Colossians 2:11-17 Does It Do Away With God’s Law?
By Peter Salemi
Home Page http://www.british-israel.ca/
When discussing the Law of God to some people, especially people of the Christian faith, most of them say that the law was done away on the cross, and that Jesus death did away with law keeping. Are there scriptures to prove this position? There are many such proof text that Christians use to prove that theory. In this article we will focus on just one, and most often used to try and prove that God’s law is done away.
The passages quoted most often is of course in the book of Colossians which says, “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
“Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
“And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
“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:
“Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” (Col 2:11-17). At first glance it may seem that God’s law is done away. But on closer inspection of the verses we see a totally different message. In actuality, the Apostle Paul was actually confirming that the Gentile church was KEEPING THE SABBATH AND FESTIVAL DAY, NOT DOING AWAY WITH THEM!
Let’s examine this verse by verse, “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:” This is the spiritual circumcision of the heart through the sacrifice of Christ, (1 John 1:7) "Purged" our hearts so we "have no more conscience of sins" (Heb 10:2). "For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified...the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"(Heb 10:14; Heb 9:14). This is the “gift of righteousness” given to us at conversion and baptism, and the receiving of the Holy Spirit. Paul says again in Romans 2, “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:...But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” (vv.28-29). A true follower of God is circumcised of the heart. God intended this all along for his people, to follow him heart, mind and soul. This is an Old Testament law that God gave, in Deuteronomy, “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked...And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live...Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart” (10:16; 30:6; Jer 4:4). This is a real Israelite, those who follow the Lord God by keeping his laws. This is what Colossians is telling us in verse 11, the people in the church that were circumcised of the heart and were followers of God now, not the fleshly appetites they once used to follow.
“Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead....And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;” (vv.12-13). This is how the forgiveness of sins and the circumcision of the heart happens, through the sacrifice of Christ, baptism, and the receiving of the Holy Spirit, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38). With the Holy Spirit which “beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:” (Rom 8:16), when it dwells with our “spirit” which is the heart of man, God circumcises the fleshly heart, through his blood, so that we receive that “gift” of righteousness, and are children of God. Circumcised in the heart, “...the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom 8:4), we walk in the law of God, the Old & the New Testaments shows that this is what is meant to be circumcised of the heart, the obedience the law of God through the method of atonement, repentance and Baptism.
“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;” (v.14). This is the scripture everyone seems to quote to say the law is done away, but as we shall see this is not the case. First everyone forgets the context of the verse that says in verse 13 that God forgave us “all trespasses” which is sin, and that we are “dead” in our sin, the uncircumcision of the flesh is gone and circumcised in the heart obeying the law of God.
Now continuing the thought Paul says, “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;” Now does it make sense to say that God’s law is done away now that we are obeying it circumcised in the heart? Of Course Not! Is God’s law “contrary to us?” No God’s law is for our benefit, it is everything that is right, good, and it shows the way of Love. God says, “Ye shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess” (Deuteronomy 5:33). No, God’s laws are not contrary to us. So what is? SIN! Sin is the way of death, contrary to life, “For the wages of sin is death;” (Rom 6:23). God’s Laws are life, sin is death, it works against us. It does not profit man. Jeremiah wrote, “they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit” (2:8). And what is sin? “sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). So what has been nailed to the cross? What is contrary to us? The answer is obvious, but let’s examine first what are these “handwriting of ordinances”?
In the Greek language the word for “handwritten” is “cheirographon” (Strong’s # 5498). This word as Biacchiocchi writes in his book Sabbath in the New Testament says, “Recent studies have shed light on the meaning of cheirographon which occurs only once in the Scripture (Col 2:14). Its usage in apocalyptic literature indicates the 'cheirographon' is the ‘record-book of sins or a ‘certificate of sin-indebtedness’ but not the moral or ceremonial laws. This view is supported also by the clause ‘and this he has removed out of the middle’ [“and took it out of the way,” KJV] (2:14). ‘The middle’ was the position occupied at the center of the court or assembly by the accusing witness. In the context of Colossians, the accusing witness is the ‘record-book of sins’ which God in Christ has erased and removed out of the court” (p.111, emphasis added). The Handwriting was the record of our sins that we committed. The “ordinances” which it speaks of, which our sins are “in,” the King James has “handwriting of ordinances” but the literal is “handwriting in the ordinances” (Young’s), What are the "ordinances"?
