Friday, January 20, 2012

Live as Free

Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations — “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using — according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:20-23)

By “if,” Paul does not question whether the believers at Colosse had died with Messiah — he has already taught them that they have been “buried with Christ in baptism” (Colossians 2:12). He is challenging them to live according to that truth. What happened to Jesus at the cross is counted by God as having happened to us, in our place and for our benefit. Once we were dead in the sinfulness of a fallen human nature. Now, having died with Jesus, we are dead to it. Our “side slips” (transgressions) have been forgiven, the regulation that condemned us has been wiped out and the principalities have been disarmed. “Basic principles of the world” is a reference back to those powers, the demonic influences that so often manipulate human systems governments, cultures and economies.

Since those who are in Jesus are dead to all these things, why should we live as if we were still subject to them? They now have no authority over us. Yet religious teachers were coming around the believers at Colosse and teaching them that they must follow ascetic practices and regulations. Such rules and regulations are not from God but are the “commandments and doctrines of men.” Paul could be referring to Isaiah 29:13, where God says,
Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths
And honor Me with their lips,
But have removed their hearts far from Me,
And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men.
These things might appear to be wisdom, according to how the world thinks and acts, but it is not the wisdom that comes from God. It is “self-imposed religion.” It presents itself as humility, neglect of the body as a way of overcoming the sinful nature, but it actually has the opposite effect — it ends up indulging the sinful nature through the insidiousness of pride.

The problem is, “Don’t eat, don’t drink, don’t touch” is a focus on things, on regulations, on religion, on ourselves, and not on Jesus the Messiah, who has already overcome the sinful nature and defeated the satanic powers. Our focus and our thinking, then, needs to match up with that new reality, then we will learn how to stand in that victory.

The Focus of Our Faith
The Focus of Our Faith
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Colosse
Bite-Size Studies Through Colossians
by Jeff Doles

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Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

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