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Colossians 2:16-17 Commentary
Colossians 2:16 Therefore
one is to
act as your
(3SPAM) in regard to
Amplified: Therefore let no one sit in judgment on you in
matters of food and drink, or with regard to a feast day or a New
Moon or a Sabbath. (Amplified
Bible - Lockman)
Barclay: Let no one take you to
task in matters of food or drink, or with regard to yearly festivals
and monthly new moons and weekly Sabbaths. (Westminster
‘Seeing then that the bond is cancelled, that the law of ordinances is
repealed, beware of subjecting yourselves to its tyranny again. Suffer
no man to call you to account in the matter of eating or drinking, or
again of the observance of a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.
NLT: So don't let anyone condemn you for what you eat or
drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new-moon
ceremonies or Sabbaths. (NLT
- Tyndale House)
Stop therefore allowing anyone to be sitting in judgment upon you in
eating or drinking or in the matter of a feast day or a new moon, or a
Sabbath day (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: Let no one, then, judge you in eating or in
drinking, or in respect of a feast, or of a new moon, or of
THEREFORE: me oun:
MacPhail writes that
There is strong emphasis on
"therefore." It supports the following counsel by the all-sufficiency
of the Cross and of the glorious triumph of the Christ. Thus Paul
makes our completeness in Christ the sufficient reply to all false and
futile aberrations, seducing men away from Him, either wholly or in
Epistle of Paul to the Colossians)
The famous pastor
Joseph Parker wrote
A great amount of trouble is made
possible by pedantic obedience to things which are in themselves at
once transient and unprofitable. The Colossian Christians were
troubled by teachers who had a most imperfect knowledge of the purpose
of the great Redemption. There were slaves to the letter (law). They
could not see that religion might be intensely spiritual, having rise
far above all ceremony, and ritual, and elementary appointments of
every kind. The Apostle bids the Colossians take heart in remembrance
of the fact that they were living members of the living body of Christ
(cp Ro 14:10, 11, 12, 13)....The Gospel has the great message which it
would deliver to the inmost heart of the humblest believer: "The
kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace,
and joy in the Holy Ghost." Much of our religious trouble would be
dried up if we attended to the main things and regulated our lives by
the central and essential principles of the kingdom of Christ. The
Apostle Paul gave great liberty to men, according to the degree of
their faith and according to their spiritual capacity: "One believeth
that may eat all things: another who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not
him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which
eateth not judge him that eateth: for God had received him (Ro 14:2,
3). There have always been clever people in the Church whose object
has been to spoil the simplicity of faith. That have had fancies of
their own respecting holydays, and new moons, and Sabbath days. They
have had in their souls the very genius or demon of deception. They
would not allow the simplicity of Christ to stand in its own majesty.
The Apostle cautions Christian worshippers against all such foolishly
inventive persons: This I say, lest any man should beguile you with
enticing words" (Col 2:4).
The ritualism of faith has been
if not its absolute destruction.
Whatever these local references may
mean, we have corresponding temptations in our own time by which souls
are greatly troubled. One man has a garment, another a vessel, another
a symbol, another a ritual, another a prejudice -- and so on almost
endlessly, not knowing that the age of shadows has passed and the day
of the abiding reality has dawned. In Colossians 2:19 the Apostle goes
on the root of the matter "And not holding to the the Head..." (The
Epistles to the Colossians and Thessalonians)
Since Christ is indeed God in the flesh
and He is in you as your "hope
of glory" and you are "complete in Him" with all that being complete in
Christ (Col 2:10-note) entails
(Col 2:11, 12, 13, 14,1 5-see notes
12; 13; 14; 15)...then don't let someone try to
bully you or say you are less spiritual because you don't keep "kosher" or
keep certain days, etc. Christ has BLOTTED OUT the IOU against us and we
are no longer under the curse of the law (Gal 3:13) but we are under
grace and should so walk (Col 2:6-note).
Ray C. Stedman entitles Paul's warnings in (Col 2:16-23) "The
Things that Can Ruin Your Faith", those dangerous traps that await
us on every side as we journey...there are no new heresies. We find
the same things that can derail the spiritual life, repeated...Bad
theology always leads to bad practice! The mistaken ideas about the
work of Christ (which Paul corrects in Col 2:8-15) and His sufficiency have
corresponding errors on the practical side and the first one Paul warns
DON'T LET SOMEONE
PUT YOU UNDER THE LAW,
This is ritualism, just a variant form of
(Jesus fulfilled the Law, both it's moral demands and it's ceremonial
- Ro 8:3, 4-note).
So Paul says don't let anyone put you under legalism or by trying
to make yourself acceptable to God on the basis of externals -- by
keeping certain laws, rituals or decrees. God "made us
accepted in the Beloved" (in Christ) (Ep 1:6KJV-note).
Legalism is bondage! Now
that you are free in Christ, why would you want to be enslaved again?
(cp Gal 4:9) Peter
called such bondage a “yoke upon the neck” (Acts 15:10, cf. Mt 23:4, Gal 5:1, 2:4, Heb 9:8, 9, 10, 11). If keeping the Law could not make us spiritual
before we received
Christ as our fully sufficient Savior (fully and forever sufficient
to save us the first time at regeneration, our new birth, and then by
His Spirit in our daily sanctification), why do we think that keeping the
law can make us spiritual
after we are believers? Or as Paul rhetorically phrased it...
Are you so foolish? Having begun by
the Spirit, are you now being perfected (see
epiteleo) by the flesh (flesh)?
(Gal 3:3) (See
Chart contrasting in the flesh vs
in the Spirit)
Sadly many genuine believers in America are
living under some form of a yoke of bondage, thinking if I just do
this or do that, I'll be more acceptable to God. They may not say this
overtly but their actions betray them.
S Lewis Johnson introduces
his article on the "Paralysis of Legalism" with these
One of the most serious problems
facing the orthodox Christian church today is the problem of
legalism. One of the most serious problems facing the church in
Paul’s day was the problem of legalism. In every day it is the
same. Legalism wrenches the joy of the Lord from the Christian
believer, and with the joy of the Lord goes His power for vital
worship and vibrant service.
Nothing is left but cramped,
dull and listless profession.
Does this describe your
Christian life beloved?
It does not have to be so! Determine in your heart and mind to
diligently study the book of Colossians,
the truths about Who Christ is and who you
are in Christ [your
privileged position] and
Whose you now are [i.e., to Whom you now belong - cf.
therefore 1Co 6:18-note],
for this latter truth speaks of
your present responsibility
to live obediently in Christ, for Christ and through Christ - The
truth of Colossians can/will set you free in Christ as you
prayerfully, diligently seek Him [Mt 6:33-note,
in this great epistle as if you were in a spiritual desert - see
David's cry in Ps 63:1-Read
Spurgeon's encouraging note,
cp Pr 8:17, Isa 55:6)The truth is betrayed, and the glorious name of
the Lord becomes a synonym for a gloomy kill-joy. The Christian under
law is a miserable parody of the real thing. Ignatius was right when
he said to the Magnesians, “It is absurd to talk of Jesus Christ and
to practice Judaism.”1
At the heart of the problem of legalism is pride, a pride that refuses
to admit spiritual bankruptcy. That is why the doctrines of grace stir
up so much animosity. Donald Grey Barnhouse, a giant of a man in free
grace, wrote: “It was a tragic hour when the Reformation churches
wrote the Ten Commandments into their creeds and catechisms and sought
to bring Gentile believers into bondage to Jewish law, which was never
intended either for the Gentile nations or for the church.”2 He was
Of course, there is another side to this matter. It is not enough to
be free of law. There must also be that which Thomas Chalmers called,
“the expulsive power of a new affection.” Paul knew this for he not
only wrote, “Ye are not under law,” but quickly he added that the
Romans were “under grace” (Ro 6:14-note,
cp Ro 7:6-note).
Gratitude, the product of a Savior’s indescribable love, is the
spiritual force that leads to fruitful contact with the outsiders.
“Ah, Mr. Spurgeon,” said an old
woman whom the great-hearted preacher was visiting, “if Jesus Christ
does save me, He shall never hear the last of it!” That is the spirit
produced by grace.
“I’ve found a Friend, oh, such a
He loved me ere I knew Him;
He drew me with the cords of love,
And thus He bound me to Him:
And round my heart still closely twine
Those ties which nought can sever;
For I am His, and He is mine,
Forever and forever.”
The two sides are set forth by Paul
in Colossians 2:16 through Col 3:4, the section to which we have come
in our studies. The apostle, having so beautifully expounded the
believer’s position in union with Christ (Colossians 2:9, 10, 11, 12,
13, 14, 15), naturally turns to the implications and obligations
involved. Negatively, the believer has been emancipated from
legalistic and Gnostic practices (Col 2:16, 17, 18, 19), and exempted
from ascetic regulations (Col 2:20, 21, 22, 23). Positively, the new
position is to be followed by a new affection for the heavenly life
(Col 3:1, 2, 3, 4 ).
C. The Obligations of the True Teaching (Col 2:16 through Col 3:4).
1. Negative: emancipation from legalistic and Gnostic practices (Col
2:16, 17, 18, 19). (Studies
in the Epistle to the Colossians Part VIII The Paralysis of Legalism
-- By S. Lewis Johnson, Jr - Annual fee required but gives access to
over 27 excellent journals that are fully searchable online!)
This area of "doing something" to become more acceptable to God is a
persuasive ("red herring") argument (Col 2:4-note) that can derail your
faith and rob you of your true spirituality. The flesh is weak when it
comes to doing spiritual things truly pleasing to God (Mt 26:41), but it is very strong when
it comes to practicing religion, especially religious rules and regulations.
Somehow, adhering to the religious routine inflates the ego and makes
a person content in his self-righteousness (cf. Paul's warning in
Romans 10 where he is speaking of the Jews but speaks truth that is
applicable to us all when we walk according to the
Ro 10:2, 3, 4-note).
And so as believers we must continually recall that truth that we...
are in Christ Jesus, who became to
us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and
redemption (1Cor 1:30).
Christ's righteousness is
the only basis of our acceptability when we stand one day before His
holy throne (Jude 1:24,25). The false teachers were saying by their
judging believers that Jesus Christ is not sufficient for all the
spiritual needs of the Christian. They were claiming a “deeper
spiritual life” for all who would practice the Law. Outwardly, their
practice may seem spiritual; but in actual fact, these practices
accomplish nothing spiritual, for Christ Alone is our "spirituality"
and we please God by our faith and obedience (Heb 11:6-note,
Blaise Pascal rightly
Jesus Christ is the Center of
everything and the Object of everything; and he who does not know Him
knows nothing of the order of the world, and nothing of himself.
True Christianity is living under submission to and in the
power of the Spirit of God and the grace of God and realizing that we
are acceptable to God because of the internal change God has wrought
in us when He caused us to be born again to a living hope (1Pe 1:3-note)
- viz (to wit, namely) "Christ (is) in you (and He is)
the hope of glory"
and you are complete (completed filled to the brim) in Him (Col
So in the next section (cf. Col 2:20-note)
Paul again points back to our position in Christ and says let no one
put you under the law!