The “ordinances’ in the Greek is “dogma” (Strong’s # 1378). This word “dogma” means, “decree.” Vines writes, “transliterated in English, primarily denoted ‘an opinion or JUDGMENT’ (from dokeo, ‘to be of opinion’) hence an ‘opinion expressed with AUTHORITY’, a doctrine, ordinance, decree” (p. 153, emphasis added).
So God has "blotted" out the record book of our sins, and the "judgment" applied to those sins. What is that judgment?
“Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them....
“And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death.
“And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.
“And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.
And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life,
“Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
“Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” (Ex 21:15-17, 23-25). The sins, and the judgment for these sins are laid out in these verses. The “wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23). The judgment for breaking the law which is sin (1 John 3:4) is the death penalty. Jesus nailed the judgment for our sins to the cross, it has nothing to do with the law being done away, but the penalty for breaking it. Biacchiocchi concludes as well, “We conclude then that the document nailed to the Cross is not the law in general or the Sabbath in particular, but rather the record of our sins. Any attempt to read into it a reference to the Sabbath, or to any other Old Testament ordinance, is unwarranted, gratuitous fantasy" (ibid, p.111, emphasis added).
Now it’s interesting that the Apostle Paul uses the expression “Blotting out” in verse 14. In connection with Baptism (v.12), our sins have been forgiven (v.13), the record of our sins have been “blotted out” with the waters of baptism and the judgment (death penalty) nailed to the cross with the Sacrifice of Christ. He paid the penalty for our sins. Like in the Old Testament, the sins of the person was transferred to the innocent victim, and sacrifice was made, and the “ blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” (Lev 17:11). Jesus’ blood, “cleanseth us from all sin....And he is the propitiation [Gr. “Atonement” Strong’s # 2434] for our sins:’ (1 John 1:7, 2:2). The sacrificial lamb in the Old Testament paid the penalty for the sinner, as in the New with Jesus Christ our sacrificial Lamb!
The “blotting out” with water Paul here “is probably an allusion to Num 5:23, where the curses written in the book, in the case of the woman suspected of adultery, are directed to be blotted out with the bitter waters.” (Clarke’s Commentary, emphasis added). Numbers says, “And the priest shall write these curses in a book, and he shall blot them out with the bitter water:” (v.23). The word “curse” in this passage was “alah” (Strong’s # 423) which means, “The ‘oath’ was a ‘curse’ on the head of the one who broke the agreement” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary, p.54, emphasis added). Because we have broken God’s law, the record of our sins written in the book was washed away with the waters of baptism, and the curse on our head, for breaking the law of God was nailed to the cross, through the sacrifice of Christ.
Colossians 2:16-17-“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:...Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” (vv.16-17). When people see the church of God celebrating the festivals of God and the weekly Sabbath, many will point to this scripture and say “its all been done away with in the New Testament.” Waltar Martin in his book Kingdom of the Cults in his weak refutation of some of the beliefs of the church of God boldly asserts that, “...law keeping, dietary prohibitions, the Mosaic ordinances which were binding on Israel, and the Jewish custom of observances of Feasts etc... were abrogated by the Holy Spirit...” (Herbert W. Armstrong and the World Wide Church of God Tract, p.45, emphasis added). It is interesting how he contradicts himself a few pages earlier and says, “It is certainly true that no informed Christian believes in the destruction or setting aside of the laws of God...” (p.42, emphasis added). He uses the very scriptures we are dealing with here to prove God’s law has been done away.
The Colossian Heresy
In the letter to the Colossians you see Paul warning the church about false teachers. This is repeated, and is scattered in the second chapter:
"And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words." (v.4)
"Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ." (v.8)
"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:" (v.16)
"Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind," (v.18). Who are these people Paul is speaking of?
In the letter to the Colossians, Paul had a problem with outside elements that were trying in infect the church with their doctrines. These doctrines consisted of Gnosticism.
“Gnosticism ‘was essentially a religio-philosophical attitude, not a well-defined system’ (Curtis Vaughan, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 11, p. 166). As such, it wasn’t a competing religion, rather an approach to one’s existing beliefs, this is an important thing to remember! The central theme of Gnosticism was that secret knowledge ("gnosis" is the Greek word for “knowledge,” hence the term Gnosticism) could enhance or improve one’s religion.
