Summary: #7 in series. We are free from other people's rules. We are free to serve Jesus.
Colossians 2:13-23 – Duty Free
Today we arrive at a passage of scripture filled with controversial topics. It flies in the face of traditions, long-held beliefs, and die-hard convictions. But it is still worth saying, and I hope I can preach it in a spirit of love and compassion. Today’s passage is about freedom in Christ. Let’s read Colossians 2:13-23.
This section flows naturally from last week’s passage about who we are in Christ. Because of what Jesus did, and because of our faith in Him, we are different people. That faith is not just, “Well, sure, of course I believe in God.” It’s more like, “I’m actively going to believe what the Bible says. It’s not just going to say I believe, but I will put my trust into practice.”
Faith means trusting that what the Bible says is true. And the Bible says that believers are new and different. We were in a heap of trouble, like all people, but Christians, believers, followers of Jesus, are changed. Look at verse 13: When you were dead… Your sins, your shortcomings, your failures, all the ways that you fell short of what God wanted for you – and your sinful nature, that desire you were born with, that desire you have to make yourself happy above all other things… That’s dealt with now. The 2nd part of v13 says that God made us alive. From death to life, from darkness to life, we are changed. It says that we are forgiven. We may have a hard time to forgive ourselves, others may hold things against us, but God has forgiven us.
Not just forgiven us, but God has also gone a step further. The written code that stood against us is now cancelled too. Well, scholars have different ideas about what exactly the written code is. It may be the list of offences that we have collected over the years, all the things we’ve done wrong, all the sins we committed against our Creator. Or, the written code may the OT Law, the list of rules and regulations that God set us for people to follow. Either one is great news. The old way that God judged us, the way that we are reminded of how far short of God we fall, the way that God kept score… it’s all gone. The things that held us back from having a clean conscience – erased.
Christ took that record that contained the charges against us, and nailed it to His cross. From now on, God doesn’t keep score. From now on, all we have to do is ask, and He’ll forgive us. Things are wonderful and fresh and new, and the old has gone.
In this same fell swoop, this disarmed the enemy. The book of Revelation calls Satan the accuser of the believers. The enemy is so sneaky. He puts the thoughts in our head to do what we want, and then, he makes us feel bad for it. He heaps on the guilt after he provided the motivation. But this passage tells us that the enemy of our souls is defeated. He’s all bark, and no bite. He’s beaten, but if we think he still has power over us, we fall for his tricks again.
So the cross represents that our past sins are forgiven, the old ways of getting right with God like the Law are now outdated, and the enemy is beaten. We are in a great position because of what Jesus has done.
And because of these truths, because of our faith in Him, because we trust our lives to His keeping, there are implications for our relationship with Him. Paul tells us 3 safeguards, 3 cautions, 3 things not to let happen. They all have to do with adding rules and laws to our faith.
The 1st caution is found in v16-17: Don’t let anyone judge your faith by external appearances. Paul is talking about religious traditions. What a person eats or drinks is often judged by others. And the next few things Paul mentions are even worse. Religious festivals – that is, holy days, holidays – New Moon festivals and Sabbaths… all part of the Jewish religious worship. Apparently, in the church at Colosse, there were enough Jews that were vocal about keeping the old ways in this new Christian faith. They felt that Christians should celebrate the OT feasts and fasts. The religious festivals were annual, the new moon celebrations were monthly, and the Sabbaths were weekly. These people were trying to force the OT on believers in Jesus.
And Paul said not to let it happen. Rather, he said, don’t let someone judge you by the religious traditions you hold. If you do something differently from someone else, Paul says, that’s OK. In this passage, he doesn’t say that a believers shouldn’t follow the OT feast schedule – Passover, Pentecost, Yom Kippur, etc – but he says that if you do, don’t worry about it. If you don’t, don’t worry about it. Don’t judge others’ faith by how they celebrate special days.