Colossians 2:16-23 | The Sufficiency of Christ
SERMON FROM JUNE 19TH, 2022 - SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
Our Text this morning comes from the book of Colossians chapter 2 verses 16 through 23. These are the very words of God
So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.
Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.
This is the Word of the Lord
Will you pray with me.
Father, you are the Ultimate communicator. Everything we must know about You is found here in Your revealed Word. As we approach this text, we ask that you would cause our hearts and our minds to revel in the glorious gospel truth that Christ is sufficient to save sinners, that He is our present reality and the shadows have been pushed back and are being overwhelmed by the Son of Righteousness. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, our strength, and our Redeemer. Amen!
Well good morning and Happy Father’s Day to all of our father’s present. It is a joy to have this opportunity to preach from God’s Word. Its been about 8 weeks since I last preached and we’ve been slowly working our way through Paul’s letter to the saints at Colossae. This is our 6th message on the book of Colossians and as a brief recap I’d like to remind you that in week 1 we were able to get an inside look at Pauls vision for the gospel in Colossae. He fully expected the gospel to bear fruit in Colossae as it was also bearing fruit in the rest of the world. We learned that we also should expect to bear fruit as we witness Christ’s Kingdom advancing throughout Lewis County and the world. In week two we heard Pauls argument that the reason the gospel is going forth in victory is because God is qualifying His saints for His kingdom through the preeminent and sufficient work of Christ the King. A saint is one who has access to the Sanctuary and those of us found in Christ are saints. We belong in the Sanctuary of God, because Christ has qualified us. Week 3 we learned of the preeminence of Christ and how all things were made by him and for him and also how through Him the mystery of Salvation, a salvation that all of creation had been longing for, has now been revealed. Week 4 taught us that Paul saw our life in Christ as a clear spiritual battlefield in which the enemy will try and deceive us with false and empty philosophy and try to get us to return to our old lives of slavery. Therefore we are to always be preparing for this battle, always be battling with thanksgiving, and always be striving onward and upward for the prize marching forward into the promised land of Christ’s Kingdom. Finally in week 5 on Easter morning, we rejoiced in the reality that Christ, a man alive forever at the right hand of God has made us alive together with Him in His resurrection. He was able to do this because the certificate of debt that each of us carried, the tens of thousands of sins against His Holy law that condemned us to death of for which we were 100% responsible, these debts were nailed to the cross and taken out of the way forever.
This week as we finish out chapter 2 we will find that Paul is earnestly warning us against trying to add to the sufficiency of Christ’s finished work on the the cross. His death paid in full the certificate of debt that we owed and we mustn’t make the grave mistake of trying to add to this completed work. The judaizers were trying to get the Colossian Christians to continue to follow the old covenant law as though nothing had changed. Paul wants them that these Old Covenant laws are like “shadows” of Christ and now that Christ has come, the shadows must no longer have the priority. Now we look to the one casting the shadow, Jesus Christ. Paul is going to warn us to not let anyone judge us, not let anyone cheat us, and not let anyone cause us to be subjected to Christless righteousness. Christless righteousness is law minus the law giver and it is no righteousness at all. Only Christ’s work is sufficient and there is nothing we can add to it without paradoxically taking away from the sufficiency of the completed work of Christ.
Let’s take a look at the first two verses
Vs. 16-17 “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”
Throughout this letter, Paul is arguing that Christ is sufficient to qualify us as Saints. If you have your bible open, flip back to chapter 1 and look at verse 12 through 14 where Paul tells Christians that he is giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He then goes on to argue that Christ is able to do this, He is able to qualify us as saints, because He is preeminent which he explains in verse 16 of chapter 1 that “All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.” So by the time we arrive at verse 16 of chapter 2, Paul has been telling us that Saints are fully sufficient in Christ because Christ is fully sufficient to save us from the power of darkness. He goes to the logical conclusion that, because of this, we should not let anyone judge us in regards to what we eat, what we drink, and what days we celebrate and observe. He actually gives a command, “let no one judge you.” So were supposed to actually do something. On one hand this seems like a pretty tall order. How do we keep people from judging us? Should we try to please them no matter what so they don’t have any judgey thoughts toward us? Should we attempt to be winsome no matter the cost to truth? No. Certainly not. It is a fools errand to try and control what other people think about us in the first place. Add to this that Jesus promised us that if we were faithful to Him it would guarantee that the world would hate us and it becomes obvious that we can’t stop people from being judgmental toward us. So what does Paul mean here and what are we supposed to actually do? Paul is warning us to be on guard so that when people do unjustly condemn us we won’t be swayed from our faith in the sufficiency of Christ. These unbiblical judgements that place the completeness of Christ’s work into question have no authority and no bearing on our relationship with God. If you are found in Christ, you are a Saint, you have sanctuary access and you can’t get any closer to God than being welcome in His sanctuary. To have the privilege of coming boldly before His throne of grace. And yet…there is the real possibility that we might just be swayed by these judgements. We might allow their judgements against us to alter our faithfulness to Christ. It is a real possibility and so Paul warns us to be on guard and watch our own hearts with self-control.
