Colossians 2:16-18,20-23: “So let no one judge you in food or in DRINK, or REGARDING a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. 18 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in …… WORSHIP OF ANGELS …… vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind …… 20 …… if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why …… do you subject yourselves to regulations– 21 ‘Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,’ 22 …… according to the COMMANDMENTS AND DOCTRINES OF MEN? 23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed …… neglect of the body, but are of no value ……” (New King James Version)
The context or subject content here IS NOT about Biblically forbidden food or the Mosaic festival days or the Sabbath days themselves, but a warning by Paul to the Colossians to ignore criticism by a local group of ascetic heretics within the church condemning the gentile Christians in Colossae for physically enjoying the feast meals on the Sabbath and holy festival days. The city of Colossae was renowned for its asceticism. These verses actually CONFIRM that the law keeping gentile Colossians were observing the Saturday Sabbath and the Mosaic festivals, because the new Christian church had taught them to obey those laws. If the Colossians had not been observing these days, the heretics would have had no basis for their objections to the eating and drinking aspects, the feasting part, of the holy days and the Saturday Sabbath. The Colossian Christians were primarily gentile. Yet Paul in his letter to the Colossians never said or even hinted that obeying the Sabbath and holy day laws was no longer necessary.
Many of the residents of Colossae adhered to a pagan philosophy of self denial and abstinence from pleasure in an attempt to achieve perfection. They also thought that anyone who was religious should behave as they did. Even many of the new members of the Christian church in Colossae brought their pagan philosophies with them, adversely influencing other Christians. As a result of obeying Biblical laws such as the Feast of Unleavened Bread, The Feast of Tabernacles, etc., the converted Colossians were learning how to enjoy life as God intended, but the ascetics began to look down on them and condemn them. In verse 16 Paul told the church members to essentially ignore what the non-Christians thought about their enjoyment of eating good food, drinking wine, and pleasurably celebrating the Sabbath and the festival days.
The original Greek word for “food” is brosis, Strong’s number 1035, which has as its first definition “the act of eating.” That definition places emphasis on eating in general, not on any specific kind of food such as the forbidden foods. The Greek word for “drink” is posis, Strong’s 4213. Posis is defined as or suggests “the act of drinking and that which is drunk.” So brosis and posis both emphasize the act of eating or drinking, and posis places little importance on what is drunk. THE VERY FACT THAT “DRINK” IS IN VERSE 16 IS AN IMMEDIATE TIP THAT JUDGMENTAL CRITICISM WAS BEING DIRECTED AT SOMETHING OTHER THAN THE BIBLICALLY FORBIDDEN FOODS SINCE NONE OF THE FOOD LAWS PROHIBIT WHAT ONE CAN DRINK. The Scriptures elsewhere, though, do forbid drinking blood according to Genesis 9:4 and Acts 15:20, but blood, of course, never was an accepted drink in civilized societies. Therefore the Colossian Christians were not drinking blood. “Drink” was probably referring to popular wines or other good tasting drinks.
The Greek word for “regarding” is meros, Strong’s 3313. The primary definition of meros is “a part, portion.” Meros in the New Testament is defined as “part” 24 times, “portion” 3 times, “coast” 3 times, “behalf” 2 times, “respect” 2 times, and has miscellaneous definitions 9 other times. Therefore Paul was advising the Colossians to not let others judge them concerning only a part or portion of the festivals, new moons, and sabbaths. The emphasis was only on some part (apparently the aesthetic consumption of tasty feast meals) of those special days, not on the entirety of those days.
The next step is to Biblically verify that it was the pagan influenced ascetics, not righteous Christian believers, who were most likely doing the judging in Colossians 2:16. The following NKJV verses within the second chapter of Colossians give us good clues.
Colossians 2:8: “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to THE TRADITION OF MEN, according to THE BASIC PRINCIPLES OF THE WORLD, and not according to Christ.” The forbidden foods, Mosaic festival days, and sabbaths NEVER WERE part of the traditions of men or the basic principles of the world.
Colossians 2:18: “Let no one cheat you of your reward, TAKING DELIGHT IN false humility and WORSHIP OF ANGELS, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.” If you mistakenly believe that Colossians 2 states that it was righteous Christians expressing condemnation, not just a “red flag,” but an almost blindingly bright, pulsating “red flare” should go up after reading the words “taking delight in …… worship of angels.” THE PEOPLE JUDGING THE COLOSSIANS IN VERSE 16 WERE PEOPLE THAT WORSHIPPED ANGELS, SO THEY DEFINITELY WERE NOT RIGHTEOUS CHRISTIANS OR RIGHTEOUS JEWS BECAUSE THE BIBLE NOWHERE ALLOWS CHRISTIANS OR JEWS TO WORSHIP ANGELS.
Colossians 2:20,21,22,23: “Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why as though living in the world, DO YOU SUBJECT YOURSELVES TO REGULATIONS— 21 ‘DO NOT TOUCH, DO NOT TASTE, DO NOT HANDLE,’ 22 which all concern things which perish with the using—ACCORDING TO THE COMMANDMENTS AND DOCTRINES OF MEN? 23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in SELF IMPOSED RELIGION, false humility, AND NEGLECT OF THE BODY, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.” The man made, self denying regulations prohibiting certain kinds of touching, tasting, and handling very strongly suggest that excessive asceticism was a major part of the beliefs of those heretical Christians doing the judging. The words “ACCORDING TO THE COMMANDMENTS AND DOCTRINES OF MEN?” clearly do not refer to the Mosaic dietary, festival, and Sabbath laws because those laws are of course divine, not man made.
