Colossians 2 and the Law
Does Colossians 2:14 negate Yahweh's law?
A popular church doctrine says that we are no longer
required to obey the Ten Commandments or any law found in the Old Testament.
Some preachers even call their message "New Testament Christianity,"
implying that theirs is a modern creed that leaves behind those archaic, Old
Testament laws that bring mankind into such bondage.
message from many pulpits today is not one of obedience to Yahweh’s laws, but
rather an emphasis on our Creator’s love and the grace made available through
His Son. Parishioners are told, "Feel good about yourself" or
"The best things in life can be yours for the asking, so just
believe." Messages based in human psychology and inspirational double-talk
are common fare. But where have decades of no-law teachings led? To a society
that knows little about standards of right and wrong and believes in no
absolutes. The resultant toll in human suffering has risen proportionate to the
success of anti-law doctrines.
without exception Biblical passages often quoted as doing away with Yahweh’s
law are in a context teaching OBEDIENCE to His laws. His laws and statutes have
a purpose: they are given to mold us into the image of His pattern Son, Psalm
19:7, Matthew 12:50. With such a sublime and important role, why the opposition
to His laws—His way of life?
We all should strive to be open to understanding
Bible truth and be as the noble Bereans who "received
the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether
those things were so." (Acts 17:11)
What About Colossians
For some, Colossians 2 poses a huge obstacle in
their way to observance of Yahweh’s law. Does this chapter do away with the
need for law? Or is that a forced interpretation? Understanding the situation
prevailing at the time Paul wrote this epistle reveals the clear answer and
explains why Paul wrote to the Colossians in the first place.
brethren were once Gentiles, converted from a heathen religion. Colosse had
been under the influence of Greek culture and later the Romans ruled the area.
Both cultures influenced the lives of the people in the Colosse area. This is
especially true of the Greeks who are noted for their schools of logic and
philosophy, influential even today.
time the letter to the Colossians was written, the Colossians were being misled
by influences from their pagan past and a contemporary teaching called
Gnosticism. Gnosticism was a heresy of the first two centuries of the Assembly.
Its central tenet was that the spirit was entirely good and matter or the
physical was completely evil. This notion gave rise to the teaching that
salvation comes by the escape from our evil bodies through special knowledge
(hence gnostic, meaning
"knowledge") and ascetic practices.
the physical was inherently evil, the body was brought under subjection through
physical deprivations. And because matter was considered evil—and not the
breaking of Yahweh’s law—one could break the law and not sin.
convinced a few Hellenized people at Colosse to turn from their pagan ways and
faithfully follow the Redeemer of Israel. He was urging them to keep their
spiritual vitality alive and pure, and not allow it to suffocate under
paganistic, philosophical, and man-made traditions dominating their society.
situation of these converted Colossians is very similar to ours today. They
also were in the minority in their religious beliefs. They were always in
danger of being swept downstream by the torrent of seemingly superior
intellectual bias that was contrary to the true message of the Bible.
letter reveals a concern that these people would be in danger of falling for
human reasoning and rhetoric, which ridicules the Bible’s formula for living a
spiritual life. "Be careful, lest
any man [person] spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit
after the tradition of men, after the rudiments [elementary teachings] of the
world ["following the material ways of looking at things," Goodspeed] and not after the
Messiah..." Colossians 2:8.
warns them about not allowing their minds to be captured by intellectualism and
high-sounding nonsense (Phillips). Delusions and
philosophical speculations passing for fact would trip up many and separate
them from Yahweh’s Word.
passage does not refer to Yahweh’s Commandments. His laws are not "after
the tradition of men," nor are they "after the elementary teachings
of the world." Paul can only be referring to pagan worship of idols,
former heathen customs, and materialistic philosophies. Vincent’s Word Studies in the New
Testament says rudiments of the world refers to ceremonialism practiced
in asceticism, pagan symbol mysteries, and initiatory rites.
Whose Handwriting and
Having laid this foundation and heeding Paul’s
warnings not to be sidetracked in pursuit of Bible truth, let us examine the
pivotal verse 14, erroneously used to teach that the law has been abolished: "Blotting out the handwriting of
ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of
the way, nailing it to His torture stake," Colossians 2:14.
what is meant by "blotting out the handwriting of ordinances?"
