Meditating further on Paul’s letter to the Colossians we see how it opens out into some challenging concepts. The problems at Colossae (and elsewhere) have their parallels to behaviour in worship today – see at its worst in the Catholic Church. It is the desire to create rituals – as though this somehow made you more righteous in the sight of God. We become aware in some parts of Paul’s letters that the converts who had been Jews and living diligently according to the Law had a desire to develop rituals in serving Christ and the Father. Jesus had warned against “traditions” that religious leaders of his day had developed (see Matt. 15 v.3-9). Creating things to observe and keep do not make us more righteous – indeed they have the opposite effect – they can make us self-righteous.
Paul tells the Colossians, “let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow …” [v.16], that is, there is no substance in them. Observing festivals, e.g. Easter and keeping the Sabbath, do not make those doing so more righteous, Paul says, “they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” [v.23]
What is of value? It is by “holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.” [v.19]
And how does God cause growth? We are wonderfully blessed that each one can own and read – as he or she makes the time – the whole of the words that God revealed and caused to be written through men like Moses, prophets like Isaiah, the Gospels and the letters of the Apostles. They provide essential spiritual nourishment every day – other things are seen more and more “as of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” – and we have to admit that more and more things today – encourage such indulgence.
But it is not so much a case of setting our minds to stop ourselves doing things that our human nature inclines us toward thinking and doing – but instead – of occupying our thoughts to a greater degree with spiritual things. The result of this will be that we will be less and less inclined to indulge in fleshly thoughts and activities – but instead will grow “with a growth that is from God.” [v.19] as we value his word to an ever greater degree.
As a result, Paul tells the Colossians, “when Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” [3 v.4] And that “glory” will be of the greatest “value” for “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” [1 Cor. 2 v.9]
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