Tuesday, 2 May 2017
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. Colossians 2:23
“These things” refers to what Paul has been speaking of in the previous verses – things like circumcision verses uncircumcision, partaking or not partaking in certain foods, participating in certain religious festivals, worshipping angels, and so on. He lumps them into this one thought and says, “These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion.”
People who participate in dietary restrictions, for example, seem to be more pious than others. Ascetics look at their self-denial as leading them to a state of holiness. The observance of religious festivals certainly attracts attention. Those who participate in them appear to be observing them in order to be more holy. And so forth. But is a person more holy by not eating pork or by observing a Passover Seder? No! Christ fulfilled these things. By placing one’s faith in Christ, they skip over the shadow and obtain the substance of what the shadow only pointed to.
Why put a beanie cap on your head when praying if you were never a Jew in the first place? Such is “false humility.” In the end, it doesn’t add to personal holiness at all. The “neglect of the body” is specifically speaking of ascetic practices that he had just referred to – “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle.” But again, such things are, as he says, “of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.”
In the end, these things which are seemingly pious are actually prideful. They are “works to impress” God, but God does not need to be impressed. He came out of His eternal realm, donned garments of flesh, and fulfilled everything necessary to reconcile fallen man back to Himself. What God looks for is faith in that, not in self. An attitude of self-righteousness is completely opposed to trusting in Christ for imputed righteousness.
Paul’s words are clear and direct, and they ask us to put away externals as a means of seeking God’s favor. We are to be purified in our hearts, filled with faith in His provision, and trusting in His ability to complete our salvation to lead us back to Himself.
Life-application: As always, the Bible shows us that faith in what God has done, is doing, and will do is that which is pleasing to Him. When we put aside faith, and begin trusting in our own actions to merit His favor, or to increase our standing before Him, we are saying that we don’t need Him. “It’s OK God, I can handle it from this point on.” This is why, even after salvation, we are to continue to trust Him for our walk towards holiness. As Paul says in Galatians 3:2-4 – “This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? 4 Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?” Hold fast to Christ, and Christ alone!
O God! It is such a relief to know that our salvation is a gift which cannot be earned, and that our continued walk with You is also something we can leave in Your capable hands. We don’t need to observe Old Testament feasts, cling to its dietary restrictions, or trust in other observances of the law in order to please You. Instead, those things were only shadows of the reality found in Christ. Faith in Him is what brings us to the sweet spot. And how sweet it is! Thank You for this wonderful means of complete reconciliation with You! Amen.