There are many passages in the scripture that people
incorrectly use to
demonstrate that the Law of God is abolished.
Colossians chapter two is one of the more common. As
you will see, through careful study, this passage teaches no
such thing. Before continuing, please read Colossians
The topic for this article starts in verse eight where
the Apostle Paul states the purpose of this portion of
scripture. Paul starts off with a warning to, "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" (Col. 2:8). It is
important to remember that the remainder of the chapter is
regarding "philosophy," "vain deceit," "the tradition of
men," and, "the rudiments of the world." With this in
mind we will better understand what Paul is trying to warn
In the next four verses Paul explains the position of the
believer in Christ. We are, "complete in Him" (Col.
2:10), we are of, "the circumcision made without hands"
2:11), we are, "buried with him in baptism" (Col. 2:12), and
we are, "dead in [our] sins" and, "forgiven ... all [our]
trespasses" (Col. 2:13). Clearly the believer has been
restored before God for we are, "complete in Him" and need
nothing from man to add to what God has done. The
next verse, however, is the verse commonly quoted to show
how God's law has been abolished.
In Col. 2:14 Paul states, that the Messiah, "Blott[ed] out
the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was
contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to
his cross." Many take this verse off point and out of
context to make their case that the law of God is done away
with, but this is simply not true. We need to
understand what, "the handwriting of ordinances" were.
The Greek word for ordinance is "dogma" which means,
"a law (civil, ceremonial or ecclesiastical): - decree or
ordinance" (Strong's Concordance), but does this mean Paul
is speaking of the law of God? This was a Greek legal
term that references the penalty a sinner had to pay. If we are still talking
about, "vain deceit," "the tradition of men," and,
rudiments of the world," then I highly doubt he is speaking
of God's law. The ordinances referred to here are the
religious, "dogma" of the pharisees.
The Pharisees were a group who sought to judge others by
their own tradition (Matt. 12:2, Matt 15:1-3, Matt.
16:11-12). Their tradition is what was against us.
The Messiah has removed these for us.
In fact, the greek word "dogma" appears five times
in the New Testament (Luke 2:1, Acts 16:4, Acts 17:7, Eph.
2:15, Col. 2:14). The first three are clearly
referring to an ordinance of man. In both Ephesians
and Colossians it is commonly assumed that this word refers
to the law of God, however, with proper study it will become
clear that the word "dogma" always refers to mans
ordinances/statutes. This will become
more clear as we continue.
In Col. 2:15 Paul continues stating that the Messiah, "spoiled principalities and powers," and he,
"made a shew of
them openly, triumphing over them in it." This begs
the questions, when did the Messiah do this? The Greek
word for principalities is, "archē" which means,
(in various applications of order, time, place or
rank)" (Strong's Concordance G746). The Greek word for
powers is, "exousia" which means, "concretely
magistrate, superhuman, potentate, token of
control" (Strong's Concordance G1849). Both these
words refer to someone in authority, but who did the Messiah,
"make a shew of ... openly" and was in authority? As
always, the scripture has the answer. In Matt. 5:20,
Matt. 9:3-4, Matt. 15:1-9, Matt. 23:26-33, Mark 12:35-37,
Mark 12:38-40, Luke 18:10-14 and many more, the Messiah
openly and publically challenged the Jewish leaders (Scribes
and Pharisees). In fact, many of his conversations
with them could be described as harsh and severe. I
contend that these are they of whom Paul is speaking of.
The Scribes and Pharisees are the principalities and powers.
This fits well for both "archē" and "exousia"
are used for many various rulers and leaders, including the
rulers and leaders of the Jews (Luke 23:7, Acts 9:14, Acts
26:10, etc.). With this understanding we can see why
Paul is calling their ordinances and laws, "vein deceit,"
"the tradition of men," and "the rudiments of the world."
This understanding of the text logically leads to the next statement to,
"Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in
respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath
days" (Col. 2:16). These are the Holydays of God, not
of the world (Lev. 23:2). This passage is not saying that
the Colossians should
not practice these holydays, but that they should not let
anyone judge them as they learn how to practice them.
This was the tradition of the Scribes and Pharisees.
