Saturday, May 03, 2008

A reflection on Colossians 2:14 - Law nailed to the cross?

Col 2:14 (KJV)
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... (KJV)

I heard a sermon today aganist the idea of antinomianism (there is no more Law for Christians). One of the main verses in contention is Col 2:14. It was a classic one I have heard before and it was delivered well. But I feel strongly about this particular verse and how it has not been critically analyzed by a good portion of Christian denominations.

Let me breakdown the two arguments:

ANTINOMIANISM: According to Col 2:14, the Laws of Moses such as the Ten Commandments no longer apply to a Christian. They are merely 'suggestions'.

SERMON COUNTERARGUMENT: According to Col 2:14, it's the Ceremonial Laws (ie: sacrificing lambs) that no longer apply to a Christian.

ANTINOMIANISM states that the Ten Commandments (found in Exo 20), the laws handwritten by God, was cancelled out by Christ dying on the Cross. In short, there is no need to be concerned of the commandments of God. The laws, from forbidding against adultery, to not murdering people, to keeping the Sabbath day holy -- working six days and keeping the seventh holy, all of this would no longer be required by God.

Most Adventist Christians, contend that Col 2:14 is specifically about ceremonial laws, about "ordinances" that's nailed to the Cross. This is supposedly why we no longer celebrate certain festivals, or why Christianity no longer needs to slay lambs on an altar like in the Old Testament.

My view: Both positions are incorrect.

The debate partly is dependent on the original Greek phrase in Colossians. The KJV phrase "handwriting of ordinances" is "cheirographon tois dogmasin". A modern translation has the phrase placed in this manner:

Col 2:14 (ESV)
by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (ESV)

While the KJV and ESV are translating the verse correctly, the ESV has it in the correct context. Cheirographon usually is applied to handwritten bonds, contracts, or debts. Dogmasin refers to legal requirements or demands.

Nothing in the verse says the law was nailed to the Cross, but rather the bonds of the laws itself. This is good news for Christians in both sides of the antinomianism argument -- because it basically means death was defeated when Christ died for your sins.

Paul, the author of this verse, wrote an earlier letter to the Romans that reflect very similar sentiments that I'm sure everyone can appreciate:

Rom 6:14 (KJV)
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (KJV)

Aren't you happy that through your faith, the wages of sin was nailed to the Cross?


  1. Meyer, Elizabeth (2004). Legitimacy and Law in the Roman World.
    Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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