Posted by: The Simple Guy | October 14, 2014

The worldliness of legalism

I discovered a concept today that was there all the time, I have just been too dull to see it.

We are studying Colossians in our church.  Next week we will be looking at chapter 2:20-3:4.  Last week we looked at this text:

Col 2:16-19
(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.
(17) These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
(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,
(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.

Two “let no one” phrases.  Paul has just told them (us) how the written condemnation for all of our sin was nailed to the cross.  You see, a crucifixion was not a lynching.  It was a legal execution.  The convicted criminal’s written condemnation was literally nailed to the cross.  (that is how we know Jesus was crucified between two thieves by the way, it was in black and white above their heads – but I digress. . .)  Our condemnation was nailed to His cross. (v14)

So first, Paul warns them not to let anyone pass judgement on on them based on the law.  Not that the law is irrelevant, it was all the way relevant.  But it has been satisfied once and for all.  The crime has been prosecuted, and the judgement has already been made.  The sentence has already been carried out.  That is called a CLOSED CASE.  So no one can pass judgement on us.

Let no one disqualify you.  (the speaker envisioned a red card in soccer – and we discussed how the opposing team coach does not have a red card, he cannot disqualify me.  The line judge does not have a red card, he cannot disqualify me . . . you get the idea).  So don’t let anyone step in and claim authority they don’t have and disqualify you, using some new system, teaching, practice, etc.

Only God can disqualify me.

So last’s weeks text was about “let no one”

This weeks text is essentially “now don’t you, either”  The emphasis in verses 20-23 is on self.  Let me show you:

Col 2:20-23
(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—
(21) “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”
(22) (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings?
(23) These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

“If. . .you died to the elemental spirits of the world. . .why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit . . .to human principles and teachings?”

Then he lists three types of human principles and teachings.

  • self-made religion (religion my own way, by my rules)
  • Asceticism (literally self humiliation)
  • Severity to the body. (self punishment or torture – literally self neglect)

So then he states that these look good, but have no power to stop indulgence of the flesh.

So as I pondered this, I realized a couple of things.  First of all these, things are powerless.  You know why?  The fox is still guarding the hen-house.  I have no power over “self” if “self” defines the religion, “self” is orchestrating the “humility” and “self” is the focus of the punishment.  “Self” is still on the throne.

And as I pondered this, I came to the second realization.  This legalism is no less worldly than the “sins” it seeks to avoid.

Herein lies the danger of reactionary morality.  When I see something that I find exceptionally sinful, and make an external “rule” for myself in order to avoid that pitfall, I am no better off than before.  It is merely an illusion.  I am putting my faith in the Flesh.

Brings to mind Galatians:

Gal 6:7-9
(7) Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.
(8) For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
(9) And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

No wonder these “rules” I make for myself are powerless, and result in nothing but frustration.  Father, please help me see through this illusion!!

I think it bears repeating.  Legalism is no less worldly than the “sins” it seeks to avoid.

Worth some thought.

Next, we find the escape hatch!  But that is for you to read in Colossians 3:1-4.  Maybe I will be back to post on that later.  But you will not really reap the benefits if you don’t study it out yourself. . .

Happy Hunting!!


The Simple Guy


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