Colossians 2:16-17

Let No Man Judge You



1. Therefore: This word links the command back to the context of the previous section… which speaks of the EFFECTS of the cross of Christ in defeating all of our foes.

2. Consider what Christ has accomplished for us so far in this book:

a. Our old man died with Christ and we were raised as new creatures in Christ. (2:11-12)

b. Provision has been made for the putting off the body of the sins of the flesh. (2:11)

c. We have been quickened together with Him: Life! (2:13)

d. We have had all of our sins forgiven. (2:13)

e. The law and its demands which were against us have been met, paid in full, and taken away—nailed to His cross. (2:14)

f. Satan and the powers of darkness have been defeated, exposed as frauds, stripped of their power over us, and triumphed over… (2:15)

g. Salvation has been completed. (Reconciliation; redemption; regeneration; forgiveness of sins). Finished!

h. We are COMPLETE in Christ. Nothing needs to be added. We have all we need in Christ (2:10)… for complete salvation and for a worthy walk.

i. And on top of that, every one of our enemies: (world; flesh; the devil) have all been delivered a death blow at the cross. None of them can harm us as we walk by faith.

3. Paul gives the REASON why we should not let men judge us. The reason: because of all that Christ accomplished on the cross!

a. We are not to judge one another in such areas because we are FREE from Jewish law in particular… and from the principle of law in general.

b. Because of the absolute effectiveness of the blood of Christ to redeem us from sin and from law, STOP allowing anyone to judge you on issues like foods, observing days, and rituals such as circumcision.

c. They add NOTHING to our salvation or sanctification.

d. Therefore, stop allowing people to judge you!

4. After all Christ has done and accomplished for us, what could you possibly DO to ADD to HIS work?

a. All we need for salvation is found in Christ. Salvation is God’s work. It is finished. It is perfect.

b. All we need for sanctification is found in Christ.

c. We have ALL spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. We have all we need for life and godliness. We have all the power of the resurrection available to us. Our position in Him is settled for eternity. We are indwelt by the Spirit. Christ lives in us. We are truly complete in Him.

d. Paul’s point: in light of the ALL sufficiency of the work of Christ on the cross—let no man judge you in the following types of issues… because what we eat, and which days we observe add NOTHING to our relationship to Christ.

e. These are non issues—irrelevant—and the false teachers were trying to MAKE a big issue of them… and were attempting to FORCE their convictions on the Colossians, which was tantamount to putting them back under a yoke of legalism.

5. Therefore: The person who judges a brother for not keeping Jewish law is in reality judging Christ.

a. He is saying that what Christ did on the cross was NOT sufficient. Something MORE is needed! (Rituals; ceremonies; submission to the law; etc.)

b. It is a far more serious issue than the sin of judging a brother wrongly.

c. It gets to the very heart of the gospel: was the cross enough?

d. Is the blood of Christ enough to save us? Is the blood of Christ enough to sanctify us? Is the blood of Christ enough to keep us? Or do we need something more? Do we need to ADD something to His work? Rituals, ceremonies, holy days?

e. Is the work of Christ FINISHED or not?

6. This is the real issue… and it is no wonder Paul was so outraged when the Judaizers attempted to put the Galatian believers under Jewish law.

a. Acts 15:1-2,5 – the problem: putting Gentile believers under Jewish law.

b. Acts 15:6, 10 – the apostolic answer: putting believers under the Law is TEMPTING God! Don’t do it!
• The Judaizers were attempting to put the believers back under the yoke of the Law, just as the false teachers in Colossae were trying to do.
• The argument goes this way:
» God has already accepted them on the basis of faith.
» They are already saved, justified, and forgiven.
» Putting believers back under the yoke of the Law was tantamount to provoking God to anger… because God said they were forgiven on the basis of what His Son accomplished on the cross.
» By imposing additional rules and laws, the false teachers were saying, “What Jesus did was not good enough. You need something MORE.”
» Paul’s response: Oh no. We are forgiven! We are complete in Him. He is all we need!

Let No Man Judge You…

A. The Command

1. John Calvin: judge: to hold one to be guilty of a crime, or to impose a scruple of conscience, so that we are no longer free.

2. When Paul says, “Let no man judge you,” he is not addressing the false teachers, but he is addressing the Colossians.

a. And this forbids us as Christians from yielding our necks to yokes of tradition and ritual that men attempt to put on us.

b. It is equal to saying: Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. (Gal. 5:1)

3. This command had far greater ramifications that the immediate issue under consideration: foods; circumcision; holydays; etc.)

a. The deeper issue was the RULE OF LIFE for the believer: are Christians required to cling to Jewish symbols, shadows, and rituals in order to draw near to God OR are we free from the law because we are complete in Christ?
• That’s the deeper issue here.

