Colossians 2:14
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;
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(14) Blotting out the handwritingi.e., cancelling the bond which stood against us in its ordinances. The “handwriting” is the bond, exacting payment or penalty in default. (Comp. Philemon 1:19, “I Paul have written it with mine own hand; I will repay it.”) What this bond is we see by Ephesians 2:15, which speaks of “the law of commandments in ordinances,” there called “the enmity slain by the cross.” On the meaning of “ordinances” see Note on that passage. The metaphor, however, here is different, and especially notable as the first anticipation of those many metaphors of later theology, from Tertullian downwards, in which the idea of a debt to God, paid for us by the blood of Christ, as “a satisfaction,” is brought out. The Law is a bond, “Do this and thou shalt live.” “The soul that sinneth it shall die.” On failure to do our part it “stands against us.” But God for Christ’s sake forgives our transgressions and cancels the bond. It is a striking metaphor, full of graphic expressiveness; it is misleading only when (as in some later theologies) we hold it to be not only the truth, but the whole truth, forgetting that legal and forensic metaphors can but imperfectly represent inner spiritual realities.

And took it.—Properly, and He (Christ) hath taken it away. The change of tense is significant. The act of atonement is over; its effect remains.

Nailing it to his cross.—At this point the idea of atonement comes in. Hitherto we have heard simply of free forgiveness and love of God. Now the bond is viewed, not as cancelled by a simple act of divine mercy, but as absolutely destroyed by Christ, by “nailing it to His cross.” It has been supposed (as by Bishop Pearson) that there is allusion to some custom of cancelling documents by the striking of a nail through them. But the custom is doubtful, and the supposition unnecessary. Our Lord “redeemed us from the curse of the Law,” by His death, “being made a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). St. Paul boldly speaks of that curse as a penalty standing against us, and as nailed to the cross with Himself, so to be for ever cancelled in the great declaration, “It is finished.” If any more definite allusion is to be sought for, we might be inclined to refer to the “title” on the cross, probably nailed to it. Such title declared the explanation of the sufferer’s death. The cancelled curse of the Law was just such an explanation of the great atoning death, and the title, declaring His mediatorial kingdom, showed the curse cancelled thereby.



Jeremiah 17:1
. - 2 Corinthians 3:3. - Colossians 2:14.

I have put these verses together because they all deal with substantially the same metaphor. The first is part of a prophet’s solemn appeal. It describes the sin of the nation as indelible. It is written in two places. First, on their hearts, which reminds us of the promise of the new covenant to be written on the heart. The ‘red-leaved tablets of the heart’ are like waxen tables on which an iron stylus makes a deep mark, an ineradicable scar. So Judah’s sin is, as it were, eaten into their heart, or, if we might so say, tattooed on it. It is also written on the stone horns of the altar, with a diamond which can cut the rock {an illustration of ancient knowledge of the properties of the diamond}. That sounds a strange place for the record of sin to appear, but the image has profound meaning, as we shall see presently.

Then the two New Testament passages deal with other applications of the same metaphor. Christ is, in the first, represented as writing on the hearts of the Corinthians, and in the second, as taking away ‘the handwriting contrary to us.’ The general thought drawn from all is that sin’s writing on men’s hearts is erased by Christ and a new inscription substituted.

I. The handwriting of sin.

Sin committed is indelibly written on the heart of the doer.

‘The heart,’ of course, in Hebrew means more than merely the supposed seat of the affections. It is figuratively the centre of the spiritual life, just as physically it is the centre of the natural. Thoughts and affections, purposes and desires are all included, and out of it are ‘the issues of life,’ the whole outgoings of the being. It is the fountain and source of all the activity of the man, the central unity from which all comes. Taken in this wide sense it is really the whole inner self that is meant, or, as is said in one place, ‘the hidden man of the heart.’ And so the thought in this vigorous metaphor may be otherwise put, that all sin makes indelible marks on the whole inward nature of the man who does it.

Now to begin with, think for a moment of that truth that everything which we do reacts on us the doers.

We seldom think of this. Deeds are done, and we fancy that when done, they are done with. They pass, as far as outward seeming goes, and their distinguishable consequences in the outward world, in the vast majority of cases, soon apparently pass. All seems evanescent and irrecoverable as last year’s snows, or the water that flowed over the cataract a century ago. But there is nothing more certain than that all which we do leaves indelible traces on ourselves. The mightiest effect of a man’s actions is on his own inward life. The recoil of the gun is more powerful than the blow from its shot. Our actions strike inwards and there produce their most important effects. The river runs ceaselessly and its waters pass away, but they bring down soil, which is deposited and makes firm land, or perhaps they carry down grains of gold.

This is the true solemnity of life, that in all which we do we are carrying on a double process, influencing others indeed, but influencing ourselves far more.

Consider the illustrations of this law in regard to our sins.

Now the last thing people think of when they hear sermons about ‘sin’ is that what is meant is the things that they are doing every day. I can only ask you to try to remember, while I speak, that I mean those little acts of temper, or triflings with truth, or yieldings to passion or anger, or indulgence in sensuality, and above all, the living without God, to which we are all prone.

{a} All wrong-doing makes indelible marks on character. It makes its own repetition easier. Habit strengthens inclination. Peter found denying his Lord three times easier than doing it once. It weakens resistance. In going downhill the first step is the only one that needs an effort; gravity will do the rest.

It drags after it a tendency to other evil. All wrong things have so much in common that they lead on to one another. A man with only one vice is a rare phenomenon. Satan sends his apostles forth two by two. Sins hunt in couples, or more usually in packs, like wolves, only now and then do they prey alone like lions. Small thieves open windows for greater ones. It requires continually increasing draughts, like indulgence in stimulants. The palate demands cayenne tomorrow, if it has had black pepper to-day.

So, whatever else we do by our acts, we are making our own characters, either steadily depraving or steadily improving them. There will come a slight slow change, almost unnoticed but most certain, as a dim film will creep over the peach, robbing it of all its bloom, or some microscopic growth will steal across a clearly cut inscription, or a breath of mist will dim a polished steel mirror.

{b} All wrong-doing writes indelible records on the memory, that awful and mysterious power of recalling past things out of the oblivion in which they seem to lie. How solemn and miserable it is to defile it with the pictures of things evil! Many a man in his later years has tried to ‘turn over a new leaf,’ and has never been able to get the filth out of his memory, for it has been printed on the old page in such strong colours that it shines through. I beseech you all, and especially you young people, to keep yourselves ‘innocent of much transgression,’ and ‘simple concerning evil’-to make your memories like an illuminated missal with fair saints and calm angels bordering the holy words, and not an Illustrated Police News. Probably there is no real oblivion. Each act sinks in as if forgotten, gets overlaid with a multitude of others, but it is there, and memory will one day bring it to us.

And all sin pollutes the imagination. It is a miserable thing to have one’s mind full of ugly foul forms painted on the inner walls of our chamber of imagery, like the hideous figures in some heathen temple, where gods of lust and murder look out from every inch of space on the walls.

{c} All wrong-doing writes indelible records on the conscience. It does so partly by sophisticating it-the sensibility to right and wrong being weakened by every evil act, as a cold in the head takes away the sense of smell. It brings on colour-blindness to some extent. One does not know how far one may go towards ‘Evil! be thou my good’-or how far towards incapacity of distinguishing evil. But at all events the tendency of each sin is in that direction. So conscience may become seared, though perhaps never so completely as that there are no intervals when it speaks. It may long lie dormant, as Vesuvius did, till great trees grow on the floor of the crater, but all the while the communication with the central fires is open, and one day they will burst out.

