“Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world and not according to Christ” Colossians Ch.2 v. 8.
In part one of this blog, we looked at circumcision and the law of Sabbaths in the Old Covenant. We will continue to examine those two topics even further in the New Covenant.
Even though Jesus was born while the law was still in effect, He brought with Him the cultures and traditions of the ancient days wrapped up in Himself. In fact, He clarified His position by stating, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matt. Ch. 5 v. 17). Fulfillment of the law had nothing to do with sabbaths or circumcision but of sacrifice. He was the Sacrificial Lamb; to be sacrificed once, for all our sakes for salvation, righteousness, sanctification and justification.
Unfortunately, His bold statement was enough to stir up mass amounts of animosity towards Him; for many of the people were quite comfortable with their ingrained culture, dubbed Moses’ Law, along with some bad habits they adopted over the years from the Gentiles.
I also mentioned in part one, that the central theme of the Sabbaths was “to rest.” Jesus’ call in Matt. Ch. 11 v. 28 to “Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest,” would have done at least two things to those hearing that statement. Firstly, His statement would have caused all kinds of confusing thoughts; for up until then, the only rest they would have been familiar with was physical rest. Jesus was speaking on a spiritual plane about Himself being the ‘rest.’ A concept with which they were not intrinsically familiar.
Secondly, it would have stirred up even more suspicion toward His intentions and authenticity. As demonstrated by the Pharisees when they saw Jesus and His disciples going through the grain fields on the Sabbath as well as healing people. Jesus was specifically ridiculed by the Pharisees concerning His nonconformity to the old culture. You see He did things on the Sabbath that were not considered lawful, even though the things He did were good. His actions raised more questions than anything else in the eyes of the Pharisees.
Their interrogation of Him was met with a parable and the moral of the parable. In this case, Jesus summed it all up with, “It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (Matt. Ch.12 v. 12).
Wow, such food for thought…do good on the Sabbath. A continued shift in the paradigm. No longer was it do no work but do good work.
The book of Mark also bears witness to His authoritative stance on the preceding where He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore, the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”
Let us analyze the preceding for a moment. Sabbath as mentioned before denotes rest. Hence, the ‘rest’ was made for man and not man for the ‘rest.’ Therefore, the Son of Man is also Lord of the ‘rest.’ Such powerful words.
For hundreds of years, the Jews misunderstood the significance of the Sabbath and began to treat the day as one to be worshipped whilst completely disregarding the Creator and LORD of the Sabbath, Almighty God Himself.
Today, the Sabbath is kept by many religious groups. Yet there is no mention of it being practiced by the apostles of Christ in the New Covenant. In fact, they did exactly what the title ‘apostle’ denotes—they worked; for apostle means worker. They worked fervently, building up the church, bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified to the Jews first, then to the Gentiles. Imbued with courage from the Holy Spirit, they laboured in the synagogues on Sabbaths successfully converting multitudes of Jews, even some devout Pharisees.
The contention surrounding the law as well as circumcision was dealt with in the book of Acts, Chapter 15 when Paul and Barnabas had a heated dispute with 1certain men (who) came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”
As they could not come to an agreement concerning the matter, 2they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.
4And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them.
5But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”
The opinion expressed above by the Pharisees is evident of their adamant devotion to the old culture even after being enlightened and accepting of the new Christ culture.
Peter interjected and said, “…10why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
11But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.”
To what manner was he referring? Simply, “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” Rom. Ch. 10 v. 9. That is all there is to it. No circumcision or animal sacrifices or feasts to be held or sabbaths to be observed. Just confession and faith.
In other words, Peter is saying, even though we, being Jews, practiced the law of Moses and failed miserably at observing the ordinances and ceremonies attached to it, why burden the Gentiles, who have gained salvation through grace, which is unmerited favour? Unmerited because they did not have to do anything to attain this most blessed salvation. Therefore, if the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ alone can save them, we can also be saved in like manner without observing the burden of the law of Moses, which is akin to our own human efforts. “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” John Ch. 1 v. 17.
James chimed in saying, “….19we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.”
So, they wrote, “…28it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things:
“29 that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.
However, resistance to change continued throughout the New Testament even after the decree above was delivered. Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome with focus on the Jews [as indicated in Rom. Ch. 2 v. 17 “Indeed you are a Jew, and rest your boast on the law, and make your boast in God” and Ch. 7 v. 1 “Or do you not know brethren (for I speak to those who know the law…”)] highlighted the futility of continuing in the law.
Paul wrote in Ch. 2 v. 25, “For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision… Therefore, who did it profit? For the law was broken by all.
28For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.” Recall in Deuteronomy Ch. 10 v. 16 even Moses pleaded with the Jews to “…Circumcise the foreskin of your heart.”
21 “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed… 22even righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe” (Ch. 3 vv. 21-22).
The law with its rituals and ceremonies have no place in God’s new covenant with man. The old covenant was made with one man, Abraham and one tribe of people, the Israelites. The new covenant is inclusive of all mankind, who has faith in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
To the Colossians, Paul warned them to “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world and not according to Christ” (Ch.2 v. 8).
11 “In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ… 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
The scripture above relays such good news to all who are in Christ. There is no need for the cutting of the flesh in the natural, for all have been circumcised with a spiritual circumcision of the heart.
Therefore, if as Paul wrote, the handwriting of requirements has been wiped out, taken out of the way and nailed to the cross, why is it that some men have resolved within their hearts to continue that which is no longer observed by God?
In the new testament saints/believers are mostly being exhorted to ignore the call from those who chose to remain antagonists against the new Christ culture of love, grace and faith.
In fact, Paul echoed to the Galatians what Jesus said to the Pharisees in Matthew chapter. 22, vv. 36-40, 36“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
37Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38“This is the first and great commandment.
39“And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40“On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Gal, Ch. 5 v. 14).
So, my fellow believers, “Let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is Christ” (Col. Ch. 2 vv16-17).
All scripture taken from New King James Version