Hello everybody, and welcome in to episode 172 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading Colossians 2 today and our focus is on The Dangers of Legalism and Judgmentalism and the Call to Joyful Christianity. We are a daily 10 minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in Thanks for listening! Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast! Don’t forget about our web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more– Click here for our Bible 2021 reading plan\
Today’s passage is deep and thick with great truths of the Bible and also inscrutable ones – Colossians 2 is NOT at all an easy read, but it has great depth, and many treasures of truth that are not easily revealed to casual seekers. We will focus on what might be the overall theme of the chapter: the dangers of legalism, external righteousness and judgmentalism. I’d like to read a big chunk on our chapter today from pastor and author Richard Kent Hughes. Dr. Hughes pastored College Church in Wheaton, Illinois, and came to my seminary when I was a student and spoke a very encouraging and challenging message. On the dangers of legalism, he writes:
Regarding their being judged about diet, there were evidently those who were saying that the way to God and spiritual fullness would be enhanced if the Colossian believers returned to the dietary laws of the Old Testament. As you know, the Old Testament categorized certain foods as clean and unclean (see Leviticus 11:2–20). Unknown to the Jew, there were excellent physical reasons for the Old Testament laws, which Dr. S. I. Macmillen has catalogued in his interesting book, None of These Diseases. There were also spiritual reasons, for the distinctions between foods were meant to familiarize God’s people with the fact of purity and impurity, and thus to stimulate the conscience in everyday life. But when Jesus came, those dietary laws were abolished.
Jesus said to the Pharisees, who were offended by his liberated eating habits: “‘Are you so dull? … Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him “unclean”? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.’ (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods ‘clean’” (Mark 7:18–20; cf. Matthew 15:1–20). Peter’s vision settled it for him, as he saw a sheet lowered from Heaven, crawling with clean and forbidden animals. Peter was scandalized! “Then a voice told him, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’ ‘Surely not, Lord!’ Peter replied. ‘I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.’ The voice spoke to him a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven” (Acts 10:13–16). Paul made this conclusion in 1 Corinthians 8:8—“But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.” So the New Testament Scriptures are unified in telling us that all food and drink are lawful. Of course, dietary principles are a good idea. Eat too many Twinkies and you will no longer be “twinkletoes”; too many Snickers are no laughing matter. But dietary discipline is not a sign of spirituality. We are not to judge others, or allow anyone to pass a religious judgment on us, in regard to food and drink.
The same applies to days. The Jews had their special feast days (Leviticus 25) and their “New Moon” celebrations (Isaiah 1:13) and their Sabbaths (Exodus 20:9–11). When Christ came, he fulfilled them all! We no longer celebrate the Sabbath because we now worship on the “Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:10), the first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:2; Acts 20:7), the day which commemorates the Resurrection (John 20). Verse 17 says that these things are “a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” The dietary rules sensitized God’s people to purity, the great feasts taught various aspects of Christ’s work, and the Sabbath displayed something of the rest into which he leads his people. But they were just “a shadow.” The real thing has come in Christ (cf. Luke 24:27). The idea that spirituality can be quantified provides an unfortunate basis for pride and judgmentalism. The flesh finds doing truly spiritual things difficult, as “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41, NASB). But the flesh has no trouble with religious rules and regulations. There is an authentic lure to legalism.
However, though legalism also has its downside. It spawns judgmentalism. Judgmentalism is miserable for the judged and the judging, because it shrivels their souls. Legalism is intrinsically joyless, as the savage tribesman observed when a missionary was trying to convert him. The tribesman was very old and the missionary was very Old Testament, with a version of Christianity which leaned very heavily on the “thou shalt nots.” After listening to what the missionary said, the tribesman replied, “To be old and to be Christian, they are the same thing!…Lastly, such legalism produces a surface faith, because its adherents emphasize the things which are not really important. Their “do nots” ignore deadly sins such as coveting, gossiping, slandering, bitterness, and hatred. Legalism limits one to shallow self-righteousness, and thus damns him.
Interestingly, Paul does not say, “Forbid the faithful to keep special days and special diets.” Rather he says, “Do not let anyone judge you” in these things. (v. 16) There is great liberty in what we Christians can do: we can keep days and diets, or forget them. But he rejects the right of anyone to judge and/or compel another to comply with his own preferences. We are not to judge others by these things, and we are not to allow others to judge us. This is a warning to take to heart, because time and time again as legalism has come into the Church, the Church has become judgmental, joyless, uniform, and shallow in faith.
R. Kent Hughes, Colossians and Philemon: The Supremacy of Christ, Preaching the Word (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1989), 83.
Let’s read our passage…
Bible Memory verses for the month of June: Daniel 6:23 The king was overjoyed and gave orders to take Daniel out of the den. When Daniel was brought up from the den, he was found to be unharmed, for he trusted in his God.
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