The writing may be with invisible ink, but it will be legible one day. So, then, all this solemn writing on the heart is done by ourselves. What are you writing? There is a presumption in it of a future retribution, when you will have to read your autobiography, with clearer light and power of judging yourselves. At any rate there is retribution now, which is described by many metaphors, such as sowing and reaping, drinking as we have brewed, and others-but this one of indelible writing is not the least striking.

Sin is graven deep on sinful men’s worship.

The metaphor here is striking and not altogether clear. The question rises whether the altars are idolatrous altars, or Jehovah’s. If the former, the expression may mean simply that the Jews’ idolatry, which was their sin, was conspicuously displayed in these altars, and had, as it were, its most flagrant record in their sacrifices. The altar was the centre point of all heathen and Old Testament worship, and altars built by sinners were the most conspicuous evidences of their sins.

So the meaning would be that men’s sin shapes and culminates in their religion; and that is very true, and explains many of the profanations and abominations of heathenism, and much of the formal worship of so-called Christianity.

For instance, a popular religion which is a mere Deism, a kind of vague belief in a providence, and in a future state where everybody is happy, is but the product of men’s sin, striking out of Christianity all which their sin makes unwelcome in it. The justice of God, punishment, sinfulness of sin, high moral tone, are all gone. And the very horns of their altars are marked with the signs of the worshippers’ sin.

But the ‘altars’ may be God’s altars, and then another idea will come in. The horns of the altar were the places where the blood of the sacrifice was smeared, as token of its offering to God. They were then a part of the ritual of propitiation. They had, no doubt, the same meaning in the heathen ritual. And so regarded, the metaphor means that a sense of the reality of sin shapes sacrificial religion.

There can be no doubt that a very real conviction of sin lies at the foundation of much, if not all, of the system of sacrifices. And it is a question well worth considering whether a conviction so widespread is not valid, and whether we should not see in it the expression of a true human need which no mere culture, or the like, will supply.

At all events, altars stand as witnesses to the consciousness of sin. And the same thought may be applied to much of the popular religion of this day. It may be ineffectual and shallow but it bears witness to a consciousness of evil. So its existence may be used in order to urge profounder realisation of evil on men. You come to worship, you join in confessions, you say ‘miserable sinners’-do you mean anything by it? If all that be true, should it not produce a deeper impression on you?

But another way of regarding the metaphor is this. The horns of the altar were to be touched with the blood of propitiation. But look! the blood flows down, and after it has trickled away, there, deep carven on the horns, still appears the sin, i.e. the sin is not expiated by the sinner’s sacrifice. Jeremiah is then echoing Isaiah’s word, ‘Bring no more vain oblations.’ The picture gives very strikingly the hopelessness, so far as men are concerned, of any attempt to blot out this record. It is like the rock-cut cartouches of Egypt on which time seems to have no effect. There they abide deep for ever. Nothing that we can do can efface them. ‘What I have written, I have written.’ Pen-knives and detergents that we can use are all in vain.

II. Sin’s writing may be erased, and another put in its place.

The work of Christ, made ours by faith, blots it out.

{a} Its influence on conscience and the sense of guilt. The accusations of conscience are silenced. A red line is drawn across the indictment, or, as Colossians has it, it is ‘nailed to the cross.’ There is power in His death to set us free from the debt we owe.

{b} Its influence on memory. Christ does not bring oblivion, but yet takes away the remorse of remembrance. Faith in Christ makes memory no longer a record which we blush to turn over, or upon which we gloat with imaginative delight in guilty pleasures past, but a record of our shortcomings that humbles us with a penitence which is not pain, but serves as a beacon and warning for the time to come. He who has a clear beam of memory on his backward track, and a bright light of hope on his forward one, will steer right.

{c} Its influence on character.

We attain new hopes and tastes. ‘We become epistles of Christ known and read of all men,’ like palimpsests, Homer or Ovid written over with the New Testament gospels or epistles.

Christ’s work is twofold, erasure and rewriting. For the one, ‘I will blot out as a cloud their transgressions.’ None but He can remove these. For the other, ‘I will put My law into their minds and will write it on their hearts.’ He can impress all holy desires on, and can put His great love and His mighty spirit into, our hearts.

So give your hearts to Him. They are all scrawled over with hideous and wicked writing that has sunk deep into their substance. Graven as if on rock are your sins in your character. Your worship and sacrifices will not remove them, but Jesus Christ can. He died that you might be forgiven, He lives that you may be purified. Trust yourself to Him, and lean all your sinfulness on His atonement and sanctifying power, and the foul words and bad thoughts that have been scored so deep into your nature will be erased, and His own hand will trace on the page, poor and thin though it be, which has been whitened by His blood, the fair letters and shapes of His own likeness. Do not let your hearts be the devil’s copybooks for all evil things to scrawl their names there, as boys do on the walls, but spread them before Him, and ask Him to make them clean and write upon them His new name, indicating that you now belong to another, as a new owner writes his name on a book that he has bought.

2:8-17 There is a philosophy which rightly exercises our reasonable faculties; a study of the works of God, which leads us to the knowledge of God, and confirms our faith in him. But there is a philosophy which is vain and deceitful; and while it pleases men's fancies, hinders their faith: such are curious speculations about things above us, or no concern to us. Those who walk in the way of the world, are turned from following Christ. We have in Him the substance of all the shadows of the ceremonial law. All the defects of it are made up in the gospel of Christ, by his complete sacrifice for sin, and by the revelation of the will of God. To be complete, is to be furnished with all things necessary for salvation. By this one word complete, is shown that we have in Christ whatever is required. In him, not when we look to Christ, as though he were distant from us, but we are in him, when, by the power of the Spirit, we have faith wrought in our hearts by the Spirit, and we are united to our Head. The circumcision of the heart, the crucifixion of the flesh, the death and burial to sin and to the world, and the resurrection to newness of life, set forth in baptism, and by faith wrought in our hearts, prove that our sins are forgiven, and that we are fully delivered from the curse of the law. Through Christ, we, who were dead in sins, are quickened. Christ's death was the death of our sins; Christ's resurrection is the quickening of our souls. The law of ordinances, which was a yoke to the Jews, and a partition-wall to the Gentiles, the Lord Jesus took out of the way. When the substance was come, the shadows fled. Since every mortal man is, through the hand-writing of the law, guilty of death, how very dreadful is the condition of the ungodly and unholy, who trample under foot that blood of the Son of God, whereby alone this deadly hand-writing can be blotted out! Let not any be troubled about bigoted judgments which related to meats, or the Jewish solemnities. The setting apart a portion of our time for the worship and service of God, is a moral and unchangeable duty, but had no necessary dependence upon the seventh day of the week, the sabbath of the Jews. The first day of the week, or the Lord's day, is the time kept holy by Christians, in remembrance of Christ's resurrection. All the Jewish rites were shadows of gospel blessings.Blotting out the handwriting - The word rendered handwriting means something written by the hand, a manuscript; and here, probably, the writings of the Mosaic law, or the law appointing many ordinances or observances in religion. The allusion is probably to a written contract, in which we bind ourselves to do any work, or to make a payment, and which remains in force against us until the bond is cancelled. That might be done, either by blotting out the names, or by drawing lines through it, or, as appears to have been practiced in the East, by driving a nail through it. The Jewish ceremonial law is here represented as such a contract, binding those under it to its observance, until it was nailed to the cross. The meaning here is, that the burdensome requirements of the Mosaic law are abolished, and that its necessity is superseded by the death of Christ. His death had the same effect, in reference to those ordinances, as if they had been blotted from the statute-book. This it did by fulfilling them, by introducing a more perfect system, and by rendering their observance no longer necessary, since all that they were designed to typify had been now accomplished in a better way; compare the notes at Ephesians 2:15.

Of ordinances - Prescribing the numerous rites and ceremonies of the Jewish religion.