Beloved, if you are wrestling with
the subtle snare of legalism, let me recommend Dr Ray
Stedman's excellent message entitled
Legalism (in transcript format)
click here to download the
- hint right click and select
Save Target As and then you can listen on your Ipod
Jesus dealt with the law when He
canceled out the debt consisting of decrees against us, for as Paul
reminds the Roman saints
"you also were made to die to the Law
through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another,
to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God.
For while we were in the flesh (i.e., our physical bodies which
are themselves not inherently sinful but in the unsaved state are
subject to), the sinful passions (controlling
propensities/passions emanating from our corrupt nature inherited from
Adam), which were [aroused] by the Law (not created by
the Law which is itself holy but excited, called up or inflamed by the
Law which forbids their indulgence), were (constantly) at
work (energized over and over again - imperfect tense) in the
members of our body (referring to those sinful propensities made
use of our members as instruments, (purpose clause) to secure
gratification) to bear fruit for death ("Vivid picture
of the seeds of sin working for death"). But now we have been
released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so
that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the
letter." (Ro 7:4, 5, 6-notes).
Why was the Law against us? Because
we could not keep the law. Because you
could not live up to them.
As James teaches
whoever keeps the whole law and yet
stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. (Jas 2:10)
God's requires absolute
righteousness but our corrupt nature inherited from Adam prevents us from keeping the law
perfectly. God said
CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT
ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM.
That curse is death, so
we have to die. But Jesus took on flesh and
redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a
curse for us. (Gal 3:10)
For what the Law could not do, weak
as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the
likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin
in the flesh (Ro 8:3-note).
In light of what Christ has done on Calvary, the Colossians were to let no one "judge"
their standing before God on the basis of their observance or
nonobservance of the regulations of the Mosaic law. In such matters
the principle of Christian liberty comes into play.
As Paul reminded
the Galatians who were so prone to slip back into legalism
It was for freedom (see
eleutheria) that Christ
set us free (eleutheroo
in the effective
indicative mood = at the Cross He completely liberated us from the power of
the Law); therefore keep standing firm (our daily choice is to
remain unwavering since Christ has set us free) and do not be
subject (hampered, ensnared by a trap or coming into submission) again to a yoke (don't let "Judaizers" lasso you into the old
yoke of legalism) of slavery (douleia-do not again become slaves to any
rites, and customs, and habits). (Gal 5:1).
Elsewhere Paul insists that under some circumstances
should be voluntarily limited by one's respect for the tender
conscience of a weaker brother or sister (see Ro 14:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,
1Cor 8:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13). This caution
is necessary for those inclined to assert their liberty without regard of
the potential damage their actions might bring to a "weaker" brother
or sister in Christ. In the church at
Colossae, it was actually Christian liberty that was to be
asserted (albeit of course still with the weaker brethren in mind) in
order to counter the subversive attempts of the false teaching that
sought to undermine the believer's freedom
You've probably heard
the expression "red
term was coined from a method of training hunting dogs to follow the
scent of their prey. Once the dogs were following the proper scent,
their trainers would draw red herrings (a stinky fish) across their
paths. Initially, the dogs would be diverted by the scent of the
herring. They had to be trained to ignore that scent and instead stay
focused on the scent of their prey. So a "red herring" is something
that is introduced which diverts our attention from what we should be
pursuing. Paul's thesis is that the key to authentic
spirituality is pursuing Jesus Christ, because He alone is the Source
of all true spiritual knowledge,
in Whom are hidden all the
treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Col 2:3-note)
We pursue Him (Col 2:6-note)
by "receiving Him" into our hearts (Jn 1:11, 12, 13), and by "walking in Him" (which
practically means learning about Him [read, meditate and memorize the
Book], following Him [obeying His Word] and enjoying Him - cp Gal 5:16-note).
The Amplified version says
As you have therefore received
Christ, [even] Jesus the Lord, [so] walk (regulate your lives and
conduct yourselves) in union with and conformity to Him. (Col 2:6-note)
In order to effectively
pursue Christ, you have to be able to identify spiritual
and turn away from them. Paul identifies some of them in this section,
which is very apropos to the modern church for "stinking herrings"
are still very much present today.
In summary, we note that in Col 2:16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21,
22, 23 Paul take us from the truths primarily about Who Christ
is and our POSITION in Him to our PRACTICE in Him and in this section
he begins with the negative side of our spiritual practice by warning
us about what not to do.
IN THE CHURCH
G Campbell Morgan (From
his notes on 2Chronicles) has a pithy description of
the dangers of ritualism (formalism) in the modern
It is a warning to the spiritual
Church lest she should become formal, and so fail to establish
the nation. I have no desire to use any phrase in a controversial
sense here, but I am bound, in the interpretation of truth as I see it
in the Bible, to say this, the Bible knows nothing of the
establishment of the Church by the State, but it teaches forevermore
that the Church must establish the nation. In order to do this,
formal religion is infinitely worse than none.
By formal religion: I
mean high Church doctrine without full Church life. I mean Puritan
philosophy without Puritan experience. I mean a Nonconformist
conscience without conduct conformed to CHRIST. These things are
the essence of ritualism.
What is high Church doctrine
without full Church life? The doctrine of the Church that is
forevermore arguing for the correctness of its views, and cursing the
man who does not share them! That is a formalism which curses a
What is Puritan philosophy
without Puritan experience? There are some who think the Puritan
philosophy consisted in a passion for destroying buildings. Nothing of
the kind. The Puritan philosophy is that man is spiritual, and has the
right of access to GOD who is Spirit, without the intervention of man
or ceremony. Oh, the dignity of it! But if that is our philosophy, and
we do not go to GOD, our philosophy becomes paralysis instead of
power. Sometimes I am a little tired of hearing about the Puritanism
of the Free Churches. I want to see it in the life of those who know
what it is to have commerce with GOD. What do I care about the
accidentals in the Puritan movements of long ago - the speech, the
dress, the iconoclasm? If a man looks at these things only, he has
never seen the Puritan movement. The Puritan movement was that of
strenuous saints, who refused to let anyone come between themselves
and GOD. Hold that philosophy to be a fine one, and live six days a
week as though there were no GOD, and that is a ritualism which is a
peril to a nation.
What is a Nonconformist
conscience without Christian conduct? The presence of the crowd at
the platform meeting when we show our superiority to other people, and
its absence from the service of worship, and its neglect of the
worship of work. We need the conscience sensitive to the call of
CHRIST, the conscience that worships, and then strips itself to serve.
If I am forevermore talking about my conscience, and boasting in my
freedom, and fighting merely for the shibboleths of freedom; that is
ritualism, and I have no room to criticize the man who is a ritualist
in some other section of the Church.
The disaster of formalism.
What is it? It is not merely that the Church is a failure. That, of
course, is a disaster. I am not, however, prepared to shed tears over
the failure of a system. I am prepared to shed them over the fact that
when the system fails, the work is not done. That is the supreme and
final agony. If the Church of GOD is not what it ought to be, we have
a nation without salt and without light, a nation rushing headlong to
Godlessness, characterized by base ideals and ignoble conduct; by
cowardice in the presence of a wrong, and carelessness about the
importance of right. If that be the national condition, the blame is
with the Church of GOD. I do not say the churches, but the Church,
which is the Temple of GOD. If she were instinct with the life of
CHRIST, and allowed that life to fill and flood and flow through her,
the nation could no longer be careless.
I go back to the creation of the
temple, and what followed in Jerusalem. The multitudes were amazed,
perplexed, critical. The tragedy of the hour is that the Church does
not amaze London, does not perplex London, does not make London
critical. Why not? Because of her formalism. The world has done with
formalism. Whether it be her theatres, her public houses, or anything
else, she means business; and a world that means business is never
going to be influenced by a Church that is playing.
What we need is the Church, the
Temple, filled with the Presence, flaming in its glory, flashing in
its light, communicating its fire. Then we shall be able to say to the
evil statesman, You dare not! We shall be able to say to vested
interests, Disgorge! But formalism can do none of these things. What
then is the message of the second book of Chronicles? What is the
living word? "Strengthen the things that remain."
LET NO ONE
AS YOUR JUDGE
(sit in judgment)
IN REGARD TO FOOD OR DRINK : Me oun
tis humas krineto (3SPAM)
en brosei kai en posei:
14:3, 14:10 14:13 1Cor 10:28, 29, 30, 31; Gal 2:12;13 Jas 4:11) (Lv 11:2-47; 17:10, 11, 12,
13, 14, 15; Dt 14:3-21; Ezek 4:14; Mt 15:11; Acts 11:3-18;15:20; Ro
14:2,6,14, 15, 16, 17,20,21; 1Cor 8:7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13; 1Ti 4:3,
4, 5; Heb 9:10;13:9)
Lightfoot says let no one
"take you to task".
(no one) act
primarily signifies to distinguish, separate or discriminate; then, to
distinguish between good and evil, right and wrong, without
necessarily passing an adverse sentence, though this is usually
involved and certainly is in the present context. The false
teachers were judging the saints and passing judgment on
whether they were truly "spiritual" or not. These false teachers used
non-Biblical criteria (legalism, mysticism, ritualism) by which to
judge the saints. Paul presents the truth about the saint's
position in Christ in order to counter the lies of the
Remember if you you don't
stand on the truth, you're in danger of falling for the
lie. Stated another way, keep the truth and the truth will keep you
(from falling prey to the lie).
As John Blanchard says "Whatever
you add to the truth subtracts from it...Truth is objective, not
subjective, so sincerity or passion is no guarantee of a claim's
A T Robertson says the
Greek here is a
prohibition present active imperative third singular, forbidding the
habit of passing judgment in such matters.
Stated another way, the negative particle ("me") used in
combination with the
present tense (continuous action)
(command) means they are to stop allowing this to
happen, implying that some of the saints in Colossae were already
recipients of and falling prey to this destructive judgmental attitude.
letting these certain ones keep judging you".
The false teachers were telling the Colossians
the lie that CHRIST IS NOT ENOUGH but that they also needed to keep the Jewish
ceremonial rituals and legalism, as commanded in the Mosaic Law.
Paul counters with the
"since you have thus been delivered by Christ from the evils which
surrounded you and since you have been freed from the observances of
the law, let no one sit in judgment on you, or claim the right to
decide for you in those matters. You are not responsible to man for
your conduct, but to Christ; and no man has a right to impose that on
you as a burden from which he has made you free.” Paul conveys a similar idea to the
Roman saints writing that "[there is] now no condemnation (no
adjudging guilty of wrong) for those who are in Christ Jesus
(denoting close and intimate union with Him, like that between the
Vine and its branches) , who live [and] walk not after
the dictates of the flesh (who do not live to gratify the corrupt
desires and passions of the fallen flesh nature), but after the
dictates of the Spirit" (Amp, Ro 8:1-note)
As A T Robertson puts it
fire (Ed note: of judgment) has burned on and around the
Cross of Christ. There and there alone is safety. Those in Christ
Jesus can lead the consecrated, the crucified, the baptized life.
Do not let anybody come in, and
tell you that it is necessary for your salvation that you should
abstain from this meat or that drink, that there is a merit in fasting
for forty days in Lent, or that you cannot be saved without observing
such and such a holy clay. Your salvation is in Christ. Keep you to
that, and add nothing to this one foundation which is once for all
laid in him.
