Colossians 2:16-23 - The Surpassing Savior
Colossians • Sermon • Submitted • Presented • 42:53
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For those of you who don’t know, this is the Washington Monument in Washington DC. When people go to see it, they are amazed by it’s shear size. It is the world’s tallest predominately stone structure in the world and measures around 555 feet and is made mostly of marble, granite, limestone, and sandstone.
This tall monument casts quite a shadow as we see in this picture. The shadow is interesting and fun to see but it is unlikely that most people would go Washington DC in order to only see the shadow of the monument and ignore the gigantic structure that is causing the shadow!
Yet that is what many do today. Many today spend their time looking at the shadows instead of the Savior. Many today ignore the Savior and focus on things that are much inferior.
Join me as we read God’s Word:
16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. 20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
Let us pray.
Today we are going to discuss three ways the Savior surpasses everything else. The first is:
I. The Savior Surpasses the Shadow (16-17)
I. The Savior Surpasses the Shadow (16-17)
16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.
What are people casting judgments on the Colossian church about here? They are saying that they need to be celebrating religious rituals in order to be right with God. We definitely see a flavor of the Judaizers here discussing festivals and Sabbath regulations but there is likely some other religious activity that is being brought in here as well.
These false teachers are trying to keep the regulations of the law that were fulfilled by Christ. They are encouraging people to try to work for their salvation instead of relying on the grace of Jesus Christ.
There is a direct attack on Christian liberty and freedom in Christ here. And we see this today as well.
Churches seem to go off the rails in many different ways as false philosophies enter the church. It may be an extreme view of experientialism or mysticism where people exalt experiences over exposition of God’s Word. The experiences and revelations that they have through meditation are what really matters to them. It isn’t the Word of God that is final - instead it is their emotions and spiritual revelations.
Or they may go off toward traditionalism and legalism with certain practices that need to be done in order to be holy. An unwritten list of do’s and do not’s may be what fills the minds of the church instead of the Word of God.
Obviously we today are going to be under the microscope of such churches and teachers. And we obviously cannot keep people from passing false judgments on us. But we can determine whether these false judgments change how we worship God and live our lives. So many people seem to really care what others think about them. They are controlled by the opinions of others. They are impacted by every snarky word that someone else says. And they are influenced by influencers who are not there to encourage a holy life and holy living.
So if I may ask you...
Who is your greatest influencer?
I pray that it is Jesus Christ and not someone on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. I pray that it is not even some teacher that has a podcast and is given a voice in our society that uses it for airing out their own opinions. What Jesus says is what matters. Other’s opinions will fade away and vanish but His Word lasts forever. Measure everything by His Word.
Don’t misunderstand this section of Scripture. Some of us may have strong convictions on certain things that are given to us by God. Some of us may need to avoid certain drinks and certain foods in order to live a more holy life. Frankly there are some good arguments for some of these issues that I will likely preach on in the future. Yet we must not make a law where God has not made a law.
We are to obey Christ. We are to obey everything that He commands. And we are not to add to what He commands and place that on others. This is legalism my friends. And it destroys Christian freedom and joy. It robs a church of its life. Legalism is a choking force on the body. It keeps the body from being dependent on Christ and makes the body dependent on the ideas of man.
Jesus taught very harshly regarding legalism:
16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred?
This is a great picture of the religious leaders making up rules and obeying the ones they made up but ignoring the commands of God!
God was clear on what He taught about making vows:
21 “If you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay fulfilling it, for the Lord your God will surely require it of you, and you will be guilty of sin.
Yet the religious rulers made exceptions from their own minds. There is no end to the pit of legalism.
Let’s jump into verse 17 as Paul makes a case for not practicing a works-based righteousness.
17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
Not only do we need to avoid legalism and following the law of man instead of the commands of God - but we also need to not rely on the foreshadowing practices of the Old Testament that were fulfilled by Christ in order to have a right relationship with Christ.
I am going to mention a couple of high points here:
1. The Passover (Exodus 12:1-9, Numbers 26:16-25, Leviticus 23:5, Deuteronomy 16:1-8)
The Passover was a celebration of the escape from Egypt. The final and tenth plague on Egypt was the death of the firstborn and the Angel of Death passed over and spared all of the houses that had the blood of a lamb over the doors of the houses.