The Gnostics basically believe that the "spirit is entirely good, and matter [the physical] is entirely evil" (NIV Study Bible Intro to 1 John). Now "since the body was considered evil, it was to be treated harshly. This ascetic form of Gnosticism is the background of part of the letter to the Colossians" (Vaughan, p.167, emphasis added). This also included the "occult...astrology and magic," "special knowledge," and "mediating beings." All these elements are seen to have been influencing the Colossian congregation. It is clear in the letter that Paul was combating some of these things. Like the special knowledge of the Gnostics, Paul claimed he had a higher and saving knowledge of God and Jesus (Col 1:9, 25-29; 2:2-3). He said "lest anyone [Gnostics] should deceive you with persuasive words" (verse 4). He called this special knowledge of the Gnostics, "philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ" (verse 8). The most important knowledge was that of God and Christ, "In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (verse 3). Adherents to the heresy included people who advocated obeisance to Angels and other spiritual powers. Paul warned the Colossians of those who delight in the "worship of Angels" (Col 2:18). In the light of Christ's atoning sacrifice, these supposed "principalities and powers were useless as a means of access to God," he said in (verses 10, 15).
Based on the belief that the flesh was evil and the spirit is good, these teachers taught strict asceticism, denying the self any physical pleasure. Through "neglect of the body" (v.23), they hoped to attain increased spirituality. Paul described their rules as "do not touch, do not taste, do not handle" (v.21). These regulations concerned only "things which perish with the using," he wrote that these beliefs were based on "the commandments and the doctrines of men [NOT God]" (v.22). These early Gnostics also combined Judaism with their gentile concepts such as circumcision (v.11). "It is likely therefore, that the Colossian heresy was a mixture of an extreme form of Judaism and an early stage of Gnosticism" (NIV Study Bible, Intro to Colossians).
Notice the scripture in Colossians: "“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of [Greek "Meros" "in regard to" (Thayers)] an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:...Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” (vv.16-17).
These days and prohibitions are clearly from the law of God. Notice Paul’s description, “an holyday,” means, “or feast,[Gr. heorte see John 5:1] such as the feast of the passover, the feast of tabernacles, and the feast of Pentecost; which were three grand festivals, at which all the Jewish males were obliged to appear before the Lord;” (Gill’s Commentary). The Pilgrimage feasts as noted by Hosea.
“Meat” and “drink” is God’s law containing prohibitions of meats (Lev 11), but not general prohibitions of drinks, but only for those who took the Nazarite Vow (Numbers 6). The Church of God practiced this see Acts 21:23-26.
The “New Moon.” Now it does not say here in the Greek, “new moons,” as some inaccurately quote this passage, but “the new moon,” referring to the Feast of Trumpets—the only annual Holy Day to be celebrated on a new moon. Barnes says, “The new moon in the beginning of the month Tisri (October) was the beginning of their civil year, and was commanded to be observed as a festival; Lev 23:24, Lev 23:25.”
“or of the sabbath days” Here is where all the theological arguments come in about what Paul meant when he wrote of the “Sabbath days.”
First of all the word “days” is in italics it is, “supplied, but this is justified by the fact that the word ‘sabbath’ in the Greek is plural”, (The Law and the Sabbath, Walker, p.168).The examination of the text, just taking it for what it is in the Greek reads, “ ‘of the Sabbaths.’ The word Sabbath in the Old Testament is applied not only to the seventh day, but to all the days of holy rest that were observed by the Hebrews, and particularly to the beginning and close of their great festivals. There is, doubtless, reference to those days in this place, since the word is used in the plural number…If he had used the word in the singular number – ‘the Sabbath,’ it would then, of course, have been clear that he meant…But the use of the term in the plural number, and the connection, show that he had his eye on the great number of days which were observed by the Hebrews as festivals…” (Barnes Notes, emphasis added). Of course this source believes like others, because of the misunderstanding of the text, that these are the “shadow” of things to come and therefore done away, which it does not (see below).
Jameison Fausett and Brown commentary as well recognizes this word meaning, “Sabbaths” (not ‘the sabbaths’) of the Day of Atonement and feast of tabernacles”
Many translations like the Moffatt, the Ferrar Fenton, Young’s, Webster, Mudock, MKJV, LITV and others all have “Sabbaths.”
Now some argue like Harold W. Hoehner says, “The term Sabbath is frequently (one-third of all its NT occurrences) in the plural form in the NT when only one day is in view. For example, in MT. 12:1-12 both the singular and plural forms are used (C.F. ESP. V.5)” (Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ pp. 69-70). But again the evidence tells a different story. It can mean both the weekly and the annual Sabbaths.
