What does Colossians 2:16-17 mean? “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”
Let us look at this text closely:
Col 2:11-11 “In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.”
Paul starts off with an illustration. He refers to uncircumcision as being our sinful nature. Jesus Christ circumcised us (not literally, but symbolically!) through baptism as we publicly accepted His offer of redemption and forgiveness. In other words, baptism replaces circumcision. This is further confirmed in verse 13:
“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,”
Now, starting in verse 14 to 17, we approach our crucial text: “having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”
What is Paul talking here about? What Sabbath is he referring here to? Let the Bible explain this by itself.
i. The Sabbath, being part of the ceremonial festivities As we have seen already in Lev 23:1-24:1, the Sabbath is included as being part of the ceremonial festivities:
“The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘These are my appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of the LORD, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies. “‘There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the LORD. “‘These are the LORD’s appointed feasts, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times: The LORD’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month.
On the fifteenth day of that month the LORD’s Feast of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast. On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. For seven days present an offering made to the LORD by fire. And on the seventh day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work.'”
The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. He is to wave the sheaf before the LORD so it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath. On the day you wave the sheaf, you must sacrifice as a burnt offering to the LORD a lamb a year old without defect, together with its grain offering of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil–an offering made to the LORD by fire, a pleasing aroma–and its drink offering of a quarter of a hin of wine.
You must not eat any bread, or roasted or new grain, until the very day you bring this offering to your God. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live. “‘From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the LORD. From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the LORD. 1Present with this bread seven male lambs, each a year old and without defect, one young bull and two rams. They will be a burnt offering to the LORD, together with their grain offerings and drink offerings–an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the LORD.
Then sacrifice one male goat for a sin offering and two lambs, each a year old, for a fellowship offering. The priest is to wave the two lambs before the LORD as a wave offering, together with the bread of the firstfruits. They are a sacred offering to the LORD for the priest. On that same day you are to proclaim a sacred assembly and do no regular work. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live. “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.'”
The LORD said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. Do no regular work, but present an offering made to the LORD by fire.'” The LORD said to Moses, “The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves, and present an offering made to the LORD by fire. Do no work on that day, because it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you before the LORD your God. Anyone who does not deny himself on that day must be cut off from his people. I will destroy from among his people anyone who does any work on that day. You shall do no work at all.
This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live. It is a sabbath of rest for you, and you must deny yourselves. From the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening you are to observe your sabbath.” The LORD said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the LORD’s Feast of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days. The first day is a sacred assembly; do no regular work. For seven days present offerings made to the LORD by fire, and on the eighth day hold a sacred assembly and present an offering made to the LORD by fire. It is the closing assembly; do no regular work. (“‘These are the LORD’s appointed feasts, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies for bringing offerings made to the LORD by fire–the burnt offerings and grain offerings, sacrifices and drink offerings required for each day.
These offerings are in addition to those for the LORD’s Sabbaths and in addition to your gifts and whatever you have vowed and all the freewill offerings you give to the LORD.) “‘So beginning with the fifteenth day of the seventh month, after you have gathered the crops of the land, celebrate the festival to the LORD for seven days; the first day is a day of rest, and the eighth day also is a day of rest. On the first day you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. Celebrate this as a festival to the LORD for seven days each year. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come; celebrate it in the seventh month. Live in booths for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in booths so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.'” So Moses announced to the Israelites the appointed feasts of the LORD.”
ii. The expression “to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day” The expression “to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day” is not an isolated expression only to be found in the letter to the Colossians. It is used throughout the Old Testament. It is used in ascending or descending order repeatedly and always refers to the seasonal, monthly and yearly festivities (the weekly festivity being the weekly Sabbath!)
1 Chron 23:31 “and whenever burnt offerings were presented to the LORD on Sabbaths and at New Moon festivals and at appointed feasts. They were to serve before the LORD regularly in the proper number and in the way prescribed for them.” (here weekly, monthly and yearly)
2 Chron 2:4 “Now I am about to build a temple for the Name of the LORD my God and to dedicate it to him for burning fragrant incense before him, for setting out the consecrated bread regularly, and for making burnt offerings every morning and evening and on Sabbaths and New Moons and at the appointed feasts of the LORD our God. This is a lasting ordinance for Israel.” NIV (here also, weekly, monthly and yearly)
Neh 10:33 “or the bread set out on the table; for the regular grain offerings and burnt offerings; for the offerings on the Sabbaths, New Moon festivals and appointed feasts; for the holy offerings; for sin offerings to make atonement for Israel; and for all the duties of the house of our God.” (here also, weekly, monthly and yearly)
Hos 2:11 “I will stop all her celebrations: her yearly festivals, her New Moons, her Sabbath days-all her appointed feasts.” (here yearly, monthly and weekly)
Ezek 45:17 “It will be the duty of the prince to provide the burnt offerings, grain offerings and drink offerings at the festivals, the New Moons and the Sabbaths-at all the appointed feasts of the house of Israel. He will provide the sin offerings, grain offerings, burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to make atonement for the house of Israel.” (here also yearly, monthly and weekly)
It is clear by reading these texts that the expression “a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day” refers to the yearly festivals (those celebrated yearly), the monthly festivals (those celebrated at each new moon) and the weekly Sabbath.
