It’s no secret the Bible contains passages that are hard to follow or that you have to read twice to understand. So when people pull these passages out of the Bible and ask about them, it can be hard to know how to respond. Per a reader request, let’s cover two sections from Colossians 2 that deal with God’s law and His festivals.
1. What was “nailed to the cross” in Colossians 2:14? I have heard some people believe what was nailed to the cross is the spiritual law of God, including the Ten Commandments and annual festivals, so we are no longer required to keep these laws.
The verse says God has “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.”
The key phrase to understand in this scripture is “the handwriting of requirements.” The interpretation cited takes this phrase to mean “God’s law” and uses this verse to say we no longer need to consider it when evaluating our thoughts and actions. The original King James Version renders “requirements” as “ordinances,” bolstering this idea. In fact, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
The Contemporary English Version makes this verse much clearer, pointedly saying that God “wiped out the charges that were against us for disobeying the Law of Moses.” In God’s court, we are all charged with the crime of sin, which is the violation of His law (1 John 3:4). Sadly, we are also all found guilty and reap the punishment for committing this crime (Romans 3:23, 1 John 1:8). Our punishment is the death penalty (Romans 6:23, James 1:15).
What Colossians 2:14 refers to is our death sentence. It represents the undeniable charges, the ultimate penalty, the “record of debt” legally and accurately standing against us for violating the law (“record of debt” being the English Standard Version’s rendering). This specific phrase has been translated poorly in several versions of the Bible and does not refer to the law itself. Verse 13 says God makes us alive and mercifully forgives our sins, while verse 14 describes exactly how that is done: the agonizing torture and death of our Savior Jesus the Christ.
Jesus wiped out and fulfilled the death sentence through His sacrifice on the cross. “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin . . . if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:7-9). To attain this promise, we must start down the path of conversion that begins with loyalty to God, turning from sinful ways and baptism (Colossians 2:12, reference Hebrews 6:1-3).
The Bible describes God’s law as “perfect,” “eternal,” “holy and just and good” (Psalm 19:7, 119:160; Romans 7:12). God did not suddenly nail His Ten Commandments or festivals to the cross. Instead, what was nailed to the cross was the death penalty resulting from each of our sins.
For more knowledge on this topic, check out these additional resources: