Colossians, Lord's Sabbaths & Feasts have been abolished? Part 1
Colossians 2 is certainly one of the most often cited chapters to teach that Paul was against the Sabbath and the Lord's feast days. There are really two verses often cited to supposedly prove that Paul was teaching against the Law of God.
The First is Colossians 2:14... "having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. The “handwriting of requirements that are against us” is supposed to be the Law of God. Thus, the Law of God was taken out of our way, and our Lord nailed the Law to the cross...abolishing it."
The second often cited verse is Colossians 2:16... "let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths."
This verse is to be used in response to anyone claiming that we are to be obedient to the Law of God as it relates to the Lord’s feast days and Sabbath (Leviticus 23). Perhaps at the moment it might seem very clear to you that in Colossians and in his other letters, Paul was teaching against some of the commandments.
Or perhaps you already realize that Paul made many clear pro-law statements and that Paul himself observed God’s feast days and Sabbath, yet Colossians 2 seems to cause Paul to contradict himself and his own observances of God’s law. You might also realize that Peter himself warned us against Paul’s letters and how the “error of lawlessness” or “sin” could be made in misunderstanding his letters (2 Peter 3:15-17).
Regardless of where you are at on these matters, what is clear is that mainstream doctrine commentary still leaves us with significant opportunity for a better understanding of Colossians 2. It is not going to be as simple as quoting a verse and pretending we know exactly what one sentence out of a whole letter is teaching.
What we want to do in this teaching is systematically proceed through Colossians chapters 1 and 2, and attempt to use Biblical hermeneutics to extract the meaning and message Paul intended to convey his audience.
What we will find is that Paul is not teaching against God’s feast days and Sabbath. Instead, he is teaching that we should observe them in our faith, just as God said. We will discover that Paul is in fact not only NOT teaching against the Law of God, but that He is making a case for observing ALL of the Law of God. There are several key questions that we need to answer that will benefit our study, so we will start with those. In Colossians 2:16, Did Paul tell the Colossians that they should not let themselves be judged for keeping God's commandments or for not keeping God's commandments (Lord's Sabbath & Feast Days)? There is a difference. We require context to know. Based on that verse alone, can we conclude that the Colossians were being compelled by false teachers to keep or not keep the Lord's Sabbath and Feast days?
If we answer that, then we can answer the first question...but we still require context to answer either question.
And lastly, were the Colossians being taught by the false teachers commandments of men and ways of the world or obedience to God's commandments such as the Sabbath and feast days? All of these questions are designed to force a reader to understand the context. Without context it is impossible to answer those questions with any degree of confidence. Without using surrounding context we are left using our own bias as the only remaining alternative to fill the missing contextual gap in our interpretation of Paul’s writings. For example, what is the context surrounding this verse?
Col 2:16 "So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths"
If we cite just one verse, such as Colossians 2:16, isolated from its surrounding context then we can not even answer our first question: Did Paul tell the Colossians that they should not let themselves be judged for keeping God's commandments or not keeping God's commandments (Lord's Sabbath & Feast Days)? That is the question we need to answer, and to answer such a question we need to understand if the context of what Paul is teaching against is the “commandments of men” or “commandments of God.” Again, there is a difference. Men are not God. Men have their own commandments and ways and God has His own commandments and ways (i.e. Mark 7:1-13).
We need to know exactly what the false teachers were teaching to understand exactly what Paul is correcting, because Paul’s correction and recommendation to the Colossians is a direct response to the false teachings that they have been presented with. For example, let’s say that I am at a wedding reception with some friends. While with those friends, they begin offering their opinion and judgment on matters of drinking wine, trying to influence me. In the midst of this situation, another friend arrives and instructs me to not let myself be judged in matters of drinking wine.
Now I ask the question, was my friend who was giving me advice telling me to not drink wine, or that it is ok to drink wine?
We don’t know do we? It is impossible to tell with the information I gave you. The first circle of friends could have been trying to compel me to drink wine, and perhaps I am against wine yet I was giving in. Another friend who knows about my passion and personal beliefs against drinking wine sees this and offers his advice to let the other group pressure me into drinking wine.
Or this scenario is also possible:
The first circle of friends could have been trying to compel me to not drink even a sip of wine, and perhaps I am ok with drinking a glass of wine, and they are not. Another friend who agrees with me sees this and offers his advice to not let the other group judge me for drinking a glass of wine. It should be obvious that both situations are possible. It should also be obvious that the friend that invites himself into the situation to offer advice offers advice that is contrary to whatever the circle of friends are compelling me to do, or not do.
This is the same situation that presents itself in Colossians 2:16. And like the example I just gave, the only way to determine what the advice was supposed to mean from the friend, which in this case would be Paul, is to determine what the Colossians were being judged on. If the false teachers were compelling the Colossians to keep the Feast of God and the Sabbaths, and Paul said to not let themselves be judged, then that would suggest that we are to NOT keep the Lord’s Feast days and Sabbath any longer and not to let ourselves be judged for not keeping them.
However, the opposite must also be true.
If the false teachers were compelling the Colossians to NOT keep the Feasts of God and the Sabbaths, and Paul said to not let themselves be judged, then that would mean that Paul is teaching them to continue in the ways of God, and to not let themselves be judged for observing God’s commandments.
So, to determine which scenario is the true scenario, and thus fully understand what Paul was really trying to teach in Colossians 2:16, we have to know the doctrine and teachings of the False Teachers, because what we know is this, what ever the false teachers believed and taught, Paul was teaching the opposite...remember this, because this is important....and it should be a very agreeable statement....so I am going to say it again, whatever the false teachers were teaching the Colossians, Paul made it clear that they, the Colossians, should not let themselves be judged for doing the opposite of what the false teachers believed and were teaching.
We CAN NOT assume that we can just pluck this verse out of a letter and ASSUME that Paul is teaching against the Feast days and Sabbaths. Anyone who does so is declaring in their own theological practice and hermeneutics that context simply does not matter.
So, let’s assume that context DOES matter, and determine what these false teachers were teaching, and thus determine what Paul was teaching against. To know exactly what the false teachers were teaching we need to read, understand, and apply the context by understanding the doctrine of the false teachers. That should make sense. That is the purpose of this teaching, to extract, understand, and apply the context of Colossians 2.
We believe that if you test these things to His Word we expect that you will also agree that Paul was not teaching against the commandments of God, but instead teaching against the commandments of men.
All that being introduction, let’s dive into the detail of Colossians. Colossians is obviously a letter, with a beginning and end, serving a specific focus, and full of context. That is a rather important point to make.
Letters are intended to be read as letters. That means that everything Paul writes in Chapter 1 and into chapter 2, is all intended to serve as a foundation and framework of the point Paul is making in the two verses of chapter 2 that has become the focus in this study.
Remember, the Colossians knew full well the context and the debate at hand. They are living in it. We are not. We have to pull in clues to construct the context and the debate at hand, and certainly refrain from inserting context of our own bias. We do not want to make the common error of verse plucking scripture out of context and forcing a biased interpretive paradigm on it. This will take mental work, attention, and a real desire to understand and apply what Paul is teaching. If any of those things are lacking, then this study will not serve well. Continued in part 2... Article courtesty of 119 Ministries