4. Because of the serious nature of what was at stake here, Paul makes a clear command to the Colossians with respect to how they DEAL with the false teachers who were judging them on these issues: STOP allowing them to judge you!

a. Paul was commanding the believers to take a stand AGAINST those attempting to change the rule of life from grace back to law.

b. Whether they were FORCING them to eat certain foods or FORBIDDING them from eating certain foods, the issue was the same: legalism: thou shalt or thou shalt not.

c. Whether they were FORCING them to be circumcised or FORBIDDING them from being circumcised, the issue was the same: legalism: thou shalt or thou shalt not.

d. Whether they were FORCING them to observe certain days or FORBIDDING them from observing certain, the issue was the same: legalism: thou shalt or thou shalt not.

e. The issue at hand (days; foods; etc) wasn’t the REAL issue. The real issue was this: is our daily walk based upon grace/faith or by law/works?

f. These are two opposing, not complementary systems.

g. You cannot mix them. If law is required, then grace is no more grace. If grace is applied to the law, it removes the teeth from the law… grace emasculates the law.

h. These two systems don’t help each other out; they CANCEL each other out… they nullify each other.

B. Meat and Drink

1. Lev.11:2, 4 – There were certain meats they were permitted to eat, and some were forbidden as unclean.

a. The issue of clean vs. unclean foods.

b. Evidently, the false teachers were promoting certain diets as having a spiritual benefit.
• They taught: By eating ceremonially clean foods you could become holy. By eating unclean foods you would be unholy.

c. Of course, this is NOT true—but is evidently what they were teaching in Colossae.

2. Acts 10:13 – Here we see God revealing to Peter that the Levitical dietary laws given to Israel were no longer required.

a. Unclean meats were not to be considered unclean to the believer in Christ.

b. Those dietary laws were Jewish and part of the Mosaic Law.

c. The ordinances of the Mosaic Law (including dietary laws) were nailed to Christ’s cross… inoperative… defunct…

d. I Tim. 4:3-5 – the false teachers were forbidding believers to eat meats.
• But Paul said that those who know the TRUTH are to receive them with thanksgiving!
• Every creature is good for food… and there is no reason to refuse certain meats on the basis of conscience because they have been sanctified by the Word and prayer.

3. How foolish to judge a man on what he eats!

a. Matt. 15:17-18 – Jesus said that it is NOT what a man puts IN his mouth that matters, but what comes OUT of his mouth! Food neither defiles nor purifies a man spiritually.

b. I Cor. 8:8 – Meat does not commend us to God. We are no better for avoiding meats. We are no worse if we eat meats. Foods are necessary for our bodies, but they are irrelevant to our spiritual walk with God!

c. Rom. 14:1-4 – God commands us to RECEIVE other brothers regardless of what they eat!
• The weak brother eats herbs.
• He is not weak because he eats herbs. Rather, he is weak because of what he believes. He believes he MUST eat herbs and that he is forbidden to eat meat.
• Hence, he is weak in THE FAITH.
• But his weakness in this area is not a moral weakness. Hence, he is to be received – because it is perfectly acceptable before God for a Christian to choose to be a vegetarian if he so chooses.
• The issue Paul brings up in Colossians is not about the believer who chooses of his own free will to be a vegetarian, but of the cults who were legalistically imposing their views as LAWS and forcing certain foods and forbidding certain foods. That was the error.
• It is NOT a doctrinal or moral error to BE a vegetarian or to eat meat. It IS a doctrinal error to FORCE others.

d. The Bible is crystal clear on this subject. Our relationship to God is NOT determined by our diet… or by food supplements… or by expensive vitamin regimens… they won’t make you any closer to God.

e. Rom. 14:17 – The Kingdom of God is NOT meat and drink but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
• As believers, we should be concerned with righteousness, peace, and joy… not ham, granola, or yogurt!

f. Matt.23:23 – Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. ? ?Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.
• There is a tendency in us all to accentuate that which is minute and overlook the big issues in life.
• Worrying over foods and ignoring the REAL issues in the Christian life (becoming more gracious; righteous; Christlike) is like straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel.

g. We don’t test a person’s spirituality by what they eat. Nor should we judge a person’s spirituality by what he eats.
• Most of us would think it quite self evident that we shouldn’t judge a brother on such an issue… but this has been a perennial problem throughout the church age.
• The ascetics doted over foods and diets.
• The 7th Day Adventists claim that believers ought to be vegetarians. They FORCE a vegetarian diet on their church goers.
• The Roman church FORBADE the eating on meats on Fridays for centuries.
• I hear Christians today promoting organic foods, food supplements, vitamins, and herbs as if they were next to godliness.
• No believer has the right to either FORCE or FORBID foods on another believer… as a requirement for either salvation or spirituality.

