­­­Colossians Study – Session 7

CrossPointe Community Church – Denton, TX

February 24, 2013 - Larry Reynolds, Teacher

 

1.     Warnings based on Christ’s sufficiency (2:16-23) - In our journey through Colossians we have come to a passage of Scripture where the Bible issues to us a very strong warning... Colossians 2:16-23 is a strongly worded warning against some approaches to Christianity which will enslave us, entrap us, and weigh us down, instead of setting us free...

 

Introductory statement: Verse 16 - “Therefore, let no one act as your judge…”

 

“therefore” – Very important word in writings of Paul…when-ever come to therefore need to stop and see what it is there for…in this case looks back to the previous paragraph where Paul made a great declaration about the complete sufficiency of Jesus…saw in our last session that Paul stressed full deity, full humanity, and absolute sufficiency of Jesus in vv.8-15…in Jesus we have complete salvation, forgiveness, and victory…now he is saying, “All that being true, here are some things you need to be very careful to avoid.”

 

“let no one act as your judge” – Does not mean that we should not care what others think of us.  Does not mean we should be obstinate and contrary just because we can.  There are plenty of Bible verses instructing us to live in peace with others and be gracious to others.  But we should not be slaves to the consciences of other people.  The idea here is we should not give up our freedom in Christ for a set of man-made rules and regulations.  Don’t let the rules of others determine how you relate to Christ.  Don’t let anyone judge your standing before God based on only outward religious ritual.

 

If you were asked to describe the Christian life in a single word, what word would you choose?  I can’t think of a better, more comprehensive word to describe the Christian life than the word relationship. As one writer put it, “Christianity is a relationship.  To be a Christian means to live in a right relationship with God which then enables us to live in a right relationship with other people.” [Harbour]...and in this paragraph Paul warns us against approaches to the Christian life which value other things over relationship with Jesus...

 

The last part of verse 16 through verse 19 list five examples of outward religious practices that some people substitute for relationship with God…

1)    The eating/drinking or refraining from eating/drinking certain foods and drink”…let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink…”  - What a person ate and drank became a big issue in the 1st century church…two reasons…

o   Some, who came from Jewish backgrounds, insisted that it was necessary, even for Christians, to maintain the dietary laws of the OT…those laws (cf. Lev. 11) were given to mark Israel as a unique nation set aside for God and probably also for reasons of hygiene…Jesus in Mark 7:14-19 clearly set aside those laws for His followers…it took a vision from God for Peter to understand that it was not necessary for followers of Christ to obey the OT dietary laws (cf. Acts 10:9-16)

o   It was an issue among Gentiles because much of the meat sold in the market places came from the pagan temples where it had been used in sacrificing to the idols…some Christians felt that eating such meat was sacrilegious…Paul has wonderful discussion of this issue in Romans 14…

 

2)    The observance of certain religious holidays“…let no one act as your judge … in respect to a festival or new moon or Sabbath day…”

 

“festival” – Annual celebrations such as Passover, Pentecost, the Feast of Tabernacles, the Feast of Lights…

 

“new moon” – Monthly celebrations…some people made special sacrifices at the beginning of each new moon…

 

”Sabbath day” – Weekly celebrations…Jewish people went to great (and sometimes absurd) length to observe the Sabbath day…(mirror, cotton, Sabbath’s journey…)  It’s not that followers of Christ should not observe a special day of worship,  but should not be absurd about it.

 

Verses 17 and 18a explain why outward religious acts alone are insufficient.

 

     “…are a mere shadow…” – Just as our shadow is not the reality of who we are, outward religious acts are not the essence of Christianity.  If such acts do not point us to the reality, Jesus Christ, they are useless.  Outward ritual is a poor substitution for inward relationship with Christ.

 

“…defrauding you…” - Some Bibles translate “defrauding” as “disqualify”…good translation because the word comes from the athletic arena…it was word used when a judge would disqualify an athlete because he has not obeyed the rules…the idea is that we should not let anyone rob of us what is rightfully ours based on their distorted ideas of the rules…

 

3)    Radical self-discipline - “self-abasement”

 

o   Could be referring to a physical self-abasement… Gnostics said the body is evil…one branch of Gnostic thought said because body is evil, it needed to be abused, beaten down, battered into submission…

 

o   Could be referring to emotional self-abasement… think this is the more likely meaning because the word translated “self-abasement” is usually translated “humility”…notice they were “delighting” in their humility…kind of  false humility that says, “Look at me!  See how humble I am.” 