Do not put yourself under the
bondage of any rules and regulations that may be made by men. If you
choose to do anything, or to abstain from something else, because you
judge it to be right and beneficial, do so. Christ is your only Ruler
and Leader; and if he does not command anything, let it not signify to
you who does command, it
“Do not put yourselves under rules
and regulations which God has not ordained. If you think it is right
for you to abstain from certain drinks do so, but do not act thus
simply because others do so. If you abstain from certain meats,
because they have been offered to idols, and the consciences of others
might be offended if you partook of them, do not act thus as though it
would save you. Do not make yourself subject to the judgment of other
men, for Christ is your Law-giver and Lord.”
gospel of Christ does not pronounce condemnation like the Law. The
function of the gospel is to pardon while the function of the Law is
What Paul is warning about is still with us today. For example, some would say if you want to be "spiritual" then
don't smoke, don't chew and don't go with folks that do.
Paul says don't
let someone come along and say you need to keep certain laws, even
"good" ones (like you must have a 15 minute
devotional time every morning [it's not a bad idea but it won't make
you any more acceptable to God for you are already "complete in
Christ"], etc), if
you want to be really spiritual.
Paul says these are "externals"
but you have true spirituality already resident within, for you have
Christ within "you the hope of glory" (Col 1:27b-note) and He is the only One Who is truly spiritual. Now put
this truth into practice and walk by faith in the Spirit of Christ
cp Gal 5:16-note)
and He will daily set you apart from the world and unto Himself. (cp Ro 8:13-note,
cp Php 2:12-note,
The truth cannot be
repeated too often that as a believer, you are now and forever complete in Christ
(Col 2:9, 10-note).
You possess all the
"spirituality" (and all the resources to be spiritual) that you will ever receive
or that you will ever need in this life or the one to come! Christ is
totally and forever sufficient. Meditate on the great truth
about Christ in Colossians 1 and Colossians 2, allowing the Spirit to
transform and renew your thinking (2Cor 3:18, Ro 12:2-note),
and practice walking forth in obedience to the truth, confident
in our Lord's promise that the truth (Personified in Christ -
see Jn 14:6, cp Rev 19:11-note
- His name is called "Faithful and True") will set you free (Jn 8:31,
32) and when the Son sets you free, you are free indeed (Jn 8:36).
As Os Guinness says...
We must not just debate the
truth, we must know the truth. If we would live free, we
must not just know the truth, we must live in truth and
we must become people of truth.
goal of spiritual discipline now is to
work out (present
= a command to
continuously, daily, as your lifestyle carry it out “to the goal”, to
cultivate and fully complete it, work on it all the way to the "finish
line") your salvation (not your mate's, not your child's, but
yours! It speaks of direction, not perfection!) with fear and trembling (not slavish terror, but
wholesome, serious caution and a sense of self-distrust, with serious
caution, tenderness of conscience, with watchfulness against
temptation, always choosing to shrink from whatever might offend God
and discredit the name of Christ) for it is God who is at work in
you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Php 2:12, 13-see
Lightfoot says believers should exhibit
nervous and trembling anxiety to do right."
As Robertson quips
Paul has no sympathy with a cold and dead orthodoxy or formalism that
knows nothing of struggle and growth.
Peter would add that
if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to
each man's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your
stay upon earth (1Pe 17-note)
Our object is now not to please
keeping certain externals but to please God by our obedience which is
rooted in (motivated by)
our filial love for Him and is enabled by His Spirit. Jesus summed it
up by declaring that
If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. (John 14:15)
True spirituality is obeying our
Father as we are led by His Word and empowered by His Spirit. It is
when we are walking "in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in
all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the
knowledge of God" (Col 1:10).
God has taken the "IOU" representing our sin debt owed to
God because we have broken His Law and nailed it to the Cross
of Christ. Don't let anyone delude you about this glorious truth.
that because you are complete in Him you don't need to "keep" certain
days or "eat certain foods" to be "spiritual" or make yourself
"acceptable" to God. Don't let someone come along and say that
if you were really spiritual, you'd not eat meat on a certain day like
who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods (1Ti 4:3).
Regarding food and drink...
Jesus said to them (the Jews following Him), “I am the bread
of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me
will never thirst. (Jn 6:35, 40).
I am the living
that came down out of heaven (Jn 6:51, cp Jn 6:33, 35, 48, 50)
I am the bread of life.
“Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This
is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of
it and not die. “I am the living bread that came down out
of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live
forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of
the world is My flesh.” (Jn 6:48-51).
Then the Jews began to argue
with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”
So Jesus said to them, “Truly,
truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and
drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh
and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the
last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He
who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As
the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he
who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. This is the bread which
came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who
eats this bread will live forever.” (Jn 6:53-58).
Jesus explained to the woman at the well that the water
men need to be "spiritual" is spiritual water declaring that...
Everyone who drinks of this water (physical) shall thirst again but whoever
drinks of the water (spiritual water ~ spiritual life) that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the
water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water
springing up to eternal life. (Jn 4:13, 14)
Comment: When you have drunk
of the "water" that Jesus gives, you have no further need to be
concerned about what you physically eat or drink. Obviously gluttony
and drunkenness sins we should guard ourselves from but that is not
what the false teachers were talking about. They were trying to
making abstaining from physical eating and drinking a "vehicle" by
which one could "be more spiritual".
In regard - Literally
"in" and here the idea is "in the matter of".
from bibrosko = to eat)
literally means something that eats ("an eating") or gnaws. The main
NT use refers to the act of partaking of food (eating) (Ro 14:17-note,
1Co 8:4, 2Co 9:10, Col 2:16-note).
Brosis can refer to that which one eats (In Lxx
- Ge 25:28, Jer 41:20, 2Sa 19:43), and thus can mean a "meal" as in
Jesus uses brosis to mean food but with a figurative meaning in
Jn 4:32; 6:27, 55.
In Mt 6:19, 20-note
brosis is used figuratively to describe that which causes
erosion or corrosion (Compare the interesting derivation of the
English word corrode from Latin rodo = to gnaw.)
Brosis - 11x in 10v -
Matt 6:19, 20; John 4:32; 6:27, 55; Ro 14:17; 1 Cor 8:4; 2 Cor 9:10;
Col 2:16; Heb 12:16
NAS = eating(2), food(6), meal(1), rust(2).
Brosis - 35x in
non-apocryphal Lxx - Ge 1:29, 30; 2:9, 16; 3:6; 9:3; 25:28; 47:24; Lev
7:24; 19:7; 25:7; Deut 32:24; 1 Sam 2:28; 2 Sam 16:2; 19:42; 1 Kgs
19:8; Job 33:20; 34:3; Ps 14:4; 44:11; 53:4; 78:30; 104:21; Isa 55:10;
Jer 7:33; 15:3; 19:7; 34:20; Lam 1:11, 19; 4:10; Ezek 47:12; Dan 1:10;
Hab 3:17; Mal 3:11
David Holwick on food and
long associated with religion.
on what you can eat or must avoid.
famous - kosher laws.
- daily fasting during month of Ramadan.
followed Old Testament food rules.
issue - food offered to idols.
a) All food
is good and from a good God. 1Timothy 4:3, 4
anything, with thankfulness.
b) But if
someone is offended, abstain. 1Cor 8:9
1> We are
free, but we don't hammer people.
216-23 Shadow or Substance)
Drink (4213) (posis)
means the action of drinking or what one drinks (a drink).
There are only 3 uses of
posis in the NT...
John 6:55 "For My flesh is true
food, and My blood is true drink.
Romans 14:17 for the kingdom of God
is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy
in the Holy Spirit.
Paul echoed the warning
about foods in his letter to the saints at Rome writing...
I know and am convinced in the Lord
Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks
anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. For if because of food
your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do
not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. Therefore do not
let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil for the kingdom
of God is not [solid] meat and drink” means that the experience of the
kingdom of God does not consist of eating or drinking, or through an
act that is physical because the kingdom of God is spiritual and
experienced by faith (Ro14:14, 15, 16, 17).
Many saints today practice giving up certain
pleasurable activities (especially certain foods) during the 40 day period (
"Lent") preceding First Fruits (Easter), because they think that will
improve their relationship with God.
Some seek to become more acceptable to God by wearing special clothing
or uniforms. Many Jews keep a kosher kitchen although many of them do
not even know why.
When one Jewish woman was asked why she kept a
kosher kitchen she replied,
don't know. It is just part of our religion."
The Mormon cult teaches that a person cannot be a member in good
standing if he drinks tea or coffee. Seventh Day Adventists, insist
that a person must keep the Sabbath in order to please God. Paul says
don't let anyone judge your spirituality on the basis of these
shadows because you have the "substance", the "body",
Christ dwelling in you and He is your hope of glory.
What saith the Lord about food? Under the Mosaic Law
certain foods were classified as “clean” or “unclean”
This is the law regarding the
animal, and the bird, and every living thing that moves in the waters,
and everything that swarms on the earth, to make a distinction between
the unclean and the clean, and between the edible creature and the
creature which is not to be eaten. (Lv 11:46,47).
But Jesus made it clear that food was
neutral. It was what
came out of the heart that made a person spiritual or unspiritual,
is nothing outside the man which going into him can defile him but the
things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man...for from
within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts,
fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and
wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and
foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the
man." (Mk 7:15,
21, 22, 23)
Peter had to be told three times that
what God has cleansed
(referring to the command to kill and eat all kinds of four-footed
animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air),
no longer consider unholy (Acts 10:9,
People who religiously observe diets and
days give an outward semblance of spirituality (before men but not
before God), but these practices
cannot change their hearts. Legalism is a popular thing because you
can “measure” your spiritual life—and even brag about it!
God does not condemn those who eat everything (Ro 14:1, 2, 3, 4, 7-see notes
14:7). In fact,
God says that all foods may be eaten since they were
“created to be
gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.” (1Ti
describes such teaching that forbids certain foods as the "doctrines of
demons” (1Ti 4:1) whom Christ has disarmed (Col 2:15).
Self-denial can be merely
a cover for self-promotion as the following true story
illustrates: The proprietors of the “Worst Food in Oregon” restaurant
say that what they serve in the “worst food you ever ate, and the
service is even worse.” Actually, the restaurant is unusually clean
and the food is very good. Diners are served generous portions, and
the prices are very reasonable. The name is just a gimmick. It was the
idea of the owner who, when tempted to call his food “the best,”
figured he might get more attention by calling it “the worst.” His
strategy worked. Customers who come the first time out of curiosity
soon come back for more. They like the food so much that they even ask
what the chef recommends. With a twinkle in his eye he tells them to
“take their money and spend it at another restaurant down the road.”
John MacArthur says in
this section what Paul is talking about is...
What he's talking here about is ceremony, ritual. And, I mean,
it's characteristic of religion that it has its rituals. It was a
characteristic of Judaism which Paul is primarily addressing. You see,
they wanted to sit in judgment on people as to what they ate. Were
they kosher or not in their diet? And did they observe the appropriate
festival? And did they...did they maintain the Sabbath day? And then
those special new moon Sabbaths? That was their big issue. Ritual, did
they bow down? Did they genuflect? Did they participate in the mass?
Did they light the candles? Did they say their beads? Did they go
through whatever ritual they needed to go through? Did they have
fastings? Did they go through ceremonial washings? Did they
participate in rites and duties and behaviors that are intended
somehow mechanically to convey some kind of divine connection?
