Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way…
I. THE HANDWRITING OR BOND.
1. "Law" means primarily the ceremonial law which was being pressed on the Colossians. The early controversies on this matter are difficult for us to understand. It is harder to change customs than creeds, and religious observances live on, as every Maypole on a village green tells us, long after the beliefs which animated them are forgotten. So there was a party Who refused the admittance of Gentile converts to the Church except through the old doorway of circumcision. This was the point at issue between Paul and these teachers.
2. But the modern distinction between moral and ceremonial had no existence in Paul's mind, nor in the Old Testament, where we find the highest morality and the merest ritual inter-stratified. The law was a homogeneous whole.
3. And the principles laid down are true about all law. Law, as such, is dealt with by Christianity in the same way as the God-given code.
4. Law, Paul tells us, is antagonistic. It stands opposite, frowning at us and barring our road.
(1) Is it then become our enemy because it tells us the truth? This conception is a strange contrast to the rapturous delight of Psalmists in it. Surely God's greatest gift to man is the knowledge of His will, and law is beneficent, a light, and a guide, and even its strokes are merciful.
(2) Nevertheless the antagonism is very real. As with God, so with law — if we be against Him, He cannot but be against us. We make Him our dearest friend or our foe. The revelation of duty to which we are not inclined is ever unwelcome. Law is against us because —
(a) It comes like a taskmaster bidding us do, but neither putting the inclination into our hearts nor the power into our hands.
(b) The revelation of unfulfilled duty is the accusation of the defaulter.
(c) It comes with threatenings and foretastes of penalty. Thus, as standard, accuser, and avenger, it is against us.
(3) We all know this. Each of us has seen that apparition like the sword-bearing angel that Balaam saw, blocking our path when we wanted to "go frowardly in the way of our heart." The law of the Lord should be "sweeter than honey," etc., but the corruption of the best is the worst, and we can make it poison. Obeyed, it is as the chariot of fire to bear us heavenward; disobeyed, it is an iron car crushing all who set themselves against it.
II. ITS DESTRUCTION IN THE CROSS.
1. The Cross ends the law's power of punishment. Paul believed that the burden and penalty of sin had been laid on Christ, and trusting ourselves to the power of that great sacrifice, the dread of punishment will fade from our hearts, and the law will have to draw the bolts of the prison and let the captive go free.
2. The Cross is the end of the law as ceremonial. The Jewish ritual had the prediction of the Great Sacrifice for its highest purpose. When the fruit has set there is no more need for petals. We have the reality and do not need the shadow.
3. The Cross is the end of the law as moral rule. Of course it is not meant that Christian men are freed from the obligations of morality, but that we are not bound to do "the things contained in the law" because they are there. Duty is duty now because we see the pattern of conduct and character in Christ. The weakness of law is that it has no power to get its commandments obeyed; but Christ puts His love in our hearts, and so we pass from the dominion of an external commandment into the liberty of an inward spirit. The long schism between duty and inclination is at an end. So a higher morality ought to characterize the partakers of the life of Christ. Law died with Christ on the cross that it might rise and reign in our inmost hearts.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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;