Colossians 2 (New International Version)
1 I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2 My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.
In this day and age, many people believe that all religions are basically the same, that there are many paths to God, that Christ is only one of many faces that reflect divine truth and goodness, and so on. I am very sorry to say that even in our churches, even among our church leaders, are people who cannot affirm what Paul says above, that the “mystery of God” is not a secret, but has been fully revealed “in Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
If you are looking for ultimate truth, Paul says, here the religious options narrow. The “fine-sounding arguments” falter. The search is over. Jesus Christ is God, and in Christ alone we find “the full riches of complete understanding.”
5 For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.
Spiritual Fullness in Christ
6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Martin Luther told once how Satan laid heavy condemnation on him because of his sins. Luther told Satan to list them all, and even reminded him of some he had forgotten. Then he told Satan to write across the whole list “paid in full by the blood of Jesus Christ” — and Luther rejoiced in the payment Jesus made.
A song that has brought comfort to untold numbers of sinners, myself included. Jesus, by means of his “triumph” on the cross, has surely and certainly made it true that “It is well with my soul.” Sung here by Chris Rice.
Freedom From Human Rules
Wherever laws are given as the ultimate answer to the human predicament, we are staring eye to eye with legalism. Legalism says that we are capable of pleasing God and curing our own ills by rigidly keeping a set of regulations. Legalism is not the downfall of bad people, who resent law and enjoy breaking it. Legalism is the trap into which good people fall — people who try to be responsible, who admire discipline, who practice their religion with steady devotion.
Paul condemns legalism, which threatens to cut the heart out of the Christian gospel. The human effort which legalism demands and the divine grace which the gospel proclaims have nothing to do with each other.
–David A. Hubbard, Colossians Speaks to the Sickness of our Times
16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. 19They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. 20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
Do not . . . do not . . . do not: This is a perfect description of legalistic religion, defined more by what we don’t do than by what we do. Christianity is a moral religion; it does have clear moral boundaries. But at its foundation, Christianity is a religion of positive action.
The key to living above legalism is remembering that you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world. Our identification with Jesus in both His death and resurrection (as mentioned before in Colossians 2:12) becomes the foundation for our Christian life, instead of our law-keeping.
One aspect of legalism is that the doctrines of men are promoted as the laws of God. These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom . . . but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh: We might regard this as the greatest indictment against legalism in the Bible. At the bottom line, legalism’s rules have no value in restraining the indulgence of the flesh.