Shadows from Law; Reality in Christ—Colossians 2:16-17
“Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17)
When I was young, I remember our pastor making an offhand comment about someone in the church. Their washing machine broke, the pastor said the reason why is because they were doing laundry on Sunday; God needed to get their attention. The tradition surrounding Sundays in this church (& many others) was attending in both the morning and evening and doing nothing the rest of the day. Work was not allowed. And by the comment made, I understood from a young age, that this rule was enforced.
This mentality is not unlike what was happening in the Colossian church. There was a large influence of both legalistic Jewish traditions and what later became known as Gnosticism. It created hybrid worship beliefs which Paul combats and corrects in this letter.
One thing that was happening is false teachers were imposing dietary regulations on the people, based on what was written in the Law of Moses. They were also pressuring them to observe special religious celebrations like the festival, the New Moon and Sabbaths. However given everything written in this letter about Jesus, the only conclusion to be reached is Christ is the center and focus of our worship. Because everything those things described pointed to Christ; the literal fulfillment.
The book of Hebrews says it like this; “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves” (Hebrews 10:1). Paul said in this passage, “These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” (vs. 17). A shadow is a vague outline representing the real thing. A shadow can never give the full picture; the full, complete and clear picture is Jesus.
Don’t Let Traditions Become Rules & Debunk Jesus!
Why live under the obscurity of a shadow when the real thing is present?
Because of everything mentioned in Colossians 2, we are urged not to let our traditions and practices sideline Jesus from being at the core of our worship. In the same way, do not let others judge and pressure you into legalistic practices when you’ve arrived at a place of freedom in worship and lifestyle.
Traditions and special celebrations are great, but keep the main truth central; Jesus is the focus of our worship. Those things can help celebrate Jesus but careful attention must be place in not letting them become mere rules to be followed taking preference over Him.
This is the truth of Christ...
- In Christ is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (vs. 3).
- Just as we received Christ by faith we are urged to continue (vs. 6).
- The fullness of the deity lives in Christ (vs. 9).
- We have been given fullness in Christ (vs. 10).
- Our spiritual circumcision in done in Christ (vs. 11).
- We were buried and raised with Christ by faith (vs. 12).
- God made us alive in Christ (vs. 13).
- He forgave us all our sins because of Christ (vs. 13).
- He cancelled the written code that accused us (vs. 14).
- He disarmed powers and authorities against us by victory on the cross (vs. 15).
Today, I pray that you take a moment to evaluate the traditions you hold dear. Do they help bring you to a place of worship or do they hinder because of the weight of obligation? Paul reminds in this very passage, “do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” (vs. 16-17).
May you find your reality in Him; may true rest and heart peace come from walking closely with Him. May your traditions and practices stem and flourish in the shadow of Christ!
Let’s Have a Conversation!
What practices have killed the heart of worship? Have you experienced a time where rules and traditions set you on a legalistic course? What have you found to combat these ideas and notions?