|IS COLOSSIANS 2:14-17 A "DIFFICULT SCRIPTURE"?
The Apostle Peter tells us in 2 Peter 3:15-16, that some of Paul's writings are hard to be understood. He equates them with scripture, and says that the unlearned and unstable wrest them to their own destruction. Then in verse 17, he warns us to beware lest we also be led astray, and fall into the error of the wicked.
One of the most misunderstood, misapplied and wrested scriptures in the entire Bible is, more than likely, the Book of Colossians, and especially the 2nd chapter. Before we begin, let us get a little background information on Paul's letter to these Believers at Colosse.
Peloubet's Bible Dictionary has this to say: "The epistle to the Colossians was written by the apostle Paul during his first captivity at Rome. Acts 28:16. (AD 62). The epistle was ad-dressed to the Christians of the city of Colosse, and was delivered to them by Tychicus, whom the apostle had sent both to them, Col. 4:7-8, and to the Church of Ephesus, Eph. 6:21, to (ex-hort and comfort) them."
"The main object of the epistle is to warn the Colossians against a spirit of semi-Judaistic and semi-oriental philosophy which was corrupting the simplicity of their belief, and was noticea-bly tending to obscure the eternal glory and dignity of (Messiah)."
Paul was addressing a problem that had cropped up in that local assembly. They were letting a perverted version of the gospel be taught, and it was corrupting the assembly. They were mixing truth and error, just as we see being done today.
The Lexicon Universal Encyclopedia says under the article, Epistle to the Colossians: "This is a book of the New Testament of the Bible. The author confronts a type of gnosticism that taught that angelic powers rule the cosmos and that various ascetic and ritual practices are required of Christians. Against these teachings, the epistle shows that since Christ is ruler of the whole cosmos and has saved believers, neither fear nor extreme practices are appropriate."
Again we find that Paul wrote his letter to this group of believers to counteract these false be-liefs that had crept into their midst. These beliefs involved angel-worship, eastern philosophy, asceticism and gnosticism, all traditions of men, as we shall see.
These people were miserable. They practiced a form of penance by afflicting severely their own bodies in an effort to please Yahweh. They ate sparingly, and thought it a sin to be joyful, and to feast with good food and drink on Yahweh's Sabbaths and annual Holy Days.
They were accusing and judging (condemning) true believers for their eating and drinking on Holy Days, New Moon Feasts, and Sabbaths.
They had their own traditions, ordinances, commandments and doctrines, which they were teaching that all should obey. Remember, the Colossian assembly was Gentile. They had no background of Sabbath - Holy day observance, as did the Jews.
So, with this background, let's read Colossians. Chapter one is an introduction. He commends them for the truth that they have, then begins to lay the foundation of his subject in v. 10: "...that ye might walk worthy...being fruitful...increasing in the knowledge of Yahweh ...strengthened...Giving thanks to the Father which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear son..."
Then in verses 14-17, he shows that Yahshua has the pre-eminence over even the angels, and that angels are not proper objects of worship. In verses 23-27, he warns them not to be moved away from the hope of the gospel; that mystery of the evangel, which is Messiah in you, the hope of glory."
Did you get that? The mystery of the gospel - the hope of eternal salvation - is Messiah living in us, in the form of the Holy Spirit, which is given to "them that obey Him," Acts 5:32.
Now, Colossians 2. This chapter, and especially verses 14-17, has been used for many years to try to prove that Paul was doing away with the 10 commandments, especially the 7th day Sabbath, the clean food laws, and Yahweh's annual Holy Days.
But notice what Paul was really saying. In verse 4, he says to let no man beguile you with enticing words.
In verse 8, he warns "beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Messiah. Remember this "man." He certainly can't be a true believer if he is teaching philosophy, vain deceit, man's worldly traditions, etc. He is not "after Messiah," as Paul said.
In verse 12, Paul is saying that we are "Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with [him] through the faith of the operation of Yah, who hath raised him from the dead. 13: And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened to-gether with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14, Blotting out the handwriting of or-dinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
What is this "handwriting of ordinances that was against us?" Isn't it the death penalty for our sins? Not the law, but the penalty for breaking the law.