C. Special Days: Holy Days; New Moons; Sabbaths

1. The various special days:

a. Holy days = feast days; festival days; (these would include annual feasts – Pentecost; Passover; Tabernacles; etc.)

b. New moons = (first day of month—special offerings were given to God—Num.28;11-14)

c. Sabbaths = a Jewish day of rest.

2. Paul is dealing with the false teaching that had infiltrated Colossae.

a. Colossians is an unusual book in that we are not sure exactly WHAT the false teachers were teaching. We don’t have a copy of their systematic theology.

b. But in Colossae, this cult was in its early stages. All we know that it was a strange eclectic mixture of Jewish legalism, pagan philosophy, eastern mysticism, and a dabbling of Christianity.
• 2:8 – pagan philosophy; traditions of men
• 2:11 – circumcision is mentioned—quite likely to combat the teachings of the cult—imposing circumcision.
• 2:16 – foods; holydays; new moons; Sabbaths;
• 2:18 – worshipping of angels
• 2:21 – asceticism
• 2:23 – neglecting the body
• It’s hard to imagine how such views could fit together in one system of teaching—but then again, the teachings of cults don’t always make sense!

c. They also believed that it was necessary for men to follow the rules of their mystery cult in order to become holy.

3. The false teachers were judging the believers in Colossae for not falling in line with their program.

a. We don’t know for sure exactly what their program was, but we don’t need to know.

b. The cult Paul was dealing with no longer exists. Hence, those exact issues no longer confront the Christian church.

c. BUT – we are given commands and principles that transcend the first century and that particular cult, and are equally applicable to similar errors that we face today.

d. Some of the issues we face today (though not identical) are similar enough that this book is just as relevant and applicable today as it was in the first century!

e. The cultists were judging the Colossians with respect to what they ate and drank, holydays, new moons, Sabbaths, and other Jewish ceremonies and rituals…

f. The cultists were attempting to add Jewish dietary laws, holy days, and rituals to their brand of Christianity.

g. They were claiming (according to the implication in vs. 23) that all of these ceremonies and rituals would enable them to become HOLY.

h. Paul would have nothing to do with it! This was cultic nonsense to the apostle!

i. These were NOT issues about which we should judge a brother.

4. The FLESH loves to follow a program… to go along with certain rules.

a. Flesh loves to follow a program because adhering to such religious routines tends to inflate the ego… and enables the flesh to gloat or glory in its accomplishments… and gives occasion for self-righteousness. (“I” did this and that… aren’t I great?)

5. The real issue: law vs. grace!

a. When it comes to foods or special days, the Bible neither forces nor forbids the believer from participating.

b. It is a matter of liberty and personal choice to be based upon the leading of the Holy Spirit.

c. The issue is much deeper than just the issue of the day or the meats.

d. It is the difference between that which is earthly and that which is heavenly.

e. By forcing or forbidding such practices, it becomes a matter of law: thou SHALT… or thou shalt NOT.
• This is the exact error of the Roman church with their “holy days of obligation.” (6 of them)
• The error is not having a feast day or a holiday. The error is making an OBLIGATION!
• They say it is a mortal sin not to go to Mass on that day… on the days they invented!
• That would be like us calling it a sin not to attend our thanksgiving testimony service!

f. It removes the issue from the realm of grace and brings the believer back into the realm of law…

g. It is a reversal… going away from Christ and the grace He brought… and reverting back to Moses and the law he brought.

h. The real issue is what is the rule of life in the age of grace?

i. Even though their intentions were to produce holiness, it does the opposite.

j. Holiness is reproduced in the believer as we draw near to Christ… not as we turn away from Him and revert back to Moses.

k. It is NOT a higher standard to force or forbid foods or special days.

l. It is a LOWER standard… it is a falling from grace… falling down from Christ to Moses.

m. If we revert back to law in hopes of producing good fruit, we will be sadly disappointed. (Rom. 7:5)

n. But if we are to go on to perfection (maturity) then we are to leave the law behind and cling to Christ—our new Master… like a bride clinging to her husband. THIS is the only way real fruit is produced. (Rom. 7:4)

o. Our relationship to Christ is superior to law… more powerful than… and more life transforming… and it produces superior results: fruit unto God.

6. We don’t need the shadows. Christ is all we need.

a. We don’t need circumcision, feast days, foods and drinks, or Sabbaths.
• As with eating meats or circumcision: we are no better off if we do; we are no worse off if we do not! These are mere shadows.

b. Christ is the SUBSTANCE of those shadows; He FULFILLS what they merely pictured.
• Circumcision: our union with Christ = spiritual circumcision
• Food and drink: He is our Bread of life and our Living Water!
• Feast days: Christ is our Passover!
• Sabbath: the Sabbath meant “rest.” Eternal rest is found in the Person of Jesus Christ and His finished work on Calvary. (24-hour Sabbath rest is good, but eternal rest is better!)

