The verse in question is Colossians 2:14, which refers to Christ “having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” Does this say that God’s law was wiped out or nailed to the cross, as many contend?
The previous verse specifies what Christ’s death wiped out: “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses” (Colossians 2:13).
Our “trespasses” are the problem that’s addressed here—not the laws that were being trespassed.
Only sins, are wiped out, not God’s law
Christ did indeed take out of the way something that was “nailed” to His cross. But that something was the record of our sins—our trespasses—not God’s law. The Greek word translated as “having wiped out” or “blotting out” (KJV) or “having canceled” (NASB) in Colossians 2:14 is exaleipho. It means “to wash, or to smear completely . . . to wipe away, wipe off, obliterate” (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, “blot out”).
The Scriptures always use exaleipho in reference to wiping away sin, not law. Peter uses this word when he urges his listeners to “repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away” (Acts 3:19, New International Version).
In the Old Testament the Hebrew word machah—translated “wipe out” or “blot out” is (like exaleipho) used for trespasses and sins. Isaiah quotes God saying, “I, even I, am He who blots out [machah] your transgressions for My own sake . . . ” (Isaiah 43:25; compare Psalms 51:1-9; Exodus 32:31-33; emphasis added throughout).
Only sins are wiped out, not God’s law. This becomes clear as we examine the next phrase that Paul uses in Colossians 2:14, the “handwriting of requirements.”
Handwriting of requirements are not the Ten Commandments
The word to examine is “requirements” as used in “handwriting of requirements.” The Greek word used here is dogmasin, which denotes “an opinion, (a public) decree” (Robert Thomas, New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries, 1999). This expression was used of an official handwritten sentence or charge against someone for breaking a law.
Thus the New Living Translation renders this verse as: “He canceled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross.”
The Contemporary English Translation translates this verse as: “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.”
The New Testament in Modern English reads: “Christ has utterly wiped out the damning evidence of broken laws and commandments which always hung over our heads, and has completely annulled it by nailing it over his own head on the cross.”
This handwriting of ordinances Paul says is “against us, contrary to us.” This certainly cannot be the Ten Commandments, for they are not against us. David said, “O, How love I Thy Law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalms 119:97). If King David, the patriarchs, and Jesus Himself kept and obeyed God’s law, how can His law be “against us, contrary to us?” We might act contrary to His law, but certainly His law is not against or contrary to us.
The wiping out of sin is available only through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ!
Sin is the violation of God’s law (1 John 3:4). It requires a price to be paid because, as Romans 6:23 tells us, "The wages of sin is death.” Without some payment for that awful penalty, human beings would face oblivion through death with no hope beyond the grave.
Jesus Christ bore the death penalty for our transgressions at His crucifixion. He met the law’s punitive requirement in our place so that God’s grace could be made available to us. But God’s forgiving grace was never intended as a license to continue sinning. Paul makes this truth very plain: "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 6:1-2).
Paul made it plain to the Corinthians that they must not take Christ’s sacrifice lightly. Accepting that sacrifice must result in a changed life, with a new outlook and approach that will not tolerate sin. It must be purged from our own lives.
Since the Corinthian members apparently didn’t fully understand the implications of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and the enormous pain and suffering He endured, is it possible that we could make the same error?
Do we truly appreciate Christ’s wiping out the charges against us? Let’s pray that we do!
Accepting the death of Jesus must be accompanied by repentance—obedience to God’s laws and a change of direction from our old habitual sins. That sacrifice was real, and it should affect our lives every day!