16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. 19 They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.
(Colossians 2:16-19 NIV)
Paul has just finished a wonderful reminder of our salvation, forgiveness, and victory in Christ. In today’s passage, Paul addresses various beliefs that some were bringing in to the church from their life before Christ. Paul warns against each of these beliefs that pointed the Colossian believers away from Christ rather than to Him. As we studied earlier in chapter 2, Christ is sufficient for salvation, forgiveness, and victory over death. It is Christ plus nothing.
Notice that Paul starts this section with the word “Therefore”. Paul is referring back to verses 9 – 15, where he provides ample argument and evidence of Christ’s sufficiency in all things.
The next thing Paul says is key to unlocking this section: “… do not let anyone judge you… “. The two groups that Paul is about to address were very forceful in their beliefs, even to the point of bullying or intimidating those who did not agree with them. Paul, in his masterful way, gets to the heart of what these two groups were doing when they tried to gain control over the Colossian believers. Paul is warning, instructing, and exhorting the Colossian believers to stay with Christ and not be people-pleasers to these heretics, no matter how compelling or shaming their arguments might be.
The first warning Paul issued the Colossian church was against following Jewish traditions as a means of fulfilling Jewish Law (and thus attempting to earn their righteousness). Paul warns against dietary restrictions, religious holidays, and Sabbath restrictions. All these things were required under Jewish Old Testament Law, but were wiped away when Christ fulfilled all the requirements of the Law on our behalf.
Verse 17 is powerful reminder of the all-encompassing sufficiency of Christ that fulfills the Law where we could not. Paul says all these observances of diet, holidays, and Sabbath were a shadow of Christ’s coming for the Old Testament believers – a sign and a reminder of the One who was yet to come. Paul says that our reality is not in the shadow, but in Christ, the One who cast the shadow from so long ago.
Paul now switches his focus from those who were preaching Christ plus Judaism as the way to heaven to another group Paul has addressed before in this letter – the eastern mystics. They claimed that God was too holy to engage in the affairs of mankind, and falsely claimed that God set up a series of angels and spiritual beings between Himself and mankind. They promptly inserted themselves in this chain of command so as to take a superior position over the Colossian church and tell everyone what to do and not to do.
Paul exposes their lies in verses 18 – 19. Paul says that these heretics were judging the Colossian believers because they had not achieved the same “spiritual level” that they supposedly had achieved. Paul calls the heretics out as having vivid imaginations, and nothing else. All these visions that the heretics had supposedly seen were nothing more than lies they kept telling themselves and the other heretics.
Paul tells a joke and makes a serious point in verse 19, when he says of these eastern mystics, “they have lost connection with the head…”. The joke is that these heretics had become nothing more than talking heads with no basis of objective reality or truth to what they said. These eastern mystics would provide hilarious material for a Monty Python video clip.
The serious part of Paul’s statement is that Christ is the head, not these eastern mystics. In verse 10, Paul has already stated that Christ is the head; in verse 9, Christ is the fullness of the Deity in bodily form, and in fact came to earth to live and be engaged in the affairs of mankind. This wipes out the entire idea of the angelic chain of command as well as any role that the eastern mystics might have claimed over the Colossian church.
Paul ends this section by reminding us that Christ is the head and we are connected to Him and Him alone. In Him we live and move and have our being, our growth, our reason for life.
May we live and grow into all that God desires for each of us.