Concerning this Greek word “sabbaton” Vine’s Expository Dictionary of NT Words says this: “Sabbaton or Sabbata: the latter, the plural form, was transliterated from the Aramaic word, which was mistaken for a plural; hence the singular, Sabbaton, was formed from it. The root means to cease, desist (Heb., Shabath; cp. ARAB., Sabata, to intercept, interrupt); the double ‘b’ has an intensive force....” (p. 983).
Josephus (Ant. III. 10, 1) expressly explains the “seventh day” as called “sabbata” (plural form as here, an effort to transliterate the Aramaic sabbathah).
Due to this fact A.T. Robertson, the well-respected New Testament scholar, says that in any occurrence of sabbata (or its other case forms such as sabbaton) one must inquire if it represents the Aramaic shabbetha, in which case it is singular, or whether it is genuinely the plural of sabbaton, in which case it is a plural (see Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical research, pp.95, 105).
In Lev 23:3 this plural word Sabbata is used where the singular Sabbaton is meant, as the 7th day only is spoken about.
Lev. 23 verses 26-32 are talking about the annual Fast-Rest of the feast Day of Atonement, the last part of this verse is rendered into English as, “...from evening to evening ye shall keep your sabbaths.” (The Septuagint Version: Greek & English - Sir Lancelot Brenton - Zondervan publishing). The Greek for “Sabbaths” is Sabbata. If the plural form is here correct, then ALL the rest days upon which no servile work is to be done in this chapter are called by the one Greek word Sabbata. If it should be the singular Sabbaton then we see that the 10th day of the 7th month - the annual Sabbath of Atonement is called Sabbaton! Either way, it is quite correct to use the Greek word SABBATON for both the weekly Sabbath or the annual Sabbaths - they are all days of rest upon which no servile work is to be done - to cease or desist from such work, which is termed Sabbaton in NT Greek, and which word is not intrinsically connected with only the seventh day of the week.
Here in Colossians it is in the plural “Sabbaths” and according to the proofs above it can mean the weekly Sabbath, the annual Sabbaths or both. “Meaning must always be decided by context…Context is decisive” (The “Sabbath Days” of Colossians, Kenneth H. Wood, Append D.p.339).
What is the context of this verse? Many know that Paul quotes from Hosea 2:11: “I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts.” (Hosea 2:11). Plainly Hosea here is speaking of the Sabbaths and Holy days of God.
Notice the breakdown- Theologian Ron du Preez points out that the linguistic evidence in Hosea 2:11 the Hebrew word for “feasts” has a relatively narrow meaning. It applies only to the three festivals that required a pilgrimage to Jerusalem: the Feast of Unleavened Bread (linked to Passover), the Feast of Harvest (Pentecost), and the Feast of Ingathering (Tabernacles). Based on both Hebrew and Greek usage, the “sabbaths” of Hosea 2:11 can be identified with the Day of Atonement and the Day of Trumpets. (“Adventism’s Achilles’s Heel? a scriptural study of the ‘Sabbath’ in Colossians 2:16.”).
K&D writes of this word “Feast” is, “Chag stands for the three principal festivals of the year, the Passover, Pentecost, and the feast of Tabernacles, which had the character of chag, i.e., of feasts of joy par excellence, as being days of commemoration of the great acts of mercy which the Lord performed on behalf of His people.” (Emphasis added). This did not include the other feast days.
Now with the end of this verse that says, “all her solemn feasts” K& D concludes, “Finally, these feasts are all summed up in כָּל־מוֹעֲדָהּ; for מוֹעֵד, מוֹעֲדִים is the general expression for all festive seasons and festive days (Lev 23:2, Lev 23:4).” God is just showing the difference between the pilgrimage feasts and the two other festivals and the weekly Sabbath that did not require a pilgrimage to the Tabernacle. Not that the festivals were not called Sabbaths any longer. All had Sabbaths within the festivals of God.
