What Was Nailed to the Cross?


by Rev. Jim Jester

June 9, 2024

SCRIPTURE READING: Colossians 2:13-15

“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; 15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.”


For the most part we will be in the Book of Colossians. Paul’s letter to the Colossians was primarily written to deal with certain doctrinal heresies that were doing much damage at Colosse. It was a mixture of Judaism and an early form of Gnosticism, which taught that Jesus was superhuman but not truly God. Thus those who believe in Christ must also go through angels (ref. Col. 2:18) to obtain deeper levels of spirituality. This reminds me of Roman Catholicism, which believes in the veneration of Saints, and praying to them; thus making them mediators in place of Jesus Christ. Another error insisted upon ritualism and asceticism (strict rules to merit favor; ref. Col. 2:21) as the foundation of moral teaching. Thus their theological ideas and ethical code alike were at fault. Both errors flowed from a common source—the false conception that evil resides in matter (flesh) — a source of many heresies(no marriage for priests; ref. Col. 2:23).

Another aspect of this heresy was the teaching of legalistic rules about food, the Sabbath, and special festivals (ref. Col. 2:16), as a means of salvation. Paul described these things as merely shadows of the reality that is in Christ. Some contended the Colossians could not be complete in Christ without submitting to the rite of circumcision (ref. Col. 2:13); but the apostle showed that they were the subjects of a superior circumcision. That “circumcision” was of a spiritual nature, being “quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses.”


Matthew 5:17-19:

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot [smallest letter] or one tittle [part of a letter] shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them,the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

It is clear from the words of Jesus the Christ, that the laws, statutes, and judgments of God were never changed or destroyed. The Apostle Paul also made this clear on numerous occasions, such as, “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.”(Rom. 3:31)

Of course, there are places where it appears that Paul abolished the law altogether, and some people have made the mistake of rejecting him as a legitimate Apostle. For example, they might pull a verse out of context, “…For ye are not under the law, but under grace.” (Rom. 6:14 b) And then fail to read the next verse, “What then, shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid!” (Rom. 6:15)

They might also misquote these verses:

  1. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.” (II Cor. 3:11)
  2. Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances.”(Eph. 2:15)
  3. 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.” (Col. 2:14)

But these people who misquote Paul, are not paying close attention to every word in the text of the Scriptures. They should ask themselves, “Why would Paul disagree with Jesus?” For God’s laws, statutes, and judgments were never changed or abolished. But, the only part of the law that was changed, after Christ, was the “ordinances” (ref. Eph. 2:15; Col. 2:14; Heb. 9:9-12). So let us examine these ordinances and see what changes took place after the death and resurrection of our Lord.

1. The ordinances of circumcision were changed from a fleshly ordinance to a spiritual “circumcision” of the heart. “But he is a Jew [Judaite], which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”(Rom. 2:29) Circumcision is a cutting off. So what is “cut off” in the heart? The inward nature of Sin is dealt a death blow by faith in Christ. It cleans up our intents and motivations, giving us greater ability to live a Christ-like life. Jesus even referred to this “circumcision” of heart, first in his Sermon on the Mount and again, a year later, in Capernaum:

“And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched.” (Mk. 9:43)

And besides the hand, our Lord also said this of the foot and the eye! Did He mean literally to “cut off” the parts of your body that cause the most temptation to sin? No! He was pointing at the “heart” of the problem: “Cut off” the sinful hand, the sinful foot, the sinful eye; for you do not want these things to cause condemnation to your soul. In other words, do not let the carnal nature control your life. Jesus was pointing out that sin is a very serious matter; not to be taken lightly. Let Sin be “cut off” by faith in Christ.

The book of Galatians is often used to say the entire Law was abolished. But a careful reading of the book will show that what Paul was writing about was the end of fleshly circumcision, as it pertains to salvation.

2. The blood ordinances of the temple rites were finished when Christ gave himself as a Lamb without spot or blemish. “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.”(Heb. 9:12) Once per year, on the Day of Atonement, Aaron offered a calf for himself and then a goat for the errors (v. 7) of the people (ref. Lev. 16:6-9). But Christ through the power of His own blood entered into the presence of God; and He did this only “once,” thus obtaining eternal redemption for Israel.