Nominal religion teaches that the handwriting of ordinances spoken of here is
Yahweh’s commandments, statutes, and judgments. But aren’t these the same
devices of man that verse 8 speaks of? Are Yahweh’s ordinances against us? Are
the laws of Yahweh now blotted out, forever done away? If so, then there is no
more law to break. If there is no law, there is no sin (1John 3:4). If there is
no longer any sin, then we don't need a Savior!
contrary. Yahweh’s laws are for our good, Deuteronomy 10:12-13. Psalm 19:7 says
the law is perfect and it converts the human being. Yahshua says if we love Him
we will keep His commandments, John 14:15. Paul tells us that the law is holy
and the commandment is holy, just, and good, Romans 7:12.
preceding verses 11 and 12 explain to the Colossians that through baptism into
Yahshua’s Name (a type of circumcision) we are made spiritually alive and
forgiven of all our trespasses. Verse 13 continues: "And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your
flesh, has He quickened [made alive] together with Him [Yahshua], having
forgiven you all your trespasses." Here Paul is countering the Gnostic
idea that the physical is inherently evil by explaining that the flesh was
redeemed by Yahshua. At the same time he shows that the Judaic teaching of
physical circumcision was circumvented in Yahshua’s redemption.
understand properly the meaning of Colossians 2:14, we need to look at two
pertinent words as defined in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance Greek Dictionary:
Handwriting—No. 5498, cheirographon,
neut of a comp. of 5495 and 1125; something hand-written
("chirograph"), i.e. a manuscript (spec. a legal document or bond [(fig.]):—handwriting
1378, dogma, from the base of 1380; a law (civil, ceremonial or ecclesiastical):—decree, ordinance.
manuscript or legal document that was contrary to us was
"handwritten" by man. It does not refer to laws or commandments found
in the Bible! "Handwritten ordinances" are MAN’S documents, his
decrees and his edicts.
Dogma’ a Man-made Rule
Strong’s Concordance shows that the underlying
Greek word for the English word ordinances is No. 1378, dogma. It is a civil, ceremonial or ecclesiastical law, translated
decree or ordinance. In each of the five places the Greek dogma is used, it refers to man-made rules and regulations. It has
nothing to do with Yahweh’s Commandments! Let us examine each of the four other
times the Greek word dogma appears to
see whether it means Yahweh’s laws or man’s:
Luke 2:1: "And it came to pass in
those days, that there went out a decree [dogma] from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed." This could just as well have been translated, "...there went out an ordinance from Caesar..." It was
Caesar who wrote the ordinance, it was not from Yahweh. The emperor of Rome was
the author of an ordinance to raise money by taxing his subjects.
Acts 16:4: "And as they went through
the cities, they delivered them the decrees [dogma] for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were
at Jerusalem." The decrees referred to here consist of the four-point
summary of the decision reached in Acts 15 at the council held in Jerusalem to
settle the question about what behavior should be followed by the Gentiles who
were converted to Yahshua. The decision is summed up in Acts 15:20 and 29,
namely, that the Gentiles should 1) abstain from pollutions of idols, 2) from
fornication, 3) from things strangled, and 4) from blood."
four prohibitions were to eradicate the extant pagan custom of 1) worship of
idols, 2) temple prostitutes, 3) eating flesh that had not been drained of
blood, 4) ingesting animal blood alone. Notice, the next verse says, "For
Moses of old time has in every city them that preach him, being read in the
synagogues every Sabbath day." (Acts 15:21)
words, Gentiles are to be circumspect especially over these four points, which,
as former pagans, they had practiced prior to their conversion. These heathen
ways they were to avoid, but were expected to join with the Jews to hear Moses
being preached each Sabbath, thus they would continue learning the laws given
Acts 17:7: "Whom Jason has received:
and these all do contrary to the decrees [dogma] of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one [Yahshua]."
Plainly these are the decrees (dogma) of Caesar and have nothing to do with the
laws of Yahweh. They deal with the question of observing Caesar’s dogma.
Ephesians 2:15: "Having abolished in
his flesh the enmity, [even] the law of commandments [contained] in ordinances [dogma]; for to make in himself of twain one new
man, [so] making peace." Paul is explaining that Yahshua’s death took
away the enmity, the hatred, the animosity between Jew and Gentile that the
man-made ordinances (dogma) produced.
The hatred was to dissolve with the removal of these added human laws that
separated Jew from Gentile.
The entire second chapter of Ephesians emphasizes
that the Gentiles formerly were outside the covenants and promises given to
Israel. Now they are made nigh by the blood of Messiah, verse 13. We Gentiles
can now become a part of Israel by being grafted into the Abrahamic promise
the Jews had regarded the Gentiles with hatred, and the Gentiles the Jews with
scorn, now they were unified in the common worship of Yahweh through Yahshua
the Messiah who by His sacrifice made a new man, a new person of the former
middle wall of partition spoken of in verse 14 evidently refers to the
four-foot-high wall in the Temple by which the court of the Gentiles was
separated from the Jews. Now that wall was broken down and the Gentiles had the
same access to worship Yahweh as did the Jews.
nothing in Scripture concerning establishing this wall of partition. It came
about through human performance. See Bullinger’s Companion Bible note on Ephesians 2:14 for a good explanation of
the wall of partition. This has now been broken down and Jew and Gentile are
today one in Yahshua.
