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Ask the Author: The Apostles and the Law — 5 Comments

  1. Neither paul, john, peter, james or jude taught that the law has been altered. But a rare text found in Col.2:16 give us different view about sabbath. Mr. Author, can you clarify this. Thank you.

    • I do have the same question. So we will have to wait for the author to give an answer from his point of view. However briefly, it seems to me that the text unit is demonstrating:

      (1) Our sins have been forgiven (Colossians 2:13). (2) The handwriting of guilt has been blotted out and nailed to the cross (Col 2:14). (The term occures in the NT only in this text. However, this word is known to refere to a handwriting of guilt since the second century BC and fits the context in this unit.) (3) The powers of evil are utterly conqered. No longer are they able to use the handwriting of guilt to use as a handwritung of accusation (Col 2:15). (4) At least the terms holyday, new moon and sabbath days are designated as a shaddow of things to come, pointing to Christ himself to be the ultimate sacrifice on the cross, where our guilt is nailed to and all the animal sacrifices have come to an end (Col 2:16).

      As to the feasts, new moons and sabbath days: Leviticus 23 is differentiating between the sabbath of the decalogue (Lev 23:1-3 and all the other feasts being a shadow of things to come (Lev 23:4-32).
      The feast of trumpets is refered to as a sabbath day (Lev 23:24). The day of atonement is also called a sabbath (Lev 23:32). Some translations are very hesitant to translate it as such, except for the King James Version and other translations.

      The term ahaddow in the book of Hebrews is connected with the sanctuary service (see chapter 10:1ff.). If we remove the Sabbath from the decalogue, the decalogue no longer is a decalogue, as there would be only nine commandmeents. Paul would also contradict himelf in explaining the moral law to be holy,just and good (Romans 7:12) on one sinde, and having the moral law nailed to the cross in Colossians 2:14, on the other side. Maybe this is a preliminary help to enter into an understanding of this text unit in Colossians 2:13-16.


      Winfried Stolpmann

    • Bro Selipat,

      I will be glad to. Below is an excerpt from an unpublished commentary I wrote on the book of Colossians some years ago (it was supposed to be a section in the "Advent Believers Commentary"). I trust it helps to clear things up:

      Verse 16. Since the Colossians have been liberated from the grips of demons, Paul admonishes them to "let no one condemn you." The sense here is that God has already vindicated them through the sacrifice of Messiah, so they are beyond condemnation (cf. Rom 8:1). The areas at which they were subject to condemnation concerned food habits (eating and drinking) and the observance of days (festivals, new moons, or sabbaths).

      The key to understanding this passage is found in the parallel incident in Romans 14 where the common issue of Gentile adjustment into the customs of covenant people is discussed in greater detail (see also 1 Cor 8 and 10). The new believers would have been introduced to new dietary habits and, as in Corinth, some may have been concerned about the ritual purity of the meat sold in the market, and condemned those who decided to continue eating it.

      As it relates to special days, it is obvious that many Christians of Jewish heritage still adhered to the ceremonial calendar. Even Paul himself attempts to reach Jerusalem in time for Passover, observes the Festival of Unleavened Bread, and fulfills the requirements of a Nazarite vow (Acts 18:18; 20:5, 16; 21:26). However, it is possible that as in the church at Rome, there may have been an element in the congregation that criticized those who felt that ceremonial sabbaths were as binding as weekly Sabbaths (Rom 14:5-6).

      In encouraging the congregation to stay strong in the face of criticism, Paul does not condemn those who are convinced about the importance of the ritualist demands of covenant obligation.

      Verse 17. In fact, he reminds the congregation that these things "are a shadow of what is about to come." Some translations incorrectly state that these "were" a shadow. However, Paul does not view them as obsolete, they are relevant practices foreshadowing a heavenly reality. In other words, these things point to the soon to come Messianic kingdom where the redeemed worship God every new moon and Sabbath (Cf. Is 66:23).

      Whatever internal differences may have been taking place in the community over how to keep the food laws or whether a ceremonial Sabbath was as binding as the weekly Sabbath, Paul reminds the congregation that "the body is of Messiah" (literally the body of Messiah). An obvious reference to the church, Paul reminds the Colossians that their true identity is found in Messiah.

      • I have thought for many years that in Colossians 2 Paul was not talking about any laws God has made but rather was discussing the Christian’s relationship to all the regulations man instituted that were put in place to protect against the lawless situation that existed before the Babylonian captivity.

        I believe that because of the two bracketing verses of the section, Col 2:8 and Col 2:22. I suppose that one could think that what Paul was condemning was the works based way that the Jews were treating God’s laws if it were not for Col 2:18, “Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind” (NKJV) which to me doesn’t seem to have anything to do with anything God ever gave us by way of commandment or law, ordinance, regulation, etc.

        I also feel as I believe you do that the problems expressed in Romans and Galatians were universal among all of the churches Paul had dealings with including the one at Colosse.

  2. Thank you. This was a very helpful discussion. I think, our relationship with God in Christ Jesus is intimately connected with the will of God as revealed in His law. By the operation of the Holy Spirit His will becomes our will. In this wider context the letter of the law as a schoolmaster is no longer necessary. (Galatians 3:21-25)

    Paul goes on to say: For ye are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ. (Verse 26 KJV) Within this intimate sonship-relation the law is incorporated into our mind. Far from being eliminated by that relationship -as some fellow christians may think - the law is anchored within that relationship as an indestructible unity. That is good news.

    Winfried Stolpmann


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