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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Colossians

This morning I was reading Colossians. Lately I have been surprised and blessed by reading the context of passages instead of just reading a verse here and there. You really can't understand what one sentence is saying unless you read it in it's proper context. I read and re-read Colossians 2 several times today and am still surprised at how beautifully and consistently everything goes together in light of the covenants. Please, read the whole chapter, but I will be quoting specifically from just a few of the verses.

"My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments." (verses 2-4)

"See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ." (verse 8)

It then goes on to talk about circumcision and showing that we are figuratively circumcised through Christ (the literal circumcision was pointing to that - it wasn't moral in and of itself, and it talks about baptism as well).

"When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross." (verses 13-14)

"Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ." (verses 16-17)

"Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 'Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!' These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence." (verses 20-23)

I had so many thoughts when reading this. First of all, in Christ is all wisdom and knowledge, and we aren't to be deceived by fine-sounding arguments or deceptive philosophy based on basic principles of the world rather than on Christ. Then it talks about things that were shadows of what was to come (Christ). Among the things mentioned are circumcision, the food & drink laws of the old covenant, and the special days set up under the old covenant (yearly festivals, monthly New Moon, and weekly Sabbath). These things are all called SHADOWS. They played their part and were important at the time (they were given by God), but they weren't the real deal. Christ was.

Most Sabbatarians when they read this (I used to be the same way) start with the assumption - "This passage cannot be saying what it seems to be saying about the Sabbath, so it must mean something else." Then based on that belief, they try to find a way to make it fit. Remember, I am dealing with facts here, not trying to focus on people (and I used to believe the same way, so I am able to say "I was wrong" when proven that was the case), so please don't take this personally.

From that key thought (It can't be saying what it appears to be saying...), this verse is handled in a number of ways. Some people say that the word for "Sabbath" here is plural, so it cannot be talking about the weekly Sabbath but must be talking about the other festival Sabbaths. The problem with that is those are already covered by the first part ("religious festival") and this would be repetitive. Throughout scripture, we are presented this pattern (yearly, monthly, weekly) which include the weekly Sabbath (reference 1 Chron. 23:31, 2 Chron. 2:4, Neh. 10:33, Hos. 2:11, Ezek. 45:17). Not only that, but the word for Sabbath (sabbaton) occurs 68 times in the NT. The other 67 times are clearly referring to the weekly Sabbath, so why would this be any different?

Another way of handling it is by focusing on the "judge" part. They reason that we aren't supposed to judge other people based on these things and that it isn't telling us one way or another if they are still applicable. But that doesn't make sense in light of the next verse - they are a shadow not the reality. That seems pretty clear.

So if this passage is really saying what it appears to be saying (this isn't the only passage that deals with this, by the way, just the one I happened to read this morning), then the Sabbath (weekly) was indeed a shadow of Christ, what does that mean? Well, the Israelites were told to rest of the Sabbath. Jesus tells us not to rest on a day but in HIM. Matt 11:28-29 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Also note Hebrews 4 - the Israelites who had the weekly Sabbath rest still didn't enter into God's rest. And yet we are called TODAY (not on the 7th day of the week) to enter into His rest through Jesus. The Sabbath (and the other things listed) was simply a shadow - Jesus is the reality.

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