Studies in Colossians and Thessalonians
6. Colossians 2:20-23 - Worthless Human Rules
Paul now uses another argument, building on what he has already written: “If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe [and he implies that we did], why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, ‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch’?” (2:20-21).
The Christian life is not lived by worldly wisdom. The things that sound good to religious philosophers are often wrong. We do not live by those regulations, but by Christ. When Christ died to “the elemental spirits of the universe,” we died to those regulations, too. Those petty rules have no authority over us. Our victory over sin does not come from our ability to keep rules — it comes from Christ on the cross.
“All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings. These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence” (verses 22-23).
Rules about avoiding certain foods, or avoiding work on certain days, may sound good and wise. They might make it look like we have power over our bodies, but they cannot break the power of sin. Only Christ can do that, and he has done it fully and effectively on the cross.
Something to think about
- Why do restrictive rules appeal to people? (v. 23)
Author: Michael Morrison, PhD