Colossians 2: 16-23…..Shadows or substance?

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Comment: Reading this passage we must be careful to place it in its right context. Is what we eat important? There are certainly factors which affect health, thus we are aware of ‘spoiled’ food or poisonous substances. We are aware that there are still people in some lands who offer libations of drink to their ‘god’ and to them if we, knowing why they are doing it, eat/drink with them then we are considered to be worshipping their ‘god’. Paul writes about this in the book of Romans. Are there good reasons for fasting? Are there angels and a world that we cannot see around us? To believe in God means that we already believe in a world beyond what we can see and touch, even though what we can see and touch is a good evidence that there is a God.

Paul is clearly not denying the complexity of the world we live in but is speaking very plainly about the fullness of salvation in Jesus and emphasising that there is no more needed to be done beyond what Jesus has already done for us. He is even going further and saying that if we are trying to improve our chance of salvation by various philosophies which try to add to the gospel; if we worship unseen people, angelic or otherwise; if we add asceticism and punish our bodies in an attempt to control our evil tendencies, then we are walking away from the Christ who is to be all in all to us. As we shall see tomorrow, however, he is not saying “lie back and be a ‘couch potato’ character-wise”!

Prayer: Help me to walk wisely, with my eyes open to the truth of Your Word, Lord God.

One thought on “Colossians 2: 16-23…..Shadows or substance?

  1. Thank you Barry for your comments on this passage. We Christians need to “keep our eyes fixed on Jesus” and not on our circumstances. Jesus is the One who will build us up spiritually so that we don’t need to look at those around us and see what they are doing. If we follow Christ each day, and seek to honour Him in the way we live, then we are doing what He desires. God bless you.


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