A Study of Colossians 2:16–23
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 sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. 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, And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh. (Colossians 2:16-23)
Since in Christ all the fulness of the Godhead dwells in His body, and we who have believed in Him and received Him by grace through faith are complete in Him, what does adding religion accomplish?
That is the question we often must ask. The thought that Christ came into the world to start a new religion is not from Scripture. There is no religion imposed on the Body of Christ, at least not from the Lord.
Now let me say this and be perfectly clear from the beginning: the title of this post is an obvious reference to John Lennon’s famous “Imagine”. This post has nothing of the content of that song in view. When I hear the words of that song, I actually hear what could very well be the theme music of “the prince that shall come” (Daniel 9:26). The “earth-dwellers” will be “all in” for a world with “no religion” when they worship the dragon and the beast, while the man of sin sits in the temple showing himself that he is god. They will imagine freedom from religion, when all of the world’s religions come together, imagining no heaven or hell, yet knowingly worshiping the devil and his christ. It will not be a world with “no religion”, it will be a one world religion, where the penalty of not following that religion is death.
All that said, when I speak of religion here, I am not talking about belief in God. I am talking about ceremonies, rituals, observances, etc. that mankind tries to use to appease God, or make himself more presentable to God. In other words, to try and fix Adam. The unsaved one cannot fix Adam, because Adam is dead in trespasses and sins. The saved also cannot fix Adam. We begin from this point: We died (as Adam) when God recognized us and identified us in Christ, and baptized us into His death. Adam is dead and buried, as the believer is buried with Christ. The believer is risen with Christ, and as risen with Christ, he is in newness of life. This is where our life in Christ starts.
Having established our completeness in Christ, Paul moves on to let us know that since we are so complete in Christ—”therefore”—do not let anyone tell you otherwise. Let no one tell you that you must change your diet to a religious diet.
For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. (Romans 14:17)
The dietary laws had a time and a place:
Ye shall therefore keep all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: that the land, whither I bring you to dwell therein, spue you not out. And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation, which I cast out before you: for they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred them. But I have said unto you, Ye shall inherit their land, and I will give it unto you to possess it, a land that floweth with milk and honey: I am the LORD your God, which have separated you from other people. Ye shall therefore put difference between clean beasts and unclean, and between unclean fowls and clean: and ye shall not make your souls abominable by beast, or by fowl, or by any manner of living thing that creepeth on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean. And ye shall be holy unto Me: for I the LORD am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be Mine. (Leviticus 20:22-26)
The real point of the dietary laws was to put a difference between Israel and the nations (Gentiles), especially in this case the Canaanites. They were to be in every way different. Is it any wonder that when Peter was going to be sent to Cornelius the Centurion, the dream consisted of eating meat from unclean animals?
…Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. (Acts 10:9-15)
Peter understood what the Lord told him in the dream:
And [Peter] said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. (Acts 10:28)
The Gentiles (non-Jews) were no longer to be regarded as common or unclean. The dietary laws were to emphasize the difference, and to be a difference. But in Christ there is no difference. As we will soon be told later in Colossians:
Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:11)
As it was once a command to be different and not to eat the unclean, and this was also to not keep company with Gentiles, nor to eat with them, now it is a sin to separate the Jew and the Gentile. In Christ we are one body (1 Corinthians 12:13). The dietary laws no longer have a place:
For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him. For whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved. (Romans 10:12-13)
I have always found that a very interesting verse. The Jews can be saved just like the Gentiles. God’s elect people [Israel] come to Christ just like the non-elect [gentiles]. By grace through faith in the Savior who died for their sins.
And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare [the Gentile believers] witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as He did unto us [Jews]; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we [Jews] shall be saved, even as they [Gentiles]. (Acts 15:8-11)
What an amazing turn of the order of things! Is it any wonder that Paul is so emphatic about not submitting to dietary laws as a religious expression? These things are done away. We are in Christ!
Let no one tell you to keep “days and months and times and years” (Galatians 4:10) to be complete in Christ either. The feast days of Israel had a also time and a place. The holy days, new moons, and sabbaths were shadows of things to come. They were shadows of Christ. But now we have the reality. The shadows no longer serve any purpose. The body is of Christ. The types in all of the festivals are wonderful teaching tools, but in and of themselves they only continue to promote earthly things, when our citizenship is in Heaven. Christ Jesus fulfilled the Passover, making full redemption through His blood. He fulfilled the Day of Atonement when He became the one sacrifice for sin, when He became sin for us. There is also a very distinct relation of these things to the Nation of Israel in the future, but as we live now, we are in Christ. The shadows that represented Him need to move out of the way to give place to reality.
For in [Christ] dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily; and ye are complete in Him…(Colossians 2:9–10)