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I would like some information, please. In Colossians 2

14 Paul speaks of "ordinances" nailed to a cross. What does this mean?

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The New Living Translation helps make the meaning much clearer: “He canceled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ's cross.” In our modern justice systems, a parallel to the “handwriting of ordinances” (King James Version) would be a formal written order of a death sentence issued after the evidence against the accused criminal—in this case, us—had been examined.

Colossians 2:14 Colossians 2:14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
American King James Version×
speaks of a death warrant rightfully issued because we have all sinned by transgressing God's spiritual law (1 John 3:4 1 John 3:4Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
American King James Version×
). Since “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23 Romans 6:23For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
American King James Version×
), we have all earned that sentence. However, the death sentence is mercifully commuted when we repent of sin and seek God's forgiveness. The apostle Paul's wording is a dramatic characterization of the benefit of Jesus Christ's sacrifice. The death warrant bearing our names and the sins we committed is nailed to the cross of Christ, who willingly took the death penalty against humanity on Himself.

Forgiveness, however, is more than a pardon because the penalty for our spiritual crimes wasn't merely set aside. It was paid in full by Jesus'sacrificial death for us (1 John 1:7-9 1 John 1:7-9 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleans us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
American King James Version×

Imagine the certified copy of an execution order with your name on it being hammered onto the beam on which Christ was crucified—right next to His body, splattered with His life's blood—to show that you do not have to die for your spiritual crimes. This is the striking illustration Paul presents in Colossians 2:14 Colossians 2:14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
American King James Version×

Those who would have us believe that this passage refers to the cancellation of God's law completely misrepresent Paul's powerful teaching analogy. After all, if Jesus came to do away with His Father's law, there would have been no need for Him to give His life for us since “where there is no law there is no transgression” (Romans 4:15 Romans 4:15Because the law works wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.
American King James Version×
; 5:13).

Again, likening the approach of those who believe God's law was canceled to what takes place in our modern justice system, they in effect are saying that commuting the death sentence of a murderer has canceled all laws against murder. This obviously makes no sense.

For further understanding about the effects of the sacrifice of Christ, forgiveness and real conversion, please request our free booklets The Road to Eternal Life and Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion. To better understand the purpose of God's law and why it is illogical to argue that Jesus abolished the law, be sure to request the booklet The Ten Commandments.


  • JuliexSteadman

    Colossians 2:14
    The law has been nailed to the cross so we are no longer under law. However this is only true of us if we are being led by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1 etc King James is better than the NIV here).
    The Holy Spirit is love, so the person who walks according to the Holy Spirit will fullfil the law from their heart. The Holy Spirit will not contradict his Word, the bible.
    We are saved by being ‘In Christ’ because you have to obey the law fully to be saved which we cannot do.

    You come to be in Christ by believing (adhering to, trusting in, relying on - present continuous tense) in him, that he died on the cross for your sin and by doing the above.

  • sdelamater

    @JuliexSteadman - Your initial comment seems to overlook the main point this article is emphasizing: it’s not “the law” that was nailed to the cross, but the “certificate of debt” against us.

    The word “cheirographon” there indicates any note written by hand. Many commentators clarify that this usually denote some sort of indictment–a verdict against a prisoner, a note of debt from one person to another, etc. This makes sense in the context of what Paul is emphasizing: we have forgiveness in Jesus Christ. The verdict against us–death–is forgiven because of Him.

    Some commentators make a fairly dogmatic (and vast) leap from “a handwritten note” to the handwritten tablets of the covenant at Sinai. But for all of the reasons stated in the article, and because it’s quite a stretch given the context, that’s a tough case to make.

  • dick nellis

    We are still under the law. It is our guide to correct behavior.

    The word handwriting occurs only once in the King James Bible, therefore we can’t look to see what it meant in other verses. “Colossians 2:14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross”. These phrases “ that was against us, which was contrary to us” just seems to bring you to a full stop and make you want to read it again? If you understand the meaning of the original phrase “Handwriting … against us” meant ‘a debt we owe’, it makes more sense. The debt, that Jesus paid for us, was the sin debt incurred from violating the ordinances.