iii. A shadow Let us go back to the text of Col 2:16-18 “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” NIV
What is Paul saying here? That all festivities (yearly, monthly and the weekly Sabbath) were but a shadow of the reality that is found in Christ. If you want to stand in Christ’s shadow, please go ahead my friend. I prefer to stand in the reality of Christ.
This is why Jesus is able to say: Matt 11:28-29 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” NIV Jesus is the ultimate Sabbath!
You can choose to take a break from your workload and have some physical rest once a week, but the reality is, you can find rest for your soul 24 hours a day! How? By coming to Jesus and standing on His promise. He will give you rest beyond understanding. It is your choice my friend! Will you invite Him into your heart and enjoy His peace into your life? If you do, why not answer the Saviour’s Call today? To do so, click here!
INTRODUCTION: It is good to at other translations of the bible to enjoy answering this question. Let’s look at the way some translations below renders the verses above.
(1) Let no man therefore judge you in meet or in drink or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days. Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body of Christ (KJV).,
(2) Therefore let no one sit in judgment on you in matter of food and drink or with regard to a feast day or a New Moon or a Sabbath. Such (things) are only the shadow of things that arte to come, and they have only a symbolic value. But the reality (the substance, the solid fact of what is fore-shadowed, the body of it) belongs to Christ (Amplified Version)
(3) So don’t let anyone criticize you of what you eat or drink or for not celebrating Jewish holidays and feasts or Sabbaths. For these were only temporary rules that ended when Christ came. They were only shadows of the real thing – of Christ himself (Living Bible)
(4) So don’t anyone criticize you of what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating Jewish holidays and feast or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these were only temporary rules that ended when Christ came. They were only shadow of the real thing of Christ himself (Living Bible)
(5) So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new-moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these rules were only shadows of the real thing – Christ himself (NLT).
To attempt the interpretation of the above verses let us consider the following:
1. Five (5) things not to judge other about (Colossians 2:16)
a. What to eat (v 16, 1 Tim. 4; Romans 14)
b. What to drink (v.16; I Cor. 10:31)
c. What holy days to keep (vs 16; Gal. 4)
d. What new moon festivals to keep (v. 16)
e. What Sabbath to observe (v. 16, Rom. 14:5-6; Gal. 4:9-10)
What to eat:: These refers to clean and unclean animals of the law (Lev. 11; Deut. 14). The new covenant permits any kind of meat to be used as food (Rom. 14, I Cor. 8 & 10; Col. 2:14 – 17; I Tim 4:1-8).
What to drink: The law was very literal about drinks (Dt. 14:26) and yet under it god condemned strong drink (Pro. 2):1; 31:4-7; Is. 5:11-23. Like every other subject, we must go to the new covenant to find out God’s will for Christians. It demands that whatever we eat or drink, we are to do it to the glory of God (I Cor. 10:31). It condemns all drunkenness. A Christian must decide on this basis what to drink and what not to drink (Lk 21:34; Rom. 13:13, I Cor. 5:9-11; Gal. 5:19-21).
What holy days to keep: Jew had many holy days; new moons, festivals, and Sabbaths; that were binding upon all men (Lv 23; I Chr. 23:31). None of them are commanded in the new covenant; so men are now free to do as they please in all these (Col. 2:14-17; Rom 14:5-6; Gal 4:9-10)
What new moon festivals to keep: This is not stressed in the bible especially in the New Testament.
What Sabbaths to observe: this refers to all the Sabbaths of the Law of Moses, including the regular weekly Sabbath. All of them are now abolished with the law thus fulfilling prophecy (Isaiah 1:13-15; Hos. 2:11). Christians are now free, to keep any day they want to as a Sabbath (Col. 2:14-17; Rom 14:5-6; Gal. 3:9-10. All Sabbaths were a shadow of the rest we now have in Jesus Christ (Col. 2:17, Matt. 11:28-30, Hebrew 4:3, 10-10; 10:1).
With the above truth on the verses under consideration no Christian is bound to the law of eating any particular food or meat. We have liberty as to what to eat only not to eat and make another brother to offend or sin in the process.
Love must prevail over our freedom of eating. That is why a Christina my not eat food that has been sacrificed to idols so that others will not be offended.
In drinking, drunkenness must be avoided and the best way is to stay clear of drinks that can lead to drunkenness.
