A Study of Colossians 2:20-24 covers the submission to religious regulations, human precepts and teachings, and the attraction of self-made religion.
A study of Colossians 2:20-24. The submission to religious regulations
V.20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world…
Paul asks a rhetorical question because he already knows the answer. And it goes back to those “elemental spirits” (Greek = stŏichĕiŏn) he mentioned in 2:8. They were possibly the pagan gods from Greek culture the Colossians followed in their lives before Jesus Christ. He is presenting a challenge to them regarding their new faith. In Christ they have died to their former life. So why go back to it? Paul affirms this new life in 2 Corinthians 5:17.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations…
The Greek word for “regulations” is dogmatízō, which means to establish a decree and what seems to be right. In other words, why do you let things with no power over you, control you anyway, because they sound right?
It’s also a fair question for today. Are there extra regulations you follow because they sound right, but actually enslave you?
A study of Colossians 2:20-24. Human precepts and teachings
21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”…
Paul doesn’t specifically mention the regulations, but points out their controlling features. And he does so in a sarcastic tone that increases in its level of exaggeration. Don’t handle, taste or even touch. In a modern context, he might add: perhaps you should wear a hazmat suit to avoid all contamination!
However, this was not a completely new teaching. Jesus addressed this subject with the Jewish religious leaders in Matthew 15:1-20 and Mark 7:1-23. Certainly, there are people, places, and things we should avoid. And practicing regular spiritual disciplines will promote a holy life. But following Jesus Christ is more than a list of “do’s and don’ts.” It’s a life meant to set us free, not weigh us down.
22 Referring to things that all perish as they are used—according to human precepts and teachings?
Paul disqualifies them for two reasons: First, they are temporal in nature. Food that disappears because it is either consumed, or eventually goes bad and is thrown out. Secondly, they are based on strictly human instructions. Here again, Jesus speaks on this matter.
This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. (ESV, Matthew 15:8-9)
The attraction of self-made religion
The self-help section of every bookstore tells a story. Humanity has an insatiable appetite for self-improvement, self-reliance, and self-sufficiency. Is it any wonder we also seek a self-made religion?
V.23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body…
The Greek word for “self-made religion” is ĕthĕlŏthrēskĕia, which means voluntary and unwarranted piety. In other words, false humility. We want to look good to other people. In physical attractiveness, perceived character, and moral uprightness. Although outward appearance doesn’t always reflect the condition of a person’s heart. But it’s God’s primary concern and how he sees us.
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (ESV, 1 Samuel 16:7)
The futility of external controls
But they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
The Greek word for “indulgence” is plēsmŏnē, which means gratification and satisfying. In other words, external restraints don’t satisfy fleshly desires so they won’t control human passions. It is a battle all Christ-followers face in this life. Paul admits his own struggle in Romans 7:15-20.
But we are not powerless.
When tempted by Satan, Jesus answered by quoting scripture. It is our most effective defense too. In addition, since desires and passions take root in our mind, we should saturate our minds with scriptures. And rather than NOT think certain thoughts, purposefully guide them towards positive ones.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (ESV, Philippians 4:8-9)
A Study of Colossians 1:10-14. This study addresses the results of a Godly lifestyle, how you’re strengthened and qualified by God, and you’re delivered, redeemed, and forgiven.
A Study of Colossians 1:10-14. The results of a Godly lifestyle
Christ-followers are not perfect because we still sin. And yet, the life of a Christ-follower should be distinctly separate from the culture. Paul prayed in V.9 for the Colossian church to know God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And he explains why in V.10.
V.10 So as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord…
The Greek word for “walk” is pĕripatĕō and literally means to walk around. But it’s used figuratively here to mean personal conduct. In other words, living a Godly lifestyle. And it starts by seeking to know and understand God’s will.
Paul lists three results of knowing and understanding God’s will.
Fully pleasing to him
Bearing fruit in every good work
Increasing in the knowledge of God
The desire to please God is our motive for Godly living. And bearing fruit in good works is not to earn God’s favor, but express our devotion to him. Also, notice that Paul talks about knowing God’s will in V.9 and increasing in the knowledge of God in V.10. The Greek word for “increasing” is auxanō, and is also translated “growing.” It’s used in present tense which suggests a continual growth process.
REFLECT & RECORD:
How well are you pleasing God? Write down both your successes and failures.
Has your knowledge of God increased? If so, describe how. If not, how might knowing God better impact your life?
How does pleasing God, bearing fruit, and increased knowledge of God work together to foster spiritual growth?
A Study of Colossians 1:10-14 Strengthened and qualified by God
V.11 Strengthened with all power according to his glorious might…
The Greek word for “strengthened” is dunamŏō, and is the same word Paul uses in Philippians 4:13.
I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
We can’t live a Godly lifestyle in our own strength, but must lean on God’s strength. Studying God’s word, prayer, and accountability with other believers play an important role in this. And God doesn’t dispense strength in small doses to cover each need, but gives generously from his great supply. Jesus calls us to an abundant life (John 10:10) and God provides abundant resources.
