And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 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. (Colossians 2:13,14)
Those who have been “churched” for a while are likely to have heard this verse interpreted as the whole of God’s law being nailed to the cross as being now null and void, or no longer relevant in the life of a believer. That once we “accept” Jesus’ death as a payment for our sins, we have no further obligation than to just accept His wondrous grace by faith . . . and accept that we are always going to be messing up and still sinning all the days of our lives. But because of “grace,” no worries. I fear that believers of such have been duped into swallowing a grace that cannot effectually save one from their sins while at the same time casting away God’s provisional lamp for their feet.
I ask the reader to be prayerfully open minded and to consider, what if what was nailed to the cross as “handwriting of ordinances that was against us” was not the ceremonial law of Judaism, but something else? That is not to say the ceremonial law did not fulfill its function and therefore has completed its course in God’s plan for humanity, for in Roman’s 7 Paul labors to persuade his Jewish brethren to acknowledge that they were now free from ceremonial rites because that which they pointed to had come, the Lamb of God which not only bore the sins of the world, but ended the sin-offerings as well. For all those were merely shadows of Christ body as an offering to come.
Certainly it was not the moral aspect of God’s law which was nailed to the cross and taken out of the way, for consider how the scriptures bare witness that Law was “perfect, converting the soul . . . making wise the simple . . . rejoicing the heart . . . pure and enlightening the eyes.” Furthermore the scripture also records in Psalms the prayerful request that God would “grant me thy law graciously,” which seems to be an interesting twist to much that is preached today against “The Law,” that the law could actually be given in grace.
Ps 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. 8 The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. 9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Ps 119:29 Remove from me the way of lying: and grant me thy law graciously.
The ceremonial law has by God’s design expired in as much as it fulfilled its prophetic purpose of proclaiming the sacrificial death of Jesus and therefore has ceased, just as the silhouette of shadow created by the light above becomes covered by the arrival of the object that cast it. Such have the ceremonial/sacrificial laws fulfilled their purpose and are done away with by the offering of the body of Christ, as is witnessed in verse 17.
Col 2:16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
However, that does not mean they cannot be recognized and kept as unto the Lord as we see in Roman 14, but they are no longer a basis for defining sin in the life of the believer. It is only when they return to sacrificing animals as sin offerings again that they began to crucify Christ afresh by rejecting the finality of the Cross.
However, one should acknowledge that Paul was writing to the Gentiles here whose sins were not based upon any of the things mentioned above in verse 16, but are more clearly established in Paul’s teaching in Roman’s chapters 1-3 that all men had sin. Therefore, we must recognize that the Gentiles too had sin, not because they failed in their improper dietary habits or their uncircumcised flesh, for they too like the Jews had transgressed God’s moral laws and sinned and being obstinate had as did the Jews failed to circumcise their hearts, to expose themselves in broken nakedness and honesty before their Creator as transgressors of His righteousness.
The Jews and Gentiles alike had accrued a long record of all their sins that was cried out against them as debtors, which bore witnessed that they all had failed to love God and worship Him as such. These offenses and transgressions were recorded as evidence that they had not only failed to love God, but also defined their failures to love their neighbors as themselves. These two commandments are the foundation for the defining guidelines of righteous-love given us in the Ten Commandment; the moral law of God and witnessed to as well by His holy prophets, whereby all men have failed.
There is a distinction between the moral and ceremonial parts of God’s law. One shines light on God’s expectations of holiness for His created beings and the other prophetic of events to come. God never was appeased or had pleasure in the sacrifice of animals, the shedding of their blood, nor could they ever remove sin our purge the conscience from sins, they merely prophesied of the coming of the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. This we can clearly see from the OT verses as well -
Micah 6:6 Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? 7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
What was nailed to the cross was the “the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us,” that legal affidavit recording our failures to love God and our neighbor, defining our debt of sins against God Himself. I wish I still had original resource at hand, but years ago I ran across a historic tradition the Jews had in those days that was not unlike our present day “legal notice” section of the paper. It seems that if a person had a debt they could not pay that they were in danger of ending up in a debtor’s prison whereby they had to stay until the debt could be satisfied. (We know of this from Jesus’ own teachings in Matthew 18:23-35). However, if a man was destitute and had no means to pay, he could go to the town center and there was erected a community pole where he could take a piece of sheep skin and write a public “legal notice” of all the debts he had outstanding against him. There he would publicly acknowledge (confess) all his debts.