Paul says, "Don't get led astray by
that. Don't think for a minute that some external activity, some
external event in which you participate is necessary." The Jews were
even saying that, and some of them claimed to be Christians in the
time of the New Testament, that look, if you're a Christian, God's not
going to accept you even though you believe in His Son unless you're
circumcised. And they were making issues out of being circumcised, as
verse 11 in this passage mentions. They were saying, "Well, God's not
going to accept you unless you've been circumcised." And Paul in other
places says, "Forget circumcision, that had a place in the past, that
was a picture, that was a shadow. Sabbath had a place, it was showing
you something to come. Dietary laws had a place, they separated you
from the nations around you to protect you from the intrusion of their
false religious systems. All that God gave you had a place of
protecting, preserving you and depicting the reality to come but the
reality is here, Christ is here, set the shadow aside, the substance
is here, you don't need the ritual." (The
Sufficiency of Christ Alone)
OR IN RESPECT TO A FESTIVAL
OR A NEW MOON OR A (the) SABBATH(s) DAY(s): e
en merei eortes e neomenias e sabbaton: (Lv 23:1-44; Nu
28:1-29; Dt 16:1-17; Neh 8:9; 10:31; Ps 42:4; Ro 14:5,6) (Nu 10:10;
28:11,14; 1Sa 20:5,18; 2Ki 4:23; 1Chr 23:31; Neh 10:33; Ps 81 :3; Isa
1:13; Ezek 45:17; 46:1, 2, 3; Amos 8:5; Gal 4:10) (Lev 16:31;
All Jewish males
were required to attend Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles but there is
no such stipulation under the New Covenant. On the other hand keep in
mind that Paul is not forbidding us to have ''special days or diets''
but just that we don't rely on those to ''make us spiritual'' or do them
to please (impress) men rather than God, no matter how sincere we
might appear. (See
The reference to Sabbath day points clearly to the Jewish calendar,
for only Jews kept the Sabbath. That being the case, "religious
festival" and "New Moon celebration" must also point primarily to the
ritual calendar of the Jews. Paul's thought is that the Christian is
freed from obligations of this kind (Gal 4:9, 10, 11). No one,
therefore, should be permitted to make such things a test of piety or
fellowship (Ro 14:1ff-notes).
Eadie comments on true Christianity that
Its feast is daily, for every day is holy; its moon never wanes, and
its serene tranquility is an unbroken Sabbath. (Amen!)
In the early 1900's few Christians who were evangelicals would
travel on Sunday because they were taught that Sunday was a
carry-over of the Jewish Sabbath and that it was wrong to work or
travel on that day.
The movie Chariots of Fire illustrates how
strongly that view was held. These are modern day examples of what
Paul is warning against (although clearly Eric Liddell's heart was
right in refusing to race on the Sabbath). Any man-initiated
performance that is done without meaning with the goal of seeking to
please God or make one's self more spiritual is what Paul warns us
Commenting on the new moon, Vincent
The festival of the new moon
is placed beside the
Sabbath (Is 1:13, Ezek 46:1). The day was celebrated
by the blowing of trumpets, special sacrifice, feasting, and religious
instruction. Labor was suspended, and no national or private feasts
were permitted to take place. The authorities were at great pains to
fix accurately the commencement of the month denoted by the appearance
of the new moon.
Messengers were placed at commanding heights to watch the sky, and as
soon as the new moon
appeared, they hastened to communicate it to the synod, being allowed
even to travel on the
Sabbath for this
purpose. The witnesses were assembled and examined, and when the
judges were satisfied, the president pronounced the words it is
sanctified, and the day was declared new moon.
Those men who would bring Christians under the bondage of the Law make
artificial distinctions between the “ceremonial” and “moral” law, and
so they say the Sabbath has not passed away. That this is a false
notion can be
seen from the fact that
Sabbath command is the only one of the Ten Commandments not
repeated in the NT.
(2) The early believers,
following Christ’s resurrection and appearance on Sunday (Mk
met on Sundays (Acts 20:7).
(3) The Bible nowhere
distinguishes between the so-called “moral” and “ceremonial”
laws (this distinction was not made before the 13th century AD)
(4) This Colossian passage
explicitly condemns those who command Sabbath obedience.
(5) As Paul put it, the OT
Law (including the Sabbath) was only a shadow of
the things that were to come. The reality or “substance”
(“body”), is to be found in Christ (cf. Heb 8:5-note;
What the OT foreshadowed, Christ fulfilled (cf. notes Matthew
Ro 8:4-note). A “shadow”
is only an image cast by an object which represents its form.
Once one finds Christ, he no longer needs to follow the
(from Notes by Wayne Barber)
The devil wants our MINDS.
He knows he can't have our HEARTS, because they already belong to
Jesus (Col 2:15-note,
Heb 2:14, 15-note,
1Cor 6:20, etc). He wants to distract our minds from the
completeness we have in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Remember the enemy works upon the minds of those who are
not FIXED UPON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. Satan loves to get
a Christian who is not in the WORD, not focused on the Lord and
who does not understand that he's complete in Jesus. He can use
such an individual to bring DIVISION to the body of Christ. So
we've got to be SENSITIVE to his schemes ---- it may even be
that Satan will use a Sunday School teacher, pastor, or someone
else in leadership (cf Paul's solemn warning in Acts 20:28, 29,
30, 31, 32).
The key is not so much what they look like or how they speak,
but WHAT THEY ARE SAYING, is it "sound
(1Ti 4:6, 2Ti 4:3-note,
We need to be sensitive to the CONTENT (and the CONTEXT) of what
they say...is what they are saying "according to Christ"
and what is ERROR.
KEY TO COUNTERING THE COLOSSIAN HERESIES THAT ARE
"SLITHERING" INTO THE EVANGELICAL CHURCHES IN AMERICA IN
THE 21ST CENTURY IS TO REMEMBER THAT IN CHRIST YOU HAVE
BEEN MADE COMPLETE!
we learned that Jesus
"canceled out the certificate of
debt consisting of decrees against us".
He didn't do away with
it, but He fulfilled the Law (Ro 8:3, 4-see notes
8:4, Gal 3:13) by putting
Himself in the place of the Law. When I obey the Lord Jesus, the
Law is being fulfilled, because He is the embodiment of the Law.
Since He is, now I don't need to relate to a plan or a formula,
but simply to Him and to walk worthy of Him, pleasing Him in all
things. So that as you obey Him, the Law is being fulfilled
through your obedience, which equates with righteousness.
Remember that the Law itself cannot produce righteousness, but
Jesus can for He became to us righteousness (1Cor 1:30) and
through my obedience to Him the "fruit of righteousness"
is worked out in my life.
Jesus has conquered all the forces of evil so it follows that no
person has a right to JUDGE me as to whether I do or do not
observe the tenets of the Law of Moses. No one can judge me,
because the Law was already judged in Him. He became that curse
for me (Gal 3:13) and when I receive Him, I receive what He did
for me -- I died with Him, was buried with Him and was raised to
walk in newness of life (Ro 6:3, 4-see notes
6:4) so that the Law no longer has
claims on me
Jesus has claims over me, but the Law does not. Beware when you
hear someone say "Jesus is not enough...you've got to do this or
that." Your spiritual "antennae" should stand up as you recall
that you have been made COMPLETE in the Lord Jesus Christ and as
you obey Him, He takes care of the righteousness that the Law
demands but could never produce in my life. Keep in mind Paul
seems to be talking primarily to Gentile believers. It may be
that some leader was trying to draw them under the Law.
The false philosophers were saying that you can only eat and
drink certain things if you want to be really SPIRITUAL. Lev 11
describes foods that were clean and unclean. The LAW had a
definite purpose for the Israelites----to keep them SEPARATE
from the other nations. The LAW also probably had them eat
certain things for nourishment reasons. The Israelites couldn't
even associate with the people of other nations because their
diet was so different. Look out when you're sitting down and
eating with someone--watch how quickly your convictions go out
the door. How quickly you can become one of them when you eat
with them. When we come to Jesus we don't look at things as
clean/unclean because that has been done away with in Christ.
The following Scriptures illustrate how in Christ dietary laws
are done away with:
''there is nothing outside the man which going into him
can defile him; but the things which proceed out of the
man are what defile the man. If any man has ears to hear,
let him hear."
Acts 10:1ff re-iterates this principle when Peter had the vision
of the "unclean" foods that showed him that there was
nothing any longer that you could or could not eat.
Acts 15:1ff The Jerusalem Council concluded that there was no
longer anything unclean and food had nothing to do with
our standing with the Lord.
Ro 14:17, 18 "For the kingdom of God is not eating and
drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy
Spirit. For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable
to God and approved by men." (see notes
So what you eat
no longer affects your standing with God. Now on the other hand
"Rules" by themselves do not necessarily signify that something
is LEGALISM. The problem is when the RULES become the mode,
measure, method by which you come in right standing with God, by
which you become "spiritual". Jesus is the means of our
spirituality. Isn't it interesting that since Jesus is the Bread
of Life, that we would need to eat and drink certain things. He
is our food as He stated when He told them that He had food to
eat that knew not of and that His food was to do the will of Him
Who sent Jesus (Jn 4:34).
The FEASTS are listed in Lv 23:2ff "Speak
to the sons of Israel, and say to them, 'The LORD'S appointed
times which you shall proclaim as holy convocations-- My
appointed times are these: SABBATH, PASSOVER, UNLEAVENED BREAD,
FIRST FRUITS, WEEKS, ATONEMENT, BOOTHS. Paul teaches that the
shadow of the feasts has become the substance in Christ in
[1Co 5:7] "Christ our Passover" Jesus is the One to Whom all the
OT feasts pointed. Festivals were celebration times pointing to
what God had done and to what He was going to do. Today there is
no specific day, but in fact we should celebrate Christ every
moment of out life because He is the embodiment of all the feasts.
1Chr 23:31 which in reference to when they gave
their SACRIFICES- they were given "on the Sabbaths, the new
moons and fixed festivals..." Here is what God thinks
about KEEPING THE NEW MOON and W/O OBEDIENCE FORM THE HEART:
Isa1:13 "Bring your worthless offerings no longer, Incense is an
abomination to Me. New moon and Sabbath, the calling of
assemblies-- I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly.14
"I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, They
have become a burden to Me. I am weary of bearing them."
Christians can do the same thing by coming every Sunday to give
their offering, unemotionally mouthing the words to the hymns,
giving their token time to the church and leaving feeling that
they've done all that God wants them to do. Remember all the
SACRIFICIAL SYSTEM was pointing to the Lord Jesus Who has become
a sacrifice for us. He reconciled us by the blood of His cross.
He nailed those decrees to His cross.
So how do Christians now SACRIFICE and CELEBRATE? See Ro 12:1-note
(logical) service of worship"
See spiritual sacrifices God
desires today in [1Pe 2:5-note; Ps 50:14, 51:17, 107:22,
Php 4:19-note, Heb13:15,16-note]
You don't just PRESENT your bodies once a month at the "new
moon", but you do so moment by moment, (aorist active infinitive
) as a conscious attitude by one who has been made complete in
the Lord Jesus Christ. Don't let anyone trap you into adding
anything to Jesus.