3. The ordinance of temple worship was also ended in Christ. We now worship in the tabernacles of our bodies, not physical buildings. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”(I Cor. 3:16) This is speaking of the whole body of believers who together make up the “temple of God.” And for the individual Christian, their body is the temple of the Holy Spirit: “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (I Cor. 6:19)

4. The ordinances of bread and drink offerings at the temple were replaced by the Lord’s Supper, which helps us to remember what He went through in obtaining this grace. Thus, we look forward to His coming kingdom.

5. The ordinances of various “washings” (baptismos) required by God in temple ritual was to symbolize the Holy Spirit that was to come after Christ under the New Testament reformation. Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.”(Heb. 9:10) Christ was that time of reformation.

When Jesus was Baptized (ritual washing) by John, he fulfilled the requirement of the ordinance to begin His ministry. These “washings” (baptisms) were used by the disciples, temporarily, as they faded out of use after the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost. The Apostle Paul, on more than one occasion, said these ordinances were done away with. Since Baptism replaced Circumcision, then it too was abolished as an ordinance.

6. The last thing that was put away and destroyed at the cross was the divorce decree of Israel:

“She [Judah] saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce; yet her false sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the harlot.”(Jer. 3:8, RSV)

This divorce had caused division between the two kingdoms for over 700 years, until Christ came. The Apostle Paul explains that Israel is no longer lost, and that the two houses are now united as “one.”

“Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles [lost ten tribes] in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision [Judah/Benjamin] in the flesh made by hands; 12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off [captivity]are made nigh by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.” (Eph. 2:11-17)

Therefore, we see that much of the law was changed and/or abolished in Christ; specifically the ordinances. “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”(Gal. 3:24)

If Jesus Christ destroyed the entire Law by “nailing it to his cross,” then why did Paul say, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:2)? The word “fulfill” also means “to do.”It also means “to explain to its highest meaning.” God’s moral laws will never change.

The modern seminaries teach that Christ destroyed the Mosaic law by giving two new laws. They misquote Matthew to support their theory:

“Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”(Matt. 22:36-40)

But in this passage there is nothing “new” here. Christ is simply summarizing the Law into two commandments: If a person loves the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his mind, he will not violate any part of the first five commandments (Ex. 20:3-11); and if a person loves his neighbor as himself, that person will not violate any of the last five of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:12-17). So the false teaching of “no law” is wrong and dangerous to society. It’s just plain anti-Christ.

Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (Jn. 14:15) There is no new commandment given by our Lord, only a consolidation of the eternal Law of our God contained in the Ten Commandments; it too being a summary of all the laws of God.


Let us consider the previous verses leading to our opening Scripture:

“In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: 12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” (Col. 2:11-12)

Keep in mind here, that whatever we can say about circumcision, we also can apply to baptism, for one replaced the other.

1. Christian circumcision is inward and spiritual: Ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands” (Col. 2:11). The manual circumcision was simply an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. This is very clear in the language of the Old Testament: No stranger uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into My sanctuary” (Eze. 44:9). The Lord Thy God will circumcise thine heart… to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart and all thy soul…” (Deu. 30:6) The argument of the apostle is that the Colossians had secured all the spiritual results aimed at (and symbolized) in the ancient rite, and by a better circumcision, because it was made without hands by the spiritual power of Christ. Thus, it was unnecessary for them or any other Gentiles to submit to the abrogated ordinance. The true circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter (Rom. 2:28-29).

2. Christian circumcision is complete: In putting off the body of the sins of the flesh” (Col. 2:11); or, as Bengel translates, putting off the body of the sins—that is to say, the flesh. Manual circumcision, according to the law of Moses, was the cutting away of only a small part of the flesh. But the true spiritual circumcision consists in renouncing and casting away the whole body(unit) of our corrupt nature. It is compared to a body because of the weight of guilt there is in it (Rom. 7:24), and the soul is completely surrounded by it, as it is with our natural body (Gen. 6:5). When the heart is circumcised, the total mass of sin is put off. Old things pass away; all things become new.

