In this part I would like to take the chance to look closely at the verse that inspired the title of the Series

“So 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 of
Christ.”- Paul (Col 2:16-17)

This verse had been subjected to scrutiny very often. It is often quoted by mainstream Christianity as supporting the abolishment of the seventh day Sabbath. Others are pro-Sabbath  claims that Paul is referring to the rules and regulations from the Rabbi.

That is why whenever the topic of old testament feast and new testament covenant is brought up, this verse will inevitably be quoted.  Therefore I find this topic close to my heart and I would like share how I have viewed this verse.

The truth is, I am not theologically train and I do not know ancient language. Moreover I am no Israelite so all I have is the bible , and I base my understanding purely from my understanding of the law of Moses.

How I interpreted Col 2:16-17

As far as I can remember, Col 2:16-17 had never been about the 7th day Sabbath fro Lev 23:3. My rationale behind this is very simple. The 7th day Sabbath is part of the 10 commandments. This Sabbath is different from the other Sabbaths written in the law of Moses. God had specially place the seventh day Sabbath into the ten commandments, while the other Sabbaths such as new moon, sabbatical year  are recorded separately.

This differentiation is base on the fact in the law of Moses. At the same time when I read the book of acts, Paul is often meeting and preaching on Sabbath (Acts 13:42-43, 16:13 , 17: 2, 18:4) From here we know that Paul continue to keep the Sabbath he worshipped on the 7th day. To imagine Paul saying the Sabbath are no longer necessary in oOl 2 will mean that Paul did not practice what he preach. He would have contradicted himself a big time

My understanding is base on the fact that the Torah differentiate Sabbath as a commandment from the Sabbaths tied to the feast.

While many advocate that one must be consistent in his interpretation, I believe that the key to understand this verse lies in not being consistent. In fact it require us to have a deep understanding of the Torah, moral standard, and the regulations in the law of Moses.

That had always been how I different between the Sabbath as commandment and the sabbaths for feast. This method of understanding had never been a problem to me. Therefore I am a Sabbath keeper that do not believe in keeping of the feast the regulations of the Torah.

A Question To Think about

Perhaps those who feel that sabbath here refers to the man-made laws should answer this question

“How does man-made traditions of man become “a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”?”””

Assuming if they are right that Paul is referring to the man-made laws by the Rabbis, how could these man made laws teach you about Christ? How could their man-made laws be a foreshadow and a prophecy regarding the messiah?  If that is true, these rabbis must be exemplary, to be able to foresee the coming of Christ and create traditions that prophecy about him.

2 Types Of Jewish Christians In Col 2:16-17

From what I understand, I believe Paul wrote Col 2 targeting 2 types of Jewish Christians within the church, one group advocating the keeping of the traditions of men which is the custom of the Rabbis , and the other group which advocate that circumcision and keeping the law of Moses as an necessity for salvation. The latter group is featured prominently in Acts 15.

When Paul wrote Col 2 he is linked all of them under the same umbrella. That is why he talks about new Moon, Sabbaths and circumcision (A shadow of the good things to come) and the regulation made by man (delight in false humility and worship of angels, in food and drinks”, and rules like “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle.

The Covenant Of Christ That Is Open For Gentiles And Israelites Alike

As far as Paul is concern man only needed to keep the covenant of Jesus. Which one of the most important part of that covenant is baptism for the forgiveness of sin. He equate Baptism to the circumcision made without hands. It is the removal of sin, the time when we die with the Lord and resurrection. .

When Paul wrote Col 2, he is well aware of the decision of the apostles and the events  In Acts 15.

In Acts 9, Peter witness first-hand how the Holy Spirit rested on the gentiles who do not observe Dietary law, the feast and the regulations of Moses. This event is shocking to as a Jew. For in the Torah Context, seeing the gentiles with the presence of God is liken to seeing the glory of God descending and not resting in the tabernacle build according to his standard.

Those who follow Torah knew that the presence of God will only rest on what is sanctified and clean as stated in the law of Moses. On the day of Pentecost, the disciples received the Holy Spirit and quoted Joel 2:28-29. They understood that the Spirit of God is now living among them.

They knew that in the New Covenant, God wanted to dwell in the hearts of man. His presence is not confined in the Holies of Holies, but he had in fact moved into them. They felt that they were ready and sanctified because they keep the Torah and are acceptable before God. For all who received are Jews who are circumcised, and followed the Law of Moses. Later on when the Samaritan believes, it was still ok, for they are circumcised, but they keep some part of the Torah.

This concept is put into the test when Peter entered the house of Cornelius. For he is a gentile, deemed unclean by the standard of Mosaic Law,  they are uncircumcised, ignorant of the regulation of the Mosaic Law, they do not keep the feast, they are unclean, Jews were not allowed to come into their house.

But when the Holy Spirit fell onto them, Peter realise that God treated the gentiles to be as clean as the Jews who kept the Law of Moses  Since God had accepted them he is in no position to oppose God. So he baptised them, cleansing them of sin.

Later on there were Jewish Christians who came to Paul and argued that one need to be circumcise and keep the law of Moses. The rule in Acts 15 was made base on the experience of Peter in Acts 10. They said

So God, who knows the heart,
acknowledged them by giving
them the Holy Spirit, just as He
to us, and made no distinction
between us and them, purifying
their hearts by faith. Now therefore,
why do you test God by putting a
yoke on the neck of the disciples
which neither our fathers nor we
were able to bear” – Acts 15:8-10

Over here they are referring to the law of Moses. They are well aware from the Old testament that all their forefathers failed at keeping the Mosaic covenant. The Old testament is a record of their repeated failure to keep the covenant. That is why it is a yoke that their fathers are not able to bear.

