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.