Let’s first read Colossians 1:1-2, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother, To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Colosse was a Genitle city located in Phrygia, in Asia Minor. There were some citizens of Phrygia present with the disciples on the day of Pentecost. (Read Acts 2:5-12). In writing to the believers in Colosse, Paul announces himself as “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ. In mentioning his apostleship, Paul will exercise his apostolic authority in his teachings in this letter. He also mentions that he is accompanied by “Timotheus, our brother.” This is Timothy, the young man who accompanied Paul in many of his travels and to who Paul wrote two letter to (1 and 2 Timothy).

Now let’s read Colossians 2:20-23, “Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.”

Among other things that the apostle warns the Colossian Christians about, here he warns them against asceticism. Asceticism is defined as “severe self-discipline and avoidance of all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons.” The scriptures do tell believers to ‘deny themselves’ as we read in Luke 9:23, “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, LET HIM DENY HIMSELF, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” But nowhere does it instruct us to purposely seek out discomfort or pain.

Asceticism cannot sanctify the flesh. We should deny ourselves of worldly indulgences because we are sanctified. Hebrews 10:10 tells us, “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” However, we cannot deny ourselves in order to be sanctified. This practice among the Colossians was grounded upon the ‘commandments and doctrines of men’.

Notice that Paul says this practice does have a ‘show of wisdom’, yet it is driven by ‘will worship’. While this ‘denial of the flesh’ appears to be a wise thing to do, those who were practicing it were really just doing what THEY thought was the best thing to do. They were not being led of the Lord, they were being led of their own wills and emotions, seeking to gain sanctification by their own means without depending on the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. (323.2)