One must understand that some of the festivals were seven days long, and not all seven days were Sabbaths! First day of unleavened bread was a Sabbath as well as the last. It was still a feast on the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth days of the feast. People were still eating unleavened bread! Only certain days were Sabbaths! Barnes says, “Or, ‘His great festivals’ (Lam 1:15 note). It is the Word rendered ‘solemn feasts’ in the next clause, and rightly joined there with ‘sabbaths,’ the weekly, as the other were the annual festivals.” (emphasis added). There were certain days within the feasts were called Sabbaths, as well as the weekly Sabbath day was called a feast day (Lev 23:1-3). So they can be used interchangeably.Notice in the Gospel of John, “Now the Jews’ feast of tabernacles was at hand.” (7:2). He told his brothers “Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come.” (v.8). So Jesus went to the feast of Tabernacles and then, “Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught” (v.14). This is either the third of the fourth day of the Festival-and these days are not Sabbaths! Then John says, “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried,” (v.37). Notice that the last day which is the eighth day and a Sabbath (Lev 23:36, 39), it is called a “great day.” It’s a Sabbath as well as a feast day. The weekly Sabbath is a Sabbath as well as a feast day. This is the context, the verse in Hosea!
The whole reason why there are such arguments is because of the expression of the “shadow of things to come” (v.17). Many believe it means the Sabbath and Holydays-because of this belief many Sabbatarians who do not believe in the Holy Days try to prove that it does not mean the weekly Sabbath. Sunday keepers say it means both and we do not have to keep the weekly and the annual Sabbaths etc… But the context shows that the “shadow” does not mean these days but the false teachers doctrines of the “commandments and doctrines of men” (Col 2:22). (see below).
Some may argue that why would Paul repeat himself of saying Festivals and Sabbaths if it meant the annual Sabbaths. But as we have shown above he is not. As in Hosea, “Paul was not repeating himself by speaking of both festivals and Sabbaths but was including all the Jewish…days…” (Feast Days, Herbert E. Douglas, p.23, emphasis added). All sacred days are included in Colossians-Three pilgrimage feasts, [Festivals] the New Moon [Feast of Trumpets], Sabbaths [weekly Sabbath & annual Sabbaths of the Day of Atonement; 1st and last of unleavened Bread; 1st & 8th day of Tabernacles]. Here is what the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says about the word Shabbaton: “In addition to designating the Sabbath (EX 16:23), this word may apply to the day of atonement (LEV. 16:31; 23:32); to the feast of trumpets (LEV. 23:24); and the first and eighth days of tabernacles (LEV. 23:39). The ending - ON is characteristic of abstract nouns in Hebrew....” (Vol.2, p.903).Now some argue that because Paul was most likely quoting Hosea 2:11 that says, "I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts." With this some come to the conclusion that the holy days and the Sabbath are done away. But this is not the case when looking at it in the proper context. God says because of sinning Israel God told the prophet to "plead" (v.2) with Israel to repent or else " Lest I strip her naked, and set her as in the day that she was born, and make her as a wilderness, and set her like a dry land, and slay her with thirst."(v.3). God was going to strip Israel of all her blessings that God gave her, because Israel claimed, "These are my rewards that my lovers have given me:" (v.12). So God starts listing all the blessings he gave Israel including the feasts, new moons and Sabbaths! Hosea 9:5–6 says: “What will you do in the appointed day, And in the day of the feast of the LORD? For indeed they are gone because of destruction” (Hosea 9:5–6). The festivals cease from being celebrated because of the Judgment of God on the nation of Israel, but they were not done away. The festivals continued to be observed in Judah, and in exile. This is the context of which Hosea was speaking, of stripping Israel of her blessings and destroying her, and the festivals will cease to be celebrated because of the destruction of the land.
Now that we understand the background of the letter, when Paul says “let no man,” we understand that he is speaking of the Gnostics and their teachings of the “commandments of men” and not the Commandments of God. “Let no man [Gnostics] therefore judge you” The word “judge” “Krino” (Strong’s # 2919) means, “to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong” (Thayer's Lexicon).Samuele Bacchiocchi writes, "This statement, 'Therefore let no one pass judgment on you has been interpreted as a Pauline condemnation of the observance of Old Testament Holy Days. In spite of its antiquity and popularity, this interpretation is totally wrong, because in the passage Paul is not warning the Colossians against the observances of the five mentioned practices...but against 'anyone' (tis) who passes judgment on HOW TO OBSERVE THEM.
"Also, Note should be taken of the fact that the judge who passes judgment IS NOT PAUL, but the Colossian false teachers...
