Colossians: Rooted in Christ-week 7-Freedom in Christ
Study: Leah Perona-Wright
Reading: Colossians 2 v. 16-23
Sermon date: October 21st
Consider and share with each other:
Do you think of yourself as a rule keeper or a rule breaker?
Do you have any rules in your home/family? If so, what are they?
Where did the rules come from? Did you make a conscious decision to put them into action?
Please read together through Colossians 2 V. 16 – 23
This passage of Colossians can be misinterpreted. It is not saying that all rules are wrong.
The author of Colossians is specifically addressing concerns over some teaching which they believed was a threat to the faith and life of the Christian community. The teaching they are challenging, which was particularly prevalent at the time, is sometimes called the ‘Colossian heresy’. The advocates of this teaching/philosophy did not see themselves as presenting an alternative to the Christian faith. Instead they presented their doctrines as an older, deeper and more comprehensive religious system into which Jesus Christ should be fitted. Perhaps we can see why the Christians at the time were being taken off track.
Q.1 Do you feel like you need to follow certain religious rules or practices in order to be a good Christian? Why do you feel the way you do?
Please re-read verses 16-17
v. 16 ‘Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day’. v. 17 ‘These are a shadow of the things that were to come;’ the reality, however, is found in Christ.
Q.2 Do you find that you feel guilty or perhaps 'judged' by others for not following particular Christian habits, patterns of worship or 'rules of life'? Have these judgments been voiced, or are they your perception?
Q.3 What do you think Jesus would say about these habits, patterns of worship or rules of life?
In verses 16-17 the message is not saying that if you are careful about what you eat or drink, or keep a Sabbath rest day for example, that you are somehow doing the wrong thing. It is saying that whether or not you do them, these things should not be a cause for guilt. We should not allow others (intentionally or unintentionally) to make us feel 'judged' in these areas either. It is between us and Jesus, and we need to decide what brings us closer to Him. Essentially the writer of Colossians did not want the Christians to end up living a life that was over- loaded with burdensome rules and rituals. This is not the way to fullness of life. Everything we need is found in Christ.
Please re-read verses 18-19
Q.4 Do you feel easily intimidated by people who describe visions, or say they have seen angels? If they tried to exclude you from worship or belittle your faith, would
you assume their actions were holy or might you have a different assumption?
Q.5 What does the description of the head and the body make you think of in verse 19? What (or who) do you think the head is? Can you think of any connections with other parts of scripture?
In 1 Corinthians 12: 12-27 there is the description about the body of Christ and how we are all a part of it, and each part matters and has it's part of play. The final verse concludes: 'Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.'
You could also take a look at Ephesians 4: 14-16 and see that a very similar theme to our Colossians reading appears here, with an encouragement not to be 'tossed about by the waves and every deceitful teaching' but to 'speak the truth to one another in love' in order to enable the Christians to become the 'mature body of him, who is the head, Christ.'
Please re-read verses 20-23.
Q.6 Do you think discipline is a good or bad thing?
It can be easy to read this section and think it is promoting Christians suddenly abandoning all rules. But the clue is at the end of verse 22. There is an encouragement here for the Colossian Christians not just too unquestionably follow all seemingly 'religious' rules or rules of the world, as these are based 'on merely human commands and teachings'. Instead they need to keep coming back to the centre of their faith - Jesus Christ and remember that they are saved by grace. They don't need to earn forgiveness, or grace: 'Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of the world...' (v. 20) - Jesus bought us our freedom. His death brought us life and freedom.
- To keep Jesus Christ at the centre of our faith and lives, to remember the truth of what he has done for us
- Thank Him that because of His life, death and resurrection we can live lives that are free of guilt and shame
- For people who feel they need to earn forgiveness or grace (you could remember people of other faiths here too)
- That we will share that love and freedom with others
Final note on the idea of rules vs. freedom: Spiritual disciplines can be helpful in our Christian discipleship to help us re-balance our lives and curb some of the areas of natural excess. There is nothing wrong with practising and putting in effort in some areas of our life in order to nurture improvement and bring us closer to God (for example, if you think about practising a musical instrument - often we don't really feel like doing it - it's definitely a discipline to do it regularly, but there are huge benefits and 'fruits' to be gained from putting in the regular effort to improve this skill.) Spiritual disciplines are the same. If we find that we are particularly prone to excessive activity (and being busy) for example, then practising the art of being still and quiet can be very beneficial. The idea is that we flex a muscle (an area of life) that is not so strong, and in doing so - in making the effort to work at that area of our life, we can focus our attention more fully on God as we gradually start to eliminate the area of excess that may have been distracting us or pulling us away from Him. You can see in an area like this, the idea of having a rule you are following, or a 'pattern of life' isn't a bad thing - in fact - it's really positive. This passage in Colossians is specifically dealing with a group of Christians who have become so burdened with rules and religious rites that they feel guilty, judged and have totally forgotten that they are free from all that binds them! Jesus Christ is all they need.
Leah Perona-Wright, 18/10/2018