Thursday, December 02, 2021

2021.12.02 Hopewell @Home ▫ Colossians 2:20–23

Read Colossians 2:20–23

Questions from the Scripture text: What has happened to believers (Colossians 2:20)? With Whom? From what? But to what are they subjecting themselves? And where does this imply they think their life is? To what sorts of regulations were they subjecting themselves (Colossians 2:21)? What point does the apostle make about the objects of these commands in Colossians 2:22a? From where were these rules coming (verse 22b)? What do these things have an appearance of (Colossians 2:23a)? What kind of religion is this? What else does it appear to have (verse 23b, cf. Colossians 2:18)? How much value does such worship have, against what?

A Christian is someone who has died with Christ. Colossians 2:20 doesn’t teach this so much as assume it. Even Old Testament religion was just shadows that couldn’t save, except there be faith in the saving Christ (cf. Colossians 2:16-17). Much less could men’s traditions or “wisdom” do us any true good (cf. Colossians 2:8). Clinging to Christ was a rejection of such things. The apostle reminds us of these things by noting that Christians “have died with Christ from the basic principles of the world.” 

Therefore, a Christian must live as someone whose life is in Christ. But there’s a strange thing that many who have made a start in this Christian faith proceed to do at some later point. Christ is seated above (cf. Colossians 3:1), but many Christians act “as though living in the world” (Colossians 2:20). They get accustomed to living by manmade rules (Colossians 2:21-22). This is a form of seeking to have life from men for pleasing men, rather than seeking to have their life from Christ for pleasing Christ. 

And he must reject all manmade religion, since it comes from the very flesh that we are trying to kill. If these manmade religious ideas were patently stupid and wicked, they wouldn’t be dangerous. To be sure, some manmade rules are rather obviously legalistic. But it is those that have “an appearance of wisdom” (Colossians 2:23) that are the most dangerous. 

We think they have humility by exalting God and bringing man low. We think that they are wonderfully spiritual—perhaps even self-denying. But inventing religion puts man in the place of God, despite any appearance of humility. And inventing religion indulges the self, despite any appearance of self-denial.

The apostle makes this clear by the word that our translation has rendered “self-imposed religion.” It’s a mashup of the word for “will” and a word for “worship”—“will-worship.”

We have Christ, and in Christ we have the power of heaven. Let us not revert to powerless, earthly religion, however much we might reason that it were wise or spiritually meaningful to us.

What is the only way to be justified? What is the only way to grow? Where is your life? What is something that Christians find “spiritually meaningful” that Christ has not commanded? Is it, then?

Sample prayer: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, how marvelous it is that You have rescued us by being our life in Christ! In Him, we have died unto any hope or help that comes from man. Forgive us for how we often live as if manmade religious ideas now have hope or help in them for us! Grant instead your own life, through Your own appointed means, through which Your Spirit gives us life from Christ, through Whom we ask it, AMEN! 

Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH459 “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”

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