“So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”—Colossians 2:16-17 (NKJV)
For practically two chapters of this four-chapter epistle, the apostle Paul has stacked one layer of truth concerning Jesus upon another. The objective of unveiling both who Jesus is and all He has done has been accomplished, which is why Paul now transitions to a new emphasis . . . warning! He warns the early church against its greatest threat. Interestingly, it’s not persecution nor is it some sinful behavior that we’d consider heinous or depraved. It’s legalism!
Remember, Christianity began as a predominantly Jewish movement. Its first followers had to transition from an identity rooted based on the Law of Moses to an identity rooted in the liberty secured by the cross. They were free from the Law’s obligations, but as you can imagine, this freedom was hard to fully accept. As a result, many stood in a sort of “spiritual no-man’s land” with one foot in legalism and the other foot in liberty.
To make matters worse, false teachers were making the rounds and leveraging this insecurity to draw followers (and finances) to themselves. This was a blatant contradiction to the sufficiency of what Christ had done for them. So, Paul tells them to tune out any teaching that said they were still obligated to observe Moses’ Law because all of that merely pointed to what they now possessed in Christ. And Paul doesn’t stop there. He goes on to diagnose where those teachings came from: “And not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God” (Colossians 2:19 NKJV).
These false teachings were coming from those who weren’t even connected to Christ. But Paul points out to his readers that they were connected. And just as the head of a body makes life possible for the rest of that body, Jesus was their source of life, not those who were disconnected from Him and them. So, they shouldn’t put themselves under their judgements on how they should live!
The underlying truth here isn’t something that just applied to those first followers of Jesus. The same spiritual reality flows through our veins, as well. As believers in Christ, we’re connected to Him. He’s our Head, our source of life, and it’s vital to our spiritual lives that we see this. Otherwise, we’ll open ourselves to the false influences of legalism, hedonism, fatalism, or any other “ism” out there that’s not of Christ. Let’s live according to the One who gives us life!
DIG: What transition does Paul make here with his readers and why?
DISCOVER: What’s the connecting truth we need to understand?
DO: This week, determine what would be a wise filter for you as it relates to the influences in your life.