Summary: Christ has not only set us free from sin, but he has also set us free from religious rules and regulations.


Text: Col. 2:16-19


1. Illustration: "What must I forsake?" a young man asked.

"Colored clothes for one thing. Get rid of everything in your wardrobe that is not white. Stop sleeping on a soft pillow. Sell your musical instruments and don't eat any more white bread. You cannot, if you are sincere about obeying Christ, take warm baths or shave your beard. To shave is to lie against him who created us, to attempt to improve on his work." Quaint, isn't it -- this example of extra biblical scruples? And perhaps amusing. The list has constantly shifted over the 1,800 years since this one was actually recorded (Jim Peterson, Living Proof, 106).

2. Sound familiar to anyone? Ever had someone tell you were unspiritual because you hair was too long or too short? Ever had some doubt your faith because of what you wear or don't wear? It actually kind of sad that we in the church treat each other in this fashion.

3. The good news in this is that God doesn't treat us that way.

4. 1 Samuel 16:7 (NLT2)

"People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

5. In our text today, Paul warns us against legalism. He tells us...

A. The Only Rule We Need To Follow Is Christ

B. If It's Not In The Bible Don't Believe It

6. Let's stand together as we read Col. 2:16-19

Proposition: Christ has not only set us free from sin, but he has also set us free from religious rules and regulations.

Transition: The most important thing to remember when it comes to legalism is...

I. The Only Rule We Need To Follow Is Christ (16-17).

A. Shadows Of The Reality Yet To Come

1. First of all, let's define what we mean by the term "legalism." There two slightly different definitions concerning legalism...

A. The doctrine that salvation is gained through good works.

B. The judging of conduct in terms of adherence to precise laws.

C. The second of these is the one we will deal with today. It's the idea of judging someone on a list of regulations that are harsh, strict and unbiblical. It's a strict adherence to the letter rather than the spirit of the law.

2. To this Paul says, "So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths."

A. The word "condemn" means to "to judge a person to be guilty and liable to punishment - (Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Symantic Domains,Under: "56.30).

B. Paul tells the Colossians to avoid this, don't let them do this to you.

C. Because Christ had canceled the record of the charges against us (2:14) and had disarmed evil powers (2:15), believers have been set free from legalistic rules about what they eat or drink or what festivals they observe.

D. Although it is most likely that Paul was referring to Jewish laws about diet and festival observances, pagan food laws and celebrations, or a combination of the two, cannot be excluded as a possibility.

E. Paul's point was that the believers should not give up their freedom for legalism. They must not let anyone condemn them by saying that certain actions would exclude them from God's people.

F. If the Colossians submitted to any of the regulations imposed by the false teachers, they would be saying that evil powers still held authority over them. They needed to remember that Christ had set them free (Barton, Life Application New Testament Commentary, 880).

G. Our worship, traditions, and ceremonies can help bring us close to God, but we should never criticize fellow Christians whose traditions and ceremonies differ from ours.

H. More important than how we worship is that we worship Christ. Don't let anyone judge you. You are responsible to Christ (, Life Application Study Bible, 2032).

3. Then Paul tells us why we shouldn't let people judge us for such things. In v. 17 he says, "For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality."

A. Paul did not condemn the keeping of some Old Testament dietary laws or observing some of the celebrations. Instead, he condemned doing so in order to somehow earn credit with God.

B. The Old Testament laws, holidays, and feasts were shadows of the real thing. The law pointed to the future to Christ himself. Anything that is not Christ or found in Christ is, by contrast, a shadow or unreal.

C. Therefore to cling to the shadow is to hide the spiritual reality of those things that are yet to come. "The reality" belongs to Christ. In him, the things to come have arrived (Klien, The Expositor's Bible Commentary - Volume 11: Ephesians through Philemon, 204).

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