Colossians 2:17 things
substance belongs to
Amplified: Such [things] are only the shadow of
things that are to come, and they have only a symbolic value. But
the reality (the substance, the solid fact of what is foreshadowed,
the body of it) belongs to Christ
Bible - Lockman)
Barclay: These are only the
shadow of things to come; the real substance belongs to Christ. (Westminster
These are only shadows thrown in advance, only types of things to
come. The substance, the reality, in every case belongs to the Gospel
NLT: So don't let anyone condemn you for what you eat or
drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new-moon
ceremonies or Sabbaths. (NLT
- Tyndale House)
which things are a shadow of those things about to come. But the body
belongs to Christ. (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: which are a shadow of the coming
things, and the body is of the Christ;
THINGS WHICH ARE A MERE SHADOW OF WHAT IS TO COME (coming things): a estin (3SPAI) skia ton mellonton (PAPNPG):
1:17; Heb 8:5; 9:9; 10:1)
Things which are - Those
things just mentioned in Col 2:16. Literally this reads "the coming
things" -- these are the spiritual blessings made possible for all
believers today (in this present life) by the New Covenant in Christ
Jesus (i.e., Paul is not referring solely to blessings that are yet to
come in the future at the Second Coming of Christ).
John wrote that...
(shadow) was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized
through Jesus Christ (substance). (Jn 1:17)
In Hebrews we read these
instituted under the Old Covenant) serve a copy and shadow of
the heavenly things... (Hebrews 8:5-note)
since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not
the very form of things, can never by the same sacrifices year by
year, which they offer continually, make perfect those who draw near.
A mere shadow (4639)
refers to a pale shadow, as contrasted with a sharp, distinct one.
Eadie writes that...
The noun skia may bear two
different meanings. It may either signify a shadow projected from a
body by its interception of the light; or it may signify, as here, a
dim and shadowy sketch of an object, in contrast not only with a full
and colored likeness, but with the object itself. (A
Commentary on the Greek Text)
used of a literal shadow (the shape cast by an object as it
blocks rays of light) in Acts 5:15 and of literal shade in Mark
4:32 (Here skia refers to the shelter from light and any heat
associated with it), but the other 5 NT uses are figurative. Two uses
describe the "shadow" of death, that sphere of existence which of men
in which they are alienated from God (Mt 4:16, Lk 1:79) and into which
Messiah comes as the Light of the world. Poetically the OT
of the sheltering shadow of God's wings. Other OT uses speak of
human transitoriness (Job 8:9 and Psalm 102:11, 144:4). The Jewish
historian Josephus uses skia to in his description of a
besieged city in Jewish War 6.194 where only the shadow
of food seemed to be available.
Skia - 7x in 7v - Matt 4:16; Mark 4:32; Luke
1:79; Acts 5:15; Col 2:17; Heb 8:5; 10:1
paraphrases Expositor's Greek Testament which explains that skia
in Hebrews 8:4-note
an adumbration (imperfect
portrayal or representation of a thing) of a reality which it does
not embody. A shadow has no substance in itself. It has no
independent existence. It merely is proof of the fact that there is a
reality back of it. It is not itself solid or real. Just so, the
earthly tabernacle gave proof of the fact that there was a real one,
the heavenly one where God Himself dwelt, where Messiah officiates as
High Priest. The Aaronic priests performed their priestly rites in the
representation of the heavenly tabernacle. (Wuest,
K. S. Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Eerdmans
The Mosaic ritual system was to the
great verities of the Gospel what the shadow is to the man, a
mere general type or resemblance. The substance belongs to the
Christian economy. It is derived from Christ, and can be realized only
through union with Him.
All these things were types, and
must continue in force till the Christ, whom they represented, came;
the apostle therefore says that the body—the substance or design of
them was of Christ—pointed him out, and the excellent blessings which
he has procured. The word skia, shadow, is often used to
express any thing imperfect or unsubstantial; while the term soma,
body, was used in the opposite sense, and expressed any thing
substantial, solid, and firm. The law was but the shadow or
representation of good things to come; none should rest in it; all
that it pointed out is to be sought and obtained in Christ
The reality, the substance. All
that they signified is of or in Christ. Between those things
themselves which are in Christ, and those which only represented or
prefigured them, there is as much difference as there is between a
body and a shadow-a solid substance and a mere outline. Having now,
therefore, the thing itself, the shadow can be to us of no value; and
that having come which was prefigured, that which was designed merely
to represent it, is no longer binding.
Bible Background Commentary
Plato distinguished the “real”
world of ideas from the shadow world of sense experience. Philo
developed Plato’s concept to argue that the invisible God was known
through “shadows,” or copies, of his character, rather than through
sensory vision. Writers by this period distinguished substance or
body, the original reality, from shadows or mere copies; adapting
their language, Paul believes that the Old Testament prescriptions
testified to genuine principles, but that those principles are
fulfilled in Christ.
The Law was
"weak" in regard to the flesh which is why Jesus took on the
likeness of sinful flesh and allowed for the requirement of the Law to
be met in believers (Ro 8:3,4-note).
The Old Testament ritual observances were dim outlines of the redemptive truths
that came to full light in the New Testament. The offerings were reflections
of the one genuine saving offering at the cross, the priesthood was a
foreshadowing of the priestly ministry of Christ, and the kings of
Israel faintly suggested the coming King of kings and Lord of lords.
The problem we must always be alert to is the danger of performing
"religious" rituals mechanically and simply going through the motions.
Paul says in essence that this can destroy the true vitality of faith.
But someone will surely say,
Wait a minute. Aren't some of these
observances given to us by God to remind us of truth? Isn't there some
value to mental or physical health to be gained by doing them?
Paul addresses such an objection by emphasizing that rituals are mere
"shadows" and that the reality is found in Christ. Once
the reality has been realized, shadows are of no value whatsoever.
Shadows are pictures, given in advance, designed to prepare us for
something. But if you have found Christ, you do not need the shadows
any more. Paul includes the Sabbath day as an example of a shadow.
Ray Stedman has an excellent exposition on this section
I carry with me pictures of my
wife, my children and my grandchildren. I take them along in order to
be ready for people who try to show their pictures to me! I value
these photographs and look at them occasionally when I am away from
home. But what would you think if I propped up these pictures all over
my house and talked to them and tried to relate to them? You would
think I had lost my mind---and I probably would have. But, more than
that, I would certainly soon lose touch with the very people whose
pictures I treasure. They would feel ignored and would probably
ultimately leave me and all relationship would cease. That is what
Paul says is wrong with shadows. If you still place primary value on a
shadow after the reality has come you destroy your participation in
the value of that reality. Now the reality, here, is Jesus! He is the
center of all life and the source of excitement in a Christian's
experience. He is the One who accompanies us through life, to comfort
in times of need and strengthen when we are being tempted. He is a
place of refuge to run to when we are troubled or uncertain about
life. To lose him is to lose all source of excitement and vitality in
life. That is the danger in observing shadows. That is why this
paragraph begins with the word "therefore." The previous section
pointed out all that Christ is to us now. Thus Paul is saying, "Having
him, therefore, do not let anyone spoil you by involving you in a
mechanical performance that will cancel out the reality.
Joining a cult is not the only way to let ritualism ruin your life.
You can do it right here at church on a Sunday morning. If you merely
mouth the words of the hymns when you sing, you are doing this very
thing. You are destroying something, entering into a religious
mechanical performance that not only says nothing to God but destroys
something in you. If you let your mind wander when someone is praying,
if you do not follow along and silently say, "Amen," or let that
prayer reflect what you are thinking, you will turn off much of truth
and miss much. You are indulging in a form of hypocrisy; of looking
like you are doing something valuable and helpful when actually you
are not doing anything like that at all.
Turning your mind off during a message and failing to hear what is
being said falls into the same category. When I look out from this
platform you all appear to be listening. You look at me and your faces
reflect interest in what I am saying. But I know from sad experience
that that is not always true. Some of you are at home, worrying about
how the roast is doing. Some of you are playing golf, or working out a
business deal, or struggling with a problem with your children, or
wondering about what someone else is wearing. It would be interesting
to know at the end of a service where everybody has been! We all find
our attention straying at times, but do not let yourself get into a
habit of that because it is destructive; it is empty ritualism!
I would like to ask two questions before we pass on to the next point.
First, do you really think God is fooled by that kind of performance?
What a low view of God, to think that if we run through some religious
fol-de-rol he is going to be pleased with us! There must be a dozen
passages in the OT where God tells us what he thinks of that kind of
thing. I do not have time to read them to you, but let me share one
verse out of Isaiah which illustrates what God says (see Isa 1:13, 14, 15-note)
What an honest revelation that is of what we are doing to God when we
act with thoughtless involvement with public worship.
My second question is: do you have any idea of what you lose by this
kind of a performance? The thing that first becomes apparent is that
the service itself grows dull and boring. You find yourself wanting to
leave but you feel you have to stay because your mate or your family
expects it, or you gain a reputation for piety by doing so. When a
group of people do that, church does become terribly dull. A church
service ought to be a tremendously exciting time. Here is where we
ought to find ourselves stimulated afresh, awakened again to new vigor
in our relationship with Christ. (Heb 10:24,25-note) But all that begins to
dissipate when we became mechanical worshippers. And, more than that,
Christ becomes distant and far off from us. We no longer walk with Him
day by day or moment by moment. When you do not do that---since to
lose God is to lose yourself---all of life becomes dull and empty.
Tenseness, worry, guilt and loneliness begin to harry your footsteps.
Eventually you succumb to the need for something to stimulate you. You
fall in with the world's futile search for an anesthetic to deaden the
pain of an empty life. is that happening to you? (Read the full sermon
Colossians 2:16-23 Things
that can Ruin your Faith)
Bob DeWaay in his section on
Three Warnings about Spiritual Elitism writes...
The second warning is found in
Colossians 2:16: “Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to
food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath
day.” The “therefore” refers back to the truth that Christ had,
through the cross, resolved their greatest problems. These were their
previous state of death in sin (Col 2:13) and their subjection to the
powers of darkness (Col 2:15). Christ had canceled out their debt
before God (Col 2:14) and defeated the principalities and powers (Col
2:15). In spite of all that, the spiritual elitists in Colossae
insisted that the faith of the Colossian Christians was defective and
lacking. So they wanted to set themselves up as judges. Paul warns
that we do not let them do it!
The would-be judges wanted to tell the Colossian Christians how to
eat, what religious festivals to keep, and evidently demanded Sabbath
keeping. Here we see both pagan and Jewish elements. The Sabbath is
the Jewish Sabbath and went from sundown Friday until sundown
Saturday. As we saw earlier, the pagan mystery rites had to be kept on
the new moon. The food issue could be Jewish or pagan. Jews did not
have rules about beverages, so that was likely a pagan stipulation.20
They likely were requiring strict asceticism. Interestingly, In spite
of this clear injunction to not allow anyone to be sit as judge in
regard to Sabbath, there are many groups today who do just that! They
try to use semantic sophistry to convince us that this passage is not
talking about Sabbath. Do not listen to them.
In Galatians Paul gives a similar teaching, and mentions the stoicheia
in doing so:
However at that time, when you did
not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods.
But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God,
how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental
things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? You observe
days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that perhaps I
have labored over you in vain (Galatians 4:8, 9, 10, 11).