Of course! His death made it possible for us to have complete, total forgiveness. Paul said that the law is holy, just and good. It was given for our well-being. But if and when we break it, and all have, then it becomes a curse to us, against us, and contrary to us. The only way to escape its curse once we've broken it, is to ask Yahshua's sacrifice be applied to cover our sin.
Now verses 16-17: 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 _abbath days, Which are a shadow (foreshadow) of things to come; but the body is of Messiah.
Here's this unrighteous man again, the same sort as in verses 4 and 8. And we aren't to let him judge us in how we worship Yahweh.
Note in your KJV Bible that the word, "days" after Sabbath, and the word "is" after body, are in italics. That means they were added by the translators in an effort to make the meaning clearer. Sometimes this works, but here it didn't. It actually obscured the meaning. The thought Paul is conveying, is approximately this: Let no man therefore (because your sins are forgiven, and you are not subject to man's rules) judge you in your eating and drinking (feasting before Yahweh) or in your observance of a holyday, or your observance of the new moon, or of your Sabbath-keeping, all of which foreshadow things yet to come, but let the body of Messiah (the Assembly) judge you in these things.
Many say that verses 14-17 do away with the Ten Commandments, and therefore we don't have to keep_Sabbaths, holydays, or observe new moons (to know when to keep holydays), and that we can eat anything we want to, because these things are only shadows, but the real-ity is Messiah.
This is a fallacy that could be eternally fatal to those who believe and follow such a doctrine.
Now, let's go on to verse 18: Colossians 2:18 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,...
Here's this "man" again, who is teaching angel?worship, having a puffed-up fleshly mind. Certainly not a Spirit-led believer. In verses 19-22, Paul shows that these are ascetic rules being spoken of (touch not, taste not, handle not), after the commandments and doctrines of men, and are NOT YAHWEH'S Ten Commandments.
Don't let the rhetoric of modern religionists confuse you. Yahweh's laws are not "done away." If they were, then it would be impossible to sin, and Yahshua would have died in vain. How is this? Sin is not imputed when there is no law, Rom. 5:13. If there is no law to break, then there is no penalty.
I John 3:4 tells us: Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the trans-gression of the law.
Quite simply, Paul had received news that the believers at Colosse were being led astray by a group of men teaching a curious mix of Gnosticism, asceticism, Eastern philosophy, and Ju-daism. This letter was his response in an attempt to counteract this heresy. It is not referring to the Ten Commandments at all. Neither is it referring to meat or drink offerings connected with Jewish temple worship, nor is it saying that we can now eat anything that walks, wiggles, creeps, quivers or crawls and forget the clean food laws.
Salvation, the letter announces, comes not through philosophy, but through the actual death and resurrection of Messiah here on earth, 2:11-15. The Gnostics, who believed that Yahweh was far removed from material things, were divided in their ethics. Some became ascetics, abstaining as far as possible from material things. They developed regulations about "food and drink." With regard to material things, the best rules seemed to them to be "Don't handle, don't taste, don't touch," v. 21. "Worship of angels" v. 18, might be more important than whether or not one was sexually chaste. They thought moral rules were only conventions; it did not matter to the spiritual god what you did with your body, they thought.
But Paul pleads for a different kind of spirituality. Those who truly set their "minds on things that are above" (3:2), have "died" to "anger, wrath, malice, slander, and foul talk" (3:5-8).
They have put on love (3:12-17), and that love will manifest itself not in speculation, not in taboos about food and drink, but in the day-to-day relationships between people (3:11-4:6). [These last 3 paragraphs adapted from "The Layman's Guide to the New Testament, by Wil-liam M. Ramsey.]
So, forget the idea that Paul in his letter to the Colossians "did away with" the Ten Commandments, that he cleansed unclean meats, that he said we don't have to keep the annual Holy Days or the weekly Sabbath. If Paul were alive today, he would be appalled that such heresy would be attributed to him, and that his true message had become so misunderstood. *** ~Frank Brown
Back to Index
Back to Main