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Paul's Epistle to the Colossians Part 4: Salvation is not by Legalism
Many Identity Christians profess to keep the laws of God, and for the most part they do. But then they adopt and intermingle a lot of their concepts of right and wrong from the greater society, or from their own personal judgment of things transpiring in society, good or bad, whereby they are really not following Yahweh’s law in the degree which they imagine. Of course, none of us follow it perfectly, and that is why we require the mercy which is found in Christ. But Yahweh’s law is much more than just church law. It is a schematic for the coming Kingdom of Heaven, and Christians should seek to live by it and establish it now. They should base their everyday decisions and their judgments of right and wrong upon God’s law first. In our time of punishment we may be compelled to obey some of the laws of men, but of course we should not do so to the point of negating or invalidating the laws of our God. When man and God disagree, we must choose to follow God.
I had initially thought to subtitle this segment of our presentation of Paul’s epistle to the Colossians as Puritanical Pharisaism, or perhaps Pharisaical Puritanism. These titles would be appropriate within the confines of our modern vernacular use of those terms, but are not really fair to most of the original Puritans, or even to at least some of the original Pharisees.
At first, the Puritans sought to purify the Church of England of the idolatry and rituals and other things considered Catholic and which have no foundation in Scripture. However numbers of them, realizing that the established churches could never be reformed, broke from the Anglican church and established their own churches. Many of these, being persecuted, fled to America or Holland, and among the first Pilgrims were a large number of separatist Puritans, but there were also some non-separating Pilgrims, Puritans and others who remained within the Anglican church.
In the modern age, Puritans often get blamed for doctrines of asceticism, or abstinence, and the early Puritans were also sometimes known as killjoys. They had advocated so strict a moral life so as to completely prohibit public festivities, play-acting, dancing and other activities which were considered acceptable within the more mainstream Christian sects. But they did not proscribe things such as wine or beer. Instead, they considered those things as gifts from God which are not to be abused. Nor did they discourage sexual relationships, so long as they were within the lawful bonds of marriage. We would agree, but we would consider marriage and the sexual relationship to be inseparable, unless one is committing fornication or adultery. So the Puritans, while they had their faults in other areas, such as the hangings of Quakers, cannot really be blamed for many of the ideas which the larger society now considers to be puritanical. Here we shall see, at least briefly, that asceticism, which promotes abstention from earthly pleasures, is actually much older than Puritanism.
Neither were the Pharisees all bad. If they had been, Christ probably would not have been found entering into the houses of certain Pharisees to dine and to teach (i.e. Luke 11). The Pharisees are often blamed for a lot of the evils that really were perpetrated by the Sadducees, who were indeed all wicked. But even in the New Testament, one aspect in which Pharisaism is portrayed is that it represented a strict adherence to a particular interpretation of the legal aspects of the laws of God, even to the point where concepts of love and mercy must be laid aside, and for that reason Christ often exposed the Pharisees as hypocrites. The Pharisees focused on legalism and the strict keeping of the rituals and ordinances in the law, and they overlooked the exhortations to love, mercy and charity for one’s brethren. So the Pharisees would accuse a man who hungered on the Sabbath and, in violation of the law plucked some grain from the fields, as we see in an account recorded in Luke chapter 6. Likewise, some of the early Puritans had banished Quakers from their communities, and executed some of the Quakers who were found in their communities, killing their own brethren simply for having a somewhat different interpretation of Scripture. So those who were once persecuted rather quickly became persecutors.
And this aspect of what is wrongly called puritanism certainly does exist among Identity Christians today, where some have adopted a form of modern Pharisaism, or legalism, and they despise those who do not follow along with them. I have seen allegedly Christian men break fellowship over Sabbath-keeping, or a lack thereof, or feast-keeping, and, even worse, arguments over the calendar. Others are teetotalers who not only abstain from beer and wine, but who also refuse to fellowship with those who would gladly enjoy a beer or a bottle of wine. Marijuana use is another major stumbling-block for many so-called Christians, and in spite of the fact that our God actually gave it to us for a reason, they would break fellowship with anyone that they themselves may consider a pot-head.
