Colossians 2:16-17 reads: “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” (NKJV). In order to understand these verses we need to know that there were false teachers making inroads into the church at Colosse, teaching believers in Christ that they had to keep the Law in order to be saved. Paul spoke of these men in verse 8: “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.” In speaking of “the basic principles of the world,” he was referring to the “laws, rituals and feast days” that some Jews were trusting in to obtain salvation and eternal life.

To combat this teaching Paul went on to say in verses 10-14: “And you are complete in Him [Christ], who is the head of all principality and power. In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 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.” In these blessed words Paul was teaching them that through the death of Christ and their faith in Him and His work, they were in a new position before God. They formerly were dead in their sins but now they were “made alive together with Him” and all their sins were forgiven. The Law, which had been “against them” and was “contrary to them,” had been “taken…out of the way” at the cross, for Christ died to pay the penalty that the Law had demanded. As a result of this they had died to the Law and its requirement; they were now to live under the principle of “grace,” as we see in Romans 6:14: “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under law but under grace.”

In verse 16 he applies this in a very practical way by telling them, “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths.” In essence Paul was saying, “Because you have died to the Law and are alive together with Christ, don’t let those false Jewish teachers condemn you for not following the dietary laws in the Law, or for not observing certain days that were on the Jewish calendar.” This should speak loudly to us today, for there are false teachers today that insist that we follow certain rules to be saved. Some would tell us we can’t eat meat or drink coffee; others would command us to observe certain days they call Lent (where for a certain period of time you must deny yourselves certain foods and other things). Like the false teachers in the first century, they are insisting that you do these things to be saved and they will judge [condemn] you if you don’t. Paul’s words are just as much for us today: Do NOT let them judge you!

Verse 17 is very instructive, for it does teach us that the Law, with its dietary rules and observing of days, was “a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” This simply means that the Law was a PICTURE of Christ. For example, every sacrifice that was offered under the Law pictured Christ as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (see John 1:29) When a Jew observed a Sabbath day (where he was to rest from all work); it pictured the rest (from his sins) that Christ would give to every believer. Praise God that Christ came and fulfilled all of the pictures that were given under the Law! To go back to keeping the Law would be like being occupied with the picture of someone when they are physically present with you. Who in their right mind would stare at someone’s picture when you can talk to them and enjoy them “face to face?”  (220.9)  (DO)