The phrase “elemental things” here
is stoicheia in the Greek. To return to religious practices of their
previous lives, whether they be pagan or Jewish, is tantamount to
returning to the domination of the stoicheia. Going back is slavery to
“gods” who are not really gods, but spirit beings in the heavenlies,
hostile forces who seek to enslave. Any denial of the sufficiency of
Christ or adding to the finished work of Christ is seen by Paul as a
return to enslavement.
The spiritual elitists delight in judging others. They claim to know
how to find freedom and suggest to regenerate Christians that they are
not really free. Their road to “freedom” is always bondage. Paul’s
instruction is clear and simple: “do not let them act as your judge.”
How sad that so many do.
The third warning is found in Colossians 2:18: “Let no one keep
defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the
worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen,
inflated without cause by his fleshly mind.” Earlier we spent some
time establishing the meaning of the phrase “taking his stand on
visions he has seen” which uses a word with the technical meaning of
entering a second stage in a pagan initiation rite. The would-be
elitists in Colossae claimed special spiritual experiences which gave
them supposed freedom from the stoicheia. They were promoting their
experiences and the means to receive them to the Colossian Christians.
F F Bruce comments on this passage, “They pretend to have found a way
to a higher plane of spiritual experience, as though they had been
initiated into sacred mysteries which give them an infinite advantage
over the uninitiated.”21 If Arnold is correct, it is likely that they
had actually participated in the initiation rites of one of the
mysteries, and claimed that the insights and experiences gave them a
special status vis-a-vis ordinary Christians.22
The phrase “keep defrauding you”
comes from a rare Greek word which denotes a referee or judge in an
athletic contest.23 Here it means “to disqualify.”24 The elitists take
the role of referee and disqualify the true Christians. They claim to
have experiences, visions, superior “humility,” (how ironic), and some
special relationship to angels. The meaning of the phrase “worship of
angels” has been disputed. The Greek construction can mean “angelic
worship” or the “angels as objects of worship.” If one posits a Jewish
source to the heresy, then the former is usually assumed. There were
Jewish sects who claimed to have the secret to experiencing angelic
worship, like that of the angels.25
On the other hand, Arnold gives many ancient Greek sources that use
similar terminology and concludes that it means “angels as objects of
veneration.”26 In the magical texts he references and translates,
angels are named and called upon for protection from fate and the
hostile powers. Some of them include Jewish and pagan names in the
same text.27 Rather than directly worshiping angels as if they were
the highest God, they “venerated” them and called upon them for help,
as being a part of the series of intermediaries between them and God.
Here is part of Arnolds summary:
The texts also are a good illustration of the religious syncretism of
the time. Jewish angels, as well as the names and titles of Yahweh,
are mixed up with pagan intermediaries and all referred to as
“angels.” The personalities of the deities and the spirits are lost in
favor of a pragmatic concern about which ones have power and which
ones will help.28
If this was the issue in Colossae,
then the “judges” claimed to have special knowledge of which angelic
intermediaries (knowing their names was a key thing) could be called
upon for help by using the correct formula, thus averting bad fate.
Arnold presents a very compelling argument for his view.
This fits with the larger context of Colossians 1 & 2. Paul’s claim is
that Christ is the Creator and sustainer of all, that He is above all
powers, that in Him is all the fulness of deity, and that in Him the
Colossian Christians had been made complete (see Colossians 2:9,10 and
the Christ Hymn of Colossians 1:15-20). The would-be spiritual
elitists denied that being in Christ was all that was necessary. They
claimed that the stoicheia still had power over the ordinary
Christians in Colossae and that their knowledge and experiences held
the key to freedom. The “worship of angels” was likely a religious
process of calling upon angels (by their secret names) as
intermediaries who could thwart the influence of the hostile powers.
This may seem odd, unless you consider millions of Roman Catholics
(whose church has not allowed them to know that they can be truly
complete in Christ by faith), who routinely call upon intermediaries
such as Mary and various saints, to give help that they fear has not
been provided by Christ. It is not hard to imagine that Christians who
lived in the syncretistic culture of first century Asia Minor could
believe in angelic intermediaries when Jews and pagans alike had
similar teachings. The would-be “referees” set them selves up to judge
this foolish process, calling those who truly and simply trust the
finished work of Christ “disqualified.”
Further evidence that this involved a magic belief in intermediaries
is found in the next verse: “and not holding fast to the head, from
whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints
and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God” (Colossians
2:19). The elitist judges take people away from that which only and
truly can keep them, the finished work of Christ. The head and body
analogy shows that Christian growth is not based on the work of
intermediaries, be they human or angelic. The entire body receives
everything needed directly from Christ. The whole view of life as
being a huge gulf between them and God, filled with stoicheia, angels,
fate, principalities and powers, was pressed upon the Colossians all
their lives. Evidently the errorists had lowered Christ to a level of
one of the intermediaries, who could possibly help them, but not
directly or completely. Much more was necessary and the elitists alone
supposedly knew the secrets. Paul says they are not holding onto the
Clinton Arnold summarizes the
Referring to itself as ‘the philosophy,’ the leaders of this faction
had adapted the Pauline gospel to aspects of Phrygian-Lydian beliefs
and practices as well as to local Judaism. They advocated the
invocation of angels for protection from the hostile powers. They
appear to have overemphasized the transcendence of God and
underemphasized the exalted position of Christ, functionally viewing
him as a mediator, perhaps on the same level as angels. As a means of
countering this teaching and giving the Colossians perspective on the
relationship of Christ to the powers, Paul gives eloquent expression
to a cosmic Christology. Jesus existed before the powers, he in fact
created them, he defeated the hostile powers on the cross, and he will
intervene in the future and bring about a universal peace in heaven as
well as on earth.29
Christ is supreme over all powers,
on heaven and on earth, friendly or hostile, and we are complete in
Him. Therefore — see to it know one takes you captive (Col
2:8). Therefore — let no one act as your judge (Col 2:16).
Therefore — let know one keep defrauding you of your prize (Col
2:18). There are various versions of the Colossian heresy popular
today. These shall be the subject of our next article. May the Lord
preserve each of us by His grace so richly provided in Christ. (For
full article see
Critical Issues Commentary
Colossian Heresy Part 1)
BUT THE SUBSTANCE (body)
BELONGS TO CHRIST: to de soma tou Christou:
(Mt 5:17, Ro 8:3, 8:4, Mt
11:28,29; Heb 4:1-11)
Christ is the real one thing
needful. Mind that you have the substance, for then you can let the
Literally the Greek can be read as "the body of the Christ".
The realities so long shadowed out
are His—all that composes them belongs to Him. The clause then
contains the great truth that the Mosaic economy was no empty
congeries of useless and meaningless observances — infantine in
character and design; but an organism at once Divine in its origin,
and fraught with lessons of striking form. It was a dim
outline—skia—of those substantial blessings which are of Christ, and
it served a gracious purpose during its existence. It was a
rudimentary sketch. Its temple with its apartments, vessels, and
furniture; its priesthood, in their imposing robes and duties; its
altar, with the fire on its hearth, and the cloud of smoke resting
over it; its victims, in their age, kind, and qualifications; its
rubric, with its holidays, and their special observances; its minute
ritual in reference to diet, dress, and disease—all were the faint
lines of a sketch which was limned by the Divine pencil for the
guidance and government of Hebrew faith and worship. The eye of faith
might, as it gazed, be able to fill in the picture, and see in distant
perspective the sublime group of a tabernacle filled and inhabited by
the Great Spirit; a Priest offering the most costly of victims—the
God-man presenting Himself; an altar consecrated by blood precious
beyond all parallel; and a sabbatism not only serene and joyous on
earth, but stretching away into eternity as a “rest remaining to the
people of God.” (He 4:9-note) Thus the hieroglyph and substance exactly correspond,
though the former be only an adumbration and a miniature. (A
Commentary on the Greek Text)
(soma) can mean a literal living human body but here is used
figuratively as the reality which stands in contrast to the shadow.
The Law of Moses and the
Levitical sacrifices, rituals and feasts are all shadows
pointing to Christ. The Colossians, who possess the reality as members
of the body of Christ, would be foolish to return to the shadow. The ritualistic
and ceremonial trappings of religion, the esoteric doctrinal extremes
of cults, and the deceptive philosophies of secular faiths are not the
essence of or basis for true faith. The reality is to be found only in
Jesus Christ, Who is in us the Hope of glory. We are righteous (and
spiritual) before a Holy God now not because of what we do or don't do
but because we are COMPLETE IN CHRIST, Who has become to us
Righteousness (1Co1:30). That is our position. We work out that
"positional" righteousness by faith and obedience, motivated and
empowered by His Spirit. Colossians 3-4 emphasizes the practical side of
"righteousness", showing what a righteous life should look
like in ways that can be applied to our everyday life.
H. C. G. Moule writes that (Colossians 2:17,18) is
an appeal for "Christian liberty," as earnest ... as [Paul's] appeal
to the Galatians "not to be entangled again in the yoke of bondage."
(Gal 5:1) But let us note well that the "liberty" he means is the very
opposite of license and has nothing in the world akin to the miserable
individualism whose highest ambition is to do just what it likes. The
whole aim of Paul is for the fullest, deepest and most watchful
holiness. He wants his Colossian converts above all things to be holy;
that is, to live a life yielded all through to their Redeemer, Who is
also their Master
In a sense, the person who judges a believer because that believer is not living
under Jewish laws is really judging Jesus Christ. He is saying that
Christ did not finish the work of salvation on the cross (cp Jn 19:30), and that we
must add something to it. He is also saying that Jesus Christ is not
sufficient for all the spiritual needs of the Christian. The false
teachers in Colossae were claiming a “deeper spiritual life” for all
who would practice the Law, keep certain days, etc. Things haven't
changed much in over 2000 years.
Let's look at a modern spiritual "Shadow", the
Sabbath. Many Christians still ask "Aren't we still supposed
to meet on the Sabbath?" Paul addresses this question in
this section explaining in Colossians 2:17 the Sabbath is a Shadow which is just a picture of something else.
When you see a shadow, you know that there is something behind
that shadow and the bigger the shadow gets the closer you get to
the substance of that shadow. When the person walks in you don't
need the shadow anymore! The
command to observe the Sabbath is the only one of the 10
Commandments not repeated after Pentecost.
no shadow but is the Substance Who has in fact become
our "Sabbath rest" and in that "Sabbath rest" moment by moment
can cease from fleshly works. Now our "works" come out of loving obedience to the One Who lives in
Sabbath was intended to be a day of rest, but the legalistic Pharisees
perverted this day to mean that man was made to keep the Sabbath rather than the Sabbath
being made for man (Mk 2:27). And to promote their false religion, they came up with
over 600 laws including many that applied to the Sabbath.
In place of the joy, they imposed
a yoke of slavish sabbatarianism which made the
Sabbath an end instead of a means, hampered the spirit of true
worship, and laid greater stress upon a punctilious obedience to human regulations ("according to the traditions of men" see
than upon the commands of the Law.
Some of the ridiculous man
made prohibitions included...
Walking in the grass on the Sabbath
was forbidden because its bruising effect would constitute a kind of
The wearing of nailed shoes was forbidden because the individual who
walked in these shoes would be viewed as carrying a
burden, something that was forbidden on the Sabbath!