[Before we proceed, let me make a confession so that I am not unfairly judged. I personally drink either beer or wine in moderation at least a couple of evenings each week. I do not smoke tobacco or marijuana, although I have in the more remote past. I have never ingested heroin or any similar drug. But neither do I take prescription medications, nor do I take any over-the-counter medications, and I have not seen a medical doctor for any illness in nearly forty years. I say these things not to boast, but so that I am not accused of justifying myself. I am also drinking coffee during tonight’s program, even if the usual choice of beverage is a beer.
Let me also state this: that the Jewish-inspired hippie drug culture which became popular in America in the 1960’s, but which existed in Europe and America from as early as the 1930’s, is evil, and we do not by any means support or condone its concepts. There should be no doubt that it is actually a purposely destructive and Marxist counter-culture. However those who abuse substances have existed in every epoch, but that does not mean that the substances themselves should be demonized. We hope to clarify this as we commence with our presentation this evening.]
Think about this. Yahweh our God made marijuana, and, ostensibly, He also created poppy, from which we get opium. If we believe that God made these things, then we must believe that they are good. Pain is a fact of life, many of us suffer chronic pain, and for those of us who are weak, Yahweh God gave us natural ways to deal with our pain. I have seen many self-righteous Identity Christians who condemn those who smoke marijuana while they themselves think nothing of swallowing over-the-counter man-made pharmaceuticals. It is much safer to believe that God made marijuana, than to think that He showed someone how to make liver-destroying acetaminophen for our benefit. But I have seen men condemn potheads while they themselves have prescriptions for statins! How is this not a form of Pharisaical hypocrisy? How is this not idolatry? Let’s discuss how this is indeed a form of idolatry.
In Proverbs chapter 30 we read that “5 Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. 6 Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” In 2 Kings chapter 17 we read this, which is a part of the reasons given for the casting off of the children of Israel in the Assyrian captivity: “36 But the LORD, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt with great power and a stretched out arm, him shall ye fear, and him shall ye worship, and to him shall ye do sacrifice. 37 And the statutes, and the ordinances, and the law, and the commandment, which he wrote for you, ye shall observe to do for evermore; and ye shall not fear other gods.” Reading these passages, it must be kept in mind how Christ had told His followers “If ye love Me, keep My commandments.” He never told them to create new commandments. Anyone who creates his own commandments sets himself up as a god, and seeks to impose tyranny upon men.
Now the Hebrew word for god also bears the signification of judge, and the apostle James in chapter 4 of his one epistle warns Christians to “11 Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. 12 There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?” So if the law of God judges our brethren for wrongdoing, that is one thing. But if we ourselves judge our brethren for wrongdoing, we make ourselves the judge of our brethren, and therefore we make ourselves as God, because only He is rightfully our judge. So when we proscribe things which God’s law does not proscribe, how are we not practising idolatry, and setting ourselves up as gods?
Once we accept the idea that we can prohibit our brethren from things that the law of God does not prohibit, we are adding to the law. The Scripture warns us not to add to the law. As it says in Deuteronomy chapter 4: “2 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” When Christians agree with laws that are not from Yahweh, they agree with men, and not with God. When Christians accept and enforce the laws that are not from Yahweh, they agree that men can play god. There may be things which we must do, because we live in a state of captivity and punishment, since government is a punishment from God. But we should understand that those things are not righteous, and that they shall be corrected in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Yahweh made marijuana, and Yahweh made poppy, and Yahweh made the absolutely natural process by which grapes become wine, and while we should not condone the abuse of any of these things, Yahweh made them for good reason. If His law does not prohibit them, neither should we. And if we prohibit our brother from marijuana, but we ourselves take an aspirin, or even worse, a synthetic painkiller, how are we not hypocrites? We are worse than hypocrites, banning something made by God and ingesting a so-called medication made by man, which is sorcery.
