The "norm"? Devotional Commentary for July 7-13
This is the Word of God. May the Spirit of Truth give us wisdom and insight to receive what has been conveyed through His Word by His Inspiration.
2:15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.
We recall how Paul admonished the Colossians to continue in faith and adhere to the instructions they received when they heard and believed the gospel. His exhortations came with unassailable assurance that Christ's finished work has displaced earthly authorities and all powers and principalities in the air, from having any enduring control over them. While Jesus Christ nailed to the Cross the record of our indebtedness to the Law, God in Jesus Christ triumphed over the enemies of Truth when He raised His Son from the dead. God publicly showed the enemies of the Gospel that His Purpose cannot be thwarted and His Plan cannot be stopped.
When the Sanhedrin—the Jewish high court—condemned Jesus to death after receiving Pilate’s reluctant permission to crucify Him, they thought they were getting rid of a powerful religious enemy. They did not realize they were actually serving God's Purpose by putting the sacrificial Lamb of God on the eternal Altar: the Cross at Calvary. They felt they destroyed a formidable threat to their own security and their authority over the people. But they were disarmed, crushed, and humiliated when they saw that death could no longer hold the Son of God. It was necessary that the Colossians understood and believe that the Victor over sin, death, hell, and the devil is also the Lord of their lives.
16Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day--
17things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.
18Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind,
19and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.
Therefore, continued Paul, it should be obvious to the Colossians that no one can lord any authority over them. They ought to have understood that no one should judge them because of what they ate or drank, or about their behavior toward the observance of annual holy days, New Moon Festivals, or the days of worship. Christ is their Authority and Foundation. They should not be afraid to resist the deceptive teachings and traditions advanced by false religions.
Paul exhorted the Colossians not to be taken to task by the adherents of religious traditions. Christ is now the norm. The redeemed are no longer subject to the rigorous proscriptions of ungodly traditions. The Colossians needed to understand that they were free in Christ.
The pressure to revert to their old ways might increase, now that they have abandoned the former things of their sinful past. Now that they were in Christ, the Colossians should always be mindful Who Jesus Christ is and what He did for them. They should be consciously aware that their allegiance to their Lord supersedes their obligations: to family and friends, to the old ways of their sinful past, and to the ungodly religious practices out of which they were saved.
Paul earnestly warned the Colossians that they would not be deceived by the lure of unseemly pleasure propagated by those whose ego is inflated by arrogance and false visions. Such individuals are unconnected with the true Head of the Body of Christ and, therefore, have not been nurtured by true sustenance supplied only by the true Vine: Jesus Christ. They seek to delight themselves with fleshly conceit. They attempt to make the believer feel unworthy of faith in Christ, wishing to degrade the redeemed to ungodliness and into the realm of unwholesome thoughts and imaginations.
20If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as,
21"Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!"
22(which all refer to things destined to perish with use)--in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men?
23These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.
Even though Paul did not summarily condemn all private religious experiences, he was emphatically opposed to any thought of holding private religious preferences or practices superior to Jesus Christ, what He did, and what He taught. So he confronted the Colossians by questioning their behavior. He asked them, why would you submit yourselves to the authority of the prohibitive rules of the religious culture around you, if you were already dead to the world in Christ?
These norms impose behavioral actions required by the conventions or customs of the world. Such behavioral compliances only strengthen the influences of the world on the believer who is already redeemed by God through His Son's finished work. So Paul told the Colossians that their behavior is contradicting their position with Christ. It is undermining their spiritual growth, making them vulnerable to contrary forces.
Paul's question to the Colossians was simple and direct. He asked: why the rules of man's imaginative innovations instead of Christ? Religious practices which aim at human excellence are simply self-imposed behaviors without any useful outcome for the soul. It is a counterfeit religion that cannot save anyone. Paul asked the Colossians, why do you try to earn what Christ has already done for you? Why do you return to bondage and disregard your freedom in Christ?
Paul’s message to the Colossians can be summarized with one short phrase: only Jesus Christ. That is, Jesus Christ, the visible image of the invisible God, in Whom the fullness of God dwells, the Lamb of God sacrificed to ransom the lost. As noted in our recent devotional meditations, the Colossians were exhorted to stand firm in faith and resist all the deceptive teachings and the traditions of men promoted by the enemies of the Gospel.
He gave them indisputable reasons as to why they should do so. The moment they confessed Jesus Christ Savior and Lord, their hearts were filled by Him. He is not just their Savior, but also their Lord and their God. In Him, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit took up residence in their hearts.
Their hearts were circumcised by His living Word and by the cleansing Power of His presence in them. They joined Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection as they became alive with Christ by God's Power which raised Him from the dead. He is the only Authority in their new life.
After admonishing the Colossians to continue in the teaching they received when they confessed Christ Jesus Savior and Lord, Paul emphatically warns them to be on guard lest they get carried away from the Truth by the strong influences of deceptive propositions. These teachings have the appearance of authority, dignity and revelation, but they are tools in the hands of the enemies of the Gospel.
Ultimately, The immutable truth is that the believer has joined Christ in His Death, Burial, and Resurrection. Hence, the redeemed are dead and buried to their sinful past and to all forms of ungodliness. At the same time, the Christian is raised with Christ into a new life. We are alive in Christ. Jesus Christ is the only Authority to which the child of God answers. His living Word is the only guiding light in the life of the believer. The believer has one God: Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. There is only one God. There is none like Him. There is no other. For the Christian, the world and all its ungodly nuances are dead.
Life for the Christian in this world is then, loving and serving the community in truth as unto the Lord. What Paul said to the Colossians, he also says to us. Stand firm in faith. Have depth in your understanding of the Word. Be rich in godly wisdom. Then, you will be discerning, mature, and persevering. Deception and falsehood will continue for a season. But the Word of God endures forever as do the children of God.