 

4)  Angel worship - The worship of angels was a heresy that plagued the region where Colossae was located for centuries.  In A.D. 363 a church synod was held in Colossae’s sister city, Laodicea, that declared:  “It is not right for Christians to abandon the church of God and go away to invoke angels.”  The false teachers would say that God is so high and exalted that He could never be approached directly.  There always had to be intermediaries.  The great truth of Christianity is that each person can have not only access to God but relationship with God.

 

5)  Relying on visions

 

“taking his stand on visions…” – The gnostics prided themselves on their claim to have visions/revelations not open to ordinary people.  These supposed visions gave them information about God that others did not have.  It is always dangerous when a person thinks he/she has reached a spiritual level that allows him/her see things others cannot see.  The danger is that such a person sees what he/she wants to see.  Paul made clear in Colossians 1:26-27 that God’s plan is not secret.  It has been revealed to all who care to see it.  It is “…Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

 

The last part of v. 18 points out that those who rely on outward religious observances rather than looking to Christ are “…inflated without cause by [their] fleshly mind…”  That is, they are spiritually arrogant and they have no good reason to be!

 

Verse 19 explains why such people have no reason to be spiritually arrogant.  They have missed the main thing!  They are not “…holding fast to the head…”  Back in Colossians 1:18 Paul described Jesus as “…the head of the body, the church…”  Instead of focusing on Jesus, the ultimate, complete, full revelation of God, they were focusing on lesser things.  Verse 19 is a restatement of a recurring theme of Colossians.  Jesus holds everything together (cf. 1:17) and in Him we are made complete (cf. 2:10).

 

Verses 20-23 contain one of the most scathing denunciations of legalism to be found in the Bible...legalism is the belief that we can win God’s favor by keeping certain laws, rules, regulations... if we just don’t do the wrong things then everything will be alright between us and God...

 

One of the negative by-products of a legalistic mind-set is that it makes us judgmental toward others...if others don’t follow the same rules and regulations we choose to follow, we tend to look down on them and question their commitment...the Pharisees in the NT are a good example of that...no-one could follow rules as religiously as they did...they had a rule and regulation for just about everything...and they often criticized Jesus and His disciples because they weren’t as strict about obeying their myriad of petty religious rules and regulations...they thought religion was a matter of keeping the rules; Jesus taught that true religion is a matter of right relationship with the Father...

 

What’s wrong with an approach to Christianity which focuses more on rules than relationship?...if you’ll look at Col.2:20-23 you’ll see that Paul points out three things—

 

·        A legalistic approach to Christianity minimzes our union with Christ - First part of v.20 says that we have “died with Christ”...that is, our lives are governed by Him, not by the rules and regulations of this world...doesn’t mean that we are lawless rebels...means that we live right because of Christ in us, not because of conformity to external regulations...

 

·        A legalistic approach to Christianity invariably focuses on things temporal rather than things eternal - Notice what v.22 says...man-made rules such as “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch...” always refer to things of this world...and those things, by their very nature, are temporary...will not last forever...they are passing away...

 

·        A legalistic approach to Christianity focuses on the symptom but not the disease - V.23 points out that while it may look profitable and spiritual to obey a bunch of outward rules, rules alone are “of no value against fleshly indulgence.”...what does that mean?...is Paul saying that it doesn’t matter what we do?...is our conduct unimportant to God?...of course not!...saying God always look beyond our outward conduct to inward motive...quite possible for person to appear dedicated and disciplined on the outside, but on the inside be full of anger, resentment, bitterness, jealousy, pride, and a host of other things that are repulsive to God...[That’s precisely how Jesus describes the Pharisees...said on the outside you look great...take great care to keep the law...to observe you traditions and practices...but on inside your heart is not right...like whitewashed tombs...sparkle and glisten in the sun, but if looked inside would find the rotting flesh and decaying bones of those who have died...]...we don’t change from the outside in...we change from the inside out...and a legalistic approach to Christianity can’t understand that...

 

Let me tell you about my Granddad Reynolds...was a great man and one of the mentors of my life...Granddad was an old-time Baptist preacher...first church to which I was taken as a baby was one which he started...Granddad was from that generation of preachers who had very strong feelings about certain activities... I remember when he and Grandma Reynolds would visit our home, we had to put away any games we had (such has monopoly) which used dice because of his strong convictions that dice were in someway evil...also, he would never touch a deck of playing cards, even to play something as innocent as solitaire... however, in our home we had a pool table...and even though my brothers and I played constantly, we never got good enough to beat Grandad Reynolds!...I never could figure out how this man who wouldn’t touch dice or play cards got so good at shooting pool!...

 

Being a Christian is not about what rules and regulations you choose to follow...it’s about having a living relationship with Jesus...and we’re to be on guard against those who would reduce the Christian life to a set of external rules to live by...

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