In the early twentieth century in America, a campaign was begun against marijuana, and right around that same time a similar campaign was begun against alcohol consumption. So we had Prohibition, and marijuana was banned along with several other plants and their derivatives, plants which can be grown and refined by people in the privacy of their own homes, if they live in an appropriate climate. When we accepted these prohibitions, several cottage industries were destroyed, and we as a people became dependent upon industries controlled by capitalist Jews and bankers. The ban on alcohol destroyed small-farm distilleries across the nation, from which farmers not only fueled their own tractors, but also sold alcohol to others, to be used as fuel for automobiles and other equipment. So an entire segment of honest farmers had to stop producing their own fuel, or be destroyed for “bootlegging”. In turn, they were shackled to the oil companies. The Rockefellers, among others, have profited tremendously as a result. Thanks, Prohibitionists, for being the useful dupes of big oil.
When marijuana was banned, along with derivatives of poppy and coca leaf, not only did people lose much of the natural God-given ability to self-medicate for their pain, thereby enriching the Jewish-controlled pharmaceutical companies, but the hemp industry was lost as well. This was not a coincidence. This made people mostly dependent upon cotton and synthetic fabrics, and companies such as DuPont have thrived as a result, and they continue to thrive because we agreed to prohibit plants which are given to us by our God. [Nylon was developed in the 1930’s, and polyester from 1941, but synthetic fibers were being manufactured as early as the 1880’s.] Thanks, pot-haters, for being the useful dupes of big pharma, big cotton and the big chemical firms. Because of your short-sightedness we lost one of the more productive small farm cash crops and collection of cottage industries we had ever had, which were all based around hemp.
These are only a few examples of how men play god, and the result is the enslavement of us all. Then eventually, we become accustomed to accepting the enforced status quo as if it were righteous, and we despise one another for not following along. But Christians should never judge their brethren by the laws of men, and instead they should even pray that men do not oppress their brethren. Neither should we reject our brethren simply because they do something which we may not like, but does not break God’s law. To do so would be a sin on our own part.
On the surface, it may not seem as if all of these things which we have discussed here are directly relevant to this chapter of Paul’s epistle, but we would ascertain that they are indeed relevant. Paul is actually addressing several subjects here. He has already discussed the fact that Christians are free from the ordinances of the Old Testament law which held them in opposition to God, and in our last segment of this presentation of Paul’s epistle we discussed that at great length. But on the other hand, as we also discussed at length, Christians being free from the ordinances of the law should voluntarily seek to establish the law, as Paul had taught in his epistle to the Romans, and as Christ had exhorted those who love Him to keep His commandments.
However since there is a new priesthood, and the Levitical ceremonial and ritual ordinances are done away with in Christ, therefore concerning some things there are no laws. The ancient ceremonies and ritual ordinances are no longer relevant in society, and therefore as Christians seek to establish the law, they are not to be judged concerning how they keep the law. The Pharisees had forced men to keep their particular interpretations of the law, and Christ exposed them for their hypocrisy, and even their lack of knowledge of the Scriptures. Therefore in verse 15 of this chapter Paul had said that Christ had “Strip[ped] the sovereignties and authorities which He exposed publicly, triumphing over them in it.” And for that reason, Paul continues here in verse 16 by saying:
16 Therefore no one must judge you in food and in drink, or in respect of feast or new month [or moon] or of the Sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of future things.
No one must judge you in food and drink: in food, because as Paul had explained in 1 Corinthians chapters 10 and 11, if one’s conscience is not hindered by any beliefs in idols, because idols are nothing, why should one be concerned about buying his meat from the markets? Of course, Paul was discussing food, and not those things which are not considered food by Christians, such as swine or shellfish. Likewise, no one must judge you in drink, because if one can moderate his drinking, why should that be a cause of trouble to the intemperate? If one cannot partake moderately, of course one is better off doing without, lest he be consumed in drunkenness. But the intemperate should not seek to rule over those who have no trouble with moderation, or even no care for moderation. Yahweh will judge the careless.
Discussing this passage at the end of our last presentation, we saw that Yahweh had rejected the sabbaths and feasts of the ancient children of Israel, because while they had celebrated them, at the same time they had forsaken the keeping of the more important portions of His law. Doing this, He said in part “13 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. 14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.” So on one hand, if we as Christians do not keep the commandments of God, then keeping the sabbaths will be of no benefit to us.
