Colossians Bible Study – The Truth about Religion
Proving the Lie – of Worldly Legalism
Proving the Lie – of Worldly Legalism
Legalism – Worldly Rules
Colossians 2:20 (KJB) “Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances”
Man is a religious creature and the cults were also using legalism to reduce Christianity to a list of rules. Some people like details, they want the do’s and don’ts. But that is not what Christianity is all about. Christianity is amazingly simple. Christianity is Jesus Christ! Judaism had rules and regulations, by the hundreds and the result was they crucified Jesus Christ because He did not adapt to their idea of what was allowed under the Law. Christianity replaces legalism with love, precepts are replaced by principles, and codes are replaced by Christ.
The simple truths of the New Testament have been so embellished, or added to, with so much detail until the simplicity of God’s Word has been obscured. An embellishment is to add beauty or an adornment to something. Adding excess rules only blind us to the teachings of God. First, they blind us to our status as believers – “wherefore, if ye be dead with Christ . . . why . . . are ye subject to ordinances” (2:20).
Romans 6:6-7 (KJB) “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.”
We in fact are dead with Christ from the pressures of the world and all its counterfeit religion and philosophies. Rules invented by religious people blind us to our status as believers but also to our stature as believers.
Colossians 2:20a (KJB) “Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world,”
The word rudiments suggest “first principles or elementary rules” or that which is first learned. Paul is saying if we are “dead with Christ” from the rules of the world. . . In our Christian lives we are supposed to grow up and put on some stature and maturity. The ability for rules to produce a genuinely Holy life has been proven in the Old Testament to be a failure. For fifteen hundred years God dealt with men using the Law. It did not work why should we go back to living under the law? The same as Paul’s day we have many religious people and denominations that want to try to live according to the Law. But it is not possible! It is nonsense trying to go back to the Law. Christianity is not a matter of keeping rules – it is a matter of being indwelt by the living Christ who, having given His life for us, now gives His life to us.
Colossians 2:20b (KJB) why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances
Our world has hundreds of religions. Religions try to attach dogmas and rules on followers. Radical Islamic “holy” men overthrew the Shah of Iran and returned the country to the middle ages.
Judaism is another example of what happens when men add religious rules. If the Mosaic Law was not enough, the Jewish scribes kept adding to it. They added the Halakhoth (rabbinical decisions on all questions of ceremony and ritual). They added the Mishna, the legal code that resulted from those rabbinical decisions. Then they added Gemara, and the Midrash, and the Haggadah, and finally the Kabbala – which is full of mystical teachings and far-fetched allegories.
The lengths that the Jews went to in embellishing the Law are unbelievable. Jesus Christ rejected these teachings and they killed Him because of it.
But for Judaism that was not the end – after the destruction of the Jewish Temple, the Jews sought refuge in the “Oral Law.” This became the Talmud, and it completely overshadows the Scriptures.
The Mosaic Law said everything that needed to be said in six hundred thirteen commandments. That code was reduced to ten commandments in the Decalogue (Exodus 20:1-17) and reduced further to two commandments by Jesus Christ (Mark 12:28-31).
How They Chain & Cheat Us
Colossians 2:21-22 (KJB) “(Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?”
Once you go down the road of rules and regulations, everything must be defined in greater and greater details. The Mosaic Law went down this road. It poked and pried into every part of your life. It spelled out laws for everything. The Gnostic cult was spelling out its agenda for the church, but Paul cut them off using their own terms.
The New Testament deals in principles, not rules. Many have fallen into immorality by not keeping their hands to themselves. We do not need someone to provide long lists of what we should not touch, as though we were a four-year old.
Christians have been set free. We are not free to sin, but free from sin (Romans 6:1-2). We who were once dead in sin are now dead to sin. The chains of those who would make themselves the judge or our conscience have been broken. The Holy Spirit now provides that duty.
Which all are to perish with the using
Paul explains how the man-made rules (touch not, taste not, handle not, etc.) are all destined to perish with the using. Take Martin Luther as an example, he was following Rome’s rules for holy living to the letter. He fasted, he flogged himself with a whip, he said long, repetitive prayers, he did penance, and went on to fervent extremes. His life became misery and he was reduced to a just a bag of bones. On a pilgrimage to Rome, begging for food and money, he began to climb Pilate’s staircase on his knees pleading with the Virgin Mary at every step. It did not do any good – but yet he persisted, one more step, and another and another. Finally, Martin Luther heard the voice of God – “The Just Shall Live by Faith (Romans 1:17). Martin Luther stood up, walked back down the steps, walked out of the church, and took half of Christendom with him.
Martin Luther had seen the truth and it was not by fear, or fasting, nor by flogging himself nor by any other fanatical means. It was by faith. One verse of scripture is worth ten thousand times more that all the books of man-made rules that exist in this world. Systems collapse because rules cannot change human nature. Sometimes they sound like good ideas, but they cheat us because they promise what they cannot deliver.
Why the System Convinces
Colossians 2:23 (KJB) “Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.”
The Gnostic Cult of this day and our current day has not really changed whatsoever. It was all about neglecting their bodies. Paul calls this a show of Wisdom. The cultists were working on creating a reputation for themselves. A reputation built of the same thing we see today in many modern cults – based on hidden knowledge. These cults are dabbling into the unseen, secret world setting themselves up to be great teachers, saints of God whose teachings should be received and whose reputations should be revered.
What religions claim to have these hidden secrets that you can only obtain by following rules, regulations, flogging your body, fasts etc.? Just do a search on mystery religions. Every religion from Catholics, to Free Masons, and many other common and obscure religions.
These cult leaders neglected their bodies, they beat and branded themselves. But Paul scoffs at them saying it was all just “a shew of wisdom in will worship”. What Paul was saying is this was a self-imposed or self-inspired worship. They were devoted to the religion they invented. They were fanatics… but not of God. The cultists wanted the Colossians to adopt the system of worship they had invented.
What the System Causes
Not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh
The cult with it’s secret knowledge, and it’s abuse of their bodies, it’s “will worship,” it’s obligation of iron discipline, it’s strict faithfulness to rules and regulations, and it’s curiosity with religious codes, does no good. God rejects these things. In the end, the flesh is still there just as fierce, as strong, and as wicked as ever. There is no satisfying of the flesh.
Cults do not have any answers that will bring us lasting peace, or that will satisfy our flesh, but God does. In our next chapter Paul is going to turn his attention to practical Christianity where Paul tells us:
Colossians 3:15 (KJB) “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.”