Thursday, August 7, 2008

Colossians 2: 16-19

Day 12

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 to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. 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, 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.

Paul is once again teaching against the heresy which was making its mark in the church at Colossae. As was said earlier in our study, this heresy eventually evolved into what is known as Gnosticism. False teachers promoted the requirement that the church continue to be under the Law and observe all of its rites, ceremonies, and holidays. Paul is very clear in many of his letters that the Law and its requirements no longer have us under condemnation. Yesterday’s verses said that Jesus took that Law and nailed it to the cross. He fulfilled every requirement on our behalf. The Law was paid in full.

Notice the things Paul points out as no longer a requirement.
1. food and drink restrictions
2. festival, new moon, or Sabbath day observances
3. self-abasement (or self-mutilation)
4. worship of angels
All of these were a part of the pre-Gnostic teaching that was spreading throughout the fledgling churches of the New Testament.

One night when Sasha the Dog was new to our family, I took her out for a brief walk before bedtime. She was still extremely skittish around anyone unfamiliar to her, but other dogs really set her off. As we walked by the neighborhood pool building, headlights from an approaching car shone on us. Our shadows were displayed against the brick of the pool house. Sasha went wild. I tried waving my arms and showing her it was just us, but she didn’t get it. The shadows were just as real to her as the flesh and bones that we were. It was really rather silly.

Paul is demonstrating to the Colossians that all of the requirements of the Law, with its dietary restrictions and observances, were only ever a mere shadow of the real thing. The Law was meant to make a point, sent in our preparation to demonstrate to us our need for a Savior. But the Savior had already come! Why would you dedicate your focus onto the precursor when you have already seen the main attraction?

Paul also speaks to the motivation of the group doing the false teaching. They were defrauding the people by distorting the truth. Why? They were judging people by their own standard. They had become “inflated without cause.” In other words, their finger pointed outward, judging everyone around them and finding them lacking (except, apparently, themselves). They were missing the point of Christianity.

We cannot judge each other because we are all equally guilty. We all stood condemned, we all needed a Savior. We were all saved by grace. Christianity should be the great equalizer. The playing field is level. No one can claim one act as more worthy than another. We all exist because of the grace of God. Legalism cheapens the grace of God and places the responsibility of our salvation back on our shoulders.

What is the remedy for this destructive attitude of legalism? Paul points it out at the end of this passage. Hold fast to the head, Jesus Christ. When Christ is in His proper place, as the head, controlling the whole rest of the body, our perspective is right once again. Legalism takes the focus off of Christ and zooms it in on us.

Becoming legalistic is too easy for us. We delight in judging others because it makes us feel better about our own inadequacies. What false standards do you hold others accountable to in your mind? How does that attitude take the focus off of Christ?

No comments: