We live in a world where many people do not have much of a life. Many others feel that their cup is not even half full. Many people of all ages have been, and still are, desperately searching for completeness, for a satisfaction, a wholeness they cannot seem to find. They search for completeness in the temporary pleasures of sin and think if they could have this or enjoy that, they would then be complete. The devil spreads out so many sinful distractions and temporary pleasures, and the human race is chasing after them, trying to fill some void inside, but they only find misery.
We are aware of so little that goes on in the world, but Jesus said that when He comes, all things will be revealed. Paul says in Romans 2 that the secrets of men will be judged in that day. If you want to be ready for that day, you need to be in Christ so that your sins can be forgiven and blotted out.
This is a simple, introductory study from Colossians 2 on the subject of forgiveness and the blotting out of sin. It shows us that in Christ, life can be complete. Adam’s problem in the Garden of Eden was that he believed his life would not be complete without Eve, so much so that he was willing to sin so that she would remain a part of his life. But the completeness he thought he would have turned into trouble. He and Eve argued and blamed each other and there was no satisfaction in the life that followed. They did not find the completeness they sought because completeness is only found in Jesus Christ.
So how can we be complete, not half full or half empty? It requires faith in Him who has provided for every deficiency. Colossians 2:6 says, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” Paul returns again and again to the theme of walking in Christ. Walking in Christ is to receive Christ. How do we receive Christ? As we understand God’s character and His love more and more, we will learn to accept Christ in our hearts.
The devil has tricked the people of the world into believing that God wants to restrict their freedom and happiness. They say that God’s law is just a list of dos and don’ts that keep them from having a good life. In reality, God’s law was given to keep man from doing the immoral, illegal, and unhealthy things that will bring harm to them physically and keep them separated from God. It is important to understand that God has something better to replace anything we lose in this world, including our lives. If we are following Jesus, we will eventually receive something infinitely better than any worldly thing we may give up. God changes our mind about everything in the world, and we will see that keeping God’s law and allowing Him to change us will bring us happiness.
So the first step to receiving Christ is realizing how much God loves us and wants us to be happy, and that He is willing to give us all the best things. He has prepared a place of happiness where there is no disappointment, pain, suffering, or loneliness. In fact, Ellen White has written that God created man and woman for happiness, so if we follow God and His way, we will find happiness in Him, even if we have problems in this world. We find this assurance in Psalm 16:11, “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”
The people of this world love sinning because they continually want, and they believe if only they can have what they want, it will bring them happiness and completeness. But instead, they find only emptiness and sorrow, trouble and misery, incompleteness. They may find a thrill for a time in drugs, alcohol, pornography, gambling, or other forms of immorality, but none of these things will bring them true satisfaction or completeness.
In 1 Corinthians 15:3, last part, the Bible tells us that Christ “died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” Studying the cross changes how the mind perceives sin. Sin is no longer desirable, nor can we believe that it could bring true happiness, because the truth is, sin—our sins—killed Jesus. The more we know, the more we will hate sin because we see what it has done and is doing. When we hate sin, the Bible says we will want to repent, because we understand that continuing in sin makes us as responsible for crucifying Christ as were those who drove the nails into His hands and called for His death. The deeper our repentance becomes, Christ is then able to work miracles in our behalf and we will walk in the way of righteousness, loving and trusting Him more.
Repentance is a change of mind and heart, a recognition that we have been ruined by sin and that there is no hope to be found in this world without Jesus. We must have a new heart, a new spirit, and a new life, but we can only find these in Christ. We must first receive Him so that we can live a Christlike life every day.
Continuing in Colossians 2, we are warned that we must be careful not to let anyone rob us of the prize that God has for us. We cannot allow ourselves to be separated from Christ through worldly philosophy. Paul says in verse 9, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” Jesus is not a junior God. He is the completeness of divinity, and, because of His divinity, He can do for us what no other being can do. Paul, continuing in verse 10 says, “and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” This scripture is written in the present tense, but it will not be completely fulfilled until we are in heaven. God has many things in mind for us and until we have received those things, we are not yet fully complete.
In Colossians 2:11, Paul writes that God wants to take away the body of our humiliation, “In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ …” Circumcision represents the cutting away of sin from the life.
Before we can have a new body we must first have a new spirit and a new mind. This is the work of God. “… [B]uried 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.” Colossians 2:12, 13.
Jesus does this work, and when we are baptized and raised again in Him, verse 14 says, “… 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.” Something is referred to in this scripture that used to exist, but does not exist anymore. What is this thing that no longer exists? It was something against us, written by the hand of man, an entity called decrees or ordinances. Paul says this entity was: 1) hostile toward us, 2) taken out of the way by Him [Jesus], and