True Believers Will Enjoy Freedom

Philippians – Colossians – Philemon Lesson 10

Colossians 2:16-23

Lesson For November 7, 2021

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SUBJECT: FREEDOM

CENTRAL THEME: ENJOY YOUR FREEDOM

INTRODUCTION:  There are numerous stories from history about people who continued to fight a war long after the war was over and a treaty was signed.  Many islands in the Pacific revealed Japanese fighters who remained on a war footing 10 or 20 years after the war was finished.  Some ignored messages about treaties thinking is was some kind of ploy to deceive them, but most never heard the war was over.  They were fighting for something that had already been settled.  Some of the Colossian believers were fighting a war that Jesus had already settled.  False teachers were trying to convince them they needed more than faith in Jesus to have a true relationship with God.  In choosing to follow certain lies and deceptions, they were trying to fight a battle Jesus had already won.

WHY DO YOU THINK MANY PEOPLE TRY TO ADD REQUIREMENTS BEYOND FAITH IN JESUS FOR GAINING FAVOR WITH GOD?

 

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

COLOSSIANS 2:16-23

       At the beginning of Chapter 2, Paul warns his readers to be on guard when someone comes with “enticing words” (vs. 4).  Falsehood in the hands of a persuasive speaker is the stuff of which deception is crafted and error is propagated.  A few verses later Paul also warned about a person who used falsehood that will “spoil you” (vs. 8).  In other words, these false teachers would happily use their manipulative words to capture you and take all that you have.  The lure of falsehood can possess the unsuspected power to take prisoners.  In this section of Colossians 2 that we are examining today, Paul will reiterate that in Jesus Christ, “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (vs. 3).  Therefore, we do not need to heed new human ideas or philosophies introduced under the auspices of religion or spirituality.  When people start adding religious duties and practices to the Gospel, it will inevitably lead the adherent into bondage.  But Jesus has given us freedom to live our lives without the restraints of laws and works.  If the truth makes us free, we will be free indeed!

EXPLORE THE TEXT:  COLOSSIANS 2:16-23

Objective Statement: Christians can experience complete liberty in Jesus Christ by living with three responses to Freedom.

 

RESPONSE #1 – FREEDOM IN WORSHIP (col. 2:16-17)

Verses 16-17

16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days:  17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

       Just prior to these verses, Paul had carefully explained how because of what Jesus had done, all of our trespasses had been forgiven (vs. 13); and He had nailed our sins to His Cross (vs. 14); and Jesus was victorious over principalities and powers and had humiliated then openly as He triumphed over them all (vs. 15).  Because of Jesus’ all sufficient atonement, Paul challenged the Colossian believers to not let other people dictate their religious practices.  Some of these false teachers were suggesting that since the Gentiles had come to Jesus, now they should adopt the religious rules and regulations of the O.T. Jewish laws.  “Let no man therefore judge you . . . .” (vs. 16a), was Paul’s bold warning.  IN WHAT THINGS DID PAUL CAUTION THEM NOT TO BE JUDGED BY OTHER PEOPLE?  (1).  Well, the reference to meat and drink would have invoked the O.T. Jewish dietary laws.  Let’s examine that practice for a moment.  Why did God require the Jewish people to observe the “Kosher” food laws?  Quite possibly, God in His grace wanted His covenant people not to expose themselves to sicknesses that might afflict them through eating certain foods in an age when refrigeration was unknown and preservation was questionable.  God also warned His people to not practice the pagan eating habits of their idolatrous neighbors.  To eat food offered to idols or food that had been prepared in unhealthy ways was a part of this dietary prohibition.  Paul challenged the Colossians to not let human teachers dictate their religious practices when it came to dietary laws about clean and unclean food.  These issues should not be a litmus test for whether a person was genuinely saved or not.  Jesus declared in Mark 7:18-19, “Are ye so without understanding also?  Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats.”  So we should not be judged by any person about whether or not we observe the O.T. dietary laws.  NOTE: Christians should still be discerning to recognize that there are certain things that Christians should not take into their bodies in light of the damage they do to one’s physical health or one’s testimony(2).  The false teachers also urged the Colossian church to observe special religious days.  Of course, the weekly Sabbath was high on their list of requirements.  WHY DO CHRISTIANS MEET ON SUNDAY RATHER THAN SATURDAY (SABBATH)?  These Jewish believers who wanted to add works to faith in Jesus, were especially agitated that the Christians met on Sunday.  The Sabbath was to remain holy according to the Law.  But the Christians gathered together on Sundays because it was the first day of the week.  Every Sunday was a commemoration of the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead!  That is why Sunday celebrations for the Christians superseded Saturday as a Worship Day.  Part of religious special day observances caused other Jewish “holydays” and monthly phases of the “moon” to be regarded as superior.  As Paul goes on to explain in this sections of Colossians, these observances in no way added to the all sufficient atonement of Jesus.  Those observances served God’s purposes in the era of the Old Testament.  With the coming of Jesus, a day of freedom in the worship of God dawned.

