Lesson 20

Paul's Letter to the Colossians

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

2:16 Let no man therefore judge you in eating, or in drinking, or with respect to a feast day or a new moon or a Sabbath day, 2:17 which are a shadow of the things to come; but the body is Christ's. 2:18 Let no man rob you of your prize by a voluntary humility and worshipping of the angels, dwelling in the things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 2:19 and not holding firmly to the Head, from whom all the body, being supplied and knit together through the joints and ligaments, grows with God's growth. 2:20 If you died with Christ from the elements of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to ordinances, 2:21 "Don't handle, nor taste, nor touch" 2:22 (all which things are to perish with the using), after the precepts and doctrines of men? 2:23 Which things indeed appear like wisdom in self-imposed worship, and humility, and severity to the body; but aren't of any value against the indulgence of the flesh.

Today's Lesson 

Many see in Today's Scripture the strongest indication to date that there was some kind of heresy active in the Colossian church. There are many indications that this might be true. Some of the unusual references in this passage alone are a respecting of one day over another (such as feast or Sabbaths), dietary restrictions, and the worship of angels. Paul may indeed have been instructing the Colossians about a specific heresy, but we can also find that his words help us in our own situation today.


Paul has been building the case that Christ is sufficient to meet all of the needs of believers. He has told them of the redemption that is theirs in Christ. He has told them that their sins are completely forgiven. He has lauded Christ as the preeminent being of the entire world. In yesterday's lesson we talked about the wondrous things that Paul tells them about what was accomplished at the Cross. The law was taken away and we were given new life in Christ. The opponents of God were stripped of every weapon they can use against us and Christ's victory was complete.


Because of these things, Paul tells the Colossians that they should not let men judge them by lesser standards than the redemption of Christ. We need not concern ourselves with the shadows of things that pointed to the work of Christ on the Cross. We have the completed reality that is far better than shadow. Nor do we need to worship any lesser being than the Son of God. The Creator of the world lives in us in intimate communion. We do not need rituals or intercessors to gain us access to the God of the universe. He is nearer than our own thoughts.


But, there will always be groups of people and individuals that will try to attempt to peddle access to God. They will say that if you will only do this or that that God will listen to your prayers. They will develop little rituals, diets and fastings that will be said to bring riches to your spiritual life. Many groups have been founded on just such notions. And, the notions themselves might have some merit. We might all be better off with a more structured diet for instance, but a structured diet does not move a person one whit closer to God.


Paul sums up this section by saying that these things "appear like wisdom in self-imposed worship, and humility, and severity to the body; but aren't of any value against the indulgence of the flesh." We may feel better when we do these things and Paul says that we may even feel as though we are worshipping God through our little rituals. But this worship is self-imposed. God does not desire it. God wants all men to come to His throne through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. If we are in Christ, then we have complete access to God. Nothing else is required and nothing else can improve on it.


Moreover, these things do not restrain the flesh or sin. Sin only has power for believers where we allow it to remain alive. If we fight it with our own energy, we only give it life and strength. Paul instructs us that the body of flesh died with Christ. He writes that all of our sins are forgiven: past, present and future. If I believe in the finished work of Christ, then I strip sin of its power in my life. I defeat it with the only force in the world that is greater than it is, the grace and the mercy of God.


What are some of your little rituals that you feel make you closer to God? Are any of them based on anything less than the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Are any of them your own forms of self-imposed worship?


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