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Colossians: 04 The Reality Is Christ

Updated: Nov 13, 2022


At work, I have several pictures of my family on my desk. From time to time, I will glance at them during the day. Other times, when people visit my office, they see the pictures and ask about my family. The pictures are a reminder of my family and my love for them. They are a reminder of why I am at work. However, the pictures are images. They are not the substance or reality of my family. The pictures can tell you something about my family, but they cannot tell you the whole story of who my family is.

Continuing our study of Colossians, Paul warns the church of things that can "disqualify" Christians, pulling them away from the substance of Christ. Something that, if made the center of their focus, can disconnect them from the reality of Christ. We have talked about cultural pressures in Colossae, teaching, hollow and deceptive philosophy that sought to supplement the message of Christ. Continuing, Paul warns of shadows which themselves are not the reality.

Digging Into The Word

Colossians 2:16–23 (NIV)

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

The Fullness of Christ

As we consider this passage, we begin with the word "therefore." The apostle continues his thoughts from (2:9-15). He has revealed the fullness of Christ, our salvation in Him, and His victory over the powers and authorities of this world. Therefore, since Christ is all-sufficient, there is no need to exchange shadows for reality.


Today, perhaps due to books or movies, when we read the word "shadow," we may think of something dark, scary, or uneasy. Paul is not using the word "shadow" in that context. Instead, a shadow is a representation of something. For example, a shadow is cast on the ground when we stand between the sun and the earth. The shadow is a mere representation of reality. In this sense, the shadow is somewhat like the pictures on my desk. They are only an image of my family. They are not the reality of my family.

Regulations in the Law of Moses, Sabbath days, religious festivals, and dietary restrictions were shadows of the reality that now is Christ. Paul recorded in his letter to the Romans:

Romans 15:4 (NIV)

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.

It's not that we should dismiss the Old Testament or that the Old Covenant does not have any value for us today. On the contrary, it is difficult, at best, to understand Jesus, or the New Testament apostles and writers, without an understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. Themes, concepts, and principles begin in the Old Testament and carry forward in the New Testament. The Scriptures tell one story, the story of God working in creation through His Son Jesus. The story of redemption through Messiah Jesus. We cannot dismiss the origin story and expect to understand the fulfillment. However, as Paul teaches us, the reality is now Christ. Seeking salvation in the shadows would be to reject the reality of Jesus.

False Humility & The Worship of Angles

Other pressures challenging the church at Colossae were false teachers. Teachers who had "false humility" and took pride in their heavenly visions. False humility implies self-denial of the body, as we read in (2:23), restricting the body or denying their bodies through harsh treatment. Other teachers boasted about what they had perceived in their minds. Paul's criticism of these teachers is sharp. Paul's answer is yes, but it is the mind of the flesh, not the spirit of God.

Such teachers have lost connection with the head, Christ, "...from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow." (2:19). The reality is Christ in which the body is nourished and grows. Following such deceptive philosophies and teachings results in being cut off from the source of life.

John 15:5–6 (NIV)

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

Bridging The Context

If those in Colossae were to fall captive to such perceived wisdom and teachings, they would again enslave themselves to the things they had been freed from. "Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules" (2:20). These contain the appearance of wisdom, but they lack value and are only shadows of the reality that is Christ.

Life in Christ is a life of freedom. Yet, so often, in our day, we can surround ourselves with self-imposed rules and regulations. Faithfulness and truth are measured by the political party that receives your vote, the clothes you wear, or the piercings on your body. With each rule and regulation, self-imposed walls become higher and tighter. Eventually, we surround ourselves with such self-imposing walls that we are in a room of one, disconnected from the Head, which is Christ.

Questions To Consider

Have I put walls up that Christ has broken down?

Is salvation based on my actions and regulations or the reality of Christ?


end notes:

Unless otherwise noted; Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by Permission. All rights reserved worldwide. The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011).


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