It was because of this
perversion of the Sabbath Rest that the Lord Jesus refused to sanction
such legalism and vigorously defended His Sabbath miracles.
In short, now that the Substance
has come, there is no need for the shadow. Jesus has now become our
"Sabbath Rest" (Mt 11:28, 29, 30).
What "Shadow" might be our
"Sabbath" today (even in modern evangelicalism)? Many
things could be turned into "modern day Sabbath keeping". For example,
even going to church might become a person's
"Sabbath", in the sense that they legalistically dare not miss
that day! Sure it is best to try not to miss going to church on Sunday
(cp Heb 10:24). But if you think that by your going to church on
Sunday, you will be "more spiritual", then you need to reassess your
motives. The point is that going to church does not make anyone
spiritual. The point is what is your
motive for going to church? Are you going because you love God and His people or
are we going to prove that you are spiritual or to earn favor from God?
Legalism says "Do This"
so you can prove to others that you're spiritual. Grace says "Rest in Him",
fully confident of the truth that you are complete in Christ (Col
you come to Him and obey His Word, walk in a manner worthy of the
Lord, you can rest assured that He will take care of the rest! (Col
Do you know if
you have your Rest in the Lord Jesus? You can tell in 5
minutes when a person is resting in Him. Rest is not passivity.
In fact, Jesus may burn you out physically and you may be absolutely
exhausted like Paul who said "I agonize". The Lord's "Rest"
means you are occupied with His business and you are functioning
spiritual strength with which He infuses you. You can be physically
worn out, but inwardly rejoicing when you've
found your rest in the Lord Jesus Christ (Mt 11:28, 29, 30). When you
have one of those days in which inner turmoil dominates
you, you have
most likely lost your "Rest". Outside turmoil has nothing to do
with your inner rest, for this inner rest is supernatural and is
independent of your circumstances.
Remember that the whole Old Testament ritual system was a divinely inspired
"multi-media" presentation which communicated "pictures" of God's desire
to dwell in His people (Picture = the Tabernacle), pictured our sin preventing
access and fellowship (Picture = the veil between the Holy Place and the Holy of
holies), and pictured his future provision of forgiveness through Christ's
death which would make it possible for him to dwell in us (Picture = the holy
priesthood and the entire sacrificial system). God wanted His people to be constantly
reminded of these vital central truths. (cp Gal 4:4, 5, 6) Through His death,
Jesus has provided complete forgiveness and adoption into God's family
so we can be indwelt by his Spirit and know him as "Abba." Once you
receive Christ, you can relate to God wherever you are--heart to
heart, sharing your problems and joys, asking Him for the help you
need, thanking Him for His work in your life, etc. His Word comes
alive to you as a personal love letter. His Spirit communicates God's
love (Ro 5:5-note).
Paul goes on to say that for Christians to revert to ritualism is
spiritual regression (Cp Gal 4:9, 10, 11). Imagine a girl separated
from her father from birth. She has only pictures of him, which she
treasures and looks at constantly. Then he returns. Will she relate to
the pictures differently? She wouldn't hate them or throw them away,
but she wouldn't relate to her father through them anymore. What if
she still preferred her scrapbook to relating to her father?
So avoid the red herring of ritualism! This does not necessarily mean
that people who practice ritualism cannot be Christians, but that
ritualism is a red herring that draws us off the path to spiritual
elaborates on Colossians 2:17 explaining that the Old Covenant law and
was a typical system (see also
Typology - Study of Biblical types).
Now, a type not only pictured out the nature of a future reality, but
it foretold its certainty. It showed, and it foreshowed. The sacrifice
not only showed that the offerer was under sentence of death, and that
only by the substitutionary shedding of blood the awful sentence could
be repealed; but it also foreshowed that the great and final oblation
of infinite efficacy would assuredly be presented in “the fulness of
the time.” It not only portrayed the mode, but it gave assurance of
the fact—it was at once a symbol and a prophecy. The entire Jewish
ritual was so organized, as not only to exhibit a faint and distant
likeness to Christianity, but it established the certainty that the
new dispensation of which it was an early and elementary copy should
be at length organized in perfection and symmetry. The “figure for the
time then present” guaranteed the introduction of the figured reality
in the time to come. The sign not only preceded, but certified the
advent of the thing signified.
Still, the shadow is in itself
nothing—it is empty, baseless, and indistinct. The Hebrew ceremonial
could not give full instruction by its symbols, and it could only
purge “as pertaining to the flesh.” It had no power to enter into the
conscience, and impart peace and the sense of forgiveness. The blood
of an animal could not secure Divine favour. The thief, after
restoring fourfold to the man whom he had wronged, and so satisfying
him, must also offer a victim on the altar to God, in order that the
penalty incurred from Him might be remitted. The man who had been
contaminated by any ceremonial impurity, who had touched a corpse, or
come into accidental contact with a leper, was by means of an
appointed ordeal of ablution and sacrifice restored to his previous
But the whole apparatus was
wanting in spiritual power, and its only virtue was in its connection
with the substance to come.
That it was a shadow so designed,
and not a fortuitous and unmeaning system, is plain from its
correspondence with the body which is Christ's, and its consequent
fulfilment in Him. The harmony is universal and complete. The great
High Priest has come and clothed Himself in humanity—a living vestment
far more costly than the robes of Aaron, “made for glory and for
beauty;” and all other victims have been superseded by His oblation of
Himself. Omniscience is His, and therefore no formal Urim and Thummim
glitters on His breast. The Self-sacrifice He presented was pure as
the fire from God by which it was consumed, and it has been visibly
accepted. He has gone through the starry vail, and into heaven itself,
with the names of all His clients inscribed upon His heart; and He
pleads the merit of His blood before a mercy-seat not canopied by a
cloud, but enveloped in the Majesty of Him who sits upon it. The woven
and metallic cherubim disappear in the reality, for the angels having
performed their allotted parts in the mystery of redempti on, are
“ministering spirits to them who shall be heirs of salvation.” There
is no need now that the law be engraved on stone, for it is written
indelibly on “the fleshy tables of the heart.” It is no longer
required that there be a bath, or a “sea of brass,” for believers are
washed in the laver of regeneration. The golden lampstand has been
extinguished, for the lustre of the Enlightening Spirit fills the
House of God.
Nay, the entire church on earth
is a spiritual priesthood, engaged in appropriate ministrations,
serving now, indeed, in the outer court, but soon to be called up into
the inner sanctuary.
The argument of the apostle, then,
is—why go down to “the weak and beggarly elements”? Who would listen
to any sophistry urging him to prefer the shadow to the substance?
Such a relapse would be an
attempt to roll back the Divine purpose, and impede that religious
progress which Christianity had introduced; an effort to restore an
intolerable yoke, and rob the new religion of its spirituality and
vigour. The result would be to stifle devotion by a periodical
mechanism, and degrade obedience into a service of trifles.
And therefore the apostle solemnly
warns the Colossians not to be imposed upon by such pretences, and not
for a moment to submit to teaching which would supplant the real
by the ritual, and give them a religion of obsolete
externalities for one of vital freedom and spiritual jurisdiction. (A
Commentary on the Greek Text)
has an excellent sermon on Colossian 2:16-19...
BEWARE OF FAKES
OCTOBER 17, 1999
Spiritual growth, just like
physical growth, is affected by one's surroundings. In the physical
realm, if you live in a drought-stricken area with little food
reserves, poor air quality, rampant disease, you can expect poor
physical growth. It is not that the person has no potential for
growth. Everything about him contributes to his failure to develop
Every believer has potential for spiritual growth. While potential for
growth is enormous due to the new nature in Christ and the indwelling
Spirit, there are still factors outside the Christian that can have a
negative affect on his growth. Maturity in Christ is directly related
to one's grasp and application of the Word of God. When deception
takes place that moves the believer away from the centrality of
Scripture, his growth will be affected. The Christian must be aware of
the dangers that threaten his spiritual growth and know how to avoid
This seems to be the focus of Paul at this point in the Colossian
epistle. He emphasizes that the believer is "made complete" in Christ,
so that there is no need for anything to be added for his
justification (Col 2:10). Directly related to one's justification is
sanctification, the process of growth in grace and maturity in the
Christian life. The antagonists of Colossae intimidated the believers
into thinking that something was lacking in their spirituality. They
just did not have what it took to be really spiritual. But the
antagonists had the answers! Through the means of legalism, mysticism,
and asceticism they could enter into a deeper spirituality. But to all
of this, Paul warns the believers not to be duped. For their
completion in Christ includes their ongoing growth. They need not look
outside of Jesus Christ and his sufficiency for their growth and
I believe we can see Paul's shift in emphasis upon spiritual growth by
the phrases used in the next few verses. In verse 19 he explains how
the believer "grows with a growth which is from God." The next verse
speaks of the premise that they had "died with Christ to the
elementary principles of the world," a phrase that points to the
believer's identification with Christ in his death (Col 2:20). In Col
3:1, he speaks of the believer's identification with Christ in his
resurrection, with the resulting effect that he can consider himself
as dead to evil passions and now able to "put on the new self who is
being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One
who created him" (Col 3:10). Finally, he adds that they were those
"who have been chosen of God," so that they therefore can take action
to add spiritual graces to their lives (Col 3:12ff).
Do we too need to be aware of the subtle dangers that the Colossians
faced? What types of danger affect us spiritually? Let us consider how
our spiritual growth can be threatened and more importantly, how it
can be nurtured.
I. Growth threatened
It does not take a keen observer to discover that most professing
Christians are doing a poor job at spiritual growth. We see this in
the lack of biblical understanding and application to personal life.
Programs and activities that do nothing to further one's
sanctification have replaced growth.
Dozens of surveys over the past decade have demonstrated that most
professing believers do not understand even the most elementary issues
related to the Christian faith. One obvious problem is the lack of
biblical exposition in the pulpit and ongoing instruction in small
group settings. The emphasis in our day on fellowship and
entertainment rather than the exposition of God's Word has left us in
a dangerous condition. The hunger to grow spiritually is still there
for the believer. So if he has not come to anchor himself in the truth
of Scripture, he may find himself drifting into the subtle substitutes
that Paul describes in our text.