That was against us - That is, against our peace, happiness, comfort; or in other words, which was oppressive and burdensome; compare the notes at Acts 15:10. Those ordinances bound and lettered the soul, restrained the expansive spirit of true piety which seeks the salvation of all alike, and thus operated as a hindrance to the enlarged spirit of true religion. Thus, they really operated against the truly pious Jew, whose religion would lead him to seek the salvation of the world; and to the Gentile, since he was not in a situation to avail himself of them, and since they would be burdensome if he could. It is in this sense, probably, that the apostle uses the word "us," as referring to all, and as cramping and restraining the true nature of religion.

Which was contrary to us - Operated as a hindrance, or obstruction, in the matter of religion. The ordinances of the Mosaic law were necessary, in order to introduce the gospel; but they were always burdensome. They were to be confined to one people; and, if they were continued, they would operate to prevent the spread of the true religion around the world; compare 2 Corinthians 3:7, note, 9, note. Hence, the exulting language of the apostle in view of the fact that they were now taken away, and that the benefits of religion might be diffused all over the world. The gospel contains nothing which is "against," or "contrary to," the true interest and happiness of any nation or any class of people.

And took it out of the way - Greek, "Out of the midst;" that is, he wholly removed it. He has removed the obstruction, so that it no longer prevents union and harmony between the Jews and the Gentiles.

Nailing it to his cross - As if he had nailed it to his cross, so that it would be entirely removed out of our way. The death of Jesus had the same effect, in regard to the rites and institutions of the Mosaic religion, as if they had been affixed to his cross. It is said that there is an allusion here to the ancient method by which a bond or obligation was cancelled, by driving a nail through it, and affixing it to a post. This was practiced, says Grotius, in Asia. In a somewhat similar manner, in our banks now, a sharp instrument like the blade of a knife is driven through a check, making a hole through it, and furnishing to the teller of the bank a sign or evidence that it has been paid. If this be the meaning, then the expression here denotes that the obligation of the Jewish institutions ceased on the death of Jesus, as if he had taken them and nailed them to his own cross, in the manner in which a bond was cancelled.

14. Blotting out—Greek, "Having wiped out"; coincident in time with "having forgiven you" (Col 2:13); hereby having cancelled the law's indictment against you. The law (including especially the moral law, wherein lay the chief difficulty in obeying) is abrogated to the believer, as far as it was a compulsory, accusing code, and as far as "righteousness" (justification) and "life" were sought for by it. It can only produce outward works, not inward obedience of the will, which in the believer flows from the Holy Spirit in Him (Ro 3:21; 7:2, 4; Ga 2:19).

the handwriting of ordinances—rather, "IN ordinances" (see on [2416]Eph 2:15); "the law of commandments contained in ordinances." "The handwriting" (alluding to the Decalogue, the representative of the law, written by the hand of God) is the whole law, the obligatory bond, under which all lay; the Jews primarily were under the bond, but they in this respect were the representative people of the world (Ro 3:19); and in their inability to keep the law was involved the inability of the Gentiles also, in whose hearts "the work of the law was written" (Ro 2:15); and as they did not keep this, they were condemned by it.

that was against us … contrary to us—Greek "adversary to us"; so it is translated, Heb 10:27. "Not only was the law against us by its demands, but also an adversary to us by its accusations" [Bengel]. Tittmann explains the Greek, "having a latent contrariety to us"; not open designed hostility, but virtual unintentional opposition through our frailty; not through any opposition in the law itself to our good (Ro 7:7-12, 14; 1Co 15:56; Ga 3:21; Heb 10:3). The "WRITING" is part of "that which was contrary to us"; for "the letter killeth" (see on [2417]2Co 3:6).

and took it—Greek, and hath taken it out of the way" (so as to be no longer a hindrance to us), by "nailing it to the cross." Christ, by bearing the curse of the broken law, has redeemed us from its curse (Ga 3:13). In His person nailed to the cross, the law itself was nailed to it. One ancient mode of cancelling bonds was by striking a nail through the writing: this seems at that time to have existed in Asia [Grotius]. The bond cancelled in the present case was the obligation lying against the Jews as representatives of the world, and attested by their amen, to keep the whole law under penalty of the curse (De 27:26; Ne 10:29).

Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us: having just before manifested God’s grace in the free forgiveness of all their trespasses, he doth here adjoin the foundation and means of this remission, viz. "Wiping out the bill of decrees," as one reads; or effacing and cancelling "the handwriting that was against us, which was contrary to us in traditions," as another, pointing after chirograph or handwriting: upon the matter in the explanation there will be no difference from our reading of it. Sin, in Scripture, is frequently accounted a debt, and the acquitting, the pardoning of it, Matthew 6:12 Luke 11:4 13:4: as the debtor is obliged to payment, so the sinner to punishment; only it is to be remembered, that though a private creditor may forgive his debt, yet unless the conservator of public justice do exempt an offender against the law, he is not acquitted, but is still under an obligation, bond or handwriting, having, as they under the Mosaic law, professed allegiance, Exodus 24:7, which upon default was an evidence of this guilt to avenging justice. The law prescribed by the ministration of Moses was appendaged with many ceremonial ordinances, to the observation of all which circumcision did oblige: this obligation interpretatively was as a handwriting which did publicly testify a man’s native pollution, and was a public confession of his sin and misery, as washings did testify the filth of his sins, and sacrifices, capital guilt to them who lived under it, and did not perform it; that they were accursed, Galatians 3:10,19, under a ministration of death, 2 Corinthians 3:7,9; while by laying their hands on the sacrifices, they did as it were sign a bill or bond against themselves, whereby conscience of guilt was retained, Hebrews 10:2,3, and a conscience of sin renewed, so that the heart could not be stablished in any firm peace, Hebrews 9:9 10:1; but they did confess sin to remain, and that they did want a removal of the curse by a better sacrifice. Upon the offering up of this, the law of commandments was blotted out, cancelled or abolished, even that contained in ordinances, saith the apostle elsewhere; see Ephesians 2:15, compared with, Colossians 2:16,20,21; and therefore there is no condemnation to them that are circumcised with the circumcision of Christ, being found in him, Colossians 2:11, with Romans 8:1 7:4.

Which was contrary to us; so that however the law, which was in itself holy, just, and good, through sin became in some sort contrary, or subcontrary, to us, in that it did serve to convict, and terrify with the curse for our default, Romans 7:5,9, aggravating all by its ceremonies, and shutting the gate of God’s house against the Gentiles, of whose number the Colossians were, strangers from the covenants of promise, Ephesians 2:12; yet this obligation was abrogated and annulled by the death of Christ, as the apostle expresseth it with great elegancy, having not only said that the debt was wiped out, defaced by the blood of Christ being drawn over it, as they used to blot out debts or draw red lines across them; but he adds,

and took it out of the way; taken out of the way, as the debtor’s bond or obligation is, being cancelled and torn to pieces, so that there is no memorial or evidence of the debt doth remain, all matter of controversy being altogether removed. Yet, if it may be, to speak more fully and satisfactorily, he annexeth,

nailing it to his cross; what could be more significant? Implying that Christ, by once offering himself a sacrifice on the cross, had disarmed the law, and taken away its condemning power, Romans 7:4 Galatians 3:13. It being customary (as learned men say) of old, especially in Asia, to pierce cancelled obligations and antiquated writings with nails; Christ by his plenary satisfaction did not only discharge from the condemnation of the law, Romans 8:1,34, but he did effectually, with the nails with which he himself was crucified, by interpretation, fasten the handwriting of ordinances to his cross, and abolished the ceremonial law in every regard, since the substance of it was come, and that which it tended to was accomplished, in giving himself a ransom for all, 1 Timothy 2:6, to the putting away of sin, Hebrews 9:26, and obtaining eternal redemption, Hebrews 9:12.

Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances,.... Various are the senses interpreters give of these words; some think by the handwriting is meant the covenant God made with Adam, Genesis 2:17, which being broken, obliged him and all his posterity to the penalty of death, but is cancelled and abolished by Christ; others, the agreement which the Israelites made with God at Mount Sinai, when they said, "all that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient", Exodus 24:7; which was as it were setting their hands, and laying themselves under obligation to obedience, and, in case of failure, to the penalty of the law; others, God's book of remembrance of the sins of men, out of which they are blotted when pardoned; others, the book of conscience, which bears witness to every debt, to every violation and transgression of the law, which may be said to be blotted out, when pacified with an application of the blood and righteousness of Christ; rather with others it signifies the ceremonial law, which lay in divers ordinances and commands, and is what, the apostle afterwards speaks of more clearly and particularly; and may be called so, because submission to it was an acknowledgment both of the faith and guilt of sin; every washing was saying, that a man was polluted and unclean; and every sacrifice was signing a man's own guilt and condemnation, and testifying that he deserved to die as the creature did, which was offered in sacrifice: or rather the whole law of Moses is intended, which was the handwriting of God, and obliged to obedience to it, and to punishment in case of disobedience; and this the Jews (z) call , "the writing of the debt", and is the very phrase the Syriac version uses here: now this was as a debt book, which showed and testified the debts of men; that is, their sins, how many they are guilty of, and what punishment is due unto them: and may well be said to be that

that was against us, which was contrary to us; its nature being holy, just, good, and spiritual, is contrary to the unholy and carnal heart of man, and its commands disagreeable to his mind and will; nor can he perform what it requires; nor can he be subject to it without the grace of God, any more than he can like its precepts; and besides, it is contrary to him, and against him, as it charges him with debts, and proves them upon him, so that he has nothing to say in his defence; yea, it proceeds against him, and curses and condemns, and kills him: but God has "blotted" it out, Christ having engaged as a surety for his people, to pay off all their debts; and this being done by him, God has crossed the debt book of the law, has blotted it out, so that this book is of no force; it does not stand against these persons, it cannot show or prove any standing debt, it cannot demand any, or inflict any penalty: nay, he has

took it out of the way; it is not to be seen or looked into as a debt book; it is abolished and done away; it is no more as administered by Moses, as a covenant of works, or as to its rigorous exaction, curse, and condemnation; this is true of the whole law of Moses, as well as of the ceremonial, which is utterly abolished and disannulled in every sense, because of the weakness and unprofitableness of it:

nailing it to his cross: to the cross of Christ, showing that the abolition of it is owing to the cross of Christ; where and when he bore the curse and penalty of the law for his people, as well as answered all the types and shadows of it: it is thought to be an allusion to a custom in some countries, to cancel bonds, or antiquate edicts and decrees, by driving a nail through them, so that they could not be legible any more: or it may be to the writing of Pilate, which contained the charge and accusation against Christ; and which was placed over his head upon the cross, and fastened to it with nails (a); every nail in the cross made a scissure in this handwriting, or bond of the law, that lay against us, whereby it was so rent and torn, as to be of no force: thus the Holy Ghost makes use of various expressions, to show that there is nothing in the law standing against the saints; it is blotted out, and cannot be read; it is took away, and cannot be seen; it is nailed to the cross of Christ, and is torn to pieces thereby, that nothing can ever be produced from it to their hurt and condemnation,

(z) Tzeror Hammor, fol. 87. 1, 3.((a) Nonnus in John 19.19. Vid. Niccqueti Titulus S. Crucis, l. 1. c. 18. p. 128.

{14} Blotting out the {t} handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

(14) He speaks now more generally against the whole service of the Law, and shows by two reasons, that it is abolished. First, to what purpose would he that has obtained remission of all his sins in Christ, require those helps of the Law? Secondly, because if a man rightly considers those rites, he will find that they were so many testimonies of our guiltiness, by which we manifestly witnessed as it were by our own handwritings, that we deserved damnation. Therefore Christ put out that handwriting by his coming, and fastening it to the cross, triumphed over all our enemies, were they ever so mighty. Therefore to what end and purpose should we now use those ceremonies, as though we were still guilty of sin, and subject to the tyranny of our enemies?

(t) Abolishing the rites and ceremonies.

Colossians 2:14. The participle, which is by no means parallel and synchronous with χαρισάμενος in Colossians 2:13, or one and the same with it (Hofmann), is to be resolved as: after that He had blotted out, etc. For it is the historical divine reconciling act of the death of Christ that is meant, with which χαρισάμενος κ.τ.λ. cannot coincide, since that work of reconciliation had first to be accomplished before the χαρίζεσθαι κ.τ.λ. could take place through its appropriation to believers.

ἐξαλείφειν] is to be left quite in its proper signification, as in Acts 3:19, Revelation 3:5; Revelation 7:17; Revelation 21:4, and frequently in LXX. and Apocrypha, since the discourse has reference to something written, the invalidating of which is represented in the sensuous form of blotting out, even more forcibly than by διαγράφειν (to score out; see Ruhnken, ad Tim. p. 81). Comp. Plat. Rep. p. 386 C, p. 501 B: ἐξαλείφοιενπάλιν ἐγγράφοιεν, Ep. 7, p. 342 C: τὸ ζωγραφούμενόν τε καὶ ἐξαλειφόμενον, Dem. 468. 1 in reference to a law: εἰ χρὴ τοῦτον ἐξαλεῖψαι, Xen. Hell. ii. 3. 51; Lucian, Imag. 26; Eur. Iph. A. 1486. Comp. Valckenaer, ad Act. iii. 19.

τὸ καθʼ ἡμῶν χειρόγραφον] the handwriting existing against us. What is thus characterized is not the burden of debt lying upon man, which is, as it were, his debt-schedule (Bleek), but the Mosaic law. A χειρόγραφον, namely, is an obligatory document of debt (Tob 5:3; Tob 9:5; Polyb. 30:8. 4; Dion. Hal. v. 8; and the passages in Wetstein; also the passages quoted from the Rabbins in Schoettgen), for which the older Greek writers use συγγραφή or γραμματεῖον, Dem. 882. 7, 956. 2; see also Hermann, Privatalterth. § 49, 12. And the law is the χειρόγραφον confronting us, in so far as men are bound to fulfil it perfectly, in order to avoid the threatened penal curse; and consequently because no one renders this fulfilment, it, like a bill of debt, proves them debtors (the creditor is God). We are not to carry the figure further, in which case we should come to the halting point in the comparison, that the man who is bound has not himself written the χειρόγραφον.[106] Hofmann maintains that this element also, namely, man’s having written it with his own hand, is retained in the conception of the figurative χειρόγραφον. But the apostle himself precludes this view by his having written, not: ΤῸ ἩΜῶΝ ΧΕΙΡΌΓΡ. (which would mean: the document of debt drawn by us), but: τὸ καθʼ ἡμῶν χειρόγρ.; which purposely chosen expression does not affirm that we have ourselves written the document, but it does affirm that it authenticates us as arrested for debt, and is consequently against us. The words τοῖς δόγμασιν appended (see below) also preclude the conception of the debt-record being written by man’s own hand. Moreover, the law is to be understood as an integral whole, and the various limitations of it, either to the ceremonial law (Calvin, Beza, Schoettgen, and others), or to the moral law (Calovius), are altogether in opposition to the connection (see above, πάντα τὰ παραπτ.), and un-Pauline. The explanation referring it to the conscience (Luther, Zwingli, Melanchthon, and others) is also at variance both with the word and with the context.[107] The conscience is the medium for the knowledge of the law as the handwriting which testifies against us; without the activity of the conscience, this relation, in which the law stands to us, would remain unknown. Exception has been taken to its being explained of the Mosaic law on account of the use of ἡμῶν, seeing that this law existed only for the Jews. But without due ground; for it is in fact also the schedule of debt against the Gentiles, in so far, namely, as the latter have the knowledge of the δικαίωμα τοῦ Θεοῦ (Romans 1:32), have in fact ΤῸ ἚΡΓΟΝ ΤΟῦ ΝΌΜΟΥ ΓΡΑΠΤῸΝ ἘΝ ΤΑῖς ΚΑΡΔΊΑΙς ΑὐΤῶΝ (Romans 2:15), and, consequently, fall likewise under the condemning sentence of the law, though not directly (Romans 3:19; Romans 2:12), but indirectly, because they, having incurred through their own fault a darkening of their minds (Romans 1:20-23), transgress the “ΚΟΙΝῸΝ ἉΠΆΝΤΩΝ ἈΝΘΡΏΠΩΝ ΝΌΜΟΝ” (Dem. 639. 22). The earnest and graphic description of the abrogation of the condemning law in Colossians 2:14 is dictated by an apologetic motive, in opposition to the Judaism of the false teachers; hence it is the more inappropriate to understand with Cornelius a Lapide and others the covenant of God with Adam in Genesis 2:16, as was already proposed by Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Theophylact (comp. Iren. Haer. v. 17. 3, and Tertullian).