We’ve all experienced what he is warning against if we’ve ever received feedback from others. Out of 20 people, 19 could give glowing and positive encouragement but if just 1 is critical…just one, it can be almost impossible to get such judgement out of your mind! Now this is not always a bad thing. Scripture promises that a faithful man will be willing to wound his friend with righteous judgement if it he is out of line with the Word of God and in need of rebuke. But that is not what is going on here. Paul is NOT saying “ignore faithful rebukes” but rather “let no one judge you” based on the following things. At the time of the letter, The Judaizers, New Testament Jews were seeking to corrupt Christianity. They were engaged in a full court press on the Colossian Christians in an attempt to get them to adopt or go back to Old Covenant ways, Old Covenant thinking, food laws, ceremonial laws, and sacrificial laws. In essence, they were arguing that additional steps to salvation were required through obedience to the law. Paul’s command is to simply disregard these opinions and judgements. Just disregard them. Give them no place in your mind. What Paul is warning against is grounded in the question who do you fear? We must fear God not men. We must obey God and not men. We must seek to be pleasers of God, not pleasers of men. When others want to pass judgement on us for not following rules that God has either not commanded or expressly forbidden, our response should be to blow a raspberry and continue faithfully serving the King.
Old Testament food laws, or various days of celebration these were but a shadow of the Christ who was to come. These laws were all good in their time before the coming of Christ. But now that Christ is here these laws are like the moon compared to the sun. Like a shadow compared to the person who casts the shadow. There is no comparison in terms of glory or goodness or completeness and only a fool would want to cling to the shadow when the real person that shadow belongs to is here.
As we’ve been saying, Christ is preeminent and is sufficient and we need to believe this.
Food laws as understood in the Old Covenant are no longer of any value because when Christ came, He expressly made all foods clean. It’s not that the law is gone, its that all foods have been made clean. Now that Christ has come, we are no longer violating the law that prohibits unclean foods. There aren’t anymore unclean foods! Praise God! Christ came to make all things new and food was at the top of the list of the many things he redeemed. What goes into a man does not defile him but rather what comes out of his heart. All food is good. All food is clean. All food should cause us to give thanks to God who daily provides for our needs. Organic or not. Homemade or not. Passed through a car window or not, all food should cause us to Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Just as our relationship to food has radically changed with the coming of Christ, our observance and celebration of days has also been completely transformed. Paul refers to festivals, new moons, and sabbath days all of which are based on the phases of the moon. James Jordan points out that all of these days of observance have their roots in the night which is now over. The jews set their months based on the new moon. Every time there was a new moon that was the beginning of the month and the law required a sacrifice and observance. Festivals were generally based off the number of days after the new moon. Sabbath was celebrated from sundown of the night to sundown of the following night. There was an overwhelming emphasis on the night in the Old Covenant. This is why the prophets and by extension the gospel writers place such an emphasis on Jesus being the light of the world. Turn with me to Matthew 4:16 and 17
The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,
And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death
Light has dawned.”
From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Also listen to Malachi 4:1-3 and its emphasis on the word DAY:
For behold, the day is coming,
Burning like an oven,
And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble.
And the day which is coming shall burn them up,”
Says the LORD of hosts,
“That will leave them neither root nor branch.
But to you who fear My name
The Sun of Righteousness shall arise
With healing in His wings;
And you shall go out
And grow fat like stall-fed calves.
You shall trample the wicked,
For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet
On the day that I do this,”
Says the LORD of hosts.
Old covenant is the night of the world. We no longer live in the night but in the glorious day of the Sun of righteousness and therefore we have no need to be held to the the nighttime festivals of the old covenant for we have the true substance from which all of these shadow-like laws pointed to: the God-man Jesus Christ.
