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Self-Made Religion versus Relationship With Christ

20 If you died with Christ to the elements of this world, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations: 21 “Don’t handle, don’t taste, don’t touch”? 22 All these regulations refer to what is destined to perish by being used up; they are human commands and doctrines. 23 Although these have a reputation for wisdom by promoting self-made religion, false humility, and severe treatment of the body, they are not of any value in curbing self-indulgence. (Colossians 2:20-23)


In these closing verses of the chapter, wrapping up this theme of having complete freedom in Christ, Paul gives a warning against asceticism, “religious philosophy which teaches that depriving the body of its normal desires is a means of achieving greater holiness and approval from God.” Starting off in verses 20 and 21, Paul asks two questions that have some simple answers. First, “Why do you live as if you still belonged to the world?” Believers have died with Christ, and in turn, have also resurrected with Him. Therefore, they are not subject to the evil rulers of the world, but instead, are new creations and are followers of God. So, Paul reminds them of this simple truth, to be separated from the world as they are now identified with Christ.


Second, “Why do you submit to regulations: ‘Don’t handle, don’t taste, don’t touch’?” The false teachers were imposing these supposed rules that their followers would then achieve deeper spirituality. Yet, because of Christ’s work on the cross, believers are free and are under a new covenant: a relationship with Christ, not rules.


As seen in verse 22, these are all “human commands and doctrines,” not from Christ, and therefore, are “destined to perish.” The “work” done to keep up these rules made by the false teachers are worthless. In verse 23, “although these have a reputation for wisdom by promoting self-made religion, false humility, and severe treatment of the body, they are not of any value in curbing self-indulgence.” As Anders writes, “all this external performance has no effect on internal urges.” It does not curb the sinful nature within man. The only thing that can do that is submitting to Christ everything, who provides the Holy Spirit within us to contend with our temptations, as well as provide new holy desires. In the attempt to rid one of self, the false teachers made the whole focus of spiritualism about oneself, diverting away from the One who provides true freedom and true spiritual growth, Jesus Christ the Savior and Lord.


Blessings,

Isaac De Guzman

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