Summary: True spiritual life and wisdom is not found in strict adhearance to rules, or in paths that lead to pagan gods. It is only found in Jesus.
Not rules and superstition
Love and Wisdom; God and You
The famous astronaut Buzz Aldrin faced a conflict after returning from the moon. He spiraled into a deep depression that ultimately resulted in him being hospitalized, medicated and put through a battery of psychiatric treatments. Ignorant of the depth of his own disability, once
the medicine kicked in, he felt so much better that he immediately began making plans for a new start:
• He would divorce his wife and marry his lover
• First, he would spend Thanksgiving with his wife and children so everything could be like old times
• He would then take his wife to Acapulco for their 17th anniversary and break the news to her
Of course, his counselor was aghast and tried to talk him out of it. He was in far too fragile a state to make such life changing decisions. He was also reaching for two very different senses of fulfillment. Aldrin admits that he did not see the contradiction in this plan. His medicine made him feel better, but his mind was still not reasoning clearly. He wanted so badly to have a new start that he was grasping at everything that seemed to hold out that hope.
That kind of contradiction is what the Colossians were facing. They were traveling a new spiritual road, rushing forward with power and speed. Along side that spirituality, in their town of great philosophical and religious industry, were a couple of other groups that wanted to lead them along their own paths. Paul, like Aldrin’s counselor was working hard to help them see the incompatibility of these two other influences with the path they had chosen.
The Colossians faced two sets of teachings that endangered their understanding of true spirituality. Paul merged with the description of the problem an explanation of why the Colossians should resist being drawn in, they had received Jesus. This change in their lives brought into play many important truths:
• Everything they had learned about Jesus’ Way
• The strengthening "rootedness" of their faith
• All the blessings of Jesus for which they were thankful
• Jesus’ ultimate identity as God
• His resurrection
• Their forgiveness through His power
• The "circumcision" of their hearts
Paul was telling the Colossians that all of this must be measured against two problems that threatened their practice of true faith in Christ. Like Buzz Aldrin, They were facing a dilemma of contradictory values.
So Paul was reminding them of the profound nature of the road they were on:
• Remember who it is that you serve
• Remember the power He has demonstrated
• Remember what He has done for you
• Remember everything you have learned
These truths were the bases for them to evaluate the value of the alternative paths calling out to them.
What were those paths?
The early disciples were criticized by two groups: One was conservative Jewish communities who saw their teachings as a departure from tradition. The other was pagan sources who thought they threatened their own gentile cultures and religions.
First is strict Judaism
Paul is not being intolerant or anti-Semitic in these statements. He is, after all, Jewish and, his Jewish friends are important to him. He speaks of the value of the Scriptures and his policy to connect with Jews first wherever he went. The impression that we get is that he depended upon the Jews’ understanding of the Scriptures to provide a solid basis for teaching in the churches he planted. The church has at times, abusing Paul’s teachings, embraced anti-Semitism, but that has been wrong and an inappropriate reading of what Paul was trying to do.
To be clear, Paul saw following Jesus as an extension of true Judaism, not a departure from it. However, he was a trained Pharisee and he wanted his disciples to avoid the trap of Pharisaical legalism.
The Apostles, all of whom were Jews, had been coming to the conclusion for a long time that the Law of Moses must be reexamined for its application to followers of the Messiah. The conclusion they came to, and that the New Testament demonstrates, is that the strict observance of the letter of the Law can distract from its real transforming power, giving a sense of technical morality. Tertullian, an influential leader of the 2nd century church in North Africa said, Paul "does not mean to criticize the mandates of the Jewish law ... His intention, rather, is only to condemn those who do not accept Christ as the One who has true authority over all such things" (ACCSNT IX:42). That’s why Paul characterizes their emphasis so negatively:
• Do not handle!
• Do not taste!
• Do not touch!
Jesus indicated that we should carefully distinguish between what God wants for our spiritual health and what humans add to God’s word and intentions. Human additives are expendable.