No Christian is bound to the keeping of a particular day as stated earlier. We are at liberty as to when to gather for fellowship or worship. No one is condemned for keeping or for not keeping a particular day of worship. To foster love and unity however, the day agreed upon by our local assembly and fellowship should be honored for the bible says we must not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. For example, Sunday is universally agreed to be a day of worship by Christians. This symbolizes a lot of things from the Word of God.
Remember the real thing is Jesus Christ. All the law and ordinance are but a shadow of Him that was to come. If we allow Him to reign supreme, He will give us guidance as to how to lead our lives concerning what to eat or drink or day to keep for Him.
Don’t live in shadows of things to come, live in Jesus. He is the way, the truth, the Life,. Have you accepted Him into your heart? If not today is the day of Salvation. Tomorrow may be too late for you.
Jesus is alive!!!
God bless you!
Rev Debo Adeyemo
The Mosaic law was good in that it watched over us as a guardian would, however, it was just a shadow of the things to come. When Christ Jesus hung on the cross of Calvary as the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world, God took all of the Mosaic law with its rules and regulations and cancelled it (He nailed it to the cross as a sign of its cancellation). What the Mosaic law couldn’t do, Christ Jesus does, and in light of this, the apostle Paul is encouraging the Colossian church (an indeed all Christians) not to allow anyone to sit in judgment of you in regards to the Mosaic law. As the apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These were a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17)
Jim Futral http://www.biblepath.com (Answers to questions from a Biblical perspective)
Do not be deceived by cults, false pagan beliefs and false gods. Paul declared that Christ is enough. He is God, the fullness of God, the one who made the world, the reason that everything exists. All the mystery and treasure and wisdom you could ask for are found in the person of Jesus Christ; there is no need to look elsewhere. Approach God directly. Jesus bridged the chasm between God and us, so we don’t have to approach God indirectly through a ladder of angels or other gods. We have no need to prove our worth through superior behavior. We can come to God directly and boldly because of Christ. As for Jewish practices, they were mere shadows, made obsolete by Christ’s coming. Why not concentrate on the actual image that God sent to earth? MAY ALL BE BLESSED!
Colossians 2:16,17 means that all the Old Testament rituals and ordinances of the Jewish nation pointed forward to the Messiah.
He is the Firstfruits, He is the Unleavened Bread, He is the Passover Lamb, He is the Light of the World, He is the Fruit of the Vine, He is the Manna, He is the Water of Life.
All those services and ceremonial Sabbaths were instituted by God to point forward to the Messiah, coming to die for us and to redeem us from our sins by His Blood.
When He hung upon the cross and died at that very instant the High Priest was going to slay the Passover Lamb, God the Father tore the thick curtain from top to bottom thus exposing the Most Holy Place, and the intended Passover Lamb escaped. By this act and Jesus death on the cross, God is showing us the that the ceremonial Sabbaths and ordinances are no longer required. Jesus our Saviour was the Passover Lamb. The Law of Moses, the ordinances and ceremonial Sabbaths were nailed to the cross.
Thus anyone keeping the ceremonial Sabbaths and the ordinances now, and urging others to do the same is crucifying Jesus afresh by denying His Sacrifice.
He died once for all.
Jesus fulfilled the Law of God or the Ten Commandments by living a sinless life. He was judged by the standard of the 10 Commandments, as we all will be. If they could have been done away Jesus would not have had to die. We are sinners, for 1John 3:4 tells us that sin is transgression of the Law, and we have all sinned. Jesus lived His Law perfectly and because He is our Creator and our Redeemer He is the only One who can save us from the penalty of that Law.
He did not do away with the 10 Commandments, He said if you love me keep My Commandments. They were not nailed to the cross. We prove we are His disciples if we love Him and keep His commandments. We are saved by Grace, but Grace is not license to sin.
The 7th day Sabbath is a commemoration of the 7 day creation. It is in sharp conflict with the theory of evolution, and shows the world we worship the Creator who made the world in 6 days and rested on the 7th.It is part of the 10 Commandments, and was not nailed to the cross. God said to remember it, because He knew that almost the whole world would forget it.
The Old Testament ceremonial Sabbaths and ordinances were the shadow of things to come, Jesus came and died for us, and He is the focus of our lives now.
God bless, Noeline
Paul warned the church of Colosse of those who teach Law instead of Grace. There are people who practiced and teach the law of Moses at this period. Because of this, Paul warned the church of those who teach Dietary and Asceticism. What do I mean by these ? I mean those who forbid certain food and eat certain food because of their religion, and those who strictly self -disciplined themselves and avoid pleasures or luxuries thinking that will amount to salvation. Paul said, now that Christ has come to nail all on the cross there is no need for us to observe all these laws because we in Dispensation of Grace and not under the law of Moses. These are shadows of the reality and Christ is the end of the law.
Rev. Israel Adeoye