τοῖς δόγμασιν] Respecting ΔΌΓΜΑ, command, especially of legal decrees, see on Ephesians 2:15; Wetstein on Luke 2:1; the dative is closely connected with χειρόγραφον, and is instrumental: what is written with the commands (therein given), so that the δόγματα, which form the constituent elements of the law, are regarded as that wherewith it is written. Thus the tenor of the contents of what is written is indicated by the dative of the instrument (ablativus modi), just as the external constituent elements of writing, e.g. γράμμασι in Galatians 6:11, and ΤΎΠΟΙς in Plat. Ep. 7, p. 343 A, are expressed by the same dative. Observe the verbal nature of χειρόγραφον, and that the dative is joined to it, as to ΤῸ ΓΕΓΡΑΜΜΈΝΟΝ (comp. Plat. l.c.: τὰ γεγραμμένα τύποις). This direct combination of a verbal substantive with a dative of the instrument is such an unquestionable and current phenomenon in classical Greek (see Matthiae, II. p. 890; Heindorf, ad Plat. Cratyl. p. 131; and especially Kühner, II. 1, p. 374), that the connection in question cannot in the least degree appear as harsh (Winer, Buttmann), or even as unnatural (Hofmann); nor should it have been regarded as something “welded on” by the interpolator (Holtzmann, p. 74), who had desired thereby to give to χειρόγρ. its reference to the law. The explanation given by many writers (Calvin, Beza, Vitringa, Wolf, Michaelis, Heinrichs, and others, comp. Luther), which hits nearly the true sense: the ΧΕΙΡΌΓΡΑΦΟΝ, consisting in the ΔΌΓΜΑΣΙ, is to be corrected grammatically in accordance with what we have said above. It is in complete variance with the arrangement of the words to join ΤΟῖς ΔΌΓΜ. to ΤῸ ΚΑΘʼ ἩΜῶΝ by supplying an ὌΝ (Calovius).[108] Bähr, Huther, and Dalmer (comp. de Wette) regard it as a more precise definition of the entire τὸ καθʼ ἡμ. χειρόγρ., so that Paul explains what he means by the χειρόγρ., and, at the same time, how it comes to be a debt-document testifying against us. So also Winer, p. 206 [E. T. 275]. This, however, would have been expressed by τὸ τοῖς δόγμασι καθʼ ἡμῶν χειρόγρ., or in some other way corresponding grammatically with the sense assumed. Ewald joins τοῖς δόγμ. as appropriating dative (see Bernhardy, p. 88 f.) to χειρόγρ.: our bond of obligation to the statutes.[109] But if χειρόγρ. were our bond of obligation (subjectively), the expression τὸ καθʼ ἡμῶν χειρ. would be inappropriate, and Paul would have said merely τὸ ἡμῶν χειρ. τ. δόγμ. It is incorrect as to sense, though not linguistically erroneous, to connect τοῖς δόγμ. with ἐξαλείψας, in which case it is explained to mean (as by Harless on Ephesians 2:15) that the abrogation of the law had taken place either as regards its statutes (Steiger); or by the evangelical doctrines of faith (the Greek expositors, Estius, Grotius, Hammond, Bengel, and others); or nova praecepta stabiliendo (Fritzsche, Diss. in 2 Cor. II. p. 168 f.). In opposition to these views, see Ephesians 2:15. Erasmus, Storr, Flatt, Olshausen, Schenkel, Bleek, and Hofmann have attached it to the following relative clause,[110] in opposition to the simple order of the words, without any certain precedent in the N. T. (with regard to Acts 1:2, Romans 16:27, see on those passages), and thereby giving an emphasis to the τοῖς δόγμ. which is not warranted (for the law as such contains, in fact, nothing else than δόγματα).

Ὃ ἮΝ ὙΠΕΝΑΝΤΊΟΝ ἩΜῖΝ] an emphatic repetition—bringing into more marked prominence the hostile relation—of the thought already expressed by ΚΑΘʼ ἩΜῶΝ, with the view of counteracting the legalistic efforts of the false teachers. Bengel’s distinction, that there is here expressed ipsa pugna, and by καθʼ ἡμῶν, status belli, is arbitrary and artificial. It means simply: which was against us, not: secretly against us, as Beza and others, including Böhmer, interpret the word, which Paul uses only in this place, but which is generally employed in Greek writers, in the Apocrypha and LXX., and in the N. T. again in Hebrews 10:27. The relative attaches itself to the entire τὸ καθʼ ἡμ. χειρόγρ. τοῖς δόγμ.

καὶ αὐτο ἦρκεν κ.τ.λ.] Observe not only the emphatic change of structure (see on Colossians 1:6) which passes from the participle, not from the relative (Hofmann), over to the further act connected with the former in the finite tense, but also (comp. on Colossians 1:16) the perfect (Thuc. viii. 100; Dem. 786. 4): and itself (the bill of debt) he has taken out of the way, whereby the abrogation now stands completed. A graphically illustrative representation: the bill of debt was blotted out, and it has itself been carried away and is no longer in its place; ἦρκεν αὐτὸ ἐκ τοῦ μέσου μὴ ἀφεὶς ἐπὶ χώρας, Oecumenius. ΑὐΤΌ denotes the handwriting itself, materialiter, in contrast to the just mentioned blotting out of its contents. For He has nailed it, etc.; see the sequel. Hofmann imports the idea: it in this (hostile) quality; as if, namely, it ran καὶ τοιοῦτο ὄν (Xen. Anab. vi. 5.13; Philemon 1:9).

The ἐκ τοῦ μέσου is our: “out of the way,” said of obstructions which are removed. Comp. Plat. Eryx. p. 401 E; Xen. Anab. i. 5. 14; de praefect. 3. 10, and the passages in Kypke, II. p. 323. The opposite: ἐν μέσῳ εἶναι, to be in the way, Dem. 682. 1; Aesch. Suppl. 735; Dorv. ad Charit. vii.3, p. 601. Thus the law stood in the way of reconciliation to God, of the χαρίζεσθαι κ.τ.λ. in Colossians 2:13.