Before moving on I would like to point out that this verse has been used by antinomians to argue against observing the Lord’s Day each week. Antinomians are those who say that there are no parts of God’s law that have any binding authority over believers. Antinomian means “against the law” and it is rampant in modern Christianity. Essentially, antinomians assert that these verses nullify the 4th commandment which requires us to honor the Sabbath day. This is not correct as there are sabbath observances throughout the Old Covenant that are in addition to THE Sabbath referred to in the 4th commandment, a day of rest and worship. Paul is not nullifying the command of God and example set at the Creation of the world. An example which leads us to rest, worship, and cease from our normal labors on the Lord’s Day but is rather saying that we are not held in bondage to the various and extensive sabbaths with all of their extra-biblical rules and requirements. We’ve been set free from all of that…free to find true Sabbath rest.
Vs. 18 and 19 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.
Paul again warns us not to be influenced by these Judaizers who wish to cheat us of our reward. These particular scoundrels love to appear humble to everyone. These are the kind of people you would likely hear give the humblebrag. The humblebrag goes like this “I’m extremely humbled to be honored with the title of #1 shower ring salesman in 4 counties.” In Pauls day, these people felt that angels were so powerful and close to God that it was a wise thing to include them in their worship. This is similar to the way the Roman Catholic church includes prayers to Mary and the past saints. Their argument is that just as we might ask a fellow believer to pray for us, Mary and the saints can also be asked to pray for us and intercede to the Father for us on our behalf. This seems really humble. As if we understand we need all the help we can get. It couldn’t hurt and maybe it will make us a little bit closer to God which has always been our noble and dedicated goal. But if you think this way, you aren’t believing the good news that Christ is sufficient save sinners and to make you fully qualified to come right into the presence of God and crawl up into His lap. There is no reason why we would pray to Mary, or St. Augustine, or to angels when we, as Saints, have direct access to the sanctuary where Our Father is residing in fact calls us to come. Why the need for a middle man?
When we introduce extra biblical ideas such as angel worship, food restrictions, new moon festivals, etc. we are, in practice, not holding on to Christ as the Head from whom Paul tells us comes the growth of the rest of the body, the Church. Remember back in verse 18 of chapter 1: And He (speaking of Christ) is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. If we are worshipping angels, attempting to reestablish food laws, restricting certain types of drinking, and requiring celebration of festivals, we are forgetting who is already preeminent. There is nothing you can add to the work of Christ. In all ways, adding additional requirements only serves to water down the work of Christ to save sinners and is a sign of spiritual pride and immaturity. It is Christ plus nothing that equals salvation. Trying to add to His work is a sign that you are not growing in Christ and are instead being held captive by the elementary principals of this world.
While those of us in this church might not be likely to worship angels, or pray to Mary or the saints, a much more likely scenario where we might be cheated of our reward due to false humility relates to the fathers in our midst.
Fathers you are the head of your homes just as Christ is the Head of the body the Church. There is a temptation in our culture obsessed with so-called toxic masculinity to engage in false humility as it relates to this role of headship. We can be tempted overemphasize the servant nature of our leadership and this can cause us in effect to not actually lead. We must not abdicate our role as leaders due to laziness, political pressure, feelings of inadequacy, or false humility as we have been appointed to this position by our Father in heaven.
To faithfully obey God is to serve your family by leading them in faith, carrying the glorious burden of responsibility and headship. Not shying away from the role God has assigned you.
Fathers, you might not feel you are qualified to rule your homes. You may ask yourself, how is simply being biologically male a qualification for headship?
Well because God said so. He was the One made you male so that you might serve others by leading them. Don’t allow the false humility often masked beneath the banner of “servant leadership” to rob you of your reward.
Wait, did he just say that servant leadership is a false humility?
Being a father and lovingly ruling your home is a glorious thing and something that all men should aspire toward. It is false humility that causes us to second guess the authority God has given fathers. It is a lack of faith and spiritually prideful. Our false humility mocks at the idea that God’s design of father’s ruling their homes could come about simply by that father being born a man. Where is the merit in that? Are you really qualified simply because you’re a man? The answer is yes because God makes you qualified. You didn’t choose to be man, God chose for you to be man. Because we can be so swayed by this cultural obsession to strip men of their God-given role as rulers we emasculate the idea of leader down to something we call a servant leader, someone always serving but never leading. I’m not being critical of the term servant leader as an idea but rather of its practice. God calls us to be leaders who yes, lead by serving but also who serve by leading. We must serve our wives and our families by leading them. When we have this paradigm shift this causes us to get out onto the front lines of the battle where glory and rewards awaits.
