Editorial – Types and Shadows, Part II

In Colossians 2:14–17, Paul speaks about a law. This passage, garbled in some Bible translations and often used by theological opponents of Seventh-day Adventists as proof texts as to why Christians do not need to keep the Sabbath, requires detailed review.

For this law, Paul gives a number of clear specifications and descriptions: (1) He says that Jesus has “wiped away that which was against us,” called the (2) “handwriting of the decrees or ordinances.” (3) These decrees or ordinances “were contrary to us.” The Greek word used means to be opposed, hostile, contrary, in opposition or opposition to someone or something. (4) This law was taken out of our midst and (5) nailed to the cross. (6) He disarmed or despoiled the rulers and authorities, exposing them and publicly triumphing over them in the cross. (7) Therefore, do not let anyone judge you in food, (8) in drink, (9) in respect of a feast, (10) of a new moon, (11) or of Sabbath or Sabbaths, (12) which things are a shadow of things about to be, (13) but the body is of Christ. (Verses 18–23 help provide contextual understanding of these verses.)

We will consider each of these specifications:

(1) According to the New Testament, it was the ceremonial law, not the moral law, which was against us. For example, Peter refers to the ceremonial law (circumcision symbolized the whole law) as a yoke which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear. (Acts 15:10.) Paul refers to it as a yoke of bondage. (Galatians 5.) The moral law, or Ten Commandments, is never referred to as a yoke of bondage but is described as a law of liberty. (James 2:10–12.)

(2) The Ten Commandments are never referred to in Scripture as being handwritten. This one fact alone proves conclusively that Paul is not here referring to them. The Ten Commandments were written by the finger of God, and not by human hand. (Exodus 24:12; 31:18.)

(3) The ceremonial law was declared by the apostles to be “contrary to us,” but the moral law is described as being given to us because God loves us, and it is not burdensome to keep. (1 John 5:3; Deuteronomy 33:2, 3.)

(4) The Ten Commandments are described as impossible to ever be taken away (Luke 16:17; Psalm 89:34), but this law is taken away. We know, therefore, that this law cannot be the Ten Commandment Law.

(5) The New Testament is definite about which law was nailed to the cross. Paul says, in Galatians 3, that there was a law added because of transgression. As explained in the previous editorial, there could not even be transgression without the moral law. The law added, because of transgression, was the ceremonial law, which was only to exist until the coming of Christ. Also, Paul says that this added law was commanded through messengers, or angels, in the hand of a mediator. He says that a mediator is not of one, but God is one. This again proves that he was not talking about the Ten Commandment Law, because it was not given through angels or messengers, nor ordained in the hand of a mediator. This law was given by God Himself, not through messengers, and it existed before there was a mediator or a need for one. (Galatians 3:19, 20.) Therefore, the law that was nailed to the cross would have to be the ceremonial law.

(7) Colossians 2:16 begins with the word, “therefore.” The context is clear that Paul is talking about the ceremonial law, not the Ten Commandments. “Therefore,” shows that what he says next continues to refer to the ceremonial law.

(8–11) Each of these descriptions would have to be referring to the ceremonial law. To make this fact absolutely certain, Paul says, in verse 17, “which things are a shadow of things to come.” The ceremonial ordinances, whether new moons, feast days, or yearly sabbaths (these yearly sabbaths were “beside the sabbaths of the Lord,” Leviticus 23:4–38), were all shadows of things to come, but the seventh day Sabbath was never a shadow of things to come. It was a memorial of creation, as distinctly stated in Exodus 20:8–11.