       Verse 17 seems a little curious to the way modern, westerners would state things.  But for the First Century Christians there would have been a clear understanding.  In the O.T. Torah, the special food laws and holy days were important.  But Paul reminds them that those observances were just “a shadow of things to come.”  In the same way we would examine a shadow, we know that does not represent the real “body.”  Those O.T. expressions were simply a “shadow” or an example, of a reality of something to come in the future.  But when Christ came in a physical body, there was no need to any longer consider the “shadow” as important.  Now we can behold the real thing; Jesus in the flesh, who was the fulfillment of the previous shadow image.  Why would anyone value the shadow when the real person was right there?  As originally intended for Israel, the law with its stipulations about diet and special days served as “our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal 3:24).  With the coming of Jesus, the role of the “schoolmaster” was no longer necessary.  Now we have freedom to worship God in spirit and in truth without the encumbrances of the law.

 

RESPONSE #2 – FREEDOM FROM FALSEHOODS (COL. 2:18-19)

Verses 18-19

18 Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,  19 And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.

       Again, Paul issues a warning to his readers when he says, “Let no man beguile you . . . .” (vs. 18a).  In other words, don’t let anyone ‘entice you;’ or ‘solicit you;’ or even ‘hypnotize you’ into believing falsehoods.  They are just trying to charm you with their eloquent words and confuse you away from the truth you already know.  Paul warned against two falsehoods threatening the Colossian church: “voluntary (false) humility” and the “worshipping of angels” (vs. 18b).  If they fell for these deceptions there testimonies would be disqualified.  “Voluntary humility” was really the early introduction of practices like asceticism or monasticism.  CAN SOMEONE EXPLAIN THAT?  Well, it was a self-deprivation that mimicked the Pharisees, to show an outward piety but inside they were “full of dead men’s bones.”  They hypocritically appeared to be holy, but their actions were judgmental, harsh, and burdensome.  They wanted people to look at them as super-spiritual, when often their life was evil and their spirit was self-righteous.  This whole concept would later in the Church Age, lead to people divorcing themselves from all worldly contacts and sequestering themselves in monasteries and convents.  It became a form of hyper-spirituality and a holier-than-thou attitude.  The other falsehood took a very mystical tangent.  There were those Colossians (and it was happening in other places) who claimed to have a connection with the netherworld (the land of the dead; the realm of the spirits and angels).  This paganism misled people into believing they could worship angels and get them to do supernatural things that humans could not accomplish.  Since Jesus did the miraculous, they thought tapping into that mystical realm could give them special powers and authority.  But it was of Satan, not of God!

       Paul debunks both of these false teachings and says we are FREE from such satanic inspired practices.  Paul scolds these deceivers by condemning them of “intruding into those things which he hath not seen” (vs. 18b).  In other words, these scam artists were peddling the ideas of claiming to have visions or contact with angels from whom they derived their superior ideas.  But the Bible is clear, that rather than being objects of worship or channels of revelation, angels serve as “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation” (Heb. 1:14).  These people who were merchandizing in the ministry, these beguilers, were simply “vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind” (vs. 18c).  They were proud, arrogant, liars, trying to mislead the faithful believers by their own deceitful imaginations. 

