What Was Nailed to the Cross?

WHAT WAS NAILED TO THE CROSS? (A Communion Meditation by Jack Cottrell – November 2014)

Back on March 23 (2014), when giving our order of worship, our Sunday bulletin indicated that our Communion Hymn would be “Burdens Are Lifted at Calvary.” Only instead of saying “Burdens Are LIFTED at Calvary,” it said “Burdens are LISTED at Calvary”!

Well, this was obviously a typographical error, to be sure. But when I saw it, the first thing I thought of was Colossians 2:13-14, which (in the ESV) says that God has “forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”

Here the Apostle Paul says that our sins have been forgiven because of what happened “at Calvary.” He says that when Jesus died for our sins, something besides Jesus was nailed to the cross. What was this something that was nailed to the cross?

The Greek word used to name it is cheirographon. What does this mean? Some have thought it was the Law of Moses, following the KJV translation “handwriting of ordinances.” But this is not the idea. Note how the ESV translates it: “record of debt.” And the NASB: “certificate of debt.” And the NIV: “our legal indebtedness.” The point is this: what was nailed to the cross had something to do with a DEBT that we owe.

Let me tell you about this word, cheirographon. It literally means “something written by hand.” And in the Greek world of NT times, it was sometimes used of a document or statement written and signed by hand to acknowledge that someone OWED A DEBT to someone else. It is what we would call an IOU.

What does this have to do with the forgiveness of sins? Just this: every time we commit a sin against God and against his law, we incur a debt. Because of our sin, we OWE GOD something. What do we owe him? We owe him eternity in hell! So, every time we commit a sin, that is like we are writing out an IOU with our own hand: “Dear God: Because I just broke your law by doing so-and-so, IOU eternity in hell. Signed, Jack Cottrell.” How many sins are on your record? How many IOUs are stashed away in the file cabinet drawer in heaven with your name on it? Here’s the answer: If you are a Christian, NONE! Why not? Because you have never sinned? NO! Rather, because when Jesus went to the cross, he took all your IOUs with him, and NAILED THEM TO THE CROSS! This means: HE CROSSED THEM OUT!

What, then, is Paul telling us here? What was nailed to the cross? The list of your sins. The burden of your sins and my sins was LIFTED at Calvary, because our sins were LISTED at Calvary, and marked as paid! This is what we remember with joy and gratitude as we partake of the Lord’s Supper.

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What Was Nailed to the Cross? — 5 Comments

  1. As a Gentile, I was never under the Law of Moses. So if the IOU related only to that specific law code, Paul’s point in Colossians would be irrelevant to me.

  2. To focus the congregation on the Lord’s Supper from new perspectives is important in order to make it fresh yet still be true to God’s Word. Thank you for your love for Jesus and His sacrifice, and also for your desire to help me and others to keep Communion “alive” each Lord’s Day.

  3. Thanks Jack,

    Appreciated your incredibly sweet way of sharing the Gracefully forgiving God. What, we as Christians have in the cross.

    • There is nothing in this context about the Law of Moses. The “other commentaries” are wrong. This context is about personal sins of all people, no matter what law code they were/are under.

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