3. Christian circumcision is divine: By the circumcision of Christ” (Col. 2:11). It is done without hands, by the inward, invisible power of the Spirit of Christ. It replaces the external form of the law, and fulfills all its spiritual designs in a more perfect manner. The whole body of sin is mortified (subdued), and the soul is quickened and renewed.

4. Christian circumcision is realized by identification with Christ: Buried with Him, wherein also ye are risen with Him” (Col. 2:12). Burial implies previous death, and to secure true circumcision we must be spiritually identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. It is the familiar teaching of the New Testament that he who believes in Christ is said to die with Him, to be buried with Him, and to rise with Him (Col. 2:13; Rom. 6:11; Eph. 2:5). A circumcised heart cannot be obtained by mere human effort, by stern resolutions, or by the most advanced culture. It is secured only by a complete vital union with Christ, and a participation with Him in all He has done and suffered. With Christ the believer enters the grave where the vast body of sin dies, and is buried; and with Christ he emerges into a new and more heavenly life.

5. Christian circumcision comes by a spiritual baptism: Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him” (Col. 2:12). Baptism by water, like circumcision, may be an outward sign of an inward and spiritual grace. But it does not appear, in this verse, that there is any allusion to the ordinance of Baptism (not being upper case). The leading ideas and figures used in these two verses refer to spiritual realities: the death, burial, resurrection, the circumcision without hands, and the putting off of the body of “the flesh” (Sin nature), are all spiritual. And “baptism” is evidently of the same character — spiritual — for there is not even a hint of water anywhere in the text. So, it is by the “baptism” of the Spirit that the soul is united to and identified with Christ; that the believer may be said to be “buried” and to “rise” with Him. It is possible to die with Christ and to rise with Him without being baptized with water; but it is impossible to do either without the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Spiritual baptism is the grave of the “old man” and the blossoming of the new man.

6. Christian circumcision is received by faith: Through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead” (Col. 2:12). Faith is not a natural essence that flows from man’s heart. It is a divine gift, and is bestowed on man by a divine operation. Man can believe because God has given him the power to believe. The faith referred to is to be fixed on the power of God as shown in the resurrection of Christ from the tomb.


Let’s return to our text and examine Paul’s claim. 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.” (Col. 2:14) An almost identical statement by Paul is found in his letter to the Ephesians, “Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace.” (Eph. 2:15)

So what was nailed to the cross? It was the many ceremonial ordinances and the old marriage covenant that Israel was bound to by law. But with the death of Jesus, her former husband, she (Israel) was loosed from that law, and now was free to marry again under a new covenant. Isn’t that interesting? Same God — same people — new covenant. So, this new covenant was not for the all-encompassing “gentiles” of every race; it was for the same people of the former covenant, that being Israel (including Judah). Many things were nailed to that cross.

And what was against both houses of Israel? It was the many ceremonial ordinances that became oppressive, burdensome and divisive. You may recall there were two temples, one in Jerusalem and the other in Samaria; so even their religion drove a wedge between them. This as well as the dispersions kept the two houses of Israel from uniting as one new man.” Paul knew the value of the Spirit’s life in the Christian; “Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” (II Cor. 3:6)

Lessons we can take to heart:

1. All external ordinances/rituals are powerless to change the heart. They were the forerunner of what was to come in the N.T.

2. True circumcision (spiritual), as well as true baptism (spiritual), is accomplished by the baptism of the Holy Ghost.

3. To realize the renewing power of God, and the comforting of the Holy Spirit, faith is indispensable.

And so,Christ is the end of the law for Adam’s race. The law could never make us righteous; it could only condemn us, and show us the need of a Savior. The ordinances that were against us have been nailed to the cross with our Lord. Thus, we are no longer under law as a means of justification. Of course, our faith will produce righteous acts. For as James says, “Faith without works is dead.” And if I say I have faith and yet my works are not in accordance with it, then I am making a false boast of faith. But works always must follow and be the result of faith. And that means that I do not depend upon my works as a righteous basis in my standing before God. But rather, I stand in faith because of the Anointed.

SYNOPSIS: Was the Law of God abolished? What was changed by Christ?