William Barclay on Colossians

Paul speaks of the handwriting which was against us, or, the charge-list which set out our self-admitted debts. It was a note hand-signed by a debtor acknowledging his indebtedness. It was almost exactly what we call an IOU. It was a signed admission of debt and default. Men’s sins had piled up a vast list of debts to God. Further, it could be said that men quite definitely acknowledged that debt. More than once the Old Testament shows the

children of Israel hearing and accepting the laws of God, and calling down curses on themselves, if they failed to keep them (Exodus 24:3; Deuteronomy 27:14-26). And in the new Testament we find the picture of the Gentiles as having, not the written law and the written revelation of God which the Jews had, but the unwritten law in their hearts, and the voice of conscience speaking within (Romans 2: 14, 15). God blotted out, or wiped out, that charge-list and indictment. To understand that is to understand the amazing mercy of God. The substance on which ancient documents were written was papyrus, a kind of paper made of the pith of the bulrush; or it was vellum, a substance made of the skins of animals. Both were fairly expensive and certainly could not be wasted. Now ancient ink had no acid in it; it lay on the surface of the paper and did not, as modern ink usually does, bite into it. Sometimes a scribe, to save paper, used papyrus or vellum that had already been written upon. When he did that, he took a sponge and wiped the writing out. And in the ancient times it could be wiped out. Ancient ink was indelible so long as it was left alone; but because it was only on the surface of the paper it could be wiped clean way. It was wiped out as if it had never been. It is as if God, in His amazing mercy, banished the record of our sins so completely that it was as if it had never been. It was gone in such a way that not a trace remained.

     On the Cross of Christ the indictment that was against us was itself crucified. The very indictment was, as it were, executed. It was wiped out as if it had never been; it was executed on the Cross; and it was put clean out of the way, so that it might never be seen again. Man is no longer a criminal who has broken the law and who is at the mercy of the judgment of God; man is a son who was lost and who can come home and who is wrapped around with the grace of God.