But on the other hand, since the old Levitical priesthood and the structure of the old Kingdom of Israel are now gone, there is no authoritative regulation of these things, and no one should be able to judge Christians as to how or even when they keep the Sabbaths and feasts. As we said in the last segment of our presentation of this epistle:
... Paul never persuaded Christians not to keep the Sabbaths and the feasts. In fact, in Acts chapter 18 and throughout the records of his ministry, it is said that “he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath”. In 1 Corinthians chapter 5, speaking of the Passover, Paul wrote: “Cleanse out the old leaven, that you may be a new dough, just as you are unleavened. Since also our passover, Christ, has been sacrificed. Consequently we should keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with leaven of sloth and wickedness, but with unleavened sincerity and truth.”
So Christians are encouraged to keep the feasts, and they should endeavor to keep the sabbaths. But since those things were a part of the rituals and ceremonies of the law, and were only a “shadow of things to come”, as the King James Version has it, then we should never judge our brethren as to how, or even when they should keep the feasts and the sabbaths. It is even evident in the Gospel, that the Judaeans themselves did not agree on a calendar, and we certainly could not keep it even if we were certain that we had a proper calendar.
It has been argued, that the commandment to keep the Sabbath is one of the original ten commandments, and that is true. But even those commandments were given as they were for the purpose of the maintenance of an entire kingdom, which organized its calendar and all of its functions around their keeping. So when the entire kingdom is on the same schedule mandated by the law, it is easy to keep the feasts and the sabbaths, but the children of Israel still did not keep them properly. So how are Christians able to better keep them today, ruled over by a godless government and at the mercy of godless men? The same circumstance existed in ancient Rome, which did not keep a seven-day calendar or a regular sabbath cycle, and which had designated days upon which certain business was to be conducted, or upon which certain business could not be conducted, on a schedule which was often contrary to the seven day sabbath cycle. Early Christians sought to operate independently of the pagan regulations of the Roman government, but they could not do so perfectly, and today many Christians would find it even more difficult to keep the feasts and sabbaths with regularity.
Christ sought not to regulate men on the Sabbath, but to help His brethren and His community, and that is the model which Christians should follow today. So, as it is characterized in Luke chapter 13, He asked the Pharisees who had opposed Him on the issue of the Sabbath, “doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?” Then, as we see in Luke chapter 14, He added “Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?” But to the contrary, in the Dead Sea Scroll which is known as the Damascus Document, in the scroll identified as 4Q271, in Fragment 5, Column 1 we read: “No one should help an animal give birth on the sabbath day. And if it has fallen into a well or a pit, he should not take it out on the sabbath… And any living man who falls into a place of water or a well, no one should take him out with a ladder or a rope or a utensil.” (From The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition, by Florentino Martinez and Eibert Tigchelaar, Volume 1, pp. 621-623.) The Damascus Document probably predates the time of the ministry of Christ by only a couple of decades, and it is indicative of some of the significant religious thought in Judaea at that time, agreeing with the attitude that the words of Christ had also attributed to the Pharisees.
So contrary to the prevailing legalism of the time of Christ, the sabbath should be employed in order to help ones brethren and community. And if because of the constraints of the modern world one needs to work on a Saturday or Sunday, then one may keep the sabbath on another day, because the true sabbath is neither Saturday nor Sunday. Examining the Old Testament law, upon the Vernal Equinox there was a sabbath, and then every seven days there was a sabbath until the next Vernal Equinox. So this Sunday evening, March 20th until the evening of the 21st, may mark the first sabbath for the next year. So for the rest of this year, 2016, the original Hebrew sabbath would be on Mondays. But for next year, it may be on Tuesdays, and for the following, on Wednesdays. Who can assert that Saturday is always the proper Sabbath day, or Sunday? They are only kidding themselves, as those things are the contrivances of men. But if one feels that he should keep Sabbath on either Saturday or Sunday, that is fine too, and I would not condemn him. In the modern world, very few Christians are able to keep the true and ancient Hebrew calendar, and keep the Sabbaths, and still keep a job and feed their families.