For all endurance and patience with joy…
The Christian life doesn’t exclude suffering, but it’s something we endure with joy. This is described in James 1:2-3.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
Of course, James does not say to welcome or celebrate suffering. But that joy sustains us because of our confident hope in a future where all suffering ends. And that hope helps us endure it, not deliver us from it.
Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
The Greek word for “qualified” is hikanŏo and means to enable as in to make competent or sufficient. The word tense suggests it’s an immediate event. So when a person commits their life to Jesus, they immediately become a saint and qualified to share in an eternal inheritance.
A Study of Colossians 1:10-14 Delivered, redeemed and forgiven
V.12 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son…
Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage is a major theme in the Old Testament. And darkness and light a common theme in the New Testament. In other words, there is both physical and spiritual bondage.
Jesus claimed to be the light in John 8:12 and called people to follow him.
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Paul assures the Colossian church that since they’re following Jesus, they’re no longer in the domain of darkness but the kingdom of light.
In whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
The same is true for us. Through the power of Jesus Christ we are delivered from spiritual bondage, redeemed, and forgiven. No extra teaching improves this Gospel message. And no other qualifications or conditions are required.
REFLECT & RECORD
Describe how God strengthened you in a particular situation. Where else do you need his strength today?
Even believers can suffer physical or spiritual bondage. Is there an area where you’re currently struggling? Pray to Jesus for guidance on where to find deliverance.
If you’ve given your life to Christ then you’re redeemed and forgiven. Take a moment to thank and praise him.
When Jesus walked on water, he both frightened and amazed his disciples. The story is recorded in Matthew 14:33-36; Mark 6:45-56; John 6:16-24. Here are some lessons it teaches us today.
When Jesus walked on water. The storms of life can shake your faith and fill you with fear.
After feeding five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus sent his disciples off in a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee and he went off alone to pray. Later in the night, a storm arose and the disciples struggled in the boat against strong winds and waves. So Jesus walked out to them on the water.
Was this an impulsive, original idea by Jesus? Maybe not.
You alone stretched out the heavens and trampled on the waves of the sea. (ESV, Job 9:8)
Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? (ESV, Job 38:16)
Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. (ESV, Psalm 77:19)
These passages indicate Jesus had previous water walking experience, perhaps during creation, and this was just another casual sea stroll to demonstrate his divinity. Although when the disciples saw Jesus they thought he was a ghost and it frightened them even more. At least until Jesus spoke and they recognized his voice.
Isn’t this true for us? The storms we encounter in life shake our faith and cause fear? But notice, Jesus didn’t wait for the disciples to cry out for help. He saw their distress and went to their aid. It’s reassuring to know he takes the initiative on our behalf too.
When Jesus walked on water. Follow Jesus and you might get in over your head.
You have to love Peter. A guy who acts first and thinks later. He does at least recognize he can only walk on the water by Jesus’ power. And give him credit as the only disciple brave enough to get out of the boat. He does great at first while he focuses on Jesus. But then he begins to think about it. Second guess himself. Focus on his circumstances rather than Jesus. And begins to sink.
Although once again, Jesus grabs on and pulls him to the surface. And it wouldn’t be the last time Peter’s impulsive behavior led him into choppy waters. It’s a familiar story for us too. When difficult circumstances test our faith we tend to focus more on the circumstances than on Jesus. And may feel like we’re in over our heads.
But even when it feels like you are alone and abandoned, you’re not as David reminds us.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (ESV, Psalm 46:1)
In fact, God does HIs best work through us when we acknowledge our weakness and call on Him for strength. And when God demonstrates His power through our weakness, we are more likely to give Him the glory.
When Jesus walked on water. When you provide the faith, Jesus delivers the power.
Jesus chastised Peter for his little faith. But maybe with a smile? Because Peter demonstrated faith through his actions.
And this is exactly what Jesus’ half-brother talks about in James 2:14-26.
You have faith and I have works. Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (ESV, James 2:18)
James isn’t saying to demonstrate good works to earn salvation. He’s telling Christ-followers now that you’re saved by grace through faith, you should demonstrate that faith by your actions.
Exactly what Peter is doing!
Of course, it wasn’t Peter’s first miracle rodeo with Jesus. He had just witnessed Jesus feed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish. Watched him command a lame man to pick up his bed and walk. Lazarus to wake up from the dead and come out of the tomb. And many others.
Yes, faith is important and Jesus said we only need faith the size of a mustard seed to move a mountain. And so too, is the importance of prayer. But the lesson in this story is the importance of remaining focused on Jesus. Because even as people of faith, the storms of life make that difficult.
But when Peter’s faith failed in the middle of the storm, he called out to Jesus who pulled him from the swirling waters. And we can trust God’s faithfulness. He will do the same for us.
Moses and his path to Godly leadership. Although Moses became a great Jewish leader, he and God disagreed on the timing for it. When Moses thought he was ready, God didn’t. When God thought he was ready, Moses didn’t. Here’s how they finally agreed in the story recorded in Exodus chapters two through five.
When Moses was born, the Egyptian king had a Hebrew baby alert in effect. Kill all male babies. The Hebrew midwives were tasked with the order, but refused to carry it out. So Moses survived his birth. And when his mother could no longer hide him, she put him in a floating basket among the reeds along a river bank where the Pharaoh’s daughter bathed. She found the basket, adopted Moses, and raised him as her own.