So how can we as fathers serve by leading? We can lead our families into the house of the Lord for worship each and every week of the year. We can be the first on our knees confessing our own sins and leading our families to follow our example. We can lead by singing the psalms and hymns with a battle fervor followed by a hearty, earth-shattering amen that is free of self consciousness. We can faithfully lead family worship learning and singing psalms and hymns, reading and teaching our children Proverbs, telling them Bible stories at bedtime, catechizing them daily with good doctrine, and proactively washing our wives in the water of the Word. We can be the first one to wake up each morning and the last one to go to bed as we provide financially, emotionally, and spiritually for those who have been placed under our rule. We can lead the education of our covenant children not leaving it merely for mom to figure out but shouldering the leadership and responsibility seeing to it that our children are brought up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. We can be the first to forego our own comfort and entertainment, the first to see to it that everyone has been fed and be the last one to sit-down to eat. We can do this because God’s Word is clear that we must rule as Christ ruled. Jesus loves and leads the Church by laying down His life for her even in her unlovliness. Yes he led by serving but He also served by leading. He was unashamed of the role of King, the crown of glory, His Father had given Him. As fathers ourselves we need to remember the words of Revelation 1:6 “To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. “ fathers: Have the same king mindset. The same vision. We have been made kings like Christ and we mustn’t be afraid to rule as kings with a fearless leadership that seeks to serve by leading while guarding against false humility so that we might obtain a reward that is secure and can never be taken from us.
Vs 20-22 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men?
Paul asks a rhetorical question here. If we have died with Christ that means we have died to laws such as don’t touch this, don’t handle that, don’t eat this, etc. When you are dead you can’t be held accountable to follow any laws. Now that Christ has come and is saving the world, All foods have been made clean. Sin doesn’t spread through the touching of or handling of unclean things. Christ’s righteousness is spreading and death is not, the Sun of Righteousness is rising and the darkness of the night fleeing. We are dead to those basic and elementary principals of the world that in former days were our tutor guarding and protecting us as we awaited the coming of Messiah. They no longer offer any additional benefit in our desire to please God because we are dead in Christ. Now thankfully we haven’t stayed dead and the good news is that we are also are risen in Christ. When we rise with Christ we rise into the world He has redeemed and is redeeming. The law is now redeemed and our understanding of it and obedience to it is also redeemed. It still exists, Jesus said it would never pass away, but now we have been made able to follow it without being held under it or being condemned by it. If you truly want to please God then you must recognize that following the Old Covenant laws will not please God and in fact, in many instances He has now forbidden you from following the Old Covenant laws. You have died to that basic principle and should not be looking to it to offer any salvation. This is a big deal. It’s not simply a preference where on one hand you follow the old covenant laws and on the other you don’t this way would be better...No.
There isn’t room for both.
In the sunrise of Christ, following the Old Covenant laws as though Christ hasn’t come is nothing short of idolatry.
Following food laws when Christ has made all things clean is worshipping the Creation rather than the Creator. It’s worshipping your own declaration of what is clean and unclean. If you are dead to those things why on earth would you subject yourself to them? Do you actually trust Christ’s work to be sufficient for saving you? If so, then you will find no need for additional displays of piety, no need for extra levels of devotion to move you up the spiritual approval ladder.
Vs. 23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.
