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Self-Made Religion of Asceticism

John Collins08/11/2012

In Colossians 2:16-23, Paul warns of those who will come before you as humble, Godly leaders, yet will rob you of your prize.  

Verse 16:  Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.

Paul said not to let any man judge you with their questions of food or drink, or with regard to your celebrations, days, or keeping of the Sabbath.  Many of the ceremonies of the law of Moses consisted in the distinction of meats and days, and the people had held on to these laws until that day.  

17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance [body] belongs to Christ.

Paul let the people know that since Christ had came, there was no need to follow these rules.  God had made them free, and Paul warned against those who would again try to impose a yoke of bondage.  The Law was given as a shadow of the much greater thing to come, which was the coming Messiah.  When Christ came in the flesh, his substance was the Glory shining that cast the shadows.

18 Let no one disqualify you,insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind

Paul warns the people about those who would introduce angels as mediators between God and themselves.  Man now had a direct line of communication to God, through Jesus Christ.  The Gentile philosophers taught that men could not communicate with God, and God would only speak to them through an angel because of our unworthiness.  Paul taught that the blood of Christ made us worthy.

He also warned against those who would be vainly puffed up by their own sensuous mind, pretending to describe visions given to them without reason.  These things were introduced by their own carnal pleasure to be thought of as wiser than others.  At the bottom of this grave error was the sin that Paul preached about: pride.

19 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.

These who go on about their own visions, in effect, have turned away from their Head, which is Christ.  Christ is the only mediator between God and man.  The Head which controls the whole body grows from a growth that is from God, but when this head is severed, the people are separated from the body of Christ.

20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations

Paul was shocked that the people would rather submit to being controlled by regulations rather than enjoy the freedom in Christ.  If through Christ, we died to the elemental spirits of the world, why would we even care about these regulations?  Christ came to fulfill the Law, yet the people looked backwards as slaves who returned to their slavery.

21 "Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch"

The Gospel of Jesus Christ was the Good News that all who accepted Jesus Christ could be saved by Grace.  They were not saved by their laws and regulations, the ways in which outward appearance seemed to be holy -- they were saved by Grace.  Those things forbidden by the Law had no effect on their salvation.  This included not only the meats which were considered unclean by the Jews, but all of the things they were instructed not to partake in by the Law.22 ( referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings?

The things of this world are not eternal.  God is eternal.  Our faith in Christ makes us eternal, not the things of this world that will perish.  As humans, we like to conceive notions that the perishable things of this world should be included in our teachings of holiness, but Paul directly states that these things are of no effect.  These preconceived notions only hold men and women down to the earthly things, forgetting about the spiritual things.

23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, 

Asceticism is a harsh and bitter resolution.  The definition of asceticism is this: "practicing strict self-denial as a measure of personal and especially spiritual discipline"

Paul warns that though disciplining yourselves to abstain from the pleasures of this world, a false appearance of spiritual wisdom is produced.  This promotes self-made religion, which does not come from God.  

but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Moreover, Paul knew that all men and women in this world are human.  As humans, they will have the desires of humans.  They will want to better themselves, enjoy life, and praise the God who created it.  

He said that this legalism, which started long ago in antiquity, had no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.  Once our hearts and minds move on towards the spiritual things, God will speak to the heart.  


As Christians, we should ask ourselves:  Do we condemn others for what they drink?  There are seldom any rules regarding the things we eat, but this is only half of Paul's warning?  Do our pastors preach against wine or strong drink when Paul tells us not to feel condemned by it?

Do we listen to ministers who tell us to separate ourselves from the others in the Body of Christ?  How can we spiritually grow, when we are severed?

Have we been led by a man who went on about his own visions?  By a man who claimed that an angel was on the platform with him as a mediator, telling the secrets of the heart?  Telling increasingly growing stories of his own experiences rather than the stories of Christ?

Have we submitted ourselves to rules and regulations, binding us once again to the Law?  Do we forbid ourselves to enjoy the things of life, falsely claiming that by our denial of these things we will become more holy?  Does not Paul himself state the exact opposite?

Have we fallen into a self-made religion of asceticism?