    Strong’s concordance gives it the following meanings for the word translated as handwriting:
    “1) a handwriting, what one has written by his own hand
    2) a note of hand or writing in which one acknowledges that money has either been deposited with him or lent to him by another, to be returned at the appointed time”.

    At the time, there was no way to write other than by hand. All forms of mechanical writing or printing were in the future. Wherever the Bible wishes to convey the meaning of written by hand, it uses some form of the word ‘writing’ twice, or states writing by hand, for example:
    “Ex 32:16 And the tables [were] the work of God, and the writing [was] the writing of God, graven upon the tables.
    “Ex 39:30 And they made the plate of the holy crown [of] pure gold, and wrote upon it a writing, [like to] the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD.
    “Da 5:24 Then was the part of the hand sent from him; and this writing was written.
    “Es 8:8 Write ye also for the Jews, as it liketh you, in the king’s name, and seal [it] with the king’s ring: for the writing which is written in the king’s name, and sealed with the king’s ring, may no man reverse. (This verse could also be use as proof that the laws which, were written by God in his own hand, are still in effect as written. God endorsed them and said they are His sign and His seal.)
    “Lu 1:63 And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marveled all.”

    This verse says that the sin debt of believers was wiped out by the death of Jesus on the cross. That is good news for believers.

  • Ivan Veller

    Hi Julie,

    Here are more renderings of Colossians 2:14:

    (CEV 1995) God wiped out the charges that were against us for disobeying the Law of Moses. He took them away and nailed them to the cross.

    (GWT 1995) He did this by erasing the charges that were brought against us by the written laws God had established. He took the charges away by nailing them to the cross.

    (NVI 1999) y anular la deuda que teníamos pendiente por los requisitos de la ley. Él anuló esa deuda [He annulled/cancelled this debt] que nos era adversa, clavándola en la cruz.

    (ESV 2001) by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

    (LEB 2010) having destroyed the certificate of indebtedness in ordinances against us, which was hostile to us, and removed it out of the way by nailing it to the cross.

    (NLT 2010) He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.

    (NTV 2010) Él anuló el acta con los cargos [charges] que había contra nosotros y la eliminó clavándola en la cruz.

    (NIV 2011) having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.

  • KARS

    Hi Julie,
    Lets make it a little easier for you to understand.
    Because Eve partook of the tree of Good and Evil then gave the fruit to her husband Adam; we were all sentenced to die. Gen.3:3

    If our Savior did not come we would die and that would be the end of it,no resurrection, no eternal life after our human death.

    So God our Father had a backup plan in case Adam fell; and they both (Adam & Eve)did. Then sin entered into the world. So now the backup plan had to go into effect.

    He had his Only Begotten Son born of a virgin from the tribe of Judah. Not only would he be our Savior, but the Lamb of God.

    This Lamb of God represented the lamb without blemish of the Old Testament sacrifice each year during Passover.
    Our Savior was perfect in thought, word, and deed and Pontichus Pilot knew it and told the people he washings his hands of the crime that was about to take place.
    Jesus represented the sacrifical lamb; the Passover lamb.
    He was viciously beatten, stabbed, and killed for the sin that had entered into the world (an remains to this day) so we would be able to repent, be baptised and be resurrected in the future.
    Our Savior became the first person to be resurrected from the dead. Without him this would not be possible.
    This sacrifice is how he fulfilled the law and nailed our permenant death sentence and oblivion(never to be resurrected)to the cross that day.
    By His example of the life he led, we too must follow in his footsteps so we too can be resurrected and enter into the Kingdom of God being given eternal life with the God family.

    Does this make more sense? There is a booklet offered here on the main page under publications Title: Jesus Christ the Real Story. This will shed some more light on the subject.

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