They added ordinances and statutes to God's law (judging
them) to restrict the people of God as to how to follow
God's law. It is important to remember that the
believers in Colosse were Gentile believers. As a
result, you can presume that they had little experience
practicing God's law. This is where grace comes into
play. God is extending grace to all those who have
faith in the Messiah to learn and practice His law. As
one learns more and more what God's word has to say and how
to apply it to his/her life, one needs grace. This is evidenced by other
epistles Paul wrote. After all, he was the, "apostle of
the Gentiles" (Rom. 11:13). In 1 Cor. 5:7-8, Paul,
speaking of the feast of Passover, instructs the Gentile
Corinthians to, "keep the feast." The Corinthians wrote
to Paul asking questions in a previous letter (1 Cor. 7:1).
It is safe to assume that among these were questions
regarding passover, which is why he answered as he did.
Why should we practice these holydays, because the
Bible says they are a, "shadow of things to come" (Col. 2:17). Each one of
these holydays predicts an aspect of future events.
The first four holydays predict the Messiah's first coming,
and the last three predict His second coming. It
stands to reason that since there are three feasts yet to be
fulfilled, that we should at least practice those feasts
still. I would contend that we should still practice
all of God's feasts. In fact, according to Psalms
111:10, "a good understanding have all they that do his
commandments." If we want to understand the event
foreshadowed by these feasts then we need to practice these
Furthermore, in verse 17, we should note that it is the
same sentence as verse 16. The phrase, "which are a
shadow of things to come," is a context clue before the
conclusion of the sentence. The conclusion of the
sentence is, "But the body is of Christ." The
word "is" is not in the original text, which is why
the King James translation has it in italics. We are
to, "Let no man therefore judge [us] in meat, or in drink, or
in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the
Sabbath days, ... but the body of Christ." Only the
body of Christ should judge or determine how we are to
practice these holydays. This thought is echoed in 1
Cor. 5:12-13 where Paul says, "For what have I to do to
judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that
are within? But them that are without God judgeth."
As members of the body of Christ we are to judge ourselves
in an attempt to follow God's law and incorporate it into
our lives. Fortunately, God shows us grace as we learn.
Verses 18 and 19 are repeating what was said in
verses eight and nine. We are not to allow anyone to,
"beguile [us] of [our] reward" by convincing us to,
angels ... which [we] hath not seen." This causes us
to be, "puffed up in [our] fleshly mind" (Col. 2:18-19).
Since we are, "dead with Christ from the rudiments of the
world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to
ordinances," (Col. 2:20). This is more evidence that
we are talking about worldly ordinances, and not God's law.
In fact, the next verse demonstrates the mind of the
Pharisees when challenging Jesus by saying, "Touch not;
taste not; handle not" (Col. 2:21). This was a mantra
of the leaders of the Jews. You were to, "touch not"
the dead body of any man, "taste not" a gnat that
accidentally flew into your mouth (Matt. 23:24), and "handle
not" anything unclean. All of this is a distortion of
God's law and follows after the tradition of men.
In fact, the next thing that Paul states is that this is all going to perish,
"after the commandments and doctrines of men." The
answer is given to us. Paul is clearly talking about
the commandments and doctrines of men, not God. This
is exactly the problem the Messiah faced when He walked the
earth. Over and over the Messiah challenged the
religious leaders and their traditions (Matt. 15:2-3, Mark
It is clear from the text, that Colossians chapter two in no
way removes the Law of God, nor, "nails it to the cross."
What is nailed to the cross is the tradition of the
religious leaders that were adding to God's Word.
Pauls starts in verse eight warning us not to follow after
the, "traditions of men" (Col. 2:8). These traditions
come from the religious leaders of the day known as the
Scribes and Pharisees. They had numerous writings
adding statutes and regulations to God's law. We have
their writings today in a collection we call the Talmud.
It is these types of extra-bibilical writings that we should
be aware of. The appeal here is to stick to the
scripture and not to add to or take away from God's law
(Deut. 4:2, Deut. 12:32). Paul even ends this passage the way he
began, with an appeal to beware of, "the commandments and
doctrines of men" (Col. 2:22). As the Messiah stated,
heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no
wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled" (Matt. 5:18).
If there is an earth beneath your feet and a sky above your
head, God's law still remains.
The amazing thing is, God offers grace to all those who
practice faith in the Messiah so that we might learn how to
practice His law. For more on the, "ordinances"
that were abolished please read my article on
Ephesians Chapter Two.