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Exegetically, without bringing theology to the text, is Paul stating that all their sins, including future sins were forgiven in Colossians 2:13-14? Would the recipients of this letter understand "having forgiven us all our trespasses" to include future, uncommitted sins? Here is the passage:

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)

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  • It's important to note that "the record of debt" is the fine or penalty ("the wages of sin is death") we received for breaking the law, it is not the law itself that was nailed to the cross. Sep 6 at 3:30
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Grammar

καὶ ὑμᾶς νεκροὺς ὄντας [ἐν] τοῖς παραπτώμασιν καὶ τῇ ἀκροβυστίᾳ τῆς σαρκὸς ὑμῶν, συνεζωοποίησεν ὑμᾶς σὺν αὐτῷ, χαρισάμενος ἡμῖν πάντα τὰ παραπτώματα. ἐξαλείψας τὸ καθ᾿ ἡμῶν χειρόγραφον τοῖς δόγμασιν ὃ ἦν ὑπεναντίον ἡμῖν, καὶ αὐτὸ ἦρκεν ἐκ τοῦ μέσου προσηλώσας αὐτὸ τῷ σταυρῷ· (Colossians 2:13-14)

And even though you were dead in your transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he made you alive with him, having forgiven all your transgressions. He has canceled what was against us, a certificate of indebtedness expressed in decrees opposed to us. He has taken it away by nailing it to the cross.

συνεζωοποίησεν ("made alive together"), χαρισάμενος ("having forgiven"), ἐξαλείψας ("canceling/blotting out"), and προσηλώσας ("having nailed") are all in the aorist tense and thus say the least about the verbal action possible (it just happened).

ἦρκεν (he has taken up/set aside) is a perfect active indicative verb, and thus the Colossian Christians' record of debt ("certificate of indebtedness") had indeed come to be set aside (or taken away).

Does 'all' include future transgressions?

The grammar really doesn't say. You would have to look at the context of the entire passage and epistle, but even then there would be speculation. You could easily argue that all transgressions includes future ones, but you could also argue that it only includes all transgressions up to that point in time (the latter of which is fully supported by the grammar, but without precluding nor fully justifying the former argument). The English translation is actually very good here in both the ESV and above.

To answer the specific question, "exegetically, without bringing theology to the text," it is clear that Paul is saying to the Colossian Christians that

... even though you were dead in your transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he made you alive with him, having forgiven all your transgressions. He has canceled what was against us, a certificate of indebtedness expressed in decrees opposed to us. He has taken it away by nailing it to the cross.

Anything beyond this would have to come from something other than the grammar, although the grammar would not conflict with either position in this case.

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  • I admittedly hurried through this response and thus did not break down a lot of the syntax in this text. However, my answer does not change as a result of this - I just did not explain the text as well as I could have. My apologies, but time constraints meant this response or nothing at all.
    – Dan
    Sep 4 '13 at 4:07
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And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him [Christ], having forgiven us all our trespasses,

Colossians 2:13 (ESV)

The participial phrase "having forgiven" in the text shows that we are already forgiven by God the time he quickened us. This coheres with Romans 5:8:

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8 (ESV)

In the context of the Scriptures as a whole, it is shown that all sins -- past, present and future -- are in Paul's mind when he talked about the forgiveness of sins. God forgave us our sins by means of cancelling the record of debt (singular) that stood against us with its legal demands (plural). Romans 6:23 spoke of the wages (plural) for sin ( the transgression of the law ~ 1 John 3:4).

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 (ESV)

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23 (ESV)

Going back to the quickening done by God in Colossians 1:13, it becomes clear that the forgiveness of sins is highly related to the regenerative work of God in the believer.What this shows is that there are no sins to be forgiven after the new birth or else, there would be a need for Christ to be crucified again so as to nail again the debt of sin to the cross.

4For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

Hebrews 6:4-6 (ESV)

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)

This should not be confused with 1 John 1:9 wherein restoring fellowship (not relationship) with God is the issue.

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Are all future transgressions forgiven?

In Matthew 5:17, Christ says "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill." So we can see that He didn't come to destroy the Law. In also saying that He came to fulfill it, He means "fill it to the full", show them how to live the spiritual side of the law also, while not discarding the literal commandment.

Matthew 5:28 indicates that if you look at a woman with lust for her, then you have already committed adultery with her in your heart. That taught the higher spiritual aspect and requirement of the literal commandment "You shall not commit adultery".

Acts 3:18-19

18 But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.

Peter says above that Christ fulfilled the prophecy that He would suffer and Then tells them to repent and be converted. Christ's sacrifice forgives future sins only if you repent of them.

Peter says in Acts 2:38:

38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Why repent if all of your sins, past, present, and future were forgiven by the sacrifice of Christ, but that's what Peter instructs in the verse above.

Finally, Hebrews 10:26-27:

26For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.

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  • Thanks much Brian for your answer but as I read through it, you really did not specify clearly who "they" refers to. It would be helpful if you used the context or grammar structure to support your answer. Thanks.
    – alb
    Sep 5 at 21:20
  • Please provide additional details in your answer. As it's currently written, it's hard to understand your solution.
    – Community Bot
    Sep 5 at 21:20
  • alb50: I searched for "they" and it occurs 3 times on this page but not in what I wrote above. Is it some other term you meant?
    – Brian
    Sep 5 at 22:12
  • @Brian Hi Brian, welcome to BH-Stack Exchange, we are glad you are here. Please be sure to take the site tour and read our code of conduct. Thanks! Sep 6 at 5:39

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