If he owed money to the butcher, he would openly note it, as well as that which was owed to the candle maker, carpenter or whoever. Anyone going by could stop and read his debts; they were public information now for he in desperation for mercy he had so confessed his poverty openly. If anyone was thereby moved with compassion they could take and write their name beside a particular debt and then the creditor could come to that person for payment. If anyone was able and compassionate enough, they could simply fold it up covering the list of debts leaving the debtor’s name exposed and sign his own name to it so all the creditors would know they could go to one person to receive full payment. Look again at the verses –
And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 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; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
Nowhere else in scripture has the Law of God been called a “handwriting of ordinances.” Interesting too is that the Greek word translated “handwriting” is only used this one time by the Apostle Paul here who wrote much in other epistles of the law and grace. Yet nowhere else did he use this Greek word in reference to it or this also once used expression of “nailing it to His cross” when addressing the law. Yet here it is neatly tucked between forgiving us of all our sins and the defeating of our accusers and tempters. For the Greek word used here only once in scripture and translated “handwriting” also means “a manuscript; specially, a legal document or bond.” Now a bond is written evidence of debt recorded by a creditor with the terms of payment spelled out, such as the “wages of sin is death.”
Such is what Jesus did, He took the record of all the sins of mankind and nailed it to the cross stating “Paid in Full.” Nevertheless, such forgiveness of debt can only only be applied to each sinner by their faith, which faith is evident by their confession of debt with a surrender to His Lordship at their realizing that by such payment of the blood of the Son of God they have been purchased from a debt that demanded their death and have become debtors unto Christ and are longer their own. These are the believers who answered the call to be bond-servants unto righteousness and joyfully heed the admonition to go and sin no more.
For that reason and more, the how and why the Spirit of Christ is given to now work in us, that I continually stress how the grace God’s given us in Christ Jesus is much more than just “unmerited favor.” Certainly, we cannot be what God requires or do the things he asks of us alone in our own strength; we need the grace of God, Christ in us to enable us. The truth and power of the Gospel is that we can do as Paul, Peter, James and John say we must, purify ourselves and make ourselves ready . . . because He will enable us to do so.
2Co 6:17 Wherefore come [you] out from among them, and be you separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
1Pe 1:22 Seeing you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that you love one another with a pure heart fervently
Jas 4:8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded.
1Jo 3:3 And every man that hath this hope in Him purifies himself, even as He is pure.
One who is truly “born again” by the grace of God will by their faith[fullness] be evidently shown to be such, alive unto God. Consider the profoundly simple and clear teaching of Christ of how a good tree brings forth good fruit and evil tree brings forth evil fruit, likewise we can know what manner of tree we are by our fruit. By such a scriptural witness we must also acknowledge not all confessors of Christ are true believers, for if one confesses Christ in word only but by their actions denies Him . . . are we to conclude to the contrary that profession outweighs fruit? To be saved is to be set free from sin, not merely forgiven, even though that is in fact a growth and refining process the Spirit of God works in repentant believers. But those who are obstinate and justify their continuance in sins are goats and not sheep, tares instead of wheat.
Paul also tells us in I Thessalonians, “Quench not the Spirit.” The word quenched doesn’t simply mean to grieve or offend; it means to extinguish (literally or figuratively): to cause to go out, quench. The same Greek word is used in these verses as well –
Mt 12:20 A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.
Mt 25:8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
Mr 9:44,46,48 Where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched.
Eph 6:16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
Heb 11:34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
Certainly in all the above verses we would acknowledge an absolute extinguishing as the intended meaning of the word quench. That being understood, we can also see how scriptures tell two things about God’s creation of man’s spirit –
Pr 20:27 The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly.
Pr 24:20 For there shall be no reward to the evil man; the candle of the wicked shall be put out.
The reader would do well to consider the meaning of these verse in light of the Gospel of John concerning Jesus –
John 1:3 All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shined in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9 That was the true Light, which lights every man that comes into the world.
Our spirits were created for a unique union with the Spirit of God; just a candle has neither function nor life unless it is united to a flame. It is Jesus’ light which is the true life of man, which gives meaning and purposes to man’s being. But the candle/spirit of the wicked shall be extinguished, unacceptable for the presence of Christ Spirit.
I know the following is an OT verse, but it still conveys the equity and righteousness of God who changes not-
Ezekiel 33:12 Therefore, thou son of man, say unto the children of thy people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression: as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turns from his wickedness; neither shall the righteous be able to live for his righteousness in the day that he sins. 13 When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it. 14 Again, when I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right; 15 If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die. 16 None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live. 17 Yet the children of thy people say, “The way of the Lord is not equal,” but as for them, their way is not equal. 18 When the righteous turns from his righteousness, and commits iniquity, he shall even die thereby.
However, no man can repent or turn from his sins but by the grace of God, meaning the granting of forgiveness upon the transgressor’ confession and his receiving empowerment from God to turn from and overcome his bondage of sins. But be not deceived, no sinner can repent just whenever they want to; they are enslaved by their sin. God must grant repentance if they are to be freed.
Acts 3:26 Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.
