Warning Against False Teaching
Open Your Bible
Colossians 2:16-23, Romans 14:1-23, James 3:13-18
My favorite homeschooling outfit is a warm pair of long blue socks, pulled up to my knees, where they joyfully meet my short sweatpants, combining for an overall effect that my husband calls, “The Francis Schaeffer Look.” If your beauty doesn’t spark in your husband’s mind a comparison to modern Christian apologist and enthusiastic knicker-wearer Francis Schaeffer, is the flame even still burning in your marriage?
Really, I’m not in bad company. Schaeffer famously argued, “Regardless of a man’s system, he has to live in God’s world.” It can be a tricky thing, living in this world, don’t you think? We are tempted to act like we’re in charge here—like we’re running the show and the whole world belongs to us. It doesn’t. This is God’s world, and we are here to glorify Him.
This world tells us to work harder and be smarter, to say all the right things at just the right time, to wear fashionable hosiery (something other than, say, blue knee-high socks). We can attempt to apply this system to our faith, to try to do more to make ourselves just a little more worthy of God. But this is treating the world as ours, to be managed and regulated as we humans think it ought to be run.
This is the lie some Colossians were being persuaded to believe. Paul’s rebuke in this letter against legalism, righteousness by works, self-made religion and asceticism is speaking against the false teachers in Colossae who had forgotten the true gospel, that Christ alone is our justifier (Colossians 1:12–23; Romans 3:26). “Therefore,” Paul instructs, “don’t let anyone judge you in regard to food and drink or in the matter of a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day,” or any other regulation (Colossians 2:16).
You can almost hear Paul’s frustration, “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: ‘Don’t handle, don’t taste, don’t touch’?” (Colossians 2:20–21). Instead of trying to follow the world’s instructions, we are called to pursue the Lord, and seek what He loves. Jesus promises wisdom from above, and the fruit of His wisdom “is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without pretense. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace” (James 3:17–18).
Paul reminds us there is true freedom in this: We belong to Christ. While we live in this fallen world in need of grace, we belong to another King and His kingdom. We can be free of the tyranny of the rules of this world, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.