1. By legalism
Legalism is the most natural substitute around for the gospel and for
spiritual growth. Its essence can be seen in the things it forbids and
the things it requires. By this, I mean that legalism has a list of
do's and don'ts which promises the weary adherent certain spiritual
attainment. Consider the Pharisees of Jesus' day. They believed that
because of what they did and did not do, they were elevated to a new
plateau spiritually. They scrupulously followed all of the laws
relating to Sabbath observance because earlier legalists spelled these
out as having promise. Even though the Pharisees neglected mercy and
justice, as did their Old Testament counterparts, they believed that
their rigid observance of Sabbath laws qualified them for
After addressing the accomplishments of Christ for the believer, Paul
writes, "Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or
drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath
day-things which are a mere shadow of what is come; but the substance
belongs to Christ." Here is what was happening. Rather than giving
focused attention to the work of Christ accomplished for every
believer, the Colossians were being duped into thinking that they were
second-rate in their spirituality. Their antagonists were looking down
their noses at them, eyebrows tightened with scowling looks, and
telling them how unspiritual they were because they did not observe
certain regulations or avoid other issues. The term "judge" implies
that this action was already going on and needed to stop. The
believers were being intimidated by the strong assertions being made
Have you ever encountered a strong legalist? They may thunder law from
the pulpit or use the printed media or radio to declare their rules
and regulations. Their emphasis is on externals. They talk about
places you cannot go, people you cannot be around, and activities you
cannot be part of. They discuss the way you wear your clothes or the
style of your hair or the kind of jewelry you wear. Please understand:
there are some places Christians do not belong and things Christians
have no business doing. But it is not the avoidance of these things
that make you holy. The legalist insists that the way to holiness is
following after their list of do's and don'ts.
a. The nature of legalism
In the setting of Colossae, Paul was dealing with a syncretistic type
religious atmosphere. Syncretism implies that you bring a number of
different elements into the picture to make the religion. In this
case, there was a mixture of Judaism, local pagan religion,
superstition, and homespun ideas. The "food or drink" Paul mentions
could be a reference to Jewish dietary laws or it could be some of the
local customs which believed that demons loved food and drink so much
that they would invade peoples lives through the vehicle of food and
drink. So, in order to avoid demons, the person was to fast or at
minimum, restrain from eating certain foods. Others had the idea that
a person could draw near to God and receive revelations from him if
they abstained from food and drink. Some in this region held to the
notion that fasting was a pre-condition for engaging in magical arts.
Still others believed in the transmigration of the soul through
certain foods-especially meat, so that in true spirituality you would
avoid eating meat in order not to disturb someone else's soul. There
was even the idea that you would become pure only if you rigidly
restrained yourself from food and drink.
What is the appeal of such legalistic ideas? If someone with a
convincing argument and persuasive personality tells another that he
has gained spirituality through certain legalistic practices, then the
other person might innocently enter into their trap. They will get
caught up in a vicious cycle of trying to do better, failing, then
trying again to maintain the level of spirituality demanded of them.
Condemnation is the inevitable result.
The Jews were known for their strict observance of certain days on
their calendars. This same "Old Testament" idea was passed along to
the Colossians. Paul refers to "a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath
day," events that were never meant to an end in themselves. The
festival days were probably references to the annual festivals of
Passover or Pentecost. Some writers also suggest that they refer to
local pagan festivals as well. The new moon was a monthly festival
that probably arose from local cults, carrying connotations of
mysticism and magic in their celebration. Sabbath day observance could
point to the sign of the old covenant. But being under the new
covenant, the Christian is not bound by the legalisms of Sabbath
observance. The early church shifted to Sunday as the day of gathering
to worship and giving offerings for the Christian church.
b. The danger of legalism
Here is the danger of all these things. They are substitutes for your
completion in Jesus Christ. They all insist that there is another
level of spirituality beyond what Christ has done for you. Because of
a dependence upon one's own performance, these legalisms leave the
believer in bondage. They keep the Christian always looking somewhere
else, to the next experience, to the next rigid observance of a law,
to the next set of do's and don'ts to find joy. But it is never there.
There may be a momentary sense of satisfaction because of their
observance, perhaps even a little cheering on by their fellow
legalists. But there is no deep, lasting satisfaction. And there
cannot be, for it is an attempt to find satisfaction outside of Jesus
Christ and the fullness of his work.
Paul reminds the Colossians that all of these things are "mere shadows
of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ." The writer
of Hebrews adds, "For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good
things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same
sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect
those who draw near" (Heb 10:1). The festivals, holy days, Sabbaths,
and other events established by the law were never meant to be the
grand finale. They only pointed to their fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
"The substance belongs to Christ." So when you have received the
substance, you no longer need the shadows. Are you clinging to a
shadow for spirituality, rather than resting in the great sufficiency
of Jesus Christ?
2. By mysticism
Legalism seems to have always been around. But so has mysticism. We
may see more prominence given to mysticism in our day among
evangelicals than even the attention of legalism. Paul writes, "Let no
one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement
and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has
seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind."
a. An explanation
The Apostle's description is that of mysticism's invasion of the
Colossian church. What is mysticism? John MacArthur's explanation may
Mysticism may be defined as the pursuit of a deeper or higher
subjective religious experience. It is the belief that spiritual
reality is perceived apart from the human intellect and natural
senses. It looks for truth internally, weighing feelings, intuition,
and other internal sensations more heavily than objective, observable,
external data. Mysticism ultimately derives its authority from a
self-actualized, self-authenticated light arising from within. This
irrational and anti-intellectual approach is the antithesis of
Christian theology [MacArthur NT Commentary: Colossians, 120].
What was happening at Colossae? The young believers were being looked
down upon and even judged deficient because they had not had certain
subjective experiences. So Paul tells them, "Don't let them act like
an umpire for the way you conduct your spiritual lives; belittling
you, condemning you, and trying to rob you of your own joy in Christ!"
This was taking place, so Paul exhorts them to take action to stop the
melee by the mystics.
Mysticism comes off as super spiritual. There is a show of
spirituality through "self-abasement," which is often practiced in
connection with fasting and other ascetic observances. They want you
to know that they have been fasting or denying themselves some luxury
in life. This can be seen in the television preacher, who announces,
'I've been fasting for two weeks about this and God told me to tell
you_________'. I've found it interesting that Jesus taught that when
you fast you are not to let anyone know. Yet on a number of occasions,
I've received materials from noted religious leaders announcing that
they had fasted for a certain length of time and consequently they
have a greater authority to tell the church what it needs to do or
what it needs to know. Some even make grand predictions concerning the
return of Christ after such fasts. Paul's assessment is that we have
no cause to be intimidated by such displays of false humility.
Others engage in "the worship of angels." This seems to be a
repetitive issue the apostle seeks to address in this letter. When
someone claims to have had an experience with angels and elevates this
kind of experience above that of knowing Jesus Christ savingly, then
it is not of God. Angels never draw attention to themselves. They are
always giving glory to the Lord. I believe we need to regard with deep
suspicion the whole lot in our day that are always wanting to talk
about angels and who imply their spirituality is higher because of
The next level of mysticism is a common one: "taking their stand on
visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind." The
movement in our day away from the authority of Scripture alone to that
of embracing visions, prophecies, and words of knowledge is rampant.
Is there a deficiency in the Scripture that causes us to need visions
or words of prophecy? Has God failed to speak with finality in his
Word? Are we to trust the word of man above the infallible Word of
God? Those who embrace such visions have nothing for biblical
doctrine. They are living on a different plane and find doctrine to be
too confining, stuffy, and academic. They are following the Spirit, or
so they say. With great confidence, those who announce visions or
words of knowledge or prophecies seek to tower over the ordinary
believer. The unsuspecting Christian is intimidated because he does
not understand enough of the Bible to realize the hoax being
perpetrated upon him. So he cowers before the convincing antics of
these visionaries, hoping that one day he will achieve the same kind
b. A cause for vanity
But what is Paul's assessment of the mystics? They are full of hot
air! Or to use the biblical language, he is "inflated without cause by
his fleshly mind." The reason this person can continue with such
confidence in his tactics is due to the condition of his mind. It is
not steeped in the Word of God; it is not focused upon the sufficiency
of Jesus Christ. It is a mind that has its bearings fixed on personal
gain, popularity, power, and the satisfaction of lording over others.
His mind is "fleshly" rather than spiritual. Consequently, he is
puffed up by his claims to great spirituality.
You can be certain that when a person has a firm grasp of biblical
truth it will humble him. If he is puffed up it is only because he
does not grasp the very things he claims to understand. Truth brings
us low, so that our confidence is not in ourselves but in Jesus Christ
c. Its error
What is mysticism doing today? There are multitudes and I do mean,
multitudes of believers who have been swept away from the only true
source of spiritual contentment by modern-day mystics. They are in our
churches, both charismatic and evangelical. They are on the television
and radio. They make great claims for having heard the voice of God.
They claim to have had unusual experiences with God, perhaps even
having a personal appearance by Christ or an angel to instruct them.
They typically denigrate the need for doctrine. 'Just give me Jesus'
they claim. They push for the experiential without the corresponding
doctrinal basis. And where does it lead? It is a pathway to bondage.
If it substitutes anything for the sufficiency of Jesus Christ, then
turn away from it. Do not let it trap you beneath the rubble of
visions, experiences, and inflated ideas. Christ alone can satisfy the
Christian. Christ alone can meet the deepest longings of the
believer's heart. Christ alone can give you lasting joy and
contentment. So look to Christ!
II. Growth nurtured
The Bible not only exposes fakes who attempt to distort truth and
deceive believers, but it also explains the way to press on in
spiritual maturity. We find this in the message of verse 19.
1. Anchoring point
The mystics who claimed to have grand visions and encounters with
angels in worship failed in the most basic issue of the Christian
life: "holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body grows with
a growth which is from God." The anchoring point for the believer is
Jesus Christ. He is proclaimed to be "the head of the body," a
metaphor that demonstrates the authority of Christ over the church as
well as the dependence the church is to place in Christ (1:18). The
believer is to never grow beyond his daily, ongoing relationship to
Here is one of the quickest ways to spot spiritual fakery. When the
emphasis moves away from the simplicity of continuing to grow in your
knowledge of Jesus Christ and to grow in your dependence upon him,
then it bears the marks of a fake. Paul said that his whole aim in
life was to "know Him" (Phil. 3:10) and the thrust of his ministry was
to "present every man complete in Christ" (Col. 1:29). The writer of
Hebrews goes to great lengths to show the superiority of Jesus Christ
to all of the shadows of the Old Testament. We are not to content
ourselves with shadows when we can fill ourselves with the Substance.
"The substance belongs to Christ." All spiritual growth has its
ultimate focus upon Jesus Christ the Lord.
The believer's union with Jesus Christ and his body, the church,
provides what he needs to maintain spiritual growth. This is the
implication of "being supplied and held together by the joints and
ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God." The words supplied
and held together are both present passive verbs, which means that
there is a continual provision and sustaining going on outside of the
Christian that is being applied to strengthen his growth. It is not
just what the Christian is doing that causes his growth; the body of
believers around him challenging, exhorting, encouraging, and
motivating his growth also affects him. The Christian life is never to
be lived in isolation from the rest of the body. Growth is nurtured
within the fellowship of the church. I will go so far to say that it
is impossible to grow spiritually outside a healthy, ongoing
relationship to a body of believers. Our text sustains such a strong
statement. The church is "iron sharpening iron" as one believer
presses the issues of truth in fellowship with another believer.
Christ has so designed and equipped his body that each member has an
affect upon the other for the purpose of spiritual growth.
So you are not alone in spiritual growth! Each of the "joints and
ligaments," that's your fellow members of the church, have a role in
helping to support your spiritual growth. In the same way, you have a
role in helping to support the growth of your fellow church members.
Weymouth's translation captures this beautifully. "Such a one does not
keep his hold upon Christ, the Head, from whom the body, in all its
parts nourished and strengthened by its points of contact and its
connexions, grows with a divine growth."
You are making points of contact today as you study the Word, as you
fellowship, as you engage in prayer for one another, as you bear one
another's burdens, as you offer encouragement, as you exhort someone
to follow after Christ. All of these "connections" are gifts from the
Lord so that your growth will ultimately be "from God." He provides
for his children exactly what is needed for growth. May we avoid the
fakes who would move us away from Christ and avail ourselves of the
means God has given for growth.
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