Indeed, Paul must have foreseen this predicament, and he wrote in Romans chapter 14 that “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. 6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it...” The sabbaths, new moon celebrations and ordained feasts “are a shadow of things to come”, meaning that one day we shall indeed be keeping them in the Spirit of Christ, when Christ comes to rule over men.
Next Paul speaks concerning what really should matter to us in this world, and if we numbered our own verses, the last clause of verse 17 would belong with verse 18 instead:
Whereas [or but] the body is of the Anointed, 18 let no one find you unworthy of reward,
Paul is not speaking of heavenly rewards here, but of earthly ones, in connection with feasts and sabbaths and food and drink. This becomes evident in the verses which follow. The well-being of the individual Christian is more important than the manner in which he or she keeps the feasts and sabbaths. As Christ said in the Gospel, as it is recorded in Mark chapter 2, the sabbath was made for the benefit of man, and not man for the sabbath.
Many Identity Christians have written us and asked when they should keep Passover, or on what days they should keep a sabbath, or even how they should keep them. We may be able to tell them that Passover is fourteen days from the Vernal Equinox, but we certainly will not tell them that they must celebrate Passover on that day. We are not in the Levitical kingdom, but the Kingdom of Christ. In today’s world, most of us must work at our vocation on the day appointed by Scripture, and if we miss the exact date, are we unworthy of reward? Do we wait to celebrate a Passover until the year in which the fourteenth day from the Vernal Equinox falls on a Saturday or Sunday, because that is when our brethren have off from their jobs? That is Pharisaical.
The best advice we can give is this: keep the feast when those with whom you desire to keep it have an opportunity to gather, and in a manner which pleases everyone involved. If you can not afford lamb, eat chicken or hamburgers. But do not let anyone talk you into rituals and Levitical ordinances, because Salvation is not by rituals. They are modern Judaizers. Salvation is not by legalism.
We will repeat from the beginning of verse 18:
18 let no one find you unworthy of reward, being willing with humiliation even in worship of the Messengers [or “angels”];
The Greek word ταπεινοφροσύνη (Strong’s # 5012) is usually used in a good sense in the New Testament, where the King James Version often renders it as humility, and Liddell & Scott have only “lowliness, humility” for their definition of the word, to which the large 9th edition adds “mean-spiritedness”, as it was used in a bad sense. Here it is evident that the word is used in a bad sense, but not necessarily in that same manner. Joseph Thayer in his own lexicon cites both Epictetus (diss. 3, 24, 56) and Josephus (Wars 4.9.2) for his definition, where Thayer says that Josephus had used the word “in the sense of pusillanimity” and so both here and in verse 23 it is rendered as humiliation in the Christogenea New Testament.
To understand what Paul means here by the messengers, or angels, it is only fair to see where he speaks of them elsewhere. In 1 Corinthians chapter 4 Paul says “9 Indeed I suppose Yahweh has appointed us, of the last of the Ambassadors, destined to die, seeing that we had become a spectacle to the Society, both to Messengers and to men.” Likewise, in 1 Corinthians chapter 11, speaking of why women should be modest, he says “10 For this reason a woman ought to have a sign of control upon the head, for the sake of the Messengers.” When we discussed that verse in a presentation of 1 Corinthians chapter 11 given here in December of 2014, we said the following:
Paul's reference to the messengers, or angels, may seem to be obscure but it should not be obscure at all. He already spoke in [1 Corinthians] chapter 10 of the demons who were the authors of idolatry. The epistle of Jude is probably the plainest New Testament resource which explains that the “angels which kept not their first estate” were dwelling among Christians and were spots in their feasts of charity, feeding themselves without fear. Jude also describes them as men who “crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” These are the progeny of those very devils who were the authors of idolatry and they dwell among us even today, bound in chains of darkness as the non-Adamic races who have been infiltrating Adamic society in order to corrupt it in every age! Peter described these same people in chapter 2 of his second epistle where he said “12 But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; 13 And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; 14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children”. These must be the angels to whom Paul referred in this admonishment, the descendants of the “fallen angels”, the Kenites and Rephaim and other races of Genesis chapter 15 who were later intermingled with and identified as Canaanites, Edomites and others of the mixed races….