ΠΡΟΣΗΛΏΣΑς Κ.Τ.Λ.] ΠΡΟΣΗΛΟῦΝ only found here in the N. T.; see, however, Plat. Phaed. p. 83 D (with πρός); Lucian, Prom. 2, Dial. D. I. (τῷ Καυκάσῳ προσηλωμένος); Galen. IV. p. 45, 9: Τῷ ΣΤΑΥΡῷ, 3Ma 4:9. Since the law which condemned man lost its punitive force through the death of Christ on the cross, inasmuch as Christ through this death suffered the curse of the law for men (Galatians 3:13), and became the end of the law (Romans 10:4), at the same time that Christ was nailed as ἱλαστήριον to the cross, the law was nailed to it also, and thus it ceased to be ἘΝ ΜΈΣῼ. Observe, moreover, the logical relation of the aorist participle to the perfect ἦρκεν. The latter is the state of the matter, which has emerged and exists after God has nailed, etc. The κ. αὐτὸ ἦρκεν ἐκ μέσου takes place since that nailing. In the strong expression προσηλώσας, purposely chosen and placed foremost, there is involved an antinomistic triumph, which makes the disarming of the law very palpably apparent. Chrysostom has aptly observed on the whole passage: οὐδαμοῦ οὕτως μεγαλοφώνως ἐφθέγξατο. Ὁρᾷς σπουδὴν τοῦ ἀφανισθῆναι τὸ χειρόγραφον ὅσην ἐποιήσατο; οἷον πάντες ἦμεν ὑφʼ ἁμαρτίαν κ. κόλασιν· αὐτὸς κολασθεὶς ἔλυσε καὶ τὴν ἁμαρτίαν καὶ τὴν κόλασιν. Nevertheless, ΠΡΟΣΗΛΏΣΑς neither figuratively depicts the tearing in pieces of the χειρόγρ. (Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Theophylact), nor is there any allusion to an alleged custom of publicly placarding antiquated laws (Grotius). According to Hofmann (comp. also his Schriftbew. II. 1, p. 370 f.), a public placarding with a view to observance is meant; the requirement of Israelitish legal obligation has become changed into the requirement of faith in the Crucified One which may be read on the cross, and this transformation is also the pardon of transgressions of the law. This is a fanciful pushing further of the apostolic figure, the point of which is merely the blotting out and taking away of the law, as the debt-document hostile to us, by the death of the cross. The entire representation which is presented in this sensuous concrete form, and which is not to be expanded into the fanciful figure of transformation which we have just referred to, is intended, in fact, to illustrate merely the forgiveness of sins introduced by χαρισάμενος κ.τ.λ. in Colossians 2:13, and nothing more. Comp. 1 Peter 2:24. It is to be observed, at the same time, that the ἘΞΑΛΕΊΦΕΙΝ and the ΑἼΡΕΙΝ ἘΚ Τ. ΜΈΣΟΥ do not represent two acts substantially different, but the same thing, the perfect accomplishment of which is explained by way of climax with particularising vividness.

[106] The relation of obligation and indebtedness in which man stands to the law (comp. Galatians 3:10) is quite sufficient to justify the conception of the latter as the χειρόγραφον, without seeking this specially in the promise of the people, Exodus 24:3 (Chrysostom, (Oecumenius, Theophylact, and others; also Hofmann); which the reader could not guess without some more precise indication. Indeed, that promise of the people in Exodus 24:3 has by no means the mark of being self-written, but contains only the self-obligation, and would not, therefore, any more than the amen in Deuteronomy 27 (which Castalio suggests), suffice for the idea of the χειρόγραφον, if the latter had to contain the debtor’s own handwriting. In accordance with the apostle’s words (τὸ καθʼ ἡμῶν χειρόγρ., see above), and with the type of his doctrine regarding the impossibility of legal righteousness, his readers could think only of the γράμμα of the law itself as that which proves man a debtor; comp. Romans 2:27; Romans 2:29; Romans 7:6; 2 Corinthians 3:6. Wieseler, on Gal. p. 258 (appealing to Luke 16:5 ff.), Bleek, and Holtzmann, p. 64, also erroneously press the point that the χειρόγρ. must necessarily be written or signed by the debtor himself.

Luther’s gloss: “Nothing is so hard against us as our own conscience, whereby we are convinced as by our own handwriting, when the law reveals to us our sin.” Melanchthon: “sententia in mente et corde tanquam scripta lege et agnitione lapsus,” in connection with which he regards the conscience as “syllogismus practicus ex lege ductus.”

[108] So also Wieseler in Rosenmüller’s Rep. II. p. 135 ff.: τὸ χειρόγρ. τὸ τοῖς δόγμ. καθʼ ἡμῶν ὄν.

[109] Comp. Wieseler on Gal. p. 258: “with reference to the statutes.” He takes Paul’s meaning to be, “our testimony with our own hand, that we have transgressed the statutes of the law of Moses.”

[110] So also Thomasius, Chr. Pers. u. Work, III. 1, p. 110. He considers as the χειρόγραφον not the Mosaic law itself, but the bill of debt which the broken law has drawn up against us. The very parallel in Ephesians 2:15Colossians 2:14. Partially parallel to Ephesians 2:15. Apparently Paul now passes to the historic fact which supplied the ground for the forgiveness. χαρισ. therefore refers to the subjective appropriation of the objective blotting out of the bond in the death of Christ.—ἐξαλείψας: “having blotted out,” i.e., having cancelled.—τὸ καθʼ ἡμῶν χειρόγραφον τοῖς δόγμασιν. The original sense of χειρόγ. is handwriting, but it had come to mean a bond or note of hand. It is generally agreed that the reference here is to the Law (cf. Ephesians 2:15, τὸν νόμον τῶν ἐντολῶν ἐν δόγμασιν). That those under the Law did not write the Law has been pressed against this. It is true that χειρόγ. means strictly a bond given by the debtor in writing. It is not necessary, with Chrysostom and many others, to meet the objection by reference to the promise of the people in Exodus 24:3. There is no need to press rigidly this detail of the metaphor. It is disputed in what sense we are to take the reference to the Law. Some (including Lightf., Ol., Sod., Abb.) think it embraces the Mosaic Law and the law written in the hearts of Gentiles. It is quite possible, however, that καθʼ ἡμῶν means simply against us Jews. But, apart from this, the addition of τ. δογ. points to formulated commandment. This is confirmed by Ephesians 2:15, where the similar expression is used, not of what Jews and Gentiles had in common, but that which created the separation between them, viz., the Jewish Law. Whether, with Calvin, Klöpper and Haupt, we should still further narrow the reference to the ceremonial Law is very questionable. It is true that circumcision and laws of meat and drink and sacred seasons are the chief forms that the “bond” takes. And it might make the interpretation of Colossians 2:15 a little easier to regard the ceremonial as that part of the Law specially given by angels. But this distinction between the moral and ceremonial Law has no meaning in Paul. The Law is a unity and is done away as a whole. And for Paul the hostile character of the Law is peculiarly associated with the moral side of it. The law which slew him is illustrated by the tenth commandment, and the ministry of death was engraved on tablets of stone. It was the moral elements in the Law that made it the strength of sin. It is not certain how τοῖς δόγμασιν should be taken. Frequently it is interpreted “consisting in decrees”. For this we ought to have had τὸ ἐν δόγ. Ellicott says this construction “seems distinctly ungrammatical”. Others (including Mey., Lightf., Sod., Haupt, Abb.) connect closely with χειρόγ., in such a way that the dative is governed by γεγραμμένον implied in χειρόγ. This is questionable in point of grammar. Winer says: “Meyer’s explanation, that which was written with the commandments (the dative being used as in the phrase written with letters), is the more harsh, as χειρόγραφον has so completely established itself in usage as an independent word that it is hardly capable of governing (like γεγραμμένον) such a dative as this”. (Winer-Moulton, p. 275; cf. also Ellicott ad loc.) It seems best then (with De W., Ell., Kl[15], Ol.) to translate “the handwriting which was against us by its ordinances”. For this we should have expected τ. καθʼ ἡμ. τ. δόγ. χειρόγ. or τ. τοῖς δόγ. καθʼ ἡμ. χειρόγ; but this seems to be the best way of taking the text as it stands, and perhaps the position of τ. δόγ. is for emphasis. The Greek commentators, followed by Bengel, explained the passage to mean having blotted out the Law by the doctrines of the Gospel. But δόγ. is a most un-Pauline, because legalist, expression for the Gospel, and by itself could not mean Christian doctrines. Nor is the sense it gives Pauline, for it was not by the teaching of the Gospel, but by the death of Christ, that the Law was done away. Erasmus’ view (followed by Hofm.) that τ. δόγ. should be connected with what follows is very improbable.—ὃ ἦν ὑπεναντίον ἡμῖν: stronger than καθʼ ἡμῶν, asserting not merely that the bond had a claim against us, but that it was hostile to us, the suggestion being that we could not meet its claim. No idea of secret hostility is present.—καὶ αὐτὸ ἦρκεν ἐκ τοῦ μέσου. “And it He hath taken out of the midst.” The change from aorist to perfect is significant, as expressing the abiding character of the abolition. Lightfoot thinks that a change of subject takes place here, from God to Christ. His reason is that Christ must be the subject of ἀπεκδ., since “no grammatical meaning can be assigned to ἀπεκδυσάμενος, by which it could be understood of God the Father”. Since, however, no change of subject is hinted at in the passage, and would involve great difficulty, it is more reasonable to conclude that an interpretation which requires Christ to be the subject of ἀπεκδ. is self-condemned.—προσηλώσας αὐτὸ τῷ σταυρῷ: “having nailed it to the cross”. When Christ was crucified, God nailed the Law to His cross. Thus it, like the flesh, was abrogated, sharing His death. The bond therefore no longer exists for us. To explain the words by reference to a custom of driving a nail through documents to cancel them, is not only to call in a questionable fact (see Field, Notes on Transl. of the N.T., p. 196), but to dilute in the most tasteless way one of Paul’s most striking and suggestive phrases. Quite on a level with it is Field’s own suggestion as to “this seemingly superfluous addition” (!) that the reference is to the custom of hanging up spoils of war in temples. Zahn (Einl. in das N.T., i., 335) draws a distinction between what was written on the bond and was blotted out by God, and the bond itself which was nailed to the cross and taken out of the way. We thus have two thoughts expressed: the removal of guilt incurred by transgression of the Law, and the abolition of the Law itself. It is questionable if this distinction is justified. The object is the same, αὐτὸ simply repeats χειρόγραφον.

