The Handwriting of Ordinances

Glen Young

We are New Testament Christians! With this battle cry upon our lips, we confidently wield the Sword of the Spirit. From COLOSSIANS 2:14, we affirm that the Old Testament is not binding upon people today. The New Testament is the complete standard of authority in religious matters today, because the “handwriting of ordinances” were blotted out having been nailed to the cross. Hence, it is not uncommon for some to accuse us of not believing in the Old Testament. And the way some brethren grumble and complain about studying the Old Testament scriptures, it makes me wonder.

What, exactly, was nailed to the Lord’s cross? The immediate context identifies the handwriting of ordinances as being the Law of Moses. In verse eleven, Paul contrasts “the circumcision made without hands” with the fleshly circumcision of Moses’ Law. Further, in verses sixteen and seventeen, he establishes that abstaining from certain meats or drinks and the keeping of holy days, new moons or Sabbath days were “a shadow of things to come.” The writer of Hebrews speaks of the insufficiency of Moses’ Law by referring to it as having, or being, a “shadow” of the things to come and was not the image, or reality, which should latter come in the Christ. All of this leads to the inescapable conclusion that the handwriting of ordinances, which were nailed to the cross, were the Laws of Moses as given to him by God. These Laws are preserved in written form in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

The Law of Moses was not the only sacred writings of the Jews. Jesus points to this in LUKE 24:44 when He refers to the Law of Moses, the prophets and the psalms as containing words about Him. It is recorded in JOHN 10:34 that Jesus quoted from PSALMS 82:6 and said “Is it not written in your law?” Thayer tells us that ‘nomos’ means, “anything established, anything received by usage, a custom, a law, a command: a) used of any law whatsoever ... b) used of the Mosaic law, and referring (according to the context) either to the volume of the law or to its contents ...” The Law of Moses is just one of the many definitions for the Greek word ‘nomos.’ In commenting on this verse Adam Clarke states, “The words which our Lord quotes are taken from [PSA. 82:6], which shows that, under the word law, our Lord comprised the Jewish sacred writings in general.” (from Adam Clarke Commentary). Which would have been the way the Jews used the word ‘Law.’ We conclude, then, that neither the Psalms (poetry), nor Proverbs - Ecclesiastes - Song of Solomon (wisdom literature), nor the prophets [both major and minor], nor the historical accounts of God’s dealing with man from Adam to Malachi, were abrogated at the cross. The Law that was repealed or made void at the cross, was the Law which Moses received and gave to the Israelites (DEUTERONOMY 5:1-3).

What is the point? Christians do a disservice to their God and themselves if they do not tap into the wealth of divine knowledge in the Old Testament scriptures. Christians do not try to justify their teaching and practice by the Old Testament scripture. Their appeal is to the teachings of Christ, the apostles and holy prophets of the first century. They, however, do not hesitate to study those things which were written afore time for they know they were written for their learning. A dear brother once told me, “I didn’t fully understand the New Testament until I had learned some things from the Old Testament.” Another brother wrote, “I think we make a criminal mistake in not teaching and using the Old Testament.” Truer words were never spoken.