"D.R. Lacey, writing in the symposium From Sabbath to the Lord's Day, rightly comments: 'The judge is likely to be a man of ascetic tendencies who objects to the Colossians' eating and drinking. The most natural way of taking the rest of the passage is not that he also imposes a ritual of feast days, but rather that he objects to certain elements of such observation..." (God's Festivals in Scripture and History, pp.89-90, emphasis added). The Gnostics were the JUDGES, NOT THE CHURCH! These men were expressing their opinion TO THE CHURCH OF GOD on HOW THEY WERE KEEPING THE HOLY DAYS AND THE SABBATH! This was NOT a question of “IF” but “How” they were keeping them. In this light, the scripture shows that the New Testament Gentile Church were KEEPING THE HOLY DAYS OF GOD! The Gnostics wanted them to enhance and improve THEIR EXISTING BELIEFS! Why? What was it that the Gnostics didn't like about how the church celebrated the festivals of God? “...they [the church] observed those times, apparently in a joyous and festive manner. These days were, after all, given by God as festivals and celebrations. This approach was entirely contrary to the Gnostic approach of stolid self-denial so evident in this chapter...Paul addressed is that Christians should not be criticized for observing these days in a festive manner. Paul cautioned that members should not let others judge them by those misguided ascetic standards in what they ate or drank or how they observed the Sabbaths or festivals (verse16)” (God’s Sabbath Rest, p.46, emphasis added). But God taught us to "rejoice before YHWH your God" (Lev 23:40). This was entirely contrary to the Gnostic teaching of self denial so evident in this chapter. This is why Paul wrote, "Let no man [The Gnostics] therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an HOLYDAY, or of the new moon, or of the SABBATH DAYS:" (Col 2:16). To improve their worship of God, the church, in the eyes of the Gnostics, had to do it their way, not God's way! Nothing is done away in these verses. In fact, it is just the opposite. The very criticism the Colossians were receiving about their observance of these days proves they were keeping them, How could they be criticized "in regard to" days they were not keeping?
"Shadow of things to Come?"
Colossians 2:17, many believe that this passage shows that the feasts are but a "shadow" and the
"substance" is Christ. Is that truly the right way to read this passage? It
says, "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:
"Which [Gr. "These"] are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ." (vv.16-17). What is he referring to? The Feasts, or as we have learned, HOW to celebrate these feasts? If it was referring to the Feasts and the Sabbath, and we read it that they were fulfilled and made obsolete in Jesus Christ, then Paul would have said that they “were a shadow” and to have used entirely different wording. But Colossians 2:17 says that these things “are a shadow.” The Greek word esti, translated here as “are,” is in the present-active tense and means “to be” or “is” (Zodhiates, p. 660). So this cannot mean the Feasts and Sabbath were fulfilled in Christ.
Samuele Bacchiocchi deals with this scripture and he concludes, "To what does the relative pronoun "these" (ha in Greek) refer? Does it refer to the five practices mentioned in the previous verse or to the 'regulations' (dogmata) regarding these practices promoted by the false teachers?...[I] agree with Eduard Lohse that the relative pronoun 'these' refers not to the five mentioned practices as such, but rather to the 'regulations' regarding such practices promoted by the false teachers...
"This conclusion is supported by two considerations. First, in verse 16, Paul is not warning against the merits or demerits of the Mosaic law regarding food and festivals, but against the 'regulations' regarding these practices advocated by the false teachers. Thus, it is more plausible to take 'the regulations' rather than the actual practices as the antecedent of 'these.'
"Second, in the verses that immediately follow, Paul continues his warning against the deceptive teachings, saying, for example, 'Let no one disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement . . .' (Col 2:18); 'Why do you submit to regulations, ‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch’?' (Col 2:20-21). Since what precedes and what follows that relative pronoun 'these' deals with the 'regulations' of the Colossian 'philosophy,' it is most likely that Paul describes the latter as 'a shadow of what is to come' (Col 2:17).
"In the light of the above indications, we conclude that what Paul calls a 'bygone shadow' is not the Sabbath but the deceptive teachings of the Colossian 'philosophy' which promoted dietary practices and the observance of sacred times as auxiliary aids to salvation." (The Sabbath Under Crossfire: A Biblical analysis of Recent Sabbath/Sunday Developments, Chpt.6., Paul and the Sabbath, emphasis added).
