Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | December 2, 2006

Colossians – Part 13

Where do you see yourself in five years? 

Colossians – Part 13:  The Doctrines of Men 

1.  Do you know how many laws God commanded in the Old Testament?  Do we need more?

2.  Do some people qualify superstitions as laws?  (i.e. don’t walk under a ladder,etc?)

Freedom from the Doctrine of Men (Ch 2:20-23): 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. 

The Apostle continues appealing to the Church to reject the errors among them by contrasting the freedom found in Christ with the uselessness of the false doctrines.  Again the Apostle uses the term “elementary principles of the world”, which in the context of the question he poses to the Church must refer to man made ‘works righteousness’ religious systems.  It is a basic human assumption that you must earn your reward, and it is this assumption that appears to be the central doctrine of most man made religious systems.  This is definitely the case with Gnosticism, which considers material elements evil.  However, the believer has a special union with Christ, signified in the Sacrament of baptism, of dying and rising to newness of life.  This death includes the liberation from our old fallen nature that was a loyal citizen of this fallen world.  It also commemorates that we no longer subscribe to the notion that our reward must be earned, but was earned by another who gives us our reward as a free gift.  Some used to believe that their piety expressed a level of their own righteousness that was pleasing.  Surely, it gives an outward appearance to other men of having attained holiness.  However, this external façade only conceals the truly selfish ambitions that motivate the empty behavior.  Thus, without genuine motives to glorify God they only gratify the sinful ego of the person trying to impress others. 

After the Apostle had explained the freedoms in Christ he compares them with the regulations advocated by the false teachers.  It seems as if the Colossians already knew this, that’s why the Apostle asks the question of them.  Is this what you are exchanging the grace and truth of God for?  Apparently, he wants them to consider the implications of their choice of rejecting the graciousness of the gospel and accepting the message of the false apostle’s.  He exposes the folly of the empty regulations imposed by the false apostle’s, which are only consigned to this temporary earthly realm.  Then reminds them of the freedom they have from these man-made rules, which do not apply to believers who are aliens and strangers to the world.     

3.  A few verses ago, Paul indicated we were made alive in Christ.  Why does he now say we died with Christ?

4.  In what way do we identify with Christ’s death? Hint verse 12

5.  Are there any other ways in which we have died?

6.  Does this also describe our relationship to sin?

If ye are dead:  “He says, therefore, that the Colossians, have nothing to do with ordinances.  Why?  Because they have died with Christ to ordinances; that is, after they died with Christ by regeneration, they were, through his kindness, set free from ordinances, that they may not belong to them any more.  Hence he concludes that they are by no means bound by the ordinances, which the false apostles endeavored to impose upon them.”  John Calvin, Commentary on Colossians 

7.  In what way did Paul categorize the false teacher’s rules for “holiness”?

8.  Why were these rules classified as “worldly” and “teaching of men”?

9.  Is it a problem when we try to add to God’s revealed law?  Deuteronomy 4:2; Proverbs 30:5-6

Eat not, taste not:  “In short, when persons have once taken upon them to tyrannize over men’s souls, there is no end of new laws being daily added to old ones, and new enactments starting up from time to time…. Hence Paul acts admirably well in admonishing us that human traditions are a labyrinth, in which consciences are more and more entangled; nay more, are snares, which from the beginning bind in such a way that in course of time they strangle in the end.” John Calvin, Commentary on Colossians 

10.  Does Paul say that the false teacher’s rules are wise?

11.  Were these good religious rules?  Why? Why not?

12.  Can you think of any other examples where man made rules were out of control?  Matthew 12:1-9 and 15:1-9

13.  Who was Jesus condemning in these examples? 

14.  Did you know they even added more rules to clarify the biblical laws?

All which things tend to corruption:  “He sets aside, by twofold argument, the enactments of which he has made mention – because they make religion consist in things outward and frail, which have no connection with the spiritual kingdom of God; and secondly, because they are from men, not from God…The sum is this – that the worship of God, true piety, and the holiness of Christians, do not consist in drink, and food, and clothing, which are things that are transient and liable to corruption, and perish by abuse…This is Paul’s reasoning: ‘Those who bring consciences into bondage do injury to Christ, and make void his death.  For whatever is of human invention does not bind conscience.  John Calvin, Commentary on Colossians 

15.  Why were the Colossian false teachers promoting severe treatment of the body?

16.  Did all the rules and regulations help the Colossians in their struggle against sin?

17.  The Colossian false teachers were adding burdens to the people.  What were the Colossians leaving for the false teaching, another burden or not?  Matthew 11:25-30

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