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Which law did Christ nail to the Cross?

November 19, 2009

A verse I inevitably get when discussing the relevance of God’s law is  Colossians 2:13-17.  Here is the passage:

13 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, 14 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. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.  16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.

So let’s examine what was nailed to the cross.

14 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.  (NKJV)

14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. (NIV)

As we can see, Paul speaks of Christ nailing a set of laws or written codes, that was against or contrary to us.  But which laws are against us?  To find out, we have to let the Bible interpret itself, not put our own meanings into it.

The Bible leads us to Deuteronomy 31:24-26:

24 So it was, when Moses had completed writing the words of this law in a book, when they were finished, 25 that Moses commanded the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying: 26 “Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there as a witness against you;

So as to not confuse you, I would like to remind you that there were 2 sets of Laws attached to the ark of the covenant, the 10 Commandments and the law of Moses.

This book of statutes and judgments which Moses wrote in a book was placed in a pocket on the side of the ark.

“Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God…” (verse 26)

In contrast, the law written by God on tables of stone was placed inside the ark of the covenant.

“And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee” (Exodus 25:16)

Clearly, God wanted us to see the distinction between the 2 sets.  God has is own set of laws for us, and he also provided Moses  with statutes and judgements, or ceremonial /Mosaic laws,  for the Israelites.  The differentiation is evident throughout the Bible.

Deuteronomy 4

13 So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone.

God’s covenant with His people is the 10 commandments.

14 And the LORD commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that you might observe them in the land which you cross over to possess. (Deut 4:13, 14 NKJV)

Notice how God commanded Moses to teach the Israelites a different set of laws.  Lets look at another example in 2 Kings 21:8:

8 and I will not make the feet of Israel wander anymore from the land which I gave their fathers—only if they are careful to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that My servant Moses commanded them.

Again, God differentiates the law He commanded them, and the law Moses commanded them.  Let’s look at one more example,  Daniel 9:11 says:

“Yes, all Israel has transgressed Your law, and has departed so as not to obey Your voice; therefore the curse and the oath written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against Him”

From the text above, we can see that when the Israelites broke God’s law, the curses and oaths in Moses’ law kicked in and were poured out to them.  We can see a clear distinction between the two, because there are no curses whatsoever in the 10 Commandments.  (In fact, proof that the 10 Commandments are for our benefit is that there is a promise embedded in the 5th.)  There are plenty of curses in the Mosaic law however, see Deuteronomy 27:

16 ‘Cursed is the one who treats his father or his mother with contempt.’
“And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’
17 ‘Cursed is the one who moves his neighbor’s landmark.’
“And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’
18 ‘Cursed is the one who makes the blind to wander off the road.’
“And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’
19 ‘Cursed is the one who perverts the justice due the stranger, the fatherless, and widow.’
“And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’
20 ‘Cursed is the one who lies with his father’s wife, because he has uncovered his father’s bed.’
“And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’
21 ‘Cursed is the one who lies with any kind of animal.’
“And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’

26 ‘Cursed is the one who does not confirm all the words of this law by observing them.

As you can see above, it’s similar to the laws we create today.  New laws are made daily because people keep finding new ways to cheat the system and do harm to others.  It was no different back in the time of the Israelites.  Just look at some of the examples above, some are quite funny. 17 ‘Cursed is the one who moves his neighbor’s landmark.’ I’m guessing people trying to steal land, or enlarging their properties was a problem.

So we can see there are 2 clearly defined sets of Laws.  So the question is, which law was nailed to the cross?   Colossians 14 says the written code written against us, and that clearly was the Mosaic or ceremonial laws, not the 10 Commandments.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. November 19, 2009 1:11 pm

    Hi, the handwriting against us was the penalty. That is the history of the Roman system when a person was accused of a crime. When a person was accused and convicted of a crime, they would take this handwriting thing and put it on their cell and it would stay on there until they paid the penalty. The two thieves on the cross also had that on their cross. When a person paid the penalty, a certificate of payment was issued to the person (of course, not to the one who was executed).

    People of those days would know exactly what that meant. Since we don’t live in those times, we have a duty to understand the culture so things like this are not misinterpreted. It was VERY common — well, not just common, but the Roman practice of nailing to the wall the accusation and then issuing a certificate of debt or completion (I forget what it’s called) after the person served their sentence.

    It then makes sense that what Christ did was pay our penalty and that was nailed to the cross. Whenever we screw up, that penalty has been paid for. That is nailed to the cross.

    Now, I will say that I have never ever heard that there were two sets of laws. I really, really don’t agree with that analysis. It doesn’t even make sense to me. God’s law is one law, break one of it, the whole of it is broken. That’s in the bible. God treats it as one law and that is why if only one tiny piece is broken, the whole of it is broken.

