FREE booklet : The New Covenant: Does It Abolish God's Law?
The New Covenant: Does It Abolish God's Law?
¬ Introduction
¬ God's Magnificent Series of Covenants
  Did Abraham Keep the Same Commandments God Gave to Moses?
  How Can We Obey God's Commandments?
  The Sinai Covenant and the 'Voice of the Lord'
  God's 'Laws, Statutes and Judgments'
  Key Elements of the Sinai Covenant
  Rightly Understanding 'Justification' and 'Righteousness'
  Did the Ten Commandments Exist Before Moses?
  God's Law: Is It a Burden or a Blessing?
¬ A New Covenant for Transforming the Heart
  What Was the Main Weakness of the Sinai Covenant?
  How God Balances Justice With Mercy
  How Is the New Covenant 'New'?
  The Ten Commandments: Keys in a Law of Love
¬ The High Priest Essential to Salvation
  Grace and Law: Why Are They Inseparable?
  A High Priest Eager to Help Us
¬ Circumcision vs. a 'New Creation' in Christ
  Current Confusion Over Christian Freedom
  The 'Curse of the Law'
  Galatians 4:9-10: Are God's Laws Bondage?
  Did Paul's Words to the Galatians Contradict His Actions?
  Why Paul Used the Term 'the Whole Law' in Galatians 5:3
  What's Wrong With Our Human Nature?
  The Holy Spirit: God's Promise of His Divine Help
¬ The Justice and Judgment of God
  How Paul Put the Law on 'Firmer Footing'
  How Does Justification Relate to Salvation?
  Does Romans 14 Abolish Laws on Unclean Meats?
  Did Paul Teach That All Days of Worship Are Alike?
  Did Paul Tell the Romans One Thing and the Corinthians the Opposite?
¬ Peace and Unity in Christ
  Paul Imprisoned Over a Man-Made Taboo
  The Corruption of Apostolic Christianity
  What Was 'Wiped Out' by Jesus Christ's Death?
  What Does 'Shadow of Things to Come' Mean?
  The Calendar Used by the Earliest Gentile Christians
  The Ascetic Philosophy Affecting the Colossians
  Colossians 2:16-17: Are God's Laws Obsolete?
¬ The Apostles, the Old Testament and God's Law
  Jesus and Paul Emphasize the Law's Correct Focus
  Paul Regularly Used the Old Testament as the Authority for His Teaching
  Acts Shows What the Early Church Believed and Practiced
  What Did Paul Mean by 'Christ Is the End of the Law'?
  The Jerusalem Conference of Acts 15: What Was Decided?
¬ Jesus' Teaching on God's Law
  Other Important Ways Jesus Fulfilled the Law
  Does the New Covenant Abolish the Commandments?
  The 'New' Part of Jesus Christ's 'New Commandment'
  Confusion Over Legalism: What It Is and Isn't
  Does God Set Conditions on His Gift of Eternal Life?
¬ All the World Under the New Covenant
  Liberty Through God's Law
  A Covenant of Marriage
   
From the publisher of The Good News magazine.
The New Covenant: Does It Abolish God's Law?
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Colossians 2:16-17: Are God's Laws Obsolete?

Many people assume from Colossians 2:16-17 that Paul is saying that God's laws about the Sabbath, Holy Days and clean and unclean meats are no longer necessary. "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days . . ." he wrote (KJV). Let's examine these verses' context and historic setting to see if they support that view.

Did Paul intend to say that God's laws are abolished? If so, we find some immediate problems. If this is what he meant, it's difficult to explain why he left the issue so muddled by not clearly stating that these practices were unnecessary. After all, the Colossian church was primarily gentile (Colossians 2:13), so Paul could have used this epistle to make it plain that these practices were not binding on Christians.

However, Paul nowhere said that. Instead, regarding the practices of festivals, new moons and Sabbaths, he said only to "let no one judge you," which is quite different from saying these practices are unnecessary or obsolete.

A more basic question to ask is whether Old Testament practices were even at the core of what Paul was addressing here. Was Paul even discussing whether Christians should keep the laws regarding clean and unclean meats, the biblical festivals, the weekly Sabbath or any other Old Testament laws?

When we read the rest of this chapter, it quickly becomes obvious that other issues were involved. Among these were "principalities and powers" (verse 15), "false humility and worship of angels" (verse 18), ascetic rules forbidding to touch, taste and handle (verse 21) and "neglect of the body" (verse 23).

Further, Paul referred to the false teachings in Colosse as rooted in "persuasive words" (verse 4), "philosophy and empty deceit" and "the tradition of men" (verse 8). He also referred to submitting to "regulations" of this world (verse 20) and "the commandments and doctrines of men" (verse 22).

Could Paul, who in Romans 7:12 described God's law as "holy and just and good," possibly be referring to the same law here, or is he addressing something entirely different?

When we consider the historical context, the answer becomes clear. As the Church expanded from the Holy Land into pagan areas such as Asia Minor, Italy and Greece, it had to deal with pagan philosophies, some with very ascetic beliefs. These influences are particularly noticeable in the writings of Paul, Peter and John.

Some of these philosophies overlapped in the idea that spirit is good while matter is evil. The physical body, consisting of matter, was considered evil. And since the body was evil, it was to be treated harshly.

The Colossian Christians were being judged by a worldly philosophy for how they observed festivals, new moons and Sabbaths—which they apparently did in a joyous and festive manner. The Colossians celebrated these days in a manner that was entirely contrary to the ascetic approach of self-denial. They understood that the Sabbaths and annual festivals are clearly commanded in the Old Testament. (New moons, it should be noted, were used as the biblical markers of time but never declared to be sacred Sabbaths, nor are they listed among the annual sacred festivals.)

By cautioning the Colossian members not to let others judge them for how they observed these times, Paul didn't question whether they should be kept. The obvious implication of these verses is that these gentile Christians were in fact observing these days, and in no way did Paul tell them to desist.

Instead, the issue he addressed is that Christians should not let others judge them by misguided ascetic standards concerning what they ate or drank or how they observed the Sabbaths or festivals (verse 16).

Colossians 2 is actually a condemnation of ascetic human philosophy, not a discussion of which laws are binding for Christians!


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