       In verse 19, Paul basically says, such false teachers, were lacking a vital relationship with Christ Jesus.  As Paul put it, “not holding the Head.”  Christ alone is the Head of the true spiritual body, the local church.  It is from this divine Head that the body gets “nourishment.”  These false teachers imagined themselves to be super-spiritual and in a class by themselves, but in reality they were starving because their nourishment did not come from Jesus.  Furthermore, it is the divine Head by which the body is “knit together.”  Like the “joints and bands” that keep a physical human body properly joined and functioning, so Jesus keeps His spiritual body – the local church – joined in unity and functioning with “the increase of God.”  Falsehoods promoted by the false teachers could never enable unity and real growth in a church.  Heresy breeds dissension and division, a condition that results in weakness and stunted growth within a church.

 

RESPONSE #3 – FREEDOM TO LIVE (col. 2:20-23)

Verses 20-23

20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,  21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not;  22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?  23 Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body: not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.

       Paul reminded the Colossian believers that genuine conversion equated to dying with Christ, rather than them contributing anything to earn their salvation.  Trusting Jesus Only, means abandoning any notion that we added any works to our redemption.  The ‘if-clause’ in vs. 20 is constructed in a way that assumes a fact is true.  So we could consider that phrase to mean, “if you died with Christ as indeed you did.”  The truth is, a Christian, in a spiritual sense, has died “with Christ.”  Paul stated it this way in Galatians 2:20 when he wrote, “I am crucified with Christs: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”  So what did we die from when we were made alive by Jesus?  We died to the “rudiments of the world,” which is another expression of such human activities as observing food laws and keeping special days.  One who is wholly and solely trusting Jesus for eternal life has died to any actions that might try to win favor with God.  Therefore, Paul asks the question, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,  21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not;  22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?”  The truism that has been sometimes repeated says, ‘Christians have been saved out of the world, in order to be different from the world, while going back into the world as witnesses for Christ.’  But our testimonies are compromised if our lives are no different from those people who are still unbelievers.  Paul specifically addresses the issue of “ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;)” (vs. 20b-22).  This strongly worded colloquialism of the day, was espoused by those false teachers and are obviously aimed at the prohibitions of dietary regulations.  In other words, don’t even touch those foods.  These are man-made “commandments and doctrines” that are temporary and have no salvation benefit.  In fact, they place major emphasis on the temporal (“Which all are to perish with the using;”) and forsake the really important eternal matters.  Religious hypocrites of Jesus’ day ignored such issues as justice, mercy, and faithfulness, while giving meticulous attention to the outward matter of tithing garden herbs.  Jesus dramatically described such an approach to religious devotion as straining out a gnat yet swallowing a camel (Matt. 23:23).  “Man-made religious observances not only do not add to genuine religious devotion, they detract from what matters most to God” (Explore the Bible, p. 109).  When it came to observing food laws, the false teachers in Colosse were dealing with natters that were temporary and relatively unimportant to having a personal relationship with God.  But let’s be reminded of our testimony even in the things we eat and drink.  It is commendable and biblical when Christians abstain from some foods and drink in order to keep from hurting a weaker believer (1 Cor. 8).  Our freedom in Jesus, should never be used in such a way that it would cause a new believer to stumble or be confused.  Before young Christians, and those that are unsaved, we should live our lives in such a way that we are always, BLAMELESS!

       In Verse 23, Paul saw right through the “will worship, and (false) humility, and neglecting of the body,” espoused by the false teachers as practices masquerading as “wisdom” (vs. 23a).  They were all just an outward show.  These man-made ordinances, deceived people into believing they were super-righteous, but they provided no value in restraining “the flesh” (vs. 23b).  To live with outward emphasis on our spirituality almost always leads to a ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude towards unbelievers and even toward other members of the local body of Christ.  The Christian life is one of Freedom, not of bondage to traditions of people or churches.  To live righteously, we must walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the desires of the flesh!  Enjoy your Freedom in Jesus, but always use that Freedom responsibly, carefully guarding your testimony!

Remember our Objective Statement: Christians can experience complete liberty in Jesus Christ by living with three responses to Freedom.

 

RESPONSE #1 – FREEDOM IN WORSHIP (col. 2:16-17)

 

 

RESPONSE #2 – FREEDOM FROM FALSEHOODS (COL. 2:18-19)

 

 

RESPONSE #3 – FREEDOM TO LIVE (col. 2:20-23)