Summary: Sermon 11 in a study in Colossians
“Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God. 20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.”
When I was very young and my father was a Methodist minister we lived for a time in a small town in central California, where there was a woman named Girdy Ruth. She was not young and I have no doubt that she has passed on long ago. I don’t think she had any family living; at least, not in or near that town.
She lived alone…very alone…and would occasionally come to church after the service was well under way and sit in the very back of the sanctuary, and would leave as soon as it was done without talking to anyone.
Everyone knew when Girdy came in, without turning around to look, because once Girdy opened the door it only took seconds for the strong odor of garlic to reach the choir loft.
Girdy wore garlic on a string around her neck. Girdy ate garlic with every meal. Girdy…and this is what she once told my father in probably the only conversation they ever had…put garlic in her bath water.
You see, for Girdy the wearing of garlic and the ritualistic application of it to every area of her life was a religious exercise. Garlic kept the demons away.
Now, Girdy, who we kids all called Girdy Garlic, was an extreme case and it goes without saying that she was not well mentally. But Girdy, as absurd as she was, serves as an example of something that many people in the church are prisoners of and although we would not call them mentally ill, their devotion to religious exercise and ritual is equally ridiculous and useless and contrary to the gospel message.
LET US NAME THE JUDGES
Now Paul tells the Colossian believers to reject the efforts of anyone desiring to judge them for their actions and their religious behavior and keep them under a weight of obligation and guilt.
Let’s talk about who some of these ‘judges’ would be.
First on the list would be the Judaizers, burdening believers with the weight of the Law of Moses as the means of salvation in addition to believing in Christ. These were not just well-meaning but misinformed men, they were deceivers seeking gain at the expense of the church.
Their modern day equivalent would be the charlatans who do not preach a true gospel, but prey upon the natural tendency in people to think they can and must work to be right with God, but spread their message in such a way as to make people obligated and loyal to them in the process of working for salvation.
There are a few mainline denominations that teach works as part of salvation, but they would not put it in those terms. One church clearly states that salvation is by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ’s atoning sacrifice alone. Yet they say about baptism that it is necessary for salvation and they apparently do not recognize any inconsistency there. There are others who say that the salvation process begins with adopting faith in the atoning work of Christ and ends with living a holy life. Only at the end will it be revealed whether they lived well enough to enter Heaven.
There are numerous ways to express a salvation that includes some sort of work or good deed to be complete. The common denominator of them all is that they produce legalism and judgmentalism.
Do not let anyone be your judge in regard to food or drink or what festivals and holy days you will keep. Do not let them tell you what day to set aside for worship, or condemn you for the one that you choose.