What was nailed to the cross in Colossians 2:13-14?

There is some question as to what was nailed to the cross in Colossians 2:13-14. Was it our sins, or was it theLaw, the certificate of debt we owe because of our sins?

Colossians 2:13-14 NASB

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.

Colossians 2:13-14 (KJV)

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;

I think the words to pay attention to in this passage, in the NASB, to understand what was nailed to the cross, are ‘canceled’, ‘certificate of debt’, and ‘decrees’ (in the KJV, ‘blotting out’, ‘handwriting’, and ‘ordinances’).  The word translated as ‘canceled’ is exaleipho.

Strong’s Number:   1813


Original Word Word Origin
exaleifo from (1537) and (218)
Transliterated Word TDNT Entry
Exaleipho None
Phonetic Spelling Parts of Speech
ex-al-i’-fo Verb
  1. to anoint or wash in every part
    1. to besmear: i.e. cover with lime (to whitewash or plaster)
  2. to wipe off, wipe away
    1. to obliterate, erase, wipe out, blot out
 NAS Word Usage – Total: 5
canceled 1, erase 1, wipe 1, wipe away 1, wiped away 1

This basically is the white wash, or obliterating, or erasing, or wiping away of something.

The word translated as certificate of debt’ is Cheirographon. This is a compound word, from ‘hand’ and ‘writing’. The idea is that this is a hand written note, a hand written document.

Strong’s Number:   5498   
Original Word Word Origin
ceirografon from a compound of (5495) and (1125)
Transliterated Word TDNT Entry
Cheirographon 9:435,1309
Phonetic Spelling Parts of Speech
khi-rog’-raf-on Noun Neuter
  1. a handwriting, what one has written by his own hand
  2. 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
 NAS Word Usage – Total: 1
certificate of debt 1

We see in Thayer’s Greek that this word is translated a document which indicates a debt is owed (http://biblesuite.com/greek/5498.htm).

Now, the word translated as decrees means Dogma in Greek.

Strong’s Number:   1378   
Original Word Word Origin
dogma from the base of (1380)
Transliterated Word TDNT Entry
Dogma 2:230,178
Phonetic Spelling Parts of Speech
dog’-mah Noun Neuter
  1. doctrine, decree, ordinance
    1. of public decrees
    2. of the Roman Senate
    3. of rulers
  2. the rules and requirements of the law of Moses; carrying a suggestion of severity and of threatened judgment
  3. of certain decrees of the apostles relative to right living
 NAS Word Usage – Total: 5
decree 1, decrees 3, ordinances 1

We see in Thayer’s Greek Lexicon that this word is considered to be either decrees or the rules and requirements of the Mosaic Law (http://biblesuite.com/greek/1378.htm). Strong’s DOES say it can mean opinion, as in judgement.

But it is not the transgressions which have been nailed to the cross. If it HAD been, the description would have been handwriting of transgressions. But this is not what Paul wrote. Instead, he wrote ‘handwriting of ordinances’. Paul was either writing of the debt incurred by transgressions of the Mosaic Law, or he was writing of the Law itself, having been nailed to the cross – not the sins themselves.

Even if Paul was not speaking directly of the Law, if Paul was writing of the debt incurred by the sins, then by cancelling the law’s indictment against the believer, the law is annulled to the believer. This is what Paul said in Ephesians 2:14-15:

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace,

And this is the same thing we see in Romans 7:6

6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

We see in Hebrews 7:18 the same thing:

18 The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless

So yes, the Law has been removed from being in effect against the believer.


2 Responses

  1. What gets me is if the Law=Commandments has been removed from being in effect against the believer.
    It shows in the OT that we are to obey the commandments of God. Why does it show in Matt 19:17..1 John 5:2-3..Rev 12:17..14:12 that we are to Obey the commanments of God ?

    • The gentiles were never given the Law.

      There is a difference between Christ’s Law and the Mosaic Law. We are freed from the Law of Moses when we come to Christ.

      The whole purpose of the Law is to lead us to Christ.
      Romans 10:4

      For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.

      Galatians 3:23-26

      23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

      But this does not free us from the law of God. God writes His laws upon our hearts.

      1 Corinthians 9:19-22

      19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.

      But this doesnt mean we are free from being righteous as defined by God. But there is a difference between being righteous and looking righteous.

      Those who have faith in Christ have the law of God written on their hearts and so naturally do what God wants.
      Romans 2:12-16

      12 For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; 13 for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.

      Hebrews 8:7-13

      7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. 8 For finding fault with them, He says,

      “Behold, days are coming, says the Lord,
      When I will effect a new covenant
      With the house of Israel and with the house of Judah;
      9 Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers
      On the day when I took them by the hand
      To lead them out of the land of Egypt;
      For they did not continue in My covenant,
      And I did not care for them, says the Lord.
      10 “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
      After those days, says the Lord:
      I will put My laws into their minds,
      And I will write them on their hearts.
      And I will be their God,
      And they shall be My people.
      11 “And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen,
      And everyone his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
      For all will know Me,
      From the least to the greatest of them.
      12 “For I will be merciful to their iniquities,
      And I will remember their sins no more.”

      13 When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.

      The best way for me to put it is an analogy: What is the difference between someone with brown hair who dyes their hair blonde and a natural blonde? Sooner or later, the natural color shines through.

      We are to be changed by God to live as God wants. We are free from the Mosaic Law. If we try to follow the Law, we have put on a veneer. But if God writes His Laws on our hearts, that will flow from within us and out into our lives. We will naturally do what God wants if His Laws are written on our hearts, which occurs when we have faith in Christ. What flows from our hearts is what God looks at – not merely our actions.

      Many people think that doing the right things cause God to rewards us with His presence. But in fact, doing the right thing is an expression of the faith God has given us when He adopted us and wrote His Laws upon our hearts.

      Mark 12:28-32

      28 One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 The scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him; 33 and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

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