Sunday, 23 April 2017
…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. Colossians 2:14
Where people go to get their theology explains where their theology stands. In the case of the Judaizers of the world, they would rather go anywhere than to Paul to get their theology. God gave the people of Israel a body of law which is termed “The Law of Moses.” It was written down for the people, and maintained for their instruction and life-practice. It is what is known to us now as the Old Covenant. In the coming of the Messiah, a new covenant was promised. That is found in Jeremiah 31:31. With the introduction of the New, the Old was annulled (Hebrews 7:18), it was made obsolete (Hebrews 8:14), and it was taken away (Hebrews 10:10).
That is what Paul is referring to here. The Law of Moses was, as he says, “wiped out.” The word in Greek is exaleiphó. It means to completely remove, obliterate, blot out, erase, wipe away, to cancel (such as when rubbing out a writing or seal impression left on a tablet). It was used to cancel obligations and/or entitlements to which extended benefits and entitlements. The explanation of the word is sufficient, but its use elsewhere testifies to the meaning. It is seen five times in the New Testament. Three are found in Revelation 3:5, 7:17, and 21:4. Each has the sense of either blotting out or wiping away.
In Christ, God has “wiped out the handwriting of the requirements that was against us.” The law stood against us by bringing death. Paul explains this in Romans 7, summing up this principle in verses 10 and 11 –
The law is a body of commandments, both moral and civil, which brings death, not life. It stands opposed to us because we are incapable of meeting its demands. And so God wiped out this handwriting – both moral and civil – that was against us, and “which was contrary to us.” The word translated as “contrary” means to set over against, or opposite. It is used one other time in the New Testament. In Hebrews 10:27 it is translated as “adversaries.” Because of our fallen human nature, the law stood against us. It was hostile to us as is an adversary.
But it is God’s law, God’s standard. And so in order to rescue us from it, He did something marvelous by sending Jesus. Jesus lived the life we could not live, and then He gave that life up in fulfillment of the law which stood opposed to us. In that act, it says that “He has taken it out of the way.” There is a change in tenses here. The “having wiped out” was in the aorist tense. At a specific moment, the handwriting of the law was wiped out. In having “taken it out” the tense changes to the perfect tense. It is taken out completely and forever. As Christ said on the cross, “It is finished.” The debt is paid, it is paid perfectly, and it is paid forever.
And this was accomplished through the death of Christ, God “having nailed it to the cross.” The verb is found nowhere else in Scripture. It is an explanation of how Christ was affixed to the cross, and it is a metaphor for what also happened to the law. What Paul is saying is that Jesus’ body is metaphorically used as the law itself. As He fulfilled the law, He thus represents the law, embodying it. In His being nailed to the cross, the law was thus nailed to the cross. In His death, the law died. The law which stood opposed to us is done. The verb is again in the aorist tense. At that defining moment when Christ was nailed to the cross, the law was nailed to the cross.
Question: How can it be that you would desire to go back to the law which died with Christ’s death? What type of perverse, unholy attitude would you display towards the work of the Lord? Was what He did for you of so little value that you would tread upon His shed blood by reinserting a law which was annulled through His death? May it never be so!
As a point of doctrine: The law remains in effect for those who have not come to Christ. In Christ, we are judged by Christ’s perfect fulfillment of the law. For those not in Christ, they will be judged by the revelation God has given them. For Gentiles without the law, they will be judged by God’s general revelation. For those with the law, they will be judged by that specific revelation. In both such instances, only death can be the verdict. In Christ, only life can be the outcome.
Life application: The law is fulfilled and annulled. Get over it.
Lord God, if I have but one boast in this life, it is in the cross of Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.