Colossians 2 verse 16: Shows Gentile Christians Observed the Biblical Holy Days

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Colossians 2 verse 16

Shows Gentile Christians Observed the Biblical Holy Days

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“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come . . .” wrote Paul in Colossians 2:16-17 Colossians 2:16-17 16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
American King James Version×
(KJV). This passage is often misinterpreted. What does it really say?

Paul was combating a local heresy. False teachers had introduced their own religious philosophy, which was a blend of Jewish and gentile concepts. Their distorted ideas were founded on human “tradition” and “principles of the world,” not on the Word of God. Paul warned the Colossians to “beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8 Colossians 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
American King James Version×
).

These false teachers introduced their own rules and regulations for their idea of proper conduct (Colossians 2:20-22 Colossians 2:20-22 20 Why if you be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are you subject to ordinances, 21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not; 22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?
American King James Version×
). The content of Paul’s warning to the Colossian church strongly indicates that these heretics were the forerunners of a major heresy that developed into gnosticism—a belief system maintaining that secret knowledge ( gnosis is Greek for “knowledge,” hence the term gnosticism ) can enhance one’s religion. Gnostics claimed to be so spiritual that they disdained virtually everything physical, regarding it as beneath them.

The false teachers in Colosse rejected the physical—the perishable things that could be touched, tasted or handled (Colossians 2:21-22 Colossians 2:21-22 21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not; 22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?
American King James Version×
) —particularly when it related to worship. Their philosophy encouraged neglect of the physical needs of the body to attain heightened spirituality. In reality, however, their self-imposed religion did nothing of the sort and accomplished nothing in combating human nature. As Paul wrote, it was of “no value against the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:23 Colossians 2:23 Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body: not in any honor to the satisfying of the flesh.
American King James Version×
).

The Christians in Colosse obeyed God. They kept His Sabbath and Holy Days, and they rejoiced on them, following biblical instruction (Deuteronomy 16:10-11 Deuteronomy 16:10-11 10 And you shall keep the feast of weeks to the LORD your God with a tribute of a freewill offering of your hand, which you shall give to the LORD your God, according as the LORD your God has blessed you: 11 And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you, and your son, and your daughter, and your manservant, and your maidservant, and the Levite that is within your gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are among you, in the place which the LORD your God has chosen to place his name there.
American King James Version×
, Deuteronomy 16:13-14 Deuteronomy 16:13-14 13 You shall observe the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that you have gathered in your corn and your wine: 14 And you shall rejoice in your feast, you, and your son, and your daughter, and your manservant, and your maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within your gates.
American King James Version×
). The heretics condemned the Colossian church for the manner in which the Colossians observed the Holy Days. Notice that they didn’t challenge the days themselves. It was the physical enjoyment of them—rejoicing and feasting—that provoked the objections of these false teachers.

Notice Paul’s words again: “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding [Greek meros, meaning ‘part,’ or ‘regarding any portion of’] a festival or a new moon or sabbath” (Colossians 2:16 Colossians 2:16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
American King James Version×
). Paul was telling the Colossians to ignore these heretics’ judgments and criticisms about their enjoyment of the eating and drinking aspects of God’s festivals.

Rather than showing disregard for the days God established as holy, Paul’s comments in this passage actually confirm that the Colossian Christians—who were primarily gentiles (Colossians 2:13 Colossians 2:13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, has he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
American King James Version×
)—were observing the weekly Sabbath and Holy Days of God more than 30 years after Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.

Had they not been observing these days, the heretics would have had no basis for their objections to the eating and drinking aspects—the feasting portion—of the Sabbath and the Holy Days. (Read the online Bible study aid booklet The New Covenant: Does It Abolish God’s Law? )

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