Paul isn’t naive. He knows why it is a temptation for Christians to hold themselves to extra-biblical and extra-Christian standards. It gives the appearance of wisdom often cloaked in that same false humility he has already warned us about. We are super creative when it comes to finding ways to try and give ourselves credit for our salvation. I have a book called Stories of the Saints that I often read to my kids. I will give it a cautious recommendation as it can be read somewhat like fairy tales for Christians. The book is written by a Roman Catholic and follows dozens of Christians that the Roman Catholic church has given the title of Saint too. While Colossians teaches that all those baptized into Christ are saints, the Roman Catholics has a system which adds additional layers of devotion before one can achieve this title. This is a big problem. Anyway, in the book a very common theme found in the mythical retelling of the lives of these past saints regards their self-imposed religious neglect of the body. Some take vows of silence, others fast for months while living in the dessert, some live in caves to get away from people, one super spiritual guy lived on the top of a 60 foot pole for 30 years. This neglect of the body is done so that the person can prove their devotion to Christ thereby deserving their salvation and becoming more holy and closer to God. This is madness and a simple lack of faith. Holding oneself to a standard higher than what the bible reveals may have the appearance of wisdom and it might look impressive but it is of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. I remember early in my own life holding to a teetotaler view of alcohol consumption. Total abstinence from alcohol was the only view I felt was truly Christian. But a gracious friend pointed out to me that I was in my own mind attempting to be holier than the bible. The bible never prohibits alcohol and in fact often requires it. I was holding myself to a self-imposed religion that offered no value against the indulgence of the flesh. Ironically I felt alcohol consumption was a dangerous fleshly indulgence and so I sought to impose on myself and others a strict prohibition which did not lead to a life of less indulgence but of more indulgence because now I had to deal with false humility which also known as spiritual pride. This is because only Christ’s work on the cross is of any value to combat fleshly indulgence. Glory be to God that I’ve since repented of that view and consider myself a recovering teetotaler.
Do you believe Christ is sufficient? If so, stop trying to replace His sufficiency with your own Christless righteousness. Such self-imposed religion isn’t protecting you from fleshly indulgence anyway. Do you have a sin problem? Is there ongoing indulgence of the flesh in your life? Don’t try and combat it by relying on the creation of extra-biblical rules. Those things might help stay away from sin but they can never save you from sin. Only Christ’s righteousness effectively applied to every one of your indulgences of the flesh can cleanse your sins from scarlet to whiter than snow.
So as we conclude Colossians chapter 2 I want you to think about 3 things.
First, don’t be a pleaser of men but rather be a pleaser of God. If others try and hold you to a standard or rule that Christ did not command, you are required to NOT let their judgement against you hold you back from obeying God. Just as the anger of man cannot produce the righteousness of God, neither can our fear of man produce true righteousness. Good works that truly please God, are only produced when our hearts have been changed and transformed through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit or to put another way, when we fear God instead of man.
Second, beware of false humility. It is nothing more than a demented form of spiritual pride. Fathers, cultivate your king mindset. You’ve been called to lead your family in the Fear of the Lord, protecting them from the fear of man. Serve your families by leading them without false humility which ultimately ends in not leading in the first place. It’s good to be a man. Be grateful for the calling to which you have been called. Its a glorious thing to be a father and you were made to rule, don’t shirk that responsibility behind the false humility of egalitarianism. Act like king, set your face like flint, and serve your family by leading them.
Third, believe that Christ is sufficient. If you truly believed that Christ has made you acceptable to God, you would realize how foolish and silly it is to try and make yourself acceptable to God through various works of the flesh. He is already so full of love for you that He willingly laid His life down and died an agonizing and humiliating death so that your sins would be fully cleansed. He didn’t do it grudgingly or with resentment. He did it for the joy that was set before him, a joy that sprang from the knowledge that He was laying His life down for His bride who would one day be glorious in her resplendent beauty having been fully redeemed by His love. Stop thinking that you need to or can do things that make yourself acceptable to God. Christ’s work is sufficient and so rest in His work and it will free you to build His kingdom because you will be 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.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!
Will you please stand with me and turn to number 666 in your Cantus. The Son of God Goes Forth to War
Christ is sufficient. But sufficient for what? What has He accomplished? For His people, He has secured our salvation so that when we die we will go to heaven and one day will rise again from the dead. But His sufficient work has accomplished something else, it has given us an invitation of welcome to His table, fully at peace with His Father. In the Old Covenant there were three main offerings, the guilt offering, this corresponds to our confession of sin and the promise of Christ’s forgiveness. Then there is the Ascension offering or whole burnt offering. This corresponds to the reading and preaching of God’s Word. We are cut up by His Word and we ascend into His presence with His Word piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow. And the final offering that was made was the peace offering in which the worshipper was actually allowed to partake of the meal. That corresponds to where we are now. We have been forgiven, we have been consecrated, and now we get to commune. Christ’s work has been sufficient to bring us to this table and make us worthy and wanted participants. For those in Christ, we actually belong here not because of our ability to do the right thing but because of the sufficiency of Christ to save sinners and unite us in peace with God. And so for all who have been baptized into Christ come and welcome to Jesus.