[15] Klöpper.

14. blotting out] cancelled (Lightfoot).—The act of “forgiving” is described under vivid imagery. Cp. Acts 3:19; and see Psalm 51:1; Psalm 51:9; Psalm 109:14; Nehemiah 4:5; Isaiah 44:22; Jeremiah 18:23.

the handwriting] The bond, note-of-hand. The original word, cheirographon, meaning an autograph, is used often in this sense, and oftener (transliterated) in Latin than in Greek. So here the Latin Versions have chirographum decreti.—What is “the bond”? The question is best answered under the next words.

of ordinances] Lit., “with relation to ordinances; based on them, conditioned by them. “The bond written in ordinances; R. V.—These “ordinances” (dogmata) are not rites but, as the Greek word always means in the N.T., orders, decrees. The reference cannot be solely to the “decrees” of the Jewish Law, for here the case of all believing sinners is in view. The decrees are rather that of which that Law was only one grand instance, the Divine precept of holiness, however conveyed, whether by revelation or by conscience (see Romans 2:12-15). Man’s assent, however imperfect, to the lightness of that precept, is as it were his signature of obligation to “the bond”; a bond which his sin has made to be a terribly adverse engagement.

Lightfoot points out that the Greek commentators “universally” interpret the words rendered “of ordinances” quite differently; “by the dogmata, or doctrines (of the Gospel)”; the Gospel being the means of the abrogation of the Law. But this, as he shews, is (a) alien to the context, (b) out of harmony with an important parallel word in Colossians 2:20 below (see notes on that verse), (c) not supported by the usage (elsewhere in N.T.) of the Greek word dogma.

contrary] directly opposed (Lightfoot). The Greek is a single compound word, giving by its form the thought of a close and grappling opposition. The broken Law becomes an active enemy of the transgressor.

and took it out of the way] Quite lit., and it (emphatic) He hath taken out of the midst; from between us and God, as a barrier to our peace.—“He hath taken”:—the tense indicates the lasting and present result of the decisive act of atonement.

nailing it to his cross] Lit., to the Cross.—See Colossians 1:20 for a previous allusion to the Cross.—The Lord was “made a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13), “made sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21), in other words, treated as Transgression personified, in His atoning death. He there discharged our bond, and thus cancelled it, tore it up as it were; and the tearing up is vividly described as the piercing of it with the nails which had affixed Him, our Satisfaction, to the Cross.—There seems to be no evidence for the existence of any legal custom, such as the nailing up an abrogated decree in public, which could have suggested this language. It comes wholly from the Crucifixion.

Observe carefully the free use in Scripture of legal and commercial imagery to convey great aspects of the truth of our salvation.

Colossians 2:14. Ἐξαλείψας, having blotted out) A word appropriate in regard to writing: join it with ἦρκεν, took away.—καθʼ ἡμῶν, against us) This verse brings in the Jews speaking. [Not only was the law against us, καθʼ ἡμῶν, by its demands, but also an adversary to us, ὑπενάντιον ἡμῖν (Engl. Vers. contrary to us), by its accusation.—V. g.]—χειρόγραφον, handwriting) When a debt has been contracted, it generally follows, that the debtor by his handwriting acknowledges himself to be bound. The debt is forgiven: and then, and not till then, the handwriting is blotted out. Our sins were debts: our sins themselves were not the handwriting, but that which flowed from them as a consequence, the undeniable stain, the remembrance, the outcry (see Jeremiah 17:1-2), not so much in our conscience, as in the presence of God, while the law in various ways accuses and condemns us. [All this constitutes the handwriting.] Hebrews 10:3; Hebrews 10:17; 1 Corinthians 15:56. To be against (καθʼ ἡμῶν), and to be our adversary or inimical (ὑπενάντιον ἡμῖν), differ, as a state of war and an actual engagement. The handwriting was against us, but God blotted it out. The handwriting was an enemy to us, but God took it out of the way, Ephesians 2:15, seq.—τοῖς δόγμασιν, by the decrees) the determinations of His good pleasure. These are the decrees of grace.[But Engl. Vers. the handwriting of ordinances, viz. the legal ordinances.] The mention of the writing is included in that which was against us, not in that by which we were relieved.[10] The letter killeth, 2 Corinthians 3:6. See Ven. D. Hauberi tract. ad h. l.—ὑπεναντίον, an adversary [Engl. Vers. contrary]) ὑπὸ does not mean, secretly, underhand, in this compound, as is evident from the LXX.[11]—καὶ αὐτὸ) it also.[12]—ἮΡΚΕΝ ἘΚ ΤΟῦ ΜΈΣΟΥ) So ΚΑΤΑΡΓΉΣΑς, Ephesians 2:15.—ΠΡΟΣΗΛΏΣΑς, having nailed it to) The allusion is to the nails of the cross of Christ. The handwriting, being pierced through, is considered as abolished. It may be resolved into, after He had nailed it to His cross; for ἦρκεν, He took away, refers to the fruit of the resurrection. So also Colossians 2:15, after He had triumphed over them. The full exercise of power over the vanquished is now the beginning of the triumph, when the vanquished are bound, and are made ready for becoming a show. The triumph takes for granted the victory, and follows it after an interval. It perhaps took place when Christ descended into hell.

[10] i.e. No writing is mentioned in connection with the decrees of grace, as it is in the case of the law.—ED.