Acts 5:31 Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.
Acts 11:18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.
Such was working of God’s grace was lawfully accomplished through the work of the blood and cross of Jesus which works to cleanse us that we might receive His Spirit within us which enables us.
1 Timothy 1:12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, Who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; 13 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14 And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
Some will still say, “However, it is still my opinion, that even those of us who are more carnal in their walk, they will still receive some form of salvation,” and would confidently point to 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 for scriptural confirmation. –
1 Corinthians 3:13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. 14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
Once again I would encourage open and prayerful reconsideration of what Paul is indeed saying here. Paul’s whole addressment in I Corinthians 3 is dealing with the carnal nature of the believers in Corinth who were verifying their relationship with Christ by their affiliation with certain teachers. Because of their carnality they were not walking according to the truth of the Gospel and instead of identifying themselves with Christ and walking in obedience to the leading of His Spirit, they were identifying themselves with Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, and therefore were having “envying, and strife, and divisions” in the church.
To correct their departure from the truth, Paul addresses how the teachers were only “but ministers by whom you believed.” He stress that God was the one who gave life and increase. Paul then stressed that whoever would be a “teacher” needs to take heed what they teach -
1 Corinthians 3:8 Now he [Paul] that plants and he [Apollos] that waters are one: and every man [teacher] shall receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we [teachers] are laborers together with God: you [the believers] are God’s husbandry, you are God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder [teacher], I have laid the foundation, and another [teacher] builds thereon [in you believers’ lives]. But let every man take heed how he builds thereupon.
Discerning each reference and understanding who it is Paul is speaking about is crucial for rightly dividing the verse, otherwise it easily becomes a false the bases for the erroneous belief that “those of us who are more carnal in their walk, will still receive some form of salvation.” We cannot take verses out of their context and rightly understand them alone. This verse does not support such a position, but actually works against it. Paul is addressing how teachers have a responsibility before God not to be handling the Word of God deceitfully, which is which Paul states, “But let every man take heed how he builds thereupon” the foundation of Christ crucified and resurrected for our sins and justification.
1Corinthians 3:15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
Many have taken the verse above and foolishly concluded it really doesn’t matter what we do as Christians once we accepted Christ, because we are saved grace. That is because they think this verse is speaking of the same one man throughout. People who teach such are teaching “wood, hay, stubble.” Even though the word “he” is mentioned twice in verse 15, it is not addressing only one person in its string of thought. One needs to follow the text all the through and keep Paul’s addressment of the teachers and those being taught by them separate and distinctly identifiable while reading through the passages –
1Corinthians 3:11 For other foundation can no man [teacher] lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man [teacher] build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13 Every man’s [teacher’s] work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s [teacher’s] work of what sort it is. 14 If any man’s [teacher’s] work abide which he [teacher] hath built thereupon [in a believer’s life], he [teacher] shall receive a reward. 15 If any man’s [teacher’s] work shall be burned, he [the teacher] shall suffer loss: but he [the believer] himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
I know this might not be easy to receive if you are one who has always believed the other way, but I urge you to continue in prayer and consider Paul’s following words and ask why he would have stated them if what I am saying is not correct.
1Corinthians 3:16 Know ye not that ye [believer] are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If any man [teacher of false things] defile the temple of God [with teachings of wood, hay and stubble], him [that teacher] shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple [believers] are. 18 Let no man [aspiring teacher] deceive himself. If any man among you seems to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He takes the wise in their own craftiness. 20 And again, The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. 21 Therefore let no man [teacher or student] glory in men [with whom they foolishly identify themselves with]. For all things [of Christ] are yours; 22 Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; 23 And you are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.
So, if you have truly humbled yourself and repented of your sins, understand that Christ has blotted out the record of your offenses by nailing to His cross as a legal notice, “Paid in Full,” and now go and sin no more. Having been cleansed by His blood from the guilt of sins, He can indwell you and empower you to walk as He walked. Rejoice that God has given us a light for our path in His glorious word whereby we might align ourselves in perfect agreement with our God and Savior and be empowered to lovingly walk by/with/in His Spirit victoriously in these last days.
Live for the King.
End note – I was thinking while holding my grandson about Psalm 119:29, “Remove from me the way of lying: and grant me thy law graciously.” The Lord impressed upon me in a clear and simple way how without godly instructions we would have no hope but to go our own way and as mere brute beast only do what is right in our own eyes. That if I love my grandson I would teach him and live so as to be an example for him. I saw for that moment so clearly that the most gracious thing God could have ever done was to give us His Logos; His holy Word, in letter, spirit and Flesh. For as Christ is grace and power of God, He is still our God’s Plumb-line whereby we are to walk even as He walked. Flesh cannot do this, it must be brought under the subjection of the cross that Christ in us may work through us mightily.