As many of you know I have a poor attention span, as you can no doubt tell by the lack of attention paid to my “regular” blog posts!
While struggling not to fall asleep in the evening meeting at camp (kids are exhausting) I flicked passed Romans something into Colossians, Chapter 2, and my eye was drawn to the first paragraph on the page, which was vs 20
New Living Translation (NLT)
20 You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, 21 “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? 22 Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. 23 These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.
I read this verse and it totally summed up a lot of how I feel about the old testament law. So I remembered the passage (a little more awake now) listened through to the rest of the talk (catching up with Romans) and enjoyed some interesting conversation about deserving the Grace of God.
But the verse came back to me later on during the leaders supper, and it just spoke to me so much I knew I had to write about it!
In Colossians 2 Paul starts of by telling the people about how much he wanted to visit the church again! He “agonized” (Col.2v1) about it, he is writing in this chapter about “Freedom from Rules and New Life in Christ” as the subtitle in my NLT Bible says. Paul is rallying the Colossians against false teachings, telling them to stand strong in their faith in Jesus. Paul is keen for the members of the church who are newer to have a “complete confidence… in Christ Himself”(Col.2v2)
Paul goes on to explain about the lack of need for men to be circumcised (v11), and tells people to not be guilt-ed when people accuse them of breaking Jewish laws about what they eat or drink, or what they do on Holy days and generally not following traditional Jewish laws and celebrations.
In verses 20-23 Paul sums up the chapter nicely.
I suppose that the classic line “I’m not religious, I’m in a relationship with God” can trace it’s origins back to Colossians 2 and other similar passages, I really feel that Paul is trying to say that there are no ceremonies to follow, no rituals or sacrifices you have to make to prove yourself to God.
God knows your heart, God knows the things that we don’t show each other, as well as the things we do! Our hypocritical moments and lifestyles stand out to God more clearly than black and white. God doesn’t care about showmanship and grandstanding gestures. Rather, Paul tells us that these look good because they require ” strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline”
There is nothing inherently wrong with that and it can be good to do such things
BUT they are not compulsory!
Paul’s last words in the chapter “The provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires” explains exactly why the old laws have no binding.
God’s revolution of faith through Jesus stripped away the need for rituals and highlights the need for a heart filled with compassion, that loves unconditionally and that strives to conquer the darkness/mean streak/evil..etc that plagues our existence (starting as far back as day 6…)
Paul expands on this in Chapter three… which you can find here!
So to summarize
The old law was good for keeping people civil towards each other (to some extent) trying to keep people healthy and safe. In a time where there were more doctors, law enforcement and basic hygiene (roman baths) then laws about such things were not what the people needed. The people NEED(ed) to get in touch with God.
Thanks to Jesus’ death and resurrection we can now communicate directly with God, though the Holy Spirit which teaches us, guides us and helps us in all things.
Instead, what Paul is saying that the ‘Human Condition’ is were the problem lies, we need :
22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT))
A little bit of the Holy Spirit goes a long way to removing the need for the old testament law.
Instead we can look at OT commandments (and laws in a case by case basis) as given by Jesus
36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40 NLT)
So when thinking about how the Old Testament laws might still apply to our lives, we need to look at them through this perspective – First Love God, then Love your fellow man – if the law doesn’t alter how you might do that, do you need to apply it to your life?
There is no mystery or secret to living life. Life is just what Jesus said – Loving God, and loving your fellow man (and women!) as you love yourself!