These passages of Scripture were not only vital for the preservation of the gospel of the grace of God in Pauls’ day; they are vital for the church in 2013. For the heretical teachings that were posing a threat to the saints at Colossae and Laodicea exist today.
As we saw in my last post in 1 John, there were false teachers who were saying that your belief in Jesus is fine, but faith alone in Jesus is not enough. These false teachers were not only well versed and deeply committed to their beliefs; they were also intellectually and philosophically persuasive.
With apostolic authority, The Holy Spirit, through Paul exposes the 3 seductive messages that sought to undermine the message of the gospel of the grace of God and the completeness that we have in Christ Jesus by grace through faith in Him.
- Legalism. Religious legalism that was based on Old Testament ordinances which were only shadows of what Jesus Christ would fulfill (vs.16, 17). The answer to legalism is the spiritual reality we have in Christ.
- Mysticism and esoteric spiritual experiences (vs. 18) instead of a genuine abiding relationship with The Head of the body, Jesus Christ. The answer to mysticism is the spiritual union with Christ, the Head of the church.
- Asceticism. Self imposed, man-made asceticism (extreme abstinence from pleasure) that is of no value to atone for sin or curb the flesh (vs. 20-23). The answer to asceticism is the fullness that we have in Christ.
Beloved, when Jesus said it is finished, He wasn’t kidding. He accomplished the entire work of atonement, and the validation of that His perfect sacrifice was accepted by The Father was His bodily resurrection from the dead.
- Verse 16. Let no man therefore judge you in meat (food) or I drink or in respect of a holyday, or of the new moon or of the Sabbath days. 17. Which area shadow of the things to come (they have only symbolic value), but the body (the substance) is of Christ.
It would appear that the legalists that Paul talked about were the Judaizers. This group of men and their message of faith in Christ + circumcision and keeping the law of Moses is seen through the NT.
- Food and drink. The false teachers sought to impose some sort of dietary regulations, probably based on those of the Mosaic law (cf. Lev. 11). Since they were under the New Covenant, the Colossians (like all Christians) were not obligated to observe the OT dietary restrictions (cf. Mark 7: 14–19; Acts 10: 9–15; Rom. 14: 17; 1 Cor. 8: 8; 1 Tim. 4: 1–5; Heb. 9: 9–10).
- Holy days. The annual religious celebrations of the Jewish calendar (e. g., Passover, Pentecost, or Tabernacles (Booths); cf. Lev. 23).
- New moon. The monthly sacrifice offered on the first day of each month (Num. 10: 10 28: 11–14; Ps. 81: 3).
- Sabbath. The weekly celebration of the seventh day, which pictured Gods rest from creation. The NT clearly teaches that Christians are not required to keep it.
The Judaizers message was at best, making the observance of these things a sign of spirituality. At worst, they insisted that in addition to faith in Jesus Christ, the keeping of these things was necessary for their salvation.
Beloved whenever a person’s salvation or spirituality is measured by your diet or the calendar, the emphasis is not longer Christ, but something else.
Now, all of these things mentioned in verse 16 had its proper function for the Jewish people under the old covenant. But it was not meant to be a permanent part of the faith under the new covenant (see John 1:17).
The Law was a schoolmaster that helped to train and discipline Israel in the childhood of the nation, preparing the people for the coming of the Messiah. The Law was given to reveal sin and warn us of the consequences of sin—but it has no power to prevent sin or redeem the sinner. Only the power contained in the gospel of the grace of God can do that.
Now that Jesus had come, the schoolmaster was no longer needed (Gal. 3:24–4:11). The ceremonial aspects of the OT law (dietary regulations, festivals, sacrifices) were mere shadows pointing to Christ. Since Christ, the reality has come; the shadows have no value. Cf. Heb. 8: 5 10:1.
The Jewish or Gentile believer who judges a another believer because that believer is not living under Jewish laws and regulations is really judging Jesus Christ. He is saying that Christ did not finish the work of salvation on the cross, 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.
No longer under the law? Listen carefully beloved; it is OT sacrificial types of the various sin offerings, priesthood and the ceremonial law of God that has been fulfilled by Jesus Christ. God’s moral laws transcend time and culture and are in still in tact today and Christians are still obligated to honor the moral law of God.
Here is legalism in a nutshell: Christ + rituals (any ritual) = Salvation. Christ plus any ritual is not the gospel. The Lord’s Supper proves that!
- 18 Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels (insist that you abase yourself and worship angelic beings), intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 And not holding (they have lost connection with) the Head, from which (from Whom) all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increases with the increase of God (grows as God causes it to grow).
Mysticism, in this context, means the alleged experience of the worship of angelic beings. In the Scriptures, whenever God in His providence allowed anybody to have an encounter with an angel, (unless it was a preincarnate appearance of Jesus Christ under the title Angel of The Lord) the angel was rebuked for worshipping him (as was the case of the apostle John in the book of Revelation 21.8,9).
Others were claiming that the only way that mortal man could come into contact with a holy God was through an angelic mediator. Beloved, any claim to having an encounter with God the Father through anyone or anything other than His Son, Jesus Christ, is demonic and idolatry. Jesus Christ is the one and only Mediator between God and man (John 14:6; 1 Tim. 2:5).