Moses and his path to Godly leadership. God considers pride a disqualification
The rest of Israel was enslaved, but Moses enjoyed a privileged lifestyle. You can imagine the jealousy this caused. They suffered while Moses enjoyed the best education and training Egyptian royalty afforded. Not to mention all the right power connections. So from a human perspective, Moses was uniquely qualified for leadership.
Apparently, he thought so too.
One day he intervened as an Egyptian beat a Jewish man. He killed the Egyptian and hid the body, demonstrating his sympathetic cause with the oppressed Jews. But when he intervened the next day as two Jewish men quarreled, they turned on him. Was he going to kill them too? Moses realized the Jews didn’t see him the way he saw himself.
Of course, that’s how pride works. You’re blind to what everyone else clearly sees in you. And God rejects it from godly leaders. Moses decided he might be in danger when the Pharaoh learned what he had done.
So he demonstrated his first courageous act of leadership and ran for his life.
Moses and his path to Godly leadership. God looks for willingness and a spirit of humility
Moses sought refuge a long distance away among the Midianites who were related to the Israelites. While resting at a well, he came to the aid of seven sisters there to water their flock of sheep. They invited him to their home for dinner and he ended up staying and marrying one of the sisters.
Forty years later while tending his flock, God appeared to Moses in a burning bush and called him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. But he was now 80 years old. His youthful brashness and ambitions were gone. He had fully embraced the humble life of shepherding. He was settled. You’d expect that of an 80 year old. Time to slow down. No new adventures needed. But God was just warming up. And after Moses rattled off a list of disqualifying excuses that God ignored, he finally submitted to God’s will.
It’s an important lesson for us today. There is no retirement from serving God. Especially when God gives you an assignment. Nor is it about your qualifications. Because God’s interest is not in your ABILITY but AVAILABILITY.
You provide the willingness and God provides the way
Somewhere along the journey into humility Moses also lost confidence. Why? Maybe his youth and energy was spent. His Egyptian training forgotten after 40 years of non-use. His influence among the Israelites in Egypt dissipated.
And even worse, God called on him to demonstrate his greatest weakness–Public speaking.
But that is exactly God’s strategy throughout the Bible and today as well. Because it’s when you’re out of your league and beyond your capabilities that God does his best work. And why God uses our greatest weakness to bring him glory. He wants us to rely on him and give him the credit.
As Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, God gave him all he needed. Demonstrating miracle after miracle on the journey out of Egypt, through the wilderness, and to the border of the promised land.
Have you ever had experiences like that? When God gives you jobs beyond your capabilities? I have. They’ve been my greatest fear and greatest blessing. And by the grace and power of God, I will keep pressing on. I pray you do too.
What’s the mind of Christ? Because the apostle Paul claims to have it in 1 Corinthians 2:11-13. Do you? And if so, what does it mean? Here are some thoughts to consider.
Your perspective, attitudes, and behaviors originate and incubate in your mind. So the prevailing content there plays a major role on the actions that follow. The mind of Christ directs you towards actions that honor God.
What’s the mind of Christ? It’s the presence of God’s Spirit
For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. (ESV, 1 Corinthians 2:11-13)
The mind of Christ comes with the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christ-follower. He enters your life when you ask Jesus Christ to be Savior and Lord. The Spirit’s indwelling presence conforms your desires to imitate Christ and align your thoughts with God’s thoughts as revealed in His word. It begins by demonstrating the same attitude as Jesus.
The natural person lacks this presence because the Spirit responds by invitation only. And the natural person is further handicapped because understanding spiritual truth requires spiritual discernment. And God’s Spirit is the discernment interpreter.
What’s the mind of Christ? It’s a perspective that makes seeking the Kingdom of God a priority
Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you as well. (ESV. Matthew 6:33)
The Kingdom of God is an eternal game changer for those who seek it first. Because it replaces eternal uncertainty with confidence. Rather than face death with anxiety, you’re filled with hope of an everlasting joy. And the anticipation of a forever future that is better than here and now.
It involves an agenda of selfless service rather than selfish indulgence. A counter intuitive expression of God’s love. Because when you seek the Kingdom of God, you care about what God cares about. Seek to know and follow His will. And form your perspective by filtering the messages of this world through the lens of scripture.
It’s a mind on a purposeful, ongoing journey of transformation
Those with the mind of Christ focus on thoughts that honor God. They study God’s word and follow His precepts. But recognize that sinful failure is inevitable in this world, Fortunately, the mind of Christ is renewable. And is spiritually restored through confession and repentance.
It’s a purposeful journey of discipleship that starts and stops, rises and falls, advances and retreats. Fueled by faith and driven by trust and obedience. Always pursuing but never arriving in this life. A journey travelled with other disciples in community that forms itself in the image of Christ. Navigating all the struggles and difficulties this world presents. But pressing on with the promises and power of God.
Because God’s grace cannot be subverted. His mercy won’t be denied. And His Kingdom will prevail. FOREVER.
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