Paul said these “are a shadow of things to come,” indicating they have a future fulfillment. The Greek word translated “to come” is “mello,” meaning “to be about to do or suffer something, to be at the point of, to be impending” (Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary New Testament, p. 956). Vine's as well says, “to be about (to do something), often implying the necessity and therefore the certainty of what is to take place” (W.E. Vine, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, “Come,” p. 207).
Paul uses the same word construction in Ephesians 1:21, stating that Jesus Christ is “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come” (NIV). He contrasts the present age with one “to come,” showing there is clearly a future fulfillment.Paul in actual fact gave a prophecy of what is to come. A false Church not getting its wisdom from Christ, but by other means. Man made rules, touch not, taste not, worshipping angels, denial of the body etc...A perfect description of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches of the middle ages and modern era. These False Churches have their roots in Gnosticism, and Paul in his time saw it as a shadow of future things to come.
Let the Body of Christ Judge You
It is interesting that Greek scholars recognize—in simply looking at the Greek structure of the sentence—that the first part of the statement, “Let no one judge you…” requires a second statement to explain who should do the judging.
"But the body is of Christ." (v.17). First, “is” in this verse is italicized and not in the original Greek Text, but added by the translators, so it should read, “BUT THE BODY OF CHRIST” The Bible says that the body of Christ is the church of God (see 1 Corinthians 12:27).
Second, the word for "body" in the Greek is "soma." (Strong's 4983). It means "Body." The reason why some translate it "substance" is for the simple reason of scholars trying to interpret the verse thinking the Feasts and Sabbaths are a shadow and distinguish the shadow from the reality which is Christ. But as we have seen this is not the case. Page 72 in Vine's shows the word is never used in that sense. There are three Greek words that Paul could of used for "substance," "ousia" (3776), "huparchonta" (5224), "huparxis" (5223) and especially "hupostasis" (5287).
Professor Troy Martin wrote an article entitled, “But Let Everyone Discern the Body of Christ (Col. 2:17),” which was published in the Journal of Biblical Literature in the Summer of 1995. In that article, he confirms—based on the Greek structure of the sentence—that the second part of the statement in Colossians 2:16–17 explains who is doing the judging.
He first points to a parallel passage in 1 Corinthians 10:24 that states: “Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well being.” In order to understand this passage correctly, one has to repeat in the second phrase the opposite of the beginning of the first phrase. In other words, the clear and intended meaning of this passage is: “Let no one seek his own, but let each one seek the other’s well being.”
This Scripture is grammatically structured in the same way as Colossians 2:16–17. Therefore, according to Professor Troy in regard to both 1 Corinthians 10:24 and Colossians 2:16–17, “The verb judge determines the action that is forbidden [by the first phrase = let no one judge you…] and then enjoined [or commanded, by the second phrase=the body of Christ].”
With this understanding, the sentence in Colossians 2:16–17 has to read this way: “So let no one judge you… regarding a festival or Sabbaths…, but let the body of Christ judge you.” Greek scholars recognize the last clause "but [let] the body of Christ" demands that a verb be added, but have often not seen that the missing verb should be supplied from the most logical and grammatically parallel clause so as to read properly "Let the body of Christ judge [these matters]"
Professor Troy gives a second example to prove this conclusion, namely Romans 14:13, which reads: “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.” In the Greek, the word for “judge” and “resolve” is exactly the same, namely “krino.” This word is used in Colossians 2:16–17 and translated there as “judge.”
Romans 14:13 tells us that we must not judge one another, but that we must judge how not to become a stumbling block for others. This statement in Romans 14:13 is identical in structure with the structure used in Colossians 2:16–17. No one is to judge the Colossians regarding the Sabbath and the Holy Days, except for the body of Christ, the Church.
The Bible says that the "body of Christ" is the church of God, which Jesus is the head (see 1Corinthians 12:27; Colossians 1:18). The point Paul is making here is not to let the false teachers tell you HOW to keep God’s holy days, but true wisdom comes from Christ and the true people of God, the CHURCH. Christ and the church determines doctrine by what is inspired by the holy word of God the Bible. Paul is basically saying, "How do we keep the feasts? Get the commandments from Jesus, the church and the Bible where true wisdom is."
Truly, the two verses can read, in its proper context, “Let no man [False brethren, Gnostic teachings etc...] therefore judge you [give their opinion] in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of , the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which [These false Teachings] are a shadow of things to come [prophecy of the apostate church to come] but the body of Christ [therefore judge you on how to observe these days and food prohibitions].”
By Peter Salemi