The verse in question is 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×, 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 Colossians 2:13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, has he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
American King James Version×).
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 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×;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 Acts 3:19Repent you therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.
American King James Version×, 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 Isaiah 43:25I, even I, am he that blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and will not remember your sins.
American King James Version×; compare Psalms 51:1-9 Psalms 51:1-9 1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving kindness: according to the multitude of your tender mercies blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned, and done this evil in your sight: that you might be justified when you speak, and be clear when you judge. 5 Behold, I was shaped in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. 6 Behold, you desire truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part you shall make me to know wisdom. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which you have broken may rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
American King James Version×; Exodus 32:31-33 Exodus 32:31-33 31 And Moses returned to the LORD, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. 32 Yet now, if you will forgive their sin—; and if not, blot me, I pray you, out of your book which you have written. 33 And the LORD said to Moses, Whoever has sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.
American King James Version×; 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 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×, 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 Psalms 119:97O how I love your law! it is my meditation all the day.
American King James Version×). 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 1 John 3:4Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
American King James Version×). It requires a price to be paid because, as 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×;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 Romans 6:1-2 1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
American King James Version×).
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!