    • November 19, 2009 2:15 pm

      “Now, I will say that I have never ever heard that there were two sets of laws. I really, really don’t agree with that analysis. It doesn’t even make sense to me. God’s law is one law, break one of it, the whole of it is broken. That’s in the bible.” (Show me where is says that the law is one)

      Wow, I’m assuming you didn’t read the rest of the article because it’s clearly spelled out that there are 2 sets of laws. To deny that fact is to deny plain logic and reason.

  2. November 19, 2009 2:29 pm

    No, I read the whole post — actually I read it twice. There is one whole law and all the laws hang on the commandments. That’s how God treats the law. Break one, the whole of the law is broken. In fact, in the New Testament, Matthew 22:37-40 says And He said to him, ” ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

    You’re separating them out, God isn’t. He treats breaking of one as having broken the whole thing.

    • November 19, 2009 3:06 pm

      I agree, James 2:10 says For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

      But what is the meaning of the verse, what is the context. The Pharasee’s were trying to trap Jesus by asking him a question on the law, asking which is the greatest of the Commandments. Jesus responded by summing them up into 2 phrases.

      If you look at the 10 commandments, the 1st four can be classified as a relationship between God and Man, the next 6 between Man and Man.

      You shall love the Lord your God (First 4)
      You Shall Love your Neighbour (Next 6)

      All the laws put forth by God fall under these 2 categories, but the difference is that the Mosaic/Ceremonial laws commanded for the Israelites are no longer binding, because they were “shadows” of what Christ will do for us. I.e Lamb sacrifice was used to forgive our sins, until the ultimate Lamb, Jesus was sacrificed for us. After Jesus’s death, they no longer needed to slay lambs in the temple. But the laws on murder, theft, the Sabbath still remained, because it’s God’s eternal law.

      How do we know that there was a law before the Israelites/Jews? See Genesis 26:5. Abraham kept all of God’s laws. Which law, God’s eternal law, the 10 Commandments.

      How do we know there’s still a law after the cross. Look at 1 John 3:4 for one.
      “4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.”

  3. Frank permalink
    August 23, 2010 5:35 am

    Mrs. White speaks of two laws. The moral law (the Ten Commandments spoken by God and also written down by Moses (see the Torah) and the statutes and judgments given to Moses and written in a book; and the ceremonial law. It is the ceremonial law that ended at the cross. The statutes and judgments, according to Mrs. White are just as binding on God’s people today as they were at the time of Moses. Ellen White taught of the statutes that they expressed the principals of the law; that they defined the law; that they clarified the law. And they made the commandments more specific. It is the condemnation of the law in Colossians 2that was nailed to the cross.

    In Christ’s love,
    Frank

  4. Mike permalink
    November 14, 2016 6:16 am

    Paul is not saying that any law was nailed to the cross.

    Colossians 2:12-14 “having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”

    Certificate of debt: The Greek word that is translated “certificate of debt” is word 5498 ‘Cheirographon’. Literally translated it means ‘hand writing’. It was a legal term that applied to a document that contained the hand written record of our debts which we are obligated to pay. It is like an IOU. In our case the certificate of debt is the record of all the sins that we have ever committed. The decrees that are against us are the penalties for those sins prescribed by the law of God. This record and the punishment for sin are hostile to us because they demand the death of the accused. The good news is that Jesus has taken this record of our sins out of the courtroom and nailed it to the cross. This means that the penalty for our sins was paid for by himself when he was crucified. This legal declaration of innocence given to us when Christ pays our debt is only given to those people who as Paul describes them as having been buried with him in baptism.

    • February 2, 2017 10:33 am

      That’s another good way of interpreting it

  5. November 14, 2016 6:19 am

    Colossians 2:12-14 “having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”

    Certificate of debt: The Greek word that is translated “certificate of debt” is word 5498 ‘Cheirographon’. Literally translated it means ‘hand writing’. It was a legal term that applied to a document that contained the hand written record of our debts which we are obligated to pay. It is like an IOU. In our case the certificate of debt is the record of all the sins that we have ever committed. The decrees that are against us are the penalties for those sins prescribed by the law of God. This record and the punishment for sin are hostile to us because they demand the death of the accused. The good news is that Jesus has taken this record of our sins out of the courtroom and nailed it to the cross. This means that the penalty for our sins was paid for by himself when he was crucified. This legal declaration of innocence given to us when Christ pays our debt is only given to those people who as Paul describes them as having been buried with him in baptism.

    Paul is not referring to any law at all being nailed to the cross.

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