Be Transformed to Inward Holiness (Colossians 2:23) ~ A Devotion for October 27, 2014

“These indeed have an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” ~ Colossians 2:23

Explanation of the Text: “What has been implicit in Paul’s argument all along becomes explicit: Their claim to offer a wise and comprehensive system of spiritual growth is nothing but a sham, for all treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found in Christ (Colossians 2:3).”[1] Paul is teaching to show the folly of the ways of the philosophers. He is writing to demonstrate that the teachings of these men are indeed false and that truly it is only Christ who can fulfill this desire for knowledge and wisdom. This verse provides not only a conclusion of that particular teaching, but a summation of what he has been teaching against. In fact, the strange wording of the text in the original language is meant to serve the purpose of not only declaring that the precepts that were supposed to bring honor are wrong, but to abruptly and sharply declare that the only honor found in these ways are those that are satisfied in the people’s carnality.[2] These fleshly ways of the world will do nothing to appease the ways of the spiritual world.

In summation, Paul systematically refers to the three aspects of the false teachers. He refers first to their self-made religion noting their worship of angels (verse 18). He then refers to their asceticism, referring to their self-abasement of the body (verse 18). Finally, he refers to the severity in which they treat the body as has just been discussed in verses 21 and 22. He sums this up and then concludes the verse by indicating that these things have no value in stopping the issues of the flesh. The regulations they set forth, the worship they set forth, did nothing to please God. It did nothing to bring them closer to God. Outwardly it may appear as holiness and piety, but inwardly there is no change. “Even though the regulations envisions and espoused by the philosophy have an appearance or reputation of wisdom, the apostle regards such rules as a spiritual façade and farce.”[3]

Examination & Application of the Text: Asceticism might make a person appear spiritual because of its emphasis on humility and poverty, but it serves only to gratify the flesh. It is a vain attempt to appear more holy than others.”[4] What happens when a person lives their life by a set of rules and regulations without regard for a true heart change, there is no change at all. In fact, what happens is that it becomes a works based religion, which is contrary to the very Gospel of Christ preached throughout the New Testament. What happens is that one begins to try and be a good person by works. They are trying to gain favor with God by their works that they do. However, there is no real heart change. Should we obey the teachings of the Bible? Yes. But we should obey them not because they gain us anything, but because we have a love for God the Father who is deserving of it by the nature of who He is. Outward piety, is no piety at all. Paul’s closing of chapter 2 is simply to state that one must surrender themselves to Him.

[1] Douglas J. Moo, The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon, Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008), 240.

[2] T.K. Abbott, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles to the Ephesians and to the Colossians, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1946), 278.

[3] Todd D. Still, Colossians, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 321.

[4] John MacArthur Jr., Colossians, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), 122.

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