This was a beautiful celebration for Israel. Yet it is only a shadow of what God would do in the future.
We know now that Christ became the Passover lamb. His blood was spilled and placed on us so that we might have forgiveness of sins and so that eternal death would pass over us and we are given eternal life instead.
As wonderful as the Passover was for Israel - it was only a shadow of the more full and beautiful Passover that was to be experiences through the sacrificial death of Christ.
2. The Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:1-34; Exodus 30:10-30; Numbers 29:7-11)
On this particular day, also referred to as Yom Kippur, the high priest would go into the Holy of Holies on behalf of the people. This was the only day in which he could do this. He had to bathe himself and put on special garments before doing this. He had to first sacrifice a bull for a sin offering for himself and his family. He was to sprinkle this blood on the ark of the covenant. Then there were two goats that were brought forth - one was sacrificed for the sins of the people and the other was called the scapegoat and was released outside the camp after confessing over it the rebellion and wickedness of the people which was to be forgiven.
This occured year after year.
Yet Christ was both the sacrifice and the scapegoat. He suffered outside the camp like the scapegoat did. And He bled and died like the sacrificed goat did. Yet, He did not need to make a sacrifice for Himself like the priest. He is perfect and needed no bull to cover His sins. Our Great High Priest in Christ is much better than the priests of the law. Not only that - His sacrifice was once for all!
30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
His sacrifice was done once and for all. It is finished is what He said!
Brothers and sisters - let us never worship the shadow instead of the Savior. Learning about the Old Testament law, festivals, rituals, the Passover, and the Day of Atonement is very helpful in understanding the character and Person of Jesus Christ. I would highly recommend studying these things and seeing how they point to Christ. But we must be very careful to avoid letting these things become the main thing. Christ must always be the center of everything and the Head of the body of believers. Anything that usurps His authority must be cast aside. Whether it is a religious ritual or man’s ideas. Whether is an Old Testament festival or even a church event or outreach that has become the main thing the church is about instead of Jesus.
Never trade the substance for the shadow.
Never exalt the shadow over the Savior.
Scripture References: Matthew 23:16-17, Deuteronomy 23:21, John 19:30
II. The Savior Surpasses the Serpents (18-19)
II. The Savior Surpasses the Serpents (18-19)
18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
Let no one disqualify you. This Greek word for disqualify here means to rob of a prize.
Don’t let anyone keep you from a true saving faith.
This anyone includes everyone and more specifically in context of the church of Colossae - those Judaizers, ritualists, and false teachers.
Don’t let them influence you to consider worshiping works or false gods. They may be convincing in their speech. They may claim visions and higher views of things - yet they are deceivers. They are puffed up, power hungry, and bent on rebellion.
Then Paul goes on and says that these deceivers may keep those from a saving faith and disqualify them from eternal life through a false Gospel instead of preaching the true Gospel.
The first way that they do this is through asceticism. This refers to false humility. It is a superficial humility that is not genuine. It is a pretending to be humble. Christ does not honor false humility. Only true humility - which is a work of Christ in you - pleases God.
2. Worship of Angels
The second is the worship of angels. This asceticism, or false humility, that we mentioned before opened up a wide door for false teachers. They preached a false narrative in which they may put themselves down so much in false humility that they did not feel worthy to speak to God on their own behalf so they would pray and worship angels who would, in turn, be their mediators. It seems so humble right?
Yet the focus is not on Christ - it is on man. They are disobeying Christ who is clearly our only mediator between us and God.
5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
I’m not sure I could make it any clearer than what Paul just said. This is why we reject praying to the saints or Mary which is idolatry and disobedience to God. We pray only through Christ. There is no other way to approach God than through His only Mediator - Jesus Christ.
18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind,
4. Puffed Up With a Sensuous Mind
Finally we see two other ways the false teachers were attempting to disqualify people. They went on about visions and were puffed up with a sensuous mind. If they could not reason with the people then they would try to reach beyond reason and move into a form of charismatic movement. They started to make it all about experience and visions and sensual experiences. Scripture and God’s Word would need to take a backseat to the mysticism that was happened.
