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What Was Nailed to the Cross?

Posted in Common Errors

Recently in this column, it was shown that God’s law, and the idea of being saved by faith rather than works of the law, is consistent in both the first and the new covenants. (You can see that aticle here: http://nailedtocross.com/index.php/articles/law-and-grace/13-old-law-new-grace)  As a reminder, the new covenant states in Hebrews 8:10, “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, said the LORD; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.” It is God’s law in our hearts and mind that make us part of this new covenant.  

Yet, in spite of the clear words telling us specifically that the new covenant is having these laws in our hearts and mind, many churches teach that God’s law was “nailed to the cross” in the New Testament. They use this rationale for no longer following many of God’s commands. But either the Bible is true, and we are misinterpreting the verse that talks about nailing something to the cross, or the Bible is wrong by defining the new covenant as the law. We need to study to see what really was nailed to the cross. I believe the answer is one that will thrill every sinner, which definitely includes me. 

Here is what the section says: Colossians 2:12-14: (12) “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. (13) And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses (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.” 

The context shows that these verses are talking about baptism, not about God’s law. Starting in verse 12, Paul talks about being buried with Him (Jesus) in baptism and risen with Him through faith. Verse 13 speaks of being dead in your sins and forgiven of all your trespasses. Verse 14 says that this baptism blots out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, nailing it to the cross.  

The study notes in my “Spirit Filled Life” Bible indicate that the Greek word in the original text for "handwriting of ordinances" (cheirographon) means, "A word commonly used when a monetary obligation was acknowledged by a debtor. It means a signed confession of indebtedness, bond, or self-confessed indictment." A favorite online Bible reference tool, www.blueletterbible.org, defines this word as “a note of hand or writing in which one acknowledges that money has either been deposited with him or lent to him by another, to be returned at the appointed time.” Think of it like a mortgage or an IOU, a written record of the debt we owe for our sins. Other Bible translations also can add clarity. For example:  “the record that contained the charges against us” (New Living Translation); “the record of debt that stood against us” ( English Standard Version); “having canceled out the certificate of debt”  (New American Standard); and “the certificate of debt against us” (The Scriptures, which also includes the footnote: “the record of all the sins we did”). 

Earlier, in verses 4 and 8, Paul refers to “any man” (most likely unbelieving Jews, or pagans) who try to beguile you, spoil you after the tradition of man, etc. He continues this thought in verses 16-17, when he warns the Colossians to let “no man” judge you about the Christian behaviors and scriptural holy days which are there to teach us (foreshadow) things to come, that only the body of Christ, defined as the church in verses 1:18 and 1:24, is fit to make these judgments. (King James says “the body is of Christ” with the word “is” in italics, meaning that it was not in the original text. The translators added it, but it confuses the meaning by being there.)  This passage, as shown by the context, is simply telling us that by being baptized, we become dead to our former sins, the record of those sins have been nailed to the cross, and we shouldn’t let any man outside the church judge us for being obedient to the word of God.  

To confirm any interpretation of scripture, it is always best to see if the rest of the Bible confirms or contrasts with the interpretation. What does the rest of the Bible say Jesus came to do, and about his relationship to the law? We are told repeatedly that his purpose in coming was to take away our sins. From the lips of John the Baptist in John 1:29, “Behold the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world.”  Isaiah 53:10 says that He will be “an offering for sin.” In Matthew 26:28 Jesus himself said that his blood was shed “for the remission of sins.” 1 John 1:7 says that His blood “cleanses us from all sin”, 1 John 3:5 says “he was manifested to take away our sins”, and Revelation 1:5 says he “washed us from our sins in his own blood.” There are no texts that say He came to do away with the law, because it would contradict the new covenant that the law is now to be written in our hearts. In fact, He confirms this in Matthew 5:17, “Think not that I have come to destroy the law…” John 1:1-3 tells us that He was the Word of God, with God from the beginning, and through Him all things were made. Why would He come to destroy what He made?  

Jesus Christ, the Messiah, came to take away our sin, and nailed it to His cross. This is something for which every Christian should give eternal thanks. I believe that to misconstrue these verses to say that we can ignore well over half of our Bible, and therefore break any of God's commandments handed down from the beginning, is dangerous, and plays right into satan’s hand. 

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For more articles that explain this passage in other ways, please see:

http://nailedtocross.com/index.php/articles/law-and-grace/26-a-modern-twist-on-a-challenging-text-colossians-2

http://nailedtocross.com/index.php/articles/law-and-grace/27-four-often-mis-interpreted-texts

http://nailedtocross.com/index.php/articles/law-and-grace/10-wrestling-with-the-words-of-paul