Study Notes

Colossians 2:16-23


As you recall, Epaphras had reported to Paul that although the church in Colossae was growing, they were also being deceived by some heresies. In the verses we'll cover today, we will discover much of what the so-called "Colossian Heresy" consisted of.

Now, if you recall, we saw last Sunday morning that Jesus triumphed. He had the complete victory over death. He has cancelled out the debt of our sin.

Notice the "therefore" with which he begins verse 16. In other words, "Because of everything I've just told you about Christ's victory being won for us, I now make this statement to you..."

2:16-17 A Mere Shadow

Part of what the Colossians were going through was a judgment from people that were insisting they follow the Jewish Law. These Gentile Christians weren't eating kosher foods, and weren't following the Jewish calendar of holy days.

In reality, Paul could have simply said, "Look guys. The council at Jerusalem already decided that you Gentile Christians aren't subject to the Jewish law. As long as you abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication (Acts 21:25), you're fine.

But instead, He made a statement that is as deep as any in the entire Bible. He said that these things of Jewish Law...

Col. 2:17 ...are a {mere} shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

This is fascinating! What does it mean? Jesus told the Jews,

John 5:39 "You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me"

He told the apostles,

Luke 24:44 "...all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled."

To the two disciples on the road to Emmaus,

Luke 24:27 ...He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

He told the multitudes,

Matt. 5:17 "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill."

Was all of this just picturesque speech, or did Jesus really mean what He said? He was serious and specific when He made these statements. As you study the Bible, you will find that the entire law - ll of the holidays, all of the sacrifices, and all of the ceremonies - pointed to Christ. Here's a whirlwind tour:

The holidays:

- Passover foretold his sacrifice as the Lamb of God.

- The feast of Unleavened Bread told of His sinless body being buried.

- The feast of Firstfruits foreshadowed His resurrection. The feast of Pentecost spoke of His giving birth to the church.

- The feast of Trumpets tells us of the day He will Rapture His church.

- The Day of Atonement paints the picture of Him being called out to by the afflicted Jews.

- And the Feast of Tabernacles foreshadows the time when Jesus will tabernacle among His people, living in their midst.

- The Sabbath itself was a foretelling of the rest we will enter in Christ.

The sacrifices:

- The Burnt Offering was Christ making us acceptable before God.

- The Grain Offering spoke of Jesus our provider.

- The Peace Offering was Jesus bringing us into fellowship with God.

- The Sin Offering was Jesus dying for our specific sins.

- The Guilt Offering was Jesus making provision for the result of our sin.

The ceremonies:

- The cleansing of the leper was a picture of Christ, who would be taken from the heavens, and occupy an earthly body. He would be killed, with the blood and water mixing in His body, and would ascend to heaven again. All of this to cleanse us from the incurable disease of sin.

The list could go on and on all morning. I've just given you the Cliff Notes of a 14-week study through Leviticus, and a hint towards a study of the entire Bible. Those who are faithful in attending our Thursday night Old Testament studies have known this all along.

Every part of the Law, be it a festival, a new moon, or a Sabbath day, is a shadow, but the substance belongs to Christ. That dark shape on the ground may look like me, but I'm the real deal. You can look at the shadow all you want, but why would you when I'm here? So Paul is asking them the question, then, "Why let someone judge you for not observing the shadow when you have the substance?"

2:18-23 Self-Made Religion

Now we get down to the nitty-gritty of the "Colossian Heresy." It is man-made religion, plain and simple. It appeared to be wisdom (23), was based on "visions" (18), insisted that people in the church submitted to decrees (20) and commandments (22), and be subject to severe treatment (23). It included the worship of angels (18), self-abasement (18, 23), and a whole list of do's and dont's (21).

This is typical of self-made religions today. "Look how wise it is," people say. And yet,


"But this man had a vision," people protest. But the Lord says,

Jer. 23:25 "I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy falsely in My name, saying, ‘I had a dream, I had a dream!'"

"You've got to follow the rules to be righteous," they insist. But in God's eyes,

Isa. 64:6 ...all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment...

Man-made religion is easy to spot. It is anything that adds to the simplicity of having faith in Christ's crucifixion for our sins and His resurrection from the dead.

Have you been deceived into thinking that suffering for a difficult religion is the way to go? It's not.

Have you allowed non-biblical ideas to creep into your Christianity? They don't belong.

Have you been subjected to rules and regulations for the sake of religion? You can't add anything to your salvation, because Christ paid it in full on the cross.

Ask yourself this morning, "Have I allowed any of these things to defraud me of my prize? Has my victory been taken away by man-made religion?"

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