My friends, the charismatic movement of today is very concerning for our churches. There is definitive truth in the fact that Holy Spirit should be directing us throughout our lives. But we are also to discern and test the spirits to make sure the spirit that is influencing us is the Spirit of God and not the spirit of Satan and his demons. We must remain strapped to the Word of God and weigh everything by it.
1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
How can our church remain a qualified church and not a disqualified church? How can we remain a church that brings people into the kingdom of God instead of inadvertently locking them out?
See what Paul says in verse 19:
19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
These false teachers were not holding fast to Christ. We should instead stay attached to the Head - namely Christ. The Head of the body directs its movements. As we discussed before - the body works in unison when the Head is where all of the movements originate. Christ keeps us united together and nourishes us through His Word and power.
We see how important the head is with mental health. When someone battles mental health it oftentimes presents itself with somatic complaints - meaning physical symptoms throughout the body. When something isn’t right with the head then the body suffers.
In the same way, when your head is anything other than Christ - you will suffer. You will suffer from malnutrition and a growth deficiency in your life.
Christ is a wonderful Head however. He keeps us united as believers and keeps us healthy individually. We are nourished by His Spirit and we grow with a growth that is from God. There is never a misfire or a malfunction that originates in the Head when Christ is your head. His commands and leading are always right.
Friends - Remember that the Savior always surpasses the serpents. Never take the word of a serpent over the Savior.
Scripture References: 1 Timothy 2:5, 1 John 4:1
III. The Savior Surpasses Sacrifice (20-23)
III. The Savior Surpasses Sacrifice (20-23)
20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”
21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
These final 5 verses summarize the last two points and the first 4 verses of Scripture we have walked through. There is a fleshing out of why not to follow the false teachers in their wicked ways.
Paul asks them if you died to sin and you have been raised with Christ, why would you live contrary to that? Why are you obeying the rules of man instead of living in freedom to Christ?
It is as if you have been given a release from prison and you keep going back into your cell to hang out. Who would do that?
These regulations and demands of self-made religion and asceticism appear to make one holy. They seem to be righteous on the outside. Look at what I have given up! Look at how good I am!
Don’t misunderstand Paul here. Some are called to give up things. Some are called to a humble life. Our missionaries that we support overseas - Xavi and Jasmine - are living a much more humble lifestyle overseas in a more impoverished Muslim dominated area than they would here. Yet, this humble lifestyle does not earn them more righteousness than you or I through our obedience to Christ.
He may call you to abstain from a certain food or drink. But that doesn’t make you more holy than anyone else.
He may call you to sell your house and move into a smaller one. But that doesn’t make you more holy than anyone else.
He might call you quit your job and take one making less money so you can serve Him more. But that doesn’t earn you any righteousness.
You see, the problem with these false teachers and the problem with many today is that we continue to struggle with a works-based righteousness.
We should not obey God in order to earn favor or righteousness - for this is a lie anyway. We should obey God because we love Him.
As we mentioned last week:
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
Let that sink in. If we love Him we will obey or keep his commandments. Until we obey out of love, we are not truly obeying at all.
My friends, Christ surpasses all sacrifice. He surpasses all shadows. And He certainly surpasses all serpents.
Live in the freedom and liberty given to you by Christ. Enjoy Him and obey Him out of love and not out of obligation.
See Him for how beautiful and wonderful He is.
Scripture References: John 14:15
I want you to spend some time this week just praising God for how wonderful He is. Spend some time thanking Him for everything you can thank of. Spend some time reflecting on His glory and kindness and love. Think on the cross. Think about salvation and what He did for us. Think of His sacrificial death for us. Think of the free gift of salvation we are given by repentance and faith in Christ alone for our sins. Think of the relationship that He desires with us despite us being unworthy.
And think about how our Savior surpasses everything else.
Let us pray.
If you would like to learn more about salvation through Jesus Christ or want to obey Jesus by obeying the first commandment of a believer in going through the waters of baptism - please let me know.
Have a blessed week.