Wednesday, September 2, 2020

New Life in Christ

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God" (Colossians 3:1)

Yesterday we considered briefly a form of legalism. Today let us take up an objection that the Judaizing Gnostics at Colossae might have raised against Paul’s teaching. “Yes, but,” they might say, “God told us in the Mosaic Law not to handle, not to taste, and not to touch certain things. What right have you to say that now these things have passed away? How dare you accuse us of demonic teachings!”

Paul’s argument against this objection is seen in Colossians 2:16 and following. He says that in Christ, the new covenant believer has died “to the basic principles of the world.” What are these elementary principles? Theologians have debated them, but there is a consensus that we can phrase this way: The elementary principles are the principles of the world before Christ’s death and resurrection. In the true form, they are the principles of the old covenant, which did indeed include various dietary laws and laws of uncleanness. In their false form, we find such hedges and scruples in all the pagan religions of the world.

In Christ, though, all those elementary principles were incarnated as Christ was born “under the law.” In Him they died. And in Him they are resurrected in their fuller and truer meaning. Those rules, as Paul says, were guides for humanity during its infancy (Galatians 4:1ff.). They were never intended to be kept simply for their own sake but as training devices. Now that the new covenant has come in Christ, we are to keep the principles that these rules pointed to, but we are not to keep the rules themselves because to do so is to deny that Christ has come.

Moreover, in Colossians 2:22–23, Paul says in effect: you Judaizing Gnostics have added human rules to what God gave at Sinai, and you have perverted all of the rules into ways of glorifying yourselves. You need to get rid of these rules and keep the rules of Christ, who is enthroned as King. Then in 3:4, Paul says that when Christ comes, He will give you all the glory you could wish for.

Then Paul begins to expound the true meaning of the old covenant rules, and he thereby shows the true laws of the kingdom in Colossians 3:5ff., to which we shall turn tomorrow.

Read Colossians 2:16–3:10. Which set of rules is easier to keep? Which set of rules would be conducive to pride and self-glory, and which would lead to humility and glory in Christ? Determine to strive for that which glorifies Christ.