7. Rom. 14:6 – Thus, in our personal walk with God, these non-doctrinal, non-moral issues are to be personal decisions based upon the leading of the Holy Spirit in the individual believer.

a. Paul makes it clear here that God is glorified by BOTH believers: the one who eats meat and the one who does not; the one who esteems a particular day and the one who does not.

b. There may be a Hebrew Christian who chooses to rest on the Sabbath. He may choose to observe his family tradition of a special Passover meal. (What a great opportunity for him to be a witness for Christ before his Jewish friends and family!)

c. It’s certainly not WRONG if that Hebrew believer chooses to do so of his own free will!
• Paul was a Jew who became a Hebrew Christian.
• After his salvation, he kept some of the Jewish feast days: Passover.
• After his salvation, he had Timothy circumcised.
• He was adamantly OPPOSED to anyone imposing such practices upon believers, OR forbidding them.
• But he was NOT opposed to believers USING such practices as an opportunity to present the gospel and for the glory of God.

d. Whether we do or don’t participate in these issues is relatively insignificant.

e. What DOES matter to God is MOTIVE: are we led of the Spirit and doing it for the glory of God? Or are we led of the flesh and doing it for other motives: self-righteousness; selfishness; peer pressure?

f. God’s purpose is that we LIVE for His glory… that we walk WORTHY of our high calling in Christ… that we are looking unto Jesus—our HEAVENLY High Priest…

g. Therefore, we are not to invent requirements or prohibitions about insignificant earthly things… that are non doctrinal and non moral in nature.

h. When we dote over earthly things, our focus is off base.

Shadows vs. the Body

1. Body: does it refer to the Body of Christ, the church?

a. It is the same term that OFTEN refers to the church as a body.

b. If it were being contrasted with Israel, that would make perfect sense.

c. But in this context, it seems to be used differently.

d. It is being contrasted not with Israel, but with the term shadow.

e. Hence, body is best understood in the sense of substance in this passage… the real thing! (as the body of a letter—the real substance of the letter)

2. The point is this: the cultists were doting over certain aspects of the Jewish law which were designed to point ahead to Christ. They were called “shadows” in the book of Hebrews.

a. Heb.10:1 – the law was only a shadow of good things to come… and could not make the worshippers perfect or mature.

b. Shadows (whether they be rituals like circumcision; dietary laws; or special holy days and holidays) cannot transform the heart. They cannot draw us nearer to God.

c. Dietary laws and special days were mere shadows, but Christ is the substance.

d. He is the body that casts the shadow. The shadow is only a transitory outline of His Body. The shadow isn’t permanent and has no substance.

e. The body that casts the shadow is far more important and worthy of our attention than the shadow!

f. The person is more important than a Kodak picture of that person.

g. The shadow had no substance and could not bring the believer on to perfection or spiritual maturity. Why turn back to that when we have Christ, the body, the substance, the real thing?

h. Turning dietary laws and special days into requirements for walking with God was like hugging a shadow and ignoring the Person who cast the shadow!

i. Now that the substance has come—now that Christ has come—all of those shadows have been relegated to the realm of irrelevant.

j. If you choose of your own free will to be a vegetarian, or to observe special days, or to practice circumcision, then do it as unto the Lord.

k. But don’t you DARE force or forbid the practice to another brother in Christ.
• For when you do, you are causing him to fall from grace (from the grace way of living)…
• And you are dragging him (not up but) DOWN from a heavenly walk of a Spirit led Christian… to an earthly walk of a religious legalist…
• You are changing his focus from Christ to a shadow of Christ…
• And when that is the case, that poor believer is going to be weighed down with a yoke he is unable to bear… rather than beholding the heavenly glory of Christ and being transformed into that same image… from glory to glory.

l. Convictions are fine. Liberty is fine. But nobody has the liberty to change the rule of life in the dispensation of the grace of God.
• Circumcision, holy days, and foods are relatively trivial issues.
• But the rule of life for the Christian is NOT a trivial issue.
• It is the heartbeat of our relationship to God.
• Let us go on to perfection—to spiritual maturity… walking by faith in this age of grace… looking unto Jesus… YOKED to Him… not Jewish law… not pagan philosophy… and not to the traditions of men.
• When our hearts are yoked to law and shadows, we will be dragged down to earth.
• When our hearts are gripped and moved by grace, and yoked to Christ, Christ in you… the hope of glory… then we will walk worthy of our HEAVENLY calling.

Back to top of page

Back to Chapter-2 Index

Back to Colossians Index

Back to Bible Studies