We cannot imagine that pious angels of God would want men to worship them at all, so evidently Paul is not referring to pious angels. This is evident where the angel of the Revelation instructs John, as it is described in Revelation chapter 22: “8 And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. 9 Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.” Therefore, we can imagine that here Paul is indeed referring to fallen angels, those whom Jude had called the “angels who kept not their first estate”, the seed of those sinners of old who are described in Genesis chapters 3 and 6 and Revelation chapter 12, and by the apostle Peter as well as Jude. So we should be comfortable imagining these angels of Colossians chapter 2 are those same demons, those men who were the authors of the pagan religions which Paul described in 1 Corinthians chapter 10.
In the balance of verse 18, Paul continues to describe the false forms of worship which he refers to:
stepping into things which one sees, heedlessly inflated by the mind of one’s flesh,
The Codex Ephraemi Syri (C) and the Majority Text have “stepping into things which one has not seen”, which accounts for the reading of this passage in the King James Version. The text here follows the 3rd century papyrus P46 and the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A), Vaticanus (B), Claromontanus (D), and Freerianus (I). We agree with the reading of the many earlier Codices, as Paul must be talking about the things seen, describing them as carnal, rather than things unseen where the King James Version translation causes confusion. Likewise Paul compared the things seen and unseen in Romans chapter 8, and again in 2 Corinthians chapter 4 where he said “18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
So here Paul admonishes men for “stepping into the things which one sees”, and doing so he seems to be referring to what we may call sacramentalism, or that reliance on works which is fueled by the vain psychological need in weaker Christians to be involved in rituals and ceremonies as an assurance of one’s salvation, and by these they are led astray. The performance of works as an assurance of one’s salvation heedlessly inflates the mind of one’s flesh.
If we allow ourselves to be judged “in food and in drink, or in respect of feast or new month or of the Sabbaths” then we are subjecting ourselves to the messengers of those things which were being promoted by the Judaizers, and we worship them instead of Christ. We are depriving ourselves to be subject to ordinances, imagining ourselves to be unworthy of reward. That is because Christ Himself is not going to judge men by those things. So why should we subject ourselves to the regulations of men?
Paul strengthens the exhortation with an appeal to submit to Christ instead, in verse 19:
19 and not grasping the Head, from whom the whole body, through the joints and bonds being supplied and brought together, increases with the increase of Yahweh.
The Codex Claromontanus (D) has “Christ as the Head”, and a description of Christ as the Head of the Body Politic is certainly what Paul is inferring here. Since the Christian Israelite has his salvation through Christ, and not through any works of his own, he should grasp onto the path which Christ outlined, and not seek his own salvation through his own doings, through abstinence from food or drink, or through the keeping of sabbaths and feasts.
20 If you have died with Christ from the elements of the society, why as if alive in the society are you subject to ordinances?
The ancient children of Israel were to be ritualistically distinct from the other nations, and the rituals and ceremonial ordinances of the law and the feasts and sabbaths were all designed to maintain that distinction. So, for instance, they could only eat meat slaughtered in a certain manner, or grain grown under certain conditions. The Judaeans had not only endeavored to maintain these things, but layered many of their own interpretations and regulations on top of them. However in Christ all of these requirements found in the rituals and ceremonies and other ordinances of the law are removed, and Christians should not subject themselves to them once again.
21 One should not hold, nor should one taste, nor should one touch,
The verbs translated as hold (ἅπτω, 680 and 681) and touch (θιγγάνω, 2345) are synonyms sharing virtually all of their shades of meaning. Here Paul is emulating the Pharisees, as well as certain of the ancient Greek philosophies, which demanded adherents to live in abstention from certain foods and other refreshments, as Paul elucidates in the passage which follows:
22 (things which are all for corruption in their misuse,) according to the commands and instructions of men?
