This week we have been studying Colossians 2:16-23, in which Paul writes that Christians should not be judged based on following the wrong set of rules. Look at Colossians 2 verse 17 to see how he describes these rules: they are a shadow of the things that were to come, but the reality is found in Christ. What is he talking about? A shadow? What might have been the shadow that pointed to the future reality of Jesus? In other words, what was God’s previous way of relating to humanity that was fulfilled in Jesus? The Mosaic Law. The Mosaic Law had all kinds of rules and regulations about what to eat and what to drink, and what festivities to participate in. 600 some rules!
But now here is Paul saying that those rules where a shadow, pointing to something that was real. We know how different our shadow looks compared to our body. Does our shadow resemble our body? Of course. But the difference is vast. That’s the difference between the OT Law and Christ. In Christ, Paul is saying, we are freed from following the rules and regulations of the OT Law. Therefore, we shouldn’t allow people to judge us based on whether or not we are following those rules and regulations. We can say, “Don’t judge me,” to people who are evaluating us based on rules and regulations that don’t apply to us. Want an example? Tattoos. The Mosaic Law in the OT is very clear that God didn’t want his chosen people Israel to get tattoos. Just read Leviticus 19:28. But that doesn’t apply to New Testament Christians! We are free from the law.
What else was going on in the church Colosse that might help us understand this situation with rules and judging? Up to this point, I can tell you that the investigation, the clues we have found so far, have me thinking that Paul is referring to the Judaizers, the people who believed that Christians had to not only place their faith in Jesus but also convert to Judaism and follow the stipulations of the Mosaic Law…all those rules. But the clues we’re about to find now seem to take our investigation in a different direction.
In verses 18-19, then Paul goes into some detail explaining what the judgmental people were like. The people promoting the Colossian Heresy, Paul says, delighting in false humility and worship of angels. They are the kind of people who go into great detail about visions, and they have unspiritual minds that puff them up with idle notions. In other words, they are very self-focused. Though they give the impression that they are humble, they brag about their spirituality. What this reveals is that they are not following the way of Jesus, they do not have the fruit of the Spirit flowing from their lives, but instead their minds are arrogant, puffed up.
Paul says in verse 19 that they are disconnected from Jesus. When Paul says that, he is making a serious accusation. Jesus is the head of the body, of the church. Paul says what we Christians know, theologically at least, that we the church are dependent on God to help us, to empower us to grow. We need God’s Spirit working in our lives, so that we can grow the Fruit of the Spirit. We cannot do it on our own.
If we are disconnected from Jesus, then, we’re in a really bad situation. The image Paul uses is gruesome, right? A body that has been severed from its head! That’s what Paul is saying the people teaching the Colossian heresy are. Headless. And they show they are headless by their behavior and character. In other words, those people doing the false judging are not real Christians. They can’t be! They are headless.
If you want to identify people who are disconnected from Jesus, just watch their behavior, their choices. How they live their life. It will be apparent, obvious. Paul has been saying starting in verse 16 that these headless fake Christians are judgmental, focusing on rules and regulations rather than on Christ. These headless fake Christians are arrogant, falsely humble, focused on a false spirituality.
Instead, think about Jesus focused on? What were the marks of his life? Grace with truth, forgiveness along with accountability, empathy and compassion, selfless and giving love. We are called to be people connected to Jesus, following his way of life.