The last part of verse 17: “…… but the substance is of Christ” is not as accurate or literal as the original Greek. In the first place, the word “is” has been artificially added. The Greek for “substance” is soma, Strong’s 4983 which means “the body” or “the body as a whole.” The Greek for “of Christ” is Christos, Strong’s 5547 which means Jesus Christ. Verses 16,17: “So let no one judge you …… but the body (or church) of Christ.” is a more accurate translation. Paul is advising the Colossians to be concerned about being judged by only the Christian Church, that is, its righteous members, not by people inside or outside the church with unBiblical, heretical, man concocted philosophies.
Remember that you can confidently assume that God is not deliberately lying to you in any verse because He told us that He does not lie. Hebrews 6:18: “……it is impossible for God to lie ……” Reasoning logically, God has also indicated that, in this pre-Millennial age when the first resurrection’s “first fruits” are being chosen and trained to rule and teach, He is not trying to use the Bible to deliberately confuse the extremely blessed and the extremely lucky who have been personally selected from a very large number of “wannabe” Christians, and truly “called” by God the Father. John 6:65,66,67,68: “…… NO ONE can come to Me unless it has been GRANTED to him by My Father.’ 66 From that time MANY of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. 67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you also want to go away?’ 68 But Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” 1 Corinthians 14:33: “For God is not the author of confusion.” Therefore we can confidently assume that the original Greek in the New Testament is not really self contradictory concerning law keeping. Since God will not lie or try to confuse us then we need to really believe LITERALLY the following 13 verses that plainly tell us that Christians still need to obey the law.
1) 1 John 3:4: “…… SIN IS THE VIOLATION OF THE LAW”
2) Romans 2:13: “For not the hearers of the LAW are just in the sight of God, but the DOERS of the LAW will be justified.”
3) Romans 6:1,2: “…… Shall we continue in SIN that grace may abound? 2 CERTAINLY NOT! How shall we …… live any longer in it?”
Romans 6:1,2: “What shall we say then? Shall we keep on doing WRONG THINGS so that God will be more kind to us? 2 NO, SURELY NOT! We died to our WRONG WAYS and no longer live in them.” (Worldwide English [New Testament])
Romans 6:1,2: “So what do we do? Keep on SINNING so God can keep on forgiving? I SHOULD HOPE NOT! 2 If we’ve left the country where SIN is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good? (The Message) The word “SIN” appears in this and other verses, so remember, according to 1 John 3:4 above, it means ONLY one thing, BREAKING either the food, festival, tithing, Saturday rest, or some other OT or NT law or a combination of those laws.
4) Romans 6:15: “…… Shall we SIN because we are not under LAW but under grace? CERTAINLY NOT!”
5) Romans 3:31: “Well then, if we are saved by faith, does this mean that we no longer need to OBEY God’s LAW? JUST THE OPPOSITE! In fact, only when we trust Jesus can we truly OBEY Him.” (The Living Bible)
6) Romans 6:16: “Do you not know that …… you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of SIN leading to death, or of OBEDIENCE leading to RIGHTEOUSNESS?” 7) Romans 6:18: “And having been set free from SIN, YOU BECAME SLAVES OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.” 8) Romans 6:19: “…… For just as you presented your members as slaves of UNCLEANNESS, and of LAWLESSNESS leading to more lawlessness, SO NOW PRESENT YOUR MEMBERS AS SLAVES OF RIGHTEOUSNESS FOR HOLINESS.” The Greek definition of UNCLEANNESS includes the Levitically “unclean” or forbidden foods. The Greek definition of LAWLESSNESS refers primarily to breaking the Old Testament, Mosaic LAWS. The word “righteousness” in these Roman verses usually refers to the Jewish LAW keeping type of righteousness. So according to the green, capitalized phrase above, Paul clearly commands us to start or to continue obeying the LAW.
9) Matthew 19:17: “….. BUT IF you want to enter into life, KEEP the commandments.” 10) Revelation 22:14: “Blessed are those who DO His commandments, that they may HAVE THE RIGHT to the tree of life ……”
11) JUDE 1:4: “…… (impious, PROFANE) persons …… PERVERT THE GRACE …… of our God into LAWLESSNESS ……” (The Amplified Bible)
12) Matthew 7:23: “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART from Me, you who practice LAWLESSNESS.” 13) Matthew 13:41,42: “…… His angels …… will gather …… those who practice LAWLESSNESS 42 and will cast them into the FURNACE OF FIRE ……”
For additional study please visit http://www.ucg.org/bible-study-lesson/bible-study-course-lesson-12-gods-festivals-keys-humanitys-future/what-did-paul-really-say-c/. Another great site is http://lifehopeandtruth.com/bible/law-and-grace/colossians-2-16/.
Scripture quotations marked (TLB) are taken from The Living Bible copyright ©1971, used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations taken from the Amplified® Bible,
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Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Unless indicated otherwise, all Biblical quotations are from the New King James Version.