Colossians, Lord's Sabbaths & Feasts have been abolished? Part 4
Paul is explaining, to those who will listen, that practicing the feasts are still designed to teach us. If Paul was teaching against observing the Sabbath and feast days as supposed, Shouldn’t Paul have said the feasts are of no value anymore? Or perhaps, that God is done with those, so we should not observe them anymore?
Why in the world would he state that they are still a shadow of things to come and that Christ is the reality of them if we are to no longer be practicing them? Appealing to the current prophetic value of them is the last thing Paul should be doing if he is teaching against them.
Yet that is what mainstream Biblical commentary must be proposing. As demonstrated, for many reasons we know that the false teachers were the Jewish sect of the Gnostics, not Jewish Pharisees. The popular NIV Life Application Study Bible by Zondervan even agrees in its commentary that this is the Gnostic sect that is the root cause of doctrinal problems to the Colossians. “The problem that Paul was combating in the Colossian church was similar to Gnosticism (from the Greek Word knowledge).
This heresy undermined Christianity in several basic ways:
(1) It insisted that the important secret knowledge was hidden from most believers; Paul, however, said that Christ provides all of the knowledge we need.
(2) It taught that the body was evil; Paul countered that God himself lived in a body – that is, he was embodied in Jesus Christ.
(3) It contended that Christ only seemed to be human, but was not; Paul insisted that Jesus is fully human and fully God.
Gnosticism became fashionable in the second century....” “Life Application Bible” Zondervan; so the fact that Colossians 2 is teaching against Gnostic doctrine is already well understood and taught by most Biblical scholars. Why is this important? The Gnostic doctrine is full of “principles of the world,” and “commandments and teachings of men.” This fits with the language Paul is using in chapters 1 and 2. The Gnostics would not be commanding the Colossians to keep God's feasts by any stretch. They were against things of and for the body. In a short while, we will go into detail on what the scholar’s teach on Gnostic doctrine provide more detail. They would be teaching them not to do away with these commandments, that they are just "spiritual", and have no value. Because the feasts and Sabbath involve “food and drink” the Gnostics considered God’s Feasts and Sabbath as actually evil.
This is why the Gnostics considered the God of the Old Testament as evil and the God of the New Testament as not evil. .... As though God could change...Malachi 3:6 teaches us that God cannot change. What most do not consider is that there is a spiritual and physical application for every one of God’s commandments, and one does not override or trump the other. The physical teaches the spiritual. The inward produces the outward, and the outward is evidence of the inward. Yeshua even taught us this in the New Testament, not as anything new, just something already established as true.
So that is WHY Paul said YES, the Feasts still have value, and they ARE prophetic foreshadowing of what is TO COME (verse 17). In other words, don’t listen to the corrupted.
Gnostics and throw the Lord's Feasts and Sabbaths out the window. They (the Gnostics) do not know that they are in serious error and certainly do not let them judge you with their supposed “special knowledge” of “things not seen.”
Therefore, keep the Feasts and do not let anyone judge you for keeping them. See how context defines verse 16 for us?
Col 2:20-23 - Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— 21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22 which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.
Paul again makes it clear that in Christ we died against the “principles of the world” and “human regulations.” So far, Paul has said nothing against the "law of God." In fact, THE WORD LAW IS NOT MENTIONED IN THE WHOLE BOOK OF COLOSSIANS.
Perhaps I should say that again, knowing that some still choose to use Colossians to to teach against the law of God. THE WORD LAW IS NOT MENTIONED IN THE WHOLE BOOK OF COLOSSIANS.
Amazing but true, yet teachers will try to convince you at every opportunity that the letter to the Colossians is all about abolishing God’s law instead of about abolishing commandments and doctrines from men. In reality it should be really easy to discern between commandments of men and commandments from God.
Many mainstream teachers place “God’s law” as the subject of Colossians 2 and the word law is not even mentioned once. You would expect it to be in there somewhere if Paul was teaching against it, but embarrassingly enough it is not. That is because Paul is teaching against false doctrines and commandments of the world or men, he is not teaching that any component of the "law of God" has been made void. In fact, if Paul was doing this, he would be contradicting himself and Yeshua (i.e. Ro. 3:31;7:22- 23;Mat. 5:17-19). According to what should now be obvious context, the Gnostics came in and started polluting the doctrine of the Colossians. The Gnostics directed the Colossians away from what Paul originally taught and practiced - which is the Law of God – doing Bible things in Bible ways. They even began imposing Gnostic ascetic beliefs and manmade commands that had to do with bodily sensory pleasures, neglecting the body, etc. The Lord's Feast days are a big problem for the Gnostics because these days are all about eating. That is why they are called feasts. The bottom line is this; Paul was railing the whole time against the Gnostics and their traditions. These traditions were clearly contrary to God’s law and to what Christ did on the cross in nearly every possible way.
