Was the Law of Moses applicable to Gentiles?


I have a question about the passage in Colossians 2:11-14:

"In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the un-circumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross."

Paul here is speaking to a Gentile audience. However, he states that "the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands" has been canceled for us through Christ. Since the Gentiles weren't accountable to the law of Moses because they weren't given it, then is Paul talking about the axiom of a law that was given separately to the Gentiles? This doesn't seem correct though since Paul includes himself in verse 14. It looks to me that the condemnation from the Law of Moses was still applicable to the Gentiles even though they didn't have it (not to say that they weren't accountable to God in another way). This is what confuses me.


"The record of debt" is the Law of Moses. It defined what sin was. "I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me" (Romans 7:9-11).

Violating God's law is a debt. "The one who despises the word will be in debt to it, but the one who fears the commandment will be rewarded" (Proverbs 13:13 NASB). Sin being a debt is behind the parable of servant who owed ten thousand talents (Matthew 18:23-35).

Thus, the law created a debt because of sin and yet had no solution to the problem. It only spoke of a future hope of salvation, which came by the Christ. It made demands that people did not keep. While the Gentiles were not under the Old Law, they were still guilty of the sins defined in the Law (Romans 2:14-15). That was Paul's point in Romans 1:18-32, the Gentiles were guilty of sin. Even though they were not under the Law of Moses, they were still guilty of many of the sins defined in the Law. That is because right and wrong stay the same. What the Law did was crisply defined it.

At the same time the Law, that record of debt, stood against the Gentiles. It defined sins, that the Gentiles were guilty of, but it also excluded the Gentiles. "Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh -- who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands -- that at that time you 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" (Ephesians 2:11-12). Thus, it was contrary, adversarial, or as Paul said in Ephesians 2:15-16 it was an enmity that divided people.

Paul says "us" because whether a person was Jew or Gentile, the law acted as an advisory. That is why Paul also called it the ministry of death (II Corinthians 3:7) and the ministry of condemnation (II Corinthians 3:9).


Wow, Jeff, thank you for the explanation. I understand it much much better now!

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