Monday, October 15, 2012

Colossians 2:16-17

16 Therefore 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 – 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

You know I’m going to say it; when you see “therefore” is in scripture, you need to look back and see what it is there for. Looking back at verse 15, we see that God “disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.” As I said in the previous commentary, I do believe that this verse applies to Satan and the powers of darkness. However, it also applies to any person teaching false doctrine. From these and other verses you can discern that a false teacher (or teachers) in Colossae were attempting to hold people to the religious requirements of Judaism. These requirements were no longer necessary after the death and resurrection of Christ, although of course it was still permissible to celebrate them. Many Messianic Jewish communities as well as other Christians today find meaning in celebrating Passover and other Jewish holidays through the lens of a Christian worldview.

The Jewish feasts and festivals were wonderful for many reasons. They were given by God, and most can be found in the book of Leviticus. They all had a purpose – events to celebrate and thank God for various harvests, take time to reflect and repent of sins, and remember God’s provision and salvation in the past. They were especially important in communicating spiritual truths to a society that was mostly illiterate. There are truths still to be found in these traditions recorded in Scripture, but they are no longer required of God’s children.

The traditions and teachings found in the Old Testament were a shadow of what was to come – Christ. The word σκια (shadow) is often used to express anything imperfect or unsubstantial, while the term σωμα (body or substance) was used in the opposite sense and expressed any thing substantial, solid, and firm. All of God’s revelation prior to the incarnation was perfect, but the purpose of the traditions and teachings that came before Christ was to prepare people and point the way to His coming.

Today there may not be much tension in Christian circles about whether or not it is required to celebrate Jewish festivals, but there are applications we can draw from these verses. Although believers around the world may differ in respect to some of our celebrations or traditions, it is important that we not look down on one another for observing them (or not observing them) unless they are forbidden in scripture. The important thing is that our focus is on Christ alone rather than other aspects of celebration. (As we are in the midst of the Halloween season, I think of how some Christian friends are very into the holiday, some celebrate through church outreach, and some choose to be totally against the holiday and spend time at home reading Scripture and doing other activities.) Regardless of how others may celebrate or not celebrate religious or cultural holidays, the only opinion that matters is that of Christ, not those around us. The Gospel can be communicated through any almost any cultural or religious observance, but none are necessary for salvation or justification.

Welcome people who are weak in faith, but don’t get into an argument over differences of opinion... Who are you to criticize someone else’s servant? The Lord will determine whether his servant has been successful... One person decides that one day is holier than another. Another person decides that all days are the same. Every person must make his own decision. When people observe a special day, they observe it to honor the Lord... Why do you criticize or despise other Christians? Everyone will stand in front of God to be judged... All of us will have to give an account of ourselves to God. So let’s stop criticizing each other. Instead, you should decide never to do anything that would make other Christians have doubts or lose their faith... Don’t allow anyone to say that what you consider good is evil... So let’s pursue those things which bring peace and which are good for each other... So whatever you believe about these things, keep it between yourself and God. The person who does what he knows is right shouldn’t feel guilty. He is blessed. But if a person has doubts and still eats, he is condemned because he didn’t act in faith. Anything that is not done in faith is sin.   - Romans 14

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