Treasure Digest: Question and Answer: Doesn't Colossians 2:14-15 Say the Law Was Nailed to the Cross?

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Many have asked about Colossians:2:14-15 and the "handwriting of ordinances that was against us" (King James Version), which Paul said Christ nailed to the cross.

Many have asked about Colossians:2:14-15 and the "handwriting of ordinances that was against us" (King James Version), which Paul said Christ nailed to the cross.

The Greek expression translated "handwriting of ordinances" is cheirographon tois dogmasin. Cheirographon refers to "a hand-written document, specif. a certificate of indebtedness" and can be translated as "account, record of debts" ( BDAG Lexicon ). So Colossians:2:14 means that the sacrificial death of Christ "cancelled the record of our debts"—the death penalty of our sins ( Greek-English Lexicon Based on Semantic Domains ).

The Revised Standard Version helps make the meaning clear: "having canceled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this he set aside, nailing it to the cross." Likening the "handwriting of ordinances" to something comparable in our modern justice system, it would be the formal written order of a death sentence, after the presentation and weighing of all evidence against us.

That is, Colossians:2:14 speaks of our death warrant, issued for spiritual crimes (sin, or breaking the law of God). God commutes the death sentence when a person repents of sin and seeks His forgiveness. Paul's wording is a dramatic characterization of the benefit of Christ's sacrifice. Christ's sacrifice effectively nails the "death warrant" bearing our name and the sins we committed to His cross, taking the death penalty on Himself. Forgiveness is more than a pardon, for the penalty for our spiritual crimes wasn't merely set aside. It was paid in full by Christ's death.

Imagine a court official hammering the certified copy of an execution order with your name on it onto the stake upon which the Romans crucified Jesus—which was splattered with His life's blood—to show that you do not have to die for your spiritual crime. That's the striking illustration Paul presented in Colossians:2:14.

Those who would have us believe that it refers to the cancellation of God's law violently misrepresent Paul's powerful teaching analogy. Again, likening it to our modern justice system, their characterization would be like saying that commuting the death sentence of a criminal ended all laws against crime. The lack of common sense is obvious.

Our booklets The Ten Commandments and Sunset to Sunset: God's Sabbath Rest explain in clear language how the law is applicable and necessary in the everyday life of the Christian. You can find them online at the literature library of our Web site at www.ucg.org .

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