Christ is the Reality 1

He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross. So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality.                                                                                 Colossians 2:14-17 NLT

Between Colossians 2:8 and 3:4 (19 verses) references to Jesus appear sixteen times, eleven by title (Christ) and five more times in the pronoun (“with him,” “in him”) Sixteen times in nineteen verses. What is going on?

From the surrounding content and from what we know through the book of Acts, it appears that the early Church, among all the problems it faced, had two that were perennially troublesome. These two problems were Gnosticism and Judaizing. They were two opposing views of what it meant to be a Christian, both wrong, and Paul is confronting them head on. In somewhat altered form, both views are still with us, and both are still wrong.

The Gnostics (dealt with in Col 2:8-15) said that it was what you knew that made you a Christian. According to them, Christ, one of several divine mediators, had come to make special secret knowledge available to “the elect,” the chosen. While we today might not think of the knowledge being so secret, there is still with us the common idea that Jesus was one of many great teachers whose divinely-inspired mission was to teach really smart people how life and society should operate.

In contrast, the Judaizers (Col 2:16-23) said that it was not what you knew, but what you did that made you a Christian. To be really Christian, you had to accept Christ as your sacrifice, but you also had to fulfill all the Jewish requirements, including circumcision and observance of all the Jewish holy days. Again, we may not have those particular “hang-ups,” but there is still the belief among many of us that we are Christian because we do do certain things, and we do not do certain other things.

In this passage, Paul says both of those are wrong. They make us captive to systems and practices, and cannot deliver us from the deepest bondage of all, the bondage to desire (Col 2:23).

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