Monday, April 22, 2013

A Colossian Confusion Clarified

When Peter wrote the following about Paul's writings, he sure knew what he was talking about.

2 Peter 3:15-16 (KJV)
15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

Paul's letters speak of things that are hard to understand. The concepts, sentences, and even the words are difficult. Is it any wonder, then, that Paul is often misunderstood? In the second chapter of Colossians there is at least one example of Paul's wording that has caused some misunderstanding.

Colossians 2:13-17 (KJV)
13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

In verse 13 it is evident that Paul was addressing believers because of the phrases, "he quickened" and "having forgiven you all trespasses." They were also Gentiles as evidenced by the phrase, "uncircumcision of your flesh."

Paul described what happened as these Gentiles became believers (verse 14). Something was blotted out that had been held against these believers. It was taken out of the way and was nailed to Yeshua's cross.

I have read many statements and commentaries that have said that the thing blotted out, taken out of the way, and nailed to the cross was the law. Several Bible translations like NIV have clearly interpreted the verse in this manner. However, that really is not what the verse says. It was the handwriting of ordinances that was against the believers that was blotted out. The Greek is "cheirographon tois dogmasin," which conveys the idea of a bond or record of debt that is found in decrees or ordinances (See also NASB). It is this bond or record of debt that is blotted out, taken away, and nailed to the cross. In other words, the indictment against believers has been removed by Yeshua's paying the penalty for their sin.

Verse 15 shows that the removal of that record of debt spoiled demonic principalities and powers by eliminating their right to the believers. This was a triumph over those evil powers.

Therefore, (verse 16) the Colossian believers were not to allow any man to judge them regarding meat, drink, holydays, new moons, or sabbaths.

Traditionally, this verse has been used to prove that no one should insist that these items be observed as the law proscribed. Again, this cannot be what is meant by the verse. The subject is still that record of debt. It is because the record of debt is removed that no one should judge these believers regarding these ritual items. The law was not removed, so if the new believers failed to observe the laws regarding meat, drink, and so on, they would be engaging in sin. It is inconceivable that Paul was recommending that the Colossians sin!

Also, it must be remembered that the Colossians were Gentiles. When they were saved and their lifestyles changed, the observance of those ritual items in accordance with the law must have seemed silly or stupid to the unbelieving Colossians. But Paul's argument was to remind the Colossians of the victory that Yeshua won over the principalities of evil by His death and resurrection. The opinions of their unbelieving neighbors didn't matter.

Lastly, in verse 17, most translations give the impression that those ritual items are only, or merely, shadow, but that it is the body of Yeshua that is substance or is reality. These italicized words are not in the text and are interpretations of the various translators. Rather, the words themselves convey the idea that these ritual items are a shadow of the things that are to come. (Earthly reality vs eternal or heavenly reality) But all these things are about Messiah.

Seen in the proper light, this passage of Scripture, while difficult, is about the Colossians cancelled debt due to Yeshua's death, and their embracing a Torah observant lifestyle in the face of objection from the surrounding unbelievers.


  1. Thanks you so much, this was great.


    1. You're welcome! I appreciate and value your opinion! Blessings on your ministry!

  2. As always, I appreciate your teacher's heart & studious approach, even if I don't necessarily agree with every jot & tittle :)

    Bless you!


    1. Thank you, Kathleen! I know that I have learned much from you! We are sisters in the Lord, even if some of our views are different! I appreciate you!