Can’t touch this
Colossians 2:20-23- Can’t touch this
Paul is addressing the false teaching in the Colossian church. Today’s section addresses more of the false teaching, specifically human tradition and elementary principles (Col 2:8). Paul addresses one major question in this section, “If you have died with Christ, why are you alive in the world?” The basic argument appears frequently in the Bible. The argument shows that union with Christ completely alters the believer’s mind, heart, and actions. Paul explains the union of Christ in death leads to new life. In Romans 6:4, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Or again in Romans 6:8, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” The contrast of those in Christ and those in the world is one of diametric opposites (1 John 2:15-17; Rom 12:2; Jam 4:4; Matt 6:24; John 15:18-21). Believers were dead in their trespasses and the uncircumcision of their flesh; this is the fruit of the world. However, God made alive, together with him, having forgiven us in all of our trespasses (Col 2:13). God delivered us from the domain of darkness, and we have been transferred into the kingdom of Christ (Col 1:13). Why then would you try to move backward, or return to the domain of darkness? You cannot have two feet in each camp.
Paul questions the Christians in Galatia in Galatians 4:9, “how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world?” You are free in Christ and want to turn back to be a slave again? Just as the Israelites thought their life in Egypt, collecting and making bricks for Pharaoh was a delight or that they desired to die in Egypt (Ex 16:3, Num 14:4). We seek to do this, we were slaves to sin, but now we should be slaves to righteousness (Rom 6:18, 20). Two choices are forever placed before us; death and life (Cf Ps 1). If we have died with Christ, why would we turn to death again, especially when you have the choice of life? The church is not turning to Christ, which is life, but turning to human precepts and teachings, with is death. Again, false teaching is the wrong headship. False teaching is placing human words above the true, correct teaching of Christ. The false teaching says Christians need to submit to regulations.
Submission is a negative word today that people do not like to think about when it comes to religion. They ultimately want to live their own life without any consequences. “You cannot tell me what to do,” is the cry of the person who lives in the 21st Century. Not all submission is bad, but bad submission is bad. We should submit to Christ and his word. However, the believers in Colossae were submitting to man-made regulations and not according to Christ. Paul’s question this, “If you have died with Christ, why are you alive in the world?” Paul then explains three errors that come when you live in the world.
I. The things of the world will perish (21-22)
Firstly, Paul explains the regulations that are being taught, “do not handle, taste, or touch,” are foolish because they all perish. The false teaching had placed rules upon what was clean or unclean to touch. This might be additional rules given in the ceremonial law (Cf. Col 2:16-17), or additional rules and regulations such as washing hands prior to eating like the Pharisees (Matt 15). The pharisee’s were concerned that the disciples broke the tradition of the elders. Jesus explains that it is not what goes into a person that defiles a person but what comes out of the mouth that defiles them (Matt 15:10). Jesus later explains this to his disciples, “Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matthew 15:17-19). Food in itself is not sinful. The problem is the man, not the food. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food” (1 Cor 6:13). Chocolate cake may cause gluttony, but the gluttony does not come from the cake but from the man. Paul makes a different type of argument in 1 Corinthians 10:23, “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.” There is a difference between having regulations that one has to submit to rather than understanding that something might be beneficial or builds others up. One is legalism. The other is a form of grace to others. In 1 Corinthians 6:12, Paul explains that he will not be “dominated by everything.” Again, the gauge is whether Christ is the head and king, or is some other man-made precept or teaching the head?
II. The things of the world appear wise (23a)
Secondly, the things of the world have the appearance of wisdom. In most translations today, we find the phrase, ‘appearance of wisdom,’ however, the Greek word is just ‘word’ (logos). These things have a word of wisdom. There is a great difference in sounding wise with our words and actually being wise. I see many statements that look great on a coffee cup, but it would be foolish to live your life around that phrase. For example, “you can do anything you put your mind to.” This sounds like an inspirational quote, but in reality, it is not wise to live your life by this statement. We are limited. I cannot fly or even grow a mustache. No matter how much I put my mind to, it will not happen. The world has many ‘wise’ sayings that are foolish to live by. These wise words promote 1) Self-made Religion, 2) asceticism (Humility, cf Col 2:16), and 3) severity (neglect) to the body. Each has an external appearance of wisdom but, in reality, is not biblical and therefore, foolish.
III. The things of the world have no value (23b)
Lastly, all of the above things are arguments that are seen to stop sin in the life of the believer. However, dealing with the external problem does not address the internal one. These are physical solutions to a spiritual problem. We tend to see sin as external things that we do or do not do. However, sin is deeper; this is why David prays, “Create in me a clean heart” (Ps 51:1). The dirt is not outside but inside. In construction, you are always presented with a problem, such as rotten timber. However, the first issue to address is the water that is causing the damage. You can repair the rotten timber, but if the faucet is still leaking, then you will just have to fix it again. Many religions focus on external actions or appearances; however, Christianity shows the greater problem of the heart. Jesus taught this on the sermon on the mount; adultery, and murder actually occur in the heart. We even see this in the tenth commandment; Coveting is nothing that we do externally, but it is internal. The foolishness of the regulations is that it does not actually deal with the issue of sin.
This is why Paul, over and over, explains why the church needs Christ. The regulations, precepts, teachings, and wise words all do nothing. The problem people have is not their diets and their body. Although they have some benefit (1 Tim 4:8), they don’t address the issue of sin. The Colossian church is only dealing with external things and not with the heart. It would be like having a shower that leaks within the wall, and your solution is to get a new shower curtain. It might look nice, but it is useless. It is the Spirit that works in the life of the believer to do major heart surgery that deals with sin through the grace of Christ as he died on the cross. You need the Spirit and Christ, not a new diet. You need the conviction of the Spirit and the cleansing of Christ. This section of text explains to the Colossian church, but for us also, we have died to Christ, but we still act like we are alive in the world. We have been changed from rags to royalty but still act as if we are poor. Paul deals specifically with the error that they are not walking as Christians, and instead they are walking as pagans. In chapter three, Paul begins to explain how you should walk as a Christian, setting our minds on things above and not on earthly things. The problem is that the Colossians are too busy looking down on the earth rather than up to heaven. We are frequently guiltily of doing the same thing.