Colossians 2:20: "Wherefore if you
be dead with Messiah from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in
the world, are you subject to ordinances?" The Greek word for
ordinances here is dogmatizo, which
carries the sense of being controlled by dogmas (man-made customs).
raises the question that if the Colossians because of the Messiah were dead to
these rules, and thus no longer influenced by the rudiments of worldly notions
and practices, then why are they allowing themselves to be placed under such
rules of man?
were comparable to ancient ascetic observances like those seen in India. The
caste system does not allow even the shadow of a lower-caste Hindu to come near
a high-caste person. He refrains from touching certain things already touched
by a lower-caste Hindu in order to remain ceremonially clean.
Significantly, the Bible uses several other Greek words that are also
translated ordinances but have an altogether different meaning and connotation.
They are: diatage = thorough
arrangement; dikaioma = a judicial
appointment; ktisis = any made thing; paradosis = a giving over. These
latter Greek words have no bearing upon Colossians 2:14 and never appear there.
Man’s Added Worship Is Worthless
Colossians 2:21-22 expresses the key point Paul is
trying to get across in this chapter: "(Touch
not; taste not; handle not: which all are to perish with the using:) after the
COMMANDMENTS and DOCTRINES of MEN." Paul is speaking of the ascetic
attitude of being aloof and separate (do not touch, taste or handle). The food
and drink that have been forbidden by the ritualists are destined for
corruption. They are part of the corruptible order of this world, but the
believer seeks that which abides forever.
Colossians 2:22 proves conclusively that the word ordinance (dogma) refers to man-made rules and
customs, "which all are to perish
with the using; after the commandments and doctrines of men." These
commands are not divinely given, but spring from the precepts and instructions
of man’s dogma. Followers of the Messiah are destined for immortality, a world
without end. His worship has meaning
teachings have a "show of wisdom in will-worship," continues Paul in
verse 23. Weymouth translates this verse: "These rules have an
appearance of wisdom, where there is self-imposed worship." By afflicting
themselves in self-imposed punishment of the body to purify the soul, they
appear pious and holy. "Humility and neglecting of the body" in verse
23 is translated also as severity to the body, or torturings of the body.
ascetic discipline of the body is a ritual much like is seen in India where one
lies on a bed of nails or sits cross-legged and stares up at the sun. This,
says Paul, does not subdue fleshly passions, but elevates man’s pride. It does
not change the heart.
"handwriting of ordinances" is man’s attempt to punish the body to
arrive at a Nirvana. Punishing the body and inflicting pain is a pagan attempt
to purify one’s self in an effort to rise to higher levels of spirituality.
Colossians chapter 3 continues with this theme. All the former pagan
customs and bodily punishments Yahshua took out of the way through His death on
the tree. Now as we arise from the watery grave after being immersed into the
Messiah’s Name, we become a new person as our sins are washed away.
sacrificial death was so much greater than any of the pagan practices that were
obliterated by being symbolically nailed to the tree. Now we understand that
our spiritual growth comes through obedience to Yahshua as the Head of the
body, and not by torturing ourselves.
Saints, Not the Unconverted,
really puts down man’s attempts to raise his spirituality by human means, as he
wrote, "And having spoiled
principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them
in it." (Col. 2:15) That is to say Yahshua is triumphant, and has
overcome worldly, hostile rulers and evil princes, even those demonic spirits
by His death on the tree, and has triumphed by His resurrection. He is the only
way to victory; man’s puny attempts to establish righteousness are futile.
"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
Messiah." "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 Messiah." (Col.
2:16-17) Paul goes on to say that the believer should allow no MAN to judge in
food, drink, concerning a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbaths that
foreshadow things to come. We are not to let anyone outside the Assembly to
make a decision or rule relating to a holy day or new moon or Sabbath. Yahweh’s
Word, the Bible, has already instructed us on these days and how and why we
that verse 17 reads, "Which are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Messiah." The word
"is" does not belong there. It is in italics, showing that it was added by the translators. The meaning
and sense of the verse is that outsiders have no business evaluating our
Biblical observances. Only the "BODY OF MESSIAH" is to judge, to make
determinations regarding those things
The body of messiah is composed of those who have studied Yahweh's Word and can make a distinction in what is right and proper and what is not in harmony with Yahweh's Word. The unconverted cannot. Now read verses 16-17, skipping the verb is ("is to judge" at the end of verse 17 is understood).
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