Paul even states that these are commandments and doctrines originating from men, not God. That is a dead give away that this is not about God’s law, but men’s ridiculous religious traditions. If we are to believe what mainstream Christianity teaches, that Colossians 2 is teaching against the Law of God, then we would have to conclude several things:
1) We would have to conclude that God’s laws are “principles of the world” and “human traditions” instead of spiritual. This is certainly and error that we do not want to make. See Romans 7:14.
2) We would have to conclude that God’s laws are “commandments and doctrines of men” instead of from God. See Romans 7:22.
There happens to be a difference between commandments of men and commandments of God. We certainly need to apply that difference in our study. We can not say and teach that Paul is teaching against commandments of God when he clearly says he is teaching against commandments of men. If we can not understand the difference, then not only is Colossians 2 going to prove difficult to understand, but so is the whole Bible.
3) We would have to conclude that the Gnostics were compelling the Colossians to keep the feasts of God for Paul to be teaching the Colossians that it is ok to not be keeping the feasts of God. We would also have to believe that even though Paul stated that even though the Feasts have prophetic value and that God commanded us to keep them FOREVER, we should still not do them.
Even though Paul, as written in Acts, kept the Feasts, such as Passover, Unleavened Bread, and the Day of Atonement, as well as keeping the Sabbaths. He also stated that he kept and taught the Law of Moses and proved it (Acts 21). If we were to believe the Gnostics were compelling the Colossians to keep God’s feast this would contrary to everything we know about the Gnostics. If Paul was telling the Colossians to not keep God’s feasts then Paul would also be teaching against what he stated he believes, teaches, and practices (Acts 24).
4) Paul states that we should keep the Feasts (Check 1 Cor. 5:8), yet here Paul is supposedly abolishing them. Obviously, all of these things are not even remotely possible once one realizes that Paul was providing evidence against the Gnostics and their worldly traditions.
Once again, the context provides us with the meaning and valid interpretations. Even mainstream Christian scholars teach that Paul is teaching against JEWISH GNOSTICS in Colossians 2. So if scholar's already know that Paul is teaching against Jewish Gnostics, why do they not apply that understanding in their interpretation? Perhaps because it would destroy their theological paradigm. They refuse to connect that dot. They leave what Paul said and their understanding of Gnostic doctrine, completely and intentionally disconnected.
In their study they recognize that it is the Gnostics in the context and the source of the doctrinal confusion for the Colossians. However, Col. 2:14-16 are still cited to support a law abolishing theological paradigm, suddenly the Jewish sect Paul is teaching against conveniently changes from Gnostics doctrine to Pharisee doctrine. How comfortable should we be with such an interpretive approach? It violates nearly ever hermeneutical principle that scripture scholar’s claim to uphold. The question must be asked however, what is the greater tragedy, destroying a faulty theological paradigm or destroying God's Holy Word? It might be more politically and socially convenient now to abolish God’s law, because it tickles ears, but in the end, that might not be the most brilliant idea.
We have spent some time discussing how the Gnostics are the source of the false teaching the Colossians have been dealing with.
Let’s dive even deeper and really examine what the Jewish Gnostics believed according to those who study their doctrine. What we going to review is chief points Gnostics doctrine in Gnostic systems according to The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE).
As we review them, keep in mind Colossians 1 and 2 and how the similarities.
(1) a claim on the part of the initiated to a special knowledge of the truth; a tendency to regard knowledge as superior to faith and as the special possession of the more enlightened, for ordinary Christians did not possess this secret and higher doctrine; ---- Paul referred to this in Colossians as special knowledge of things unseen.
