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Friday, March 20, 2020

Settling For Less - The Warnings of Colossians Chapter 2

And you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, having canceled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in [the cross].
-Colossians 2:13-15
I do not want to use this space to go over the particular conditions of the current dispensation (we've done that several times in other studies), but let us again, quickly, recognize the ground upon which we walk. We are still in our study on the Revelation, and unless we understand that Book and its Jewish context, we will never begin to understand it (and worse, we may fall into terrible error).

All the promises of blessing and cursing found in the Law do not apply. There is a two-fold reason for that. First, the Law was never given to Gentiles. Even in previous ages (even in the Law itself) Gentiles are excluded from its promises and cursings, unless a Gentile wanted to identify with Israel. Second, the Law has nothing to do with "life through his name."

Ephesians reminds Gentiles we were strangers to the covenants.  We have no covenant with God (old or new). Those are purely for the House of Jacob (Jeremiah 31; Hebrews 8). In the Acts Age, Gentiles were "grafted in" to Israel and could be "cut off" from Israel as well (Romans 11). This is not a passage dealing with resurrection life (which is a free gift by grace), it has to do with the earth and Israel's earthly promises. This involves the time when the Lord "reestablishes the kingdom in Israel" (Acts 1).

That age ended. The Body, the "new man," has no hope connected to this earth. Our blessings are "in the far above the heavens" (Ephesians). Because of that, we do not deal in Israel's rituals. The Law is holy and good (Romans), but it is not the means of salvation, it is given to a specific people for a specific purpose. And that purpose is earthly. Israel will one day fulfill its role as priests for the nations (Ex 19:5-6; etc.).

This is why Paul gives us a stern warning in Colossians not to settle for earthly ordinances. 

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival [feast] or a new moon or a sabbath. These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, taking his stand on visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
-Colossians 2:16-19

Many Bible-believing Christians will point to this scripture to warn Christians against the sacramenetalist churches (Roman, Russian, Orthodox, etc.) and rightly so. But while many do not go as far as having a priesthood or a tabernacle or official "holy days," many have versions of these.

This is serious business. Paul states that if we settle for earthly ordinances, we have not held fast to the Head of the Body, which is Christ. We cannot maintain unity if we introduce these rituals and hoy days, etc. Simply look at the many different denominations. Each has its "distinctives." They have let go of the Head and have scrounged around looking to the earth. They seek to rob Israel of her place and promises, forsaking their own calling. They only find themselves with bastardized versions of these rituals.

Almost all Evangelical communities have adopted a form of the Jewish ritual washing of Baptism and practice the Passover meal in the name of the Lord's Supper. The Lord himself called this the "Passover" meal. It is wholly Jewish and forbidden to Gentiles. The Lord did not put aside the Law to allow Gentiles to partake of the Law. He put aside the Law to allow Gentiles to receive a direct blessing apart from Israel. Something unknown in the Acts Age and before.

We have looked at this elsewhere as well, but we recall that the Last Supper was, indeed, the Passover meal and it dealt with the coming Kingdom in Israel.

Then you shall say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with My disciples?” ’Then he will show you a large, furnished upper room; there make ready.” So they went and found it just as He had said to them, and they prepared the Passover. When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”
 
-Luke 22:11-16

It makes some today feel "holy" or "obedient" to observe this Jewish feast, but it is not for us in this age. Passover is one of the Feasts of the Lord and these feasts all belong to Israel. Gentiles are forbidden to participate. This is why we must understand that The Feast of Pentecost in Acts 2 is still on Jewish ground.

Israel is not better than the Body and the Body is not better than Israel. We have different callings, different hopes, and different ministries. We risk being "disqualified" from prizes and rewards (as Colossians 2 warns) by trying to walk in the wrong calling. We become guilty of encroaching upon another's calling and denying our own calling.

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things which all perish as they are used), according to human precepts and doctrines? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting rigor of devotion and self-abasement and severity to the body, but they are of no value in checking the indulgence of the flesh. [alt: serving only to indulge the flesh]
-Colossians 2:20-23 

If our blessing is not of this world, we should not be participating in the rituals connected to this world. As our text teaches, men may feel holy and religious, but these rituals result in a false pride and an aggrandizement of the flesh. These ordinances not only fail to tame the flesh, they puff up the flesh in pride.

We carefully note, the problem is not only in obeying man-made ordinances (as horrible as that is), it is in obeying (or pretending to obey) biblical ordinances not meant for us.

Even the two supposed ordinances of the "church," baptism and Lord's Supper, are not practiced biblically. We will not examine these in full here, but I will point to one warning connected to the Lord's Table from the Acts age.

Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep [die].
 -1 Cor 11:27-30

Of what judgment (condemnation) does Paul speak? Do we see people dying in our meetings because of this? Are assemblies which practice this ritual weekly in more danger than those who practice it quarterly by exposing members to this punishment more often? And what kind of threat is death if death is just one, big party in heaven as is often taught in many churches? (That's yet another problem with the Platonic idea of the "immortal soul.")

When we seek to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15), these issues start to disappear. We start to see the overall Plan of God. We see the different families of God. We see the different callings and hopes. And we see the path to reward, crowns, faithful service, and the prize of high calling. But when we wander the pages of scripture choosing and rejecting what we may, we risk being "disqualified."

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