That is why the apostles did not expect these gentile believers to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses. If they do not need to keep the Mosaic covenant, they are definitely spared of keeping the talmud from the rabbis

That is why they only ruled that these gentiles believers needed to observe only the rules set by God for Noah which is applicable for all descendent on earth. They added the clause about food offered to idols as these gentiles live in a land full of Idols and they live in a world where sexual immorality is a norm. But this does not mean that the gentiles do not need to keep the commandments of God. They are supposed to adhere to the standard of Morality as describe in the Mosaic law In fact they are supposed to go one step higher. Which is to match the standard spoken of by Jesus.

Why Did Paul Link Both Group Together In Col 2?

All these event that Preceded Col 2. As far as Paul is concern, anyone who advocate the keeping of Jewish Talmud or force the people to observe the regulations of Moses (dietary law, feast, and circumcision ) were all wrong. They are linked together because they are wrong in the same way.

For Jesus had already fulfilled all that is required of him from the Law and now they have entered the period where the spirit of God is poured out and the gentiles are receiving salvation. These gentiles are already regarded as clean and accepted even though they did not observe the Law Of Moses. They are cleanse from sin when they have accepted the covenant of Christ sign through baptism

For both Ezekiel (Eze 47:7-9) and Zechariah (Zech 14:8-9)  talks of the when the messiah comes living water will be flowing from Jerusalem. This waters had the abilities to heal. While many feels that it can heal ecosystems, but in fact he is referring to the time of the church where the conduct of baptism heals away sin.

At the same time, the prophets talk about the gentiles coming on the receive salvation. One of the verse that captured my mind deeply is this

“Thus you shall divide this land
among yourselves according to
the tribes of Israel. It shall be
that you will divide it by lot as
an inheritance for yourselves,
and for the strangers who dwell
among you and who bear children
among you. They shall be to you
as native-born among the children
of Israel; they shall have an
inheritance with you among the
tribes of Israel.”- Ezekiel(Eze 48:22-23)

This era of the gentiles coming to God is herald in when Jesus threw out the money changers in the temple. In which he said

“For My house shall be called a
house of prayer for all nations.”- Jesus (Mk 11:17)

After the coming of the messiah the kingdom of Israel will be restored. The gentiles will come and listen to the law of God

“Many nations shall come and say,
“Come, and let us go up to the
mountain of the Lord, To the
house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways, And
we shall walk in His paths.”
For out of Zion the law shall go
forth, And the word of the Lord
from Jerusalem.”- Micah (Mic 4:2)

shall be engraved on the bells of the
horses. The pots in the Lord’s house
shall be like the bowls before the altar.
 Yes, every pot in Jerusalem and Judah
shall be holiness to the Lord of hosts.
Everyone who sacrifices shall come and
take them and cook in them. In that day
there shall no longer be a Canaanite in the
house of the Lord of hosts.”- Zechariah (Zech 14:20-21 )

Are they referring to the Kingdom Of Israel established by the messiah? Is it a physical kingdom or something else?

“My kingdom is not of this world.
If My kingdom were of this world,
My servants would fight, so that I
should not be delivered to the Jews;
but now My kingdom is not from
here.”- Jesus (Jn 18:36)

This new kingdom is the Kingdom established by the messiah. It is created through the sacrifice of his blood. In that kingdom, there is no differentiation between Jews and gentiles, for Baptism eliminates that.

“For as many of you as were baptized
into Christ have put on Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek,
there is neither slave nor free,
there is neither male nor female;
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Paul Gal 3:27-28)

In the light of these scriptures we know that both groups in Col 2 are wrong in the same way. And that is why Paul refer to them in the same passage at  Col 2

But Is There Evidence Of The Disciples Keeping The Old Testament Feast?

Much as I wanted to say they did not, the scriptures did record of them keeping the feast. (I Cor. 16:8-9). These occurrence happen after they believed in Jesus Christ. But they did it with the same understanding that I have describe earlier in the blog post. They did it not because it was a requirement of faith for salvation. But rather it is their habit to do so.

Paul entered the synagogue of the Jews for three Sabbaths in Thessalonica. It was his tradition on the Sabbath to enter the synagogue just as it was when Peter prayed in the Jewish hours of prayer three times a day (Acts 3:1; 10:9). The Jews kept the Sabbath day in the synagogues with practices according to the customs and traditions of the Misna and the rules added by the Pharisees but the Paul and Silas were not bound by them.

Paul was pretty clear of this when he wrote about it in Romans

“He who observes the day,
observes it to the Lord; and
he who does not observe the
day, to the Lord he does not observe.
He who eats, eats to the Lord ,
for he gives God thanks, and
he who does not eat, to the Lord
he does not eat, and gives God thanks.

For none of us lives to himself, and
no one dies to himself. For if we live,
we live to the Lord; and if we die, we
die to the Lord. Therefore, whether
we live or die, we are the Lord’s.
For to this end Christ died and rose
and lived again, that He might be Lord
of both the dead and the living.”- Paul (Rom. 14:6-9).

I believe this kind of Summarise my view on Col 2