[11] Tittmann, however, says, Ὑπενάντιος and ἐνάντιος certè sic differunt ut illud denotet adversarium, nullâ manifestœ vis notione, potius contrarium. somewhat contrary, having a latent opposition to us.—N. T. Syn.—ED.

[12] Not, as Engl. Vers., the καὶ joining συνεζωοποίησεν and ἧρκεν: there is Asyndeton.—ED.

Verse 14. - Having blotted out the bond (that was) against us with (or, written in) decrees, which was opposed to us (Ephesians 2:14-16; Romans 3:9-26; Romans 7:7-14; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Galatians 3:10-22; 1 Corinthians 15:56; Acts 13:38, 39). The ancients commonly used wax tablets in writing, and the flat end of the pointed stylus drawn over the writing smeared it out (expunged) and so cancelled it (comp. Acts 3:19; Psalm 51:9; Isaiah 43:25, LXX). "God," not "Christ," is the subject of this verb, which stands in immediate sequence to those of vers. 12, 13 (comp. 2 Corinthians 5:19). It is the receiver rather than the offerer of satisfaction who cancels the debt: in Ephesians 2:15 (comp. Colossians 1:22) a different verb is used. Ξειρόγραφον ("handwritten;" a word of later Greek, only here in the New Testament) is used specially of an account of debt, a bond signed by the debtor's hand (see Meyer and Lightfoot). This bond (with its decrees) can be nothing other than "the law" (Ephesians 2:14-16; Acts 13:38, 39; Romans 3:20; Romans 7:25; Galatians 3:21, 22, etc.); not, however, the ritual law, nor even the Mosaic Law as such (as Meyer contends), but law as law, the Divine rule of human life impressed even on Gentile hearts (Romans 2:14, 15), to which man's conscience gives its consent (Romans 7:16, 22), and yet which becomes by his disobedience just a list of charges against him (so Neander and Lightfoot; see the latter on Galatians 2:19). Exodus 24:3 and Deuteronomy 27:14-26, indeed, illustrate this wider relation of Divine law to the human conscience generally. Τοῖς δόγμασιν is dative of reference either to καθ ἡμῶν ("against us:" qualifying or explanatory - in respect of its decrees) or to the verbal idea contained in χειργόραφον ("written in," or "with decrees"). The former explanation (that of Winer and Ellicott) is preferable. The Greek Fathers made it instrumental dative to ἐξαλείψας, understanding by these δόγματα τηε δοξτρινεσ (dogmas) of the gospel by which the charges of the Law against us are expunged. But this puts on δόγμα a later theological sense foreign to St. Paul, and universally rejected by modern interpreters. In the New Testament (comp. Luke 2:1; Acts 16:4; Hebrews 11:23), as in classical Greek, dogma is a decree, setting forth the will of some public authority (comp. note on δογματίζω, ver. 20). The added clause, "which was opposed to us," affirms the active opposition, as "against us" the essential hostility of the decrees of God's law to our sinful nature (Romans 4:15; Galatians 3:10: comp. Romans 7:13, 14). The emphasis with which St. Paul dwells on this point is characteristic of the author of Romans and Galatians. Ψπενάντιος occurs besides only in Hebrews 10:27; the prefix ὑπὸ implies close and persistent opposition (Lightfoot). And he hath taken it out of the midst, having nailed it to the cross (Colossians 1:20-22; Ephesians 2:18; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Romans 3:24-26; Romans 5:1, 2; Galatians 3:13; Hebrews 1:3; John 1:29; 1 John 4:10). A third time in these three verses (12-14) we note the transition from participle to coordinate finite verb; and here, in addition, the aorist tense passes into the perfect ("hath taken"), marking the finality of the removal of the Law's condemning power (Romans 8:1; Acts 13:39): comp. the opposite transition in Colossians 1:26, 27. The moral deliverance of ver. 11 is traced up to this legal release, both contained in our completeness in Christ (ver. 10). The subject is still "God." Cancelling the bond which he held against us in his Law, God has forver removed the barrier which stood between mankind and himself (2 Corinthians 5:19). Christ's place in this work, already shown in Colossians 1:18-23 (in its relation to himself), is vividly recalled by the mention of the cross. And the abolition of the Law's condemnation is finally set forth by a yet bolder metaphor - "having nailed it to the cross." The nails of the cross in piercing Christ pierced the legal instrument which held us debtors, and nullified it; see Galatians 3:13 (comp. Galatians 2:19, 20); Romans 7:4-6. Προσηλώσας may suggest the further idea of nailing up the cancelled document, by way of publication. At the cross all may read, "There is now no condemnation" (compare the "making a show" of ver. 15; also Romans 3:25; Galatians 3:1). (For vers. 11-14, compare concluding remark on Colossians 1:14.) Colossians 2:14Blotting out (ἐξαλείψας)

See on Acts 3:19 : compare Revelation 3:5. The simple verb ἀλείφω means to anoint, see on John 11:2. Hence to besmear. The compounded preposition ἐξ means completely. The compound verb here is used by Thucydides of whitewashing a wall; 1 Chronicles 29:4, of overlaying walls with gold. The preposition also carries the sense of removal; hence to smear out; to wipe away.

The handwriting (τὸ χειρόγραφον)

The A.V. has simply translated according to the composition of the noun, χείρ hand, γράφω to write. Properly an autograph, and specially a note of hand, bond. Compare Tobit 5:3; 9:5. Transcribed, chirographus and chirographon, it appears often in Latin authors, especially in law-books. So Juvenal, of a rascally neighbor, who declares his note of hand void, and the tablets on which it is written as so much useless wood (xvi., 41). Suetonius, of the promise of marriage given by Caligula to Ennia Naevia "under oath and bond" (chirographo, "Caligula," 12).

Of ordinances (τοῖς δόγμασιν)

See on Luke 2:1. Lit., in ordinances; consisting in, or, as Rev., written in, as suggested by handwriting. As Paul declares this bond to be against us, including both Jews and Gentiles, the reference, while primarily to the Mosaic law, is to be taken in a wider sense, as including the moral law of God in general, which applied to the Gentiles as much as to the Jews. See Romans 3:19. The law is frequently conceived by Paul with this wider reference, as a principle which has its chief representative in the Mosaic law, but the applications of which are much wider. See on Romans 2:12. This law is conceived here as a bond, a bill of debt, standing against those who have not received Christ. As the form of error at Colossae was largely Judaic, insisting on the Jewish ceremonial law, the phrase is probably colored by this fact. Compare Ephesians 2:15.

Which was contrary to us (ὃ ἦν ὑπεναντίον ἡμῖν)

He has just said which was against us (το καθ' ἡμῶν); which stood to our debit, binding us legally. This phrase enlarges on that idea, emphasizing the hostile character of the bond, as a hindrance. Compare Romans 4:15; Romans 5:20; 1 Corinthians 15:56; Galatians 3:23. "Law is against us, because it comes like a taskmaster, bidding us do, but neither putting the inclination into our hearts nor the power into our hands. And law is against us, because the revelation of unfulfilled duty is the accusation of the defaulter, and a revelation to him of his guilt. And law is against us, because it comes with threatenings and foretastes of penalty and pain. Thus, as standard, accuser, and avenger it is against us" (Maclaren).

Took it out of the way (αὐτὸ ἦρκεν ἐκ τοῦ μέσου)

Lit., out of the midst.

Nailing it to His cross (προσηλώσας αὐτὸ τῷ σταυρῷ)

Rev., the cross. The verb occurs nowhere else. The law with its decrees was abolished in Christ's death, as if crucified with Him. It was no longer in the midst, in the foreground, as a debtor's obligation is perpetually before him, embarrassing his whole life. Ignatius: "I perceived that ye were settled in unmovable faith, as if nailed (καθηλωμένους) upon the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, both in flesh and spirit" (To Smyrna, 1).

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