The Greek word ἀπόχρησις, which is rendered as misuse here, but only using in the King James Version, is not listed in the Liddell & Scott Intermediate Greek English Lexicon. In the large 9th edition, which is much more recent, it is said that Plutarch, who was a few decades later than Paul, used the word to express a getting rid of something. So this use of the word here by Paul is apparently the earliest literary example. But it seems that if Paul merely meant to describe the use of something, as most translations render this word, he would only have had to use the word χρῆσις, rather than ἀπόχρησις.
For that reason, and because it certainly seems to be correct within the context of Paul’s statements here, when translating the Christogenea New Testament we chose to follow Joseph Thayer’s definition of the word ἀπόχρησις, where it is defined as abuse or misuse. This is substantiated by the definition of the corresponding verb, ἀποχράομαι, which Liddell & Scott define as to use to the full and also to abuse, misuse and to use up, destroy. In his entry for ἀπόχρησις Thayer says the following, in part: “abuse, misuse: Colossians 2:22 ... Paul says this from the standpoint of the false teachers, who in any use of those things whatever saw an abuse, i. e. a blameworthy use...”
23 Things which are a statement indeed, holding wisdom in submissive worship and in humiliation and disregard of the body, not in any esteem for satisfaction of the flesh.
By saying “things which are a statement indeed”, Paul refers to the “commands and instructions of men”, which hold wisdom in submissive worship (submitting to anything other than Christ) which is a form of self-humiliation, and by which one disregards the needs of one’s body. Paul then says that such things are “not in any esteem for satisfaction of the flesh” because, as he says above in regard to those who would judge a man for food or drink or feasts or sabbaths, “let no one find you unworthy of reward”.
Of course, wine would be a primary example of these things, as Paul said here, “no one must judge you in food or in drink”, but there are other things to consider in this regard. There are many things which God has granted us which are for corruption in their misuse, but which Christians should indeed be able to use properly. And by using those things properly, or in moderation, one may have relaxation, or relief from one’s pain and one’s ailments. As it says in Ecclesiastes chapter 9, “7 Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.” Likewise in Psalm 104, speaking of Yahweh God: “14 He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; 15 And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart.”
It seems that Paul addressed not only Judaizers or Pharisees here, but also the ascetics. Where we have rendered the Greek word ἐθελοθρησκία (Strong’s # 1479) with the phrase “submissive worship”, the King James Version has “will worship” instead, which is also a valid translation and in this context it may be even better than our own rendering. There were various Greek philosophies of Paul’s time which embraced asceticism, the idea that abstinence from all worldly pleasures improved one’s spiritual well-being. In fact, the prevalent philosophy among learned Greeks at the time of Paul’s writing was Stoicism. The Stoics thought it a lapse of judgment to display many emotions, and promoted a self-discipline which went far beyond the Christian ideals of self-control. Hence the term ascetic comes from a Greek word which means training, and seems to be what Paul was addressing in his references to will worship and worship with humiliation, as we see it described here.
Of course, there are times for fasting, but there are also times for feasting, as the Scripture says in Ecclesiastes chapter 3, there is “a time for every purpose under heaven”, including “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance”, where it also says of Yahweh God that “He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end. I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.”
While Christians should not live to fulfill the lusts of the flesh, there is nothing wrong with a beer or a glass of wine – or two – in order to help comfort the flesh, because God has provided those things for our pleasure. We should tell no man when he needs to relax not to drink wine. We should tell no man when he needs to relieve his pain not to partake of the herbs of the field for that relief.
A man is not going to convince us that he is a better Christian simply because he abstains from one thing or another, and by trying to convince us of such a thing, he is basically promoting the idea that he can attain a better salvation for himself by subjecting himself to his own will. That is will worship. But on the other hand, if one is drunk, or stoned, then that is not moderation, and for a person who cannot maintain moderation, abstinence would be better. But the man who remains a drunkard may expect to be rejected by his Christian fellows, because all things are for corruption in their abuse, but not in their use. If the laws of Yahweh our God do not forbid men of something, neither should we forbid men of that thing, and neither should we endorse those who would forbid men of such things. There is danger in profligacy, but salvation is not by legalism, nor is it found in abstinence.