15)!

A transgression is a misstep, blunder, or crossing over a forbidden boundary. Paul says we are spiritually dead because of these false steps – they separate us from a holy God. Without Christ this is our spiritual condition, or state, and it has some serious ramifications. John Stott describes this condition vividly: “They are blind to the glory of Jesus Christ and deaf to the voice of the Holy Spirit. They have no love for God, no sensitive awareness of His reality, no leaping in their spirit towards Him in the cry “Abba, Father”, no longing for fellowship with His people. They are as unresponsive to Him as a corpse.” This is spiritual deadness and it is caused by our transgressions and our sinful condition. We don’t become this way; we are this way. From the first moment of our earthly existence we are in this state unless awakened by the Spirit of God to the truth and reality of Jesus as our only hope.

Notice the clear statement of sovereign grace here. We are born spiritually dead and stay that way unless “God [makes us] alive together with him” The dead can’t will themselves to life, they can’t reason their way out of the grave, they can’t conjure up the might to breathe and move and live (see John 1:12-13; Romans 9:13-20). No, they are brought to life by the intervening power of God. Just ask Lazarus (see John 11:17-44)! What did he do before Jesus said “come forth”? He laid lifeless and without hope! And what did he do after Jesus said ‘come forth, Lazarus’? He lived!!  (Please note that Jesus called Lazarus by name. This resurrection wasn’t meant for all, just for the deceased Lazarus. Can you imagine the scene if Jesus’ call had not been so specific? Graves opening up everywhere and corpses stumbling out of their grave clothes! Talk about seeing dead people!!!).

Being made alive in Christ requires the forgiveness of sins and the canceling of the sin debt that we owe to holy God. Without these two glorious things we are still dead. We can’t have a relationship with a holy God; we are still “without hope and without God”. But when God called us by name and gave us His life in Christ, He did so by forgiving us of all our unrighteousness (see 1 John 1:7-9) and having Jesus pay the price, death, so that the law’s requirement of repayment would be satisfied.

And where did this miracle take place? At Calvary on a hill called Golgotha. And how is it applied to us? By saving faith in the atoning and substitutionary work of Christ. As always, Paul points us back to Jesus and the cross. This is where life-transforming faith is the instrument that makes this mysterious truth a reality in us; the faith that brings us back from our tomb, makes us “alive with Him”, forgiving all our sin, and wiping our spiritual debt away.

So, through the eyes of your God-enlightened heart, can you see the nails being pierced into the hands of Jesus? Through your Spirit-enlivened “ears”, can you hear the pounding of the Roman soldiers as His feet are nailed to that beautiful tree? These are the sights and sounds of Jesus paying it all for those of us He has called out of our spiritual grave and made alive in Him.

Have you heard Him calling your name? Have you “come forth” to fullness of life and life everlasting? If not, look to Him and listen for His voice and respond when He calls. The good news is that the way has already been made: Jesus has paid it all! So cry out to Him so that, “your eyes are blessed because they see, and your ears because they hear” (Matthew 13:16).