(2) the essential separation of matter and spirit, matter being intrinsically evil and the source from which all evil has arisen; ---- Paul mentioned that the false teaches teach “do not taste, do not handle, etc” and against the Sabbaths and Feast days in “matters of food and drink”
(3) an attempt to solve the problems of creation and the origin of evil by postulating a demiurge, i.e., a creator or artificer of the world distinct from the deity, and emanations extending between God and the visible universe (the demiurge for the Gnostics being the God of the OT, an inferior being infinitely remote from the Supreme Being who can have nothing to do with anything material); ----The Gnostics were against the things God had written by Moses and taught God was once inferior in His Ways because God taught his people to do physical things to understand the spiritual...to the Gnostics, this is not only bad, but evil and inferior.
(4) a denial of the true humanity of Christ; a Docetism Christology which considered the earthly life of Christ and especially His sufferings on the cross to be unreal; ---this is why John called them antichrists and Paul focused on the redemptive characteristics of Christ’s blood
(5) the denial of the personality of the Supreme God, and also the denial of the free will of mankind; (Calvinists were not the first promoters of the no free will of man teaching)
(6) the teaching, on the one hand, of asceticism as the means of attaining spiritual communion with God, and, on the other hand, of an indifference that led directly to licentiousness; ---- Thus no food or drink, taste, handle, touch, etc. as a means to draw close to God...this would nullify the practice of God’s feast days because of food and drink.
(7) a syncretistic tendency that combined certain more or less misunderstood Christian doctrines and various elements from oriental, Jewish, Greek, and other sources; --- thus they mixed philospy into their understanding of God, they mingled in men’s thoughts...keep in mind what Paul wrote:
Col 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
--- and Christ is the Word of God, not philosophy
(8) Ascription of the Old Testament to the demiurge or inferior creator of the world. (pp. 486-487, vol. 2, "Gnosticism") Knowing the above Gnostic doctrine is necessary so we know what Paul is opposing in his letter and why.
The above doctrine is the same doctrine Paul is fighting against in Colossians 2. Can we honestly believe that the Gnostics, who considered everything physical as evil (2), and promoted asceticism (6) kept God’s feasts, which were all about food and drink? Can we honestly believe that the Gnostics, who considered the "God of the OT," evil wanted to keep His "feast days?"
Here are the points that need to be scripturally reconciled if someone is teaching that Paul teaches in Colossians 2 that God’s feasts, Sabbaths, and dietary instructions have been abolished. These questions are for those who use Colossians 2 to teach against the Law of God, particularly the Sabbaths and Feast days.
1) (2:8) Since when are God’s commandments considered to be “vain and empty deceit?”
2) (2:8) Since when are God’s commandments from “human tradition?”
3) (2:8) Since when are God’s commandments from “elemental spirits of the universe, and not of Christ” ...especially since Christ practiced the Sabbaths and Feast days and are part of the Word of God (Ex16, 20; Lev 23; Deu16), not elemental spirits of the universe.
4) (2:13-14) If verses 13-14 speak of God nailing God’s commandments to the cross and doing away with them then why does Paul precede verse 13 with the context of us being forgiven from our sin? What does “nailing the handwriting of ordinances that were against us” have to do with our sin being forgiven if it is taking “God’s commandments” out of the way, or blotting them out? Are we suggesting that verse 13 had nothing to do with the context of verse 14? That verse 14 is about the law of God being removed, but verse 13 is about our sins being removed?
5) Where in scripture is it stated that God’s commandments are “against us”, instead of being called perfect, holy, just, fair, liberty, light to our path, truth, the way, and freedom?
Are things that are perfect, holy, just, fair, liberty, light, truth, and the way actually against us? Is it not the opposite that is true, that man’s nature is against God’s law and not the other way around? What scripture can we cite to support that God’s law was against man and therefore needed to be removed?
6) How is nailing God’s law to the cross “disarming principalities and powers?” How does God disarm His own power and why would He?
7) Why would Jesus make a “public spectacle” of God’s own law, and through that, how does He triumph over them ?
8) (2:13) If verse 13 really describes God’s commandments being nailed to the cross, how do we reconcile that with Romans 8:1-3 that states we are free from the "law of sin and death" because of what Jesus did on the cross instead of being free from God’s commandments?
9) It is clear that the group Paul was opposing , the Gnostics, involved teaching strict ascetic regulations (2:21-23).
This is the OPPOSITE of feasting. You don't promote asceticism by encouraging the observance of feast days. Instead, you elevate asceticism by criticizing the way someone is keeping a feast, or by condemning the fact that they are celebrating a feast at all.
Continued in part 5
Article courtesy of 119 Ministries