A continuation of part 1 here.
Part 2: Colossians 2:16-23
This is a continuation from the previous passage of shifting from the hope of the gospel, I got sick halfway through writing this and I’m just pulling through to finish it. Last time, he talked about false outlets of knowledge, but this time he talks about false judges.
Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. (V2:16)
Paul does not say these things are bad.
Notice how he’s not saying let no one pass judgment on you either.
He’s addressing the problematic people of Colossae. These were elitist Christians who probably didn’t eat certain meats, who probably hosted each Old Testament festival, and who probably forbid working on the Sabbath. But he’s not talking to these people, is he?
Paul was speaking to those affected by the elitists.
Paul isn’t convincing his audience that they are profaning God’s commandments. He’s encouraging brothers that are receiving backlash from those that have profaned God’s commandments.
These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. (V2:17)
The substance of all these things belong to Christ. Paul doesn’t actually discourage us from any of these things, because they came from Christ. I believe when he calls them a shadow of things to come, he is calling them a teaser of goodness. They are behind us now, but their substance was always good.
Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. (V2:18-19)
This is the second statement Paul makes regarding judgments from others.
How do the views of others affect our walk with Christ?
I believe Paul is trying to ask something along these lines. He’s not downplaying the need for judgment, or the need to examine ourselves, he’s focusing on what the Church in Colossae struggles with the most.
The categories he lists in this second statement are a step up from the previous statement. Asceticism is a form of extreme self-discipline and avoidance of indulgences. The worship of angels implies a belief that branches off of Christianity, and the cultural worship of visions is not what God called us to do. Hold fast to the head, he says.
If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? (V2:20-22)
Paul makes a statement, those that are not living in the world should not submit to it’s regulations. How convenient that we, as Christians, happen to be dead to this world! This is Paul’s final statement regarding how we receive the world’s opinions, including those of other believers.
It’s interesting how Paul categorizes these regulations under one idea, “things that all perish as they are used”. Faith is so much more spiritual than it is physical.
These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (V2:23)
Quite the bold statement.
Asceticism, the extreme avoidance of indulgence, is of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. Unless we are capable of uprooting all immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness through our own willpower, the law of asceticism is of no worth to us.
The world does not hold the reins of Christianity.
And does God need help from the world to hold these reins?
It is true, Christians seem to adapt to this ever-changing world, through all the ethical walls and social barriers. We need to adapt. In order to love, in order to serve not just our brothers and sisters but the unbelievers surrounding us. And that’s okay, Christianity was never meant to be a cultural photocopy of the original Church. But should we ever forget the new covenant and it’s preeminence, we make an attempt to adapt Christianity itself.
The last part to the study here.