Mysticism and the seeking of spiritual experiences outside of and beyond the scope of the Word of God is dangerous because by doing so, a person is opening themselves to all kinds of counterfeit experiences and demonic activity, masquerading themselves as angels of light.
- Deut 18.10 there shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, 11 Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. 12 For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord.
Yes, here are valid biblical experiences that a born again Christian may have in their walk with Jesus Christ. But here was the problem, these false teachers doctrines were not making Christ preeminent and all sufficient, thus whenever a person or a church loses connection with The Head, Jesus Christ, inevitably, an experience of some kind will become the focus.
Saints, the ultimate Christian experience is intimacy with The Lord Jesus Christ in prayer, in His Word, in fellowship with other believers, in worship. The normal Christian life is a supernaturally natural one in the midst of your daily routine in life.
There is no spiritual growth for the body (the church) apart from union with the head, Christ (cf. John 15: Eph. 4: 15–16). Beloved, the source of life and purity and growth is not the result keeping of a religious diet, the keeping of holy days or spiritual experiences, but as verse 19 says, through “holding fast to the head (Christ) from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.”
The only hope for personal spiritual growth and congregational health in the body of Christ at Koinonia Fellowship will be the overflow of a deliberate and diligent cleaving to Jesus Christ the head, not experiences.
Here is mysticism in a nutshell: Christ + experience = Salvation. Christ plus any experience is not the gospel. Knowing Jesus Christ IS the experience of the gospel (Jer 9.23,24; John 17.3)
- 20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world (as though you still belong to the world), are ye subject to ordinances, 21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not; 22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after (are based upon) the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 Which things have indeed a show (an outward appearance) of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honor to the satisfying of the flesh.
Verses 21-23 point out the futility of asceticism, which basically is the attempt to achieve holiness by rigorous self- neglect (v. 23), self- denial (v. 21), and even self-infliction.
There is a definite relationship between legalism and asceticism, for the ascetic often subjects himself to rules and regulations. The ascetic’s entire life is wrapped up in a self-imposed system of rules by which he or she measures another persons spirituality.
Paul disciplined his own body and kept it under control (1 Cor. 9:27). So there is a place in our Christian lives for proper care of our bodies and keeping our bodily appetites under control and subject to the will of God.
But the ascetics’ hope to either save himself or sanctify his or her soul by the keeping of self-imposed rules and regulations is that which is being refuted by Paul.
Here is asceticism in a nutshell: Christ + self-imposed rules and regulations according to the commandments of men = salvation. Christ plus man made commandments or works is not the gospel. We are saved by grace through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast. Eph 2.8,9
These men rejected biblical, apostolic authority and were proud, self-righteous and condemning.
These teachers who were identified by Jude as “clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.” (Jude 12,13)
Paul identified them as false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light (2 Cor 12.13,14).
(1) The gospel of the grace of God humbles us
Remember this beloved, a genuine encounter with Jesus Christ will humble a person. Grace humbles you; it does not puff you up. Yes, the grace of God will embolden you to stand for the truth in the face of lies and deception, but it will never cause you to be arrogant, haughty or self-righteous.
A true encounter with The Living God will always strip a person of spiritual pride. A true encounter with Jesus Christ will cause your mind to be awed by the greatness of God; your heart will be filled with a love for God; your soul is gripped by the majesty and wonder of God; and as a result, your will is going to be submitted to the purpose that God has for your life.
When Job met the Lord he said, I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth Thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes (Job 42:5–6).
Peter fell down before his Lord and said, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord (Luke 5:8).
Isaiah said Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts (Isa 6.5)
When John saw the risen Christ, he fell at His feet like a dead man (Rev. 1:17).
(2) What about Christian liberty on matters of eating and drinking etc..?, Christian Liberty
The consumption of food and drink is in itself no basis for judging another person’s salvation or standing in the body of Christ. To be sure Paul had to deal with the abuse of food and drink; namely, the problem of eating meat offered to idols and the problem of drunkenness (1 Corinthians 8, 11: 21; Romans 14).
- Romans 14.15 But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. 16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of: 17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. 18 For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. 19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. 20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. 21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. 22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. 23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
- 1 Corinthians 8. But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. 9 But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. 10 For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; 11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. 13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.
When we are considering doing something that we know is all right for us, we must ask ourselves two questions. 1.) “Will this action cause peace or division in the church? Will this promote harmony or will it cause a problem.” 2.) “Will my brother in Christ grow by seeing me do this, or will his growth in the Lord be stunted by my actions?” We must be very careful that we do not allow our liberty to hinder the church as a whole, or the individual members in particular.
The whole point of this verse is that there are times when we must limit our liberty so that we do not hinder a fellow believer in their walk with the Lord. There are things that I know would not be wrong for me to do. However, there are people watching my life. Therefore, I don’t do those things, by choice, so that I don’t offend that weaker brother or sister. If I hinder them and cause them to sin, I have not been Christlike, but I have been very selfish!
I am asked what my take is on Christian liberty is: “It is my prayer and the prayer of my colleagues in church leadership that every person who calls Koinonia Fellowship their home church, for the sake of Christ and for the love of our unsaved neighbors and fellow Christians will abstain from any habits or life styles that fail to honor Christ and will seek to perfect holiness in the fear of God doing everything in word and deed to His honor and glory.”