February 4 I Friday
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” —Colossians 2:8
News of false doctrines and practices within the church at Colossae had reached Paul in Rome. From prison, he writes his response, addressing issues that had sidetracked the people and reverting them back to the supremacy, centrality and sufficiency of Christ. This is still a problem today in which differences in non-essential matters will cause disunity and prompt legalism within the church of Jesus Christ.
Legalism is where the focus moves from the internal life and relationship with God to external patterns of behaviour. Paul says, “Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival…or a Sabbath day” (Colossians 2:16). Rules were being imposed on the people, attaching spiritual virtue to nonessential matters. “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” Paul emphatically repudiates this, “These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings” (Colossians 2:21-22).
Paul rebukes their delighting in false humility and the worship of angels, which were causing the church to lose connection with the Head, who is Christ. Some were influenced by hollow and deceptive philosophy that depended on human tradition and basic world principles rather than on Christ. They were inadvertently undermining the indispensability and sufficiency of Christ. It is one thing to believe in the supremacy of Christ, but quite another to believe in the sufficiency of Christ. It is not Christ plus various things, but Christ alone, period. Every addition to Christ, in reality, is a subtraction from Him, because it is by the measure to which He is insufficient that we need to add to Him.
When we deviate from the main thing, we become preoccupied with the lesser thing, which is why Paul is correcting the church in Colossae. Fundamental in Scripture is the nature of God and of Christ, the nature of His work on the cross and the work of the Holy Spirit in restoring us into the image of God. These are essential beliefs in which there must be unity.
If someone is seeking to understand Scripture in its context and comes up with different conclusions, such as what not to eat, or setting a day aside as special to the Lord, we respect that. These are nonessential issues, and there is liberty in choosing them. In essential beliefs there must be unity and in nonessential beliefs, liberty.
Prayer: Dear God, I pray for unity in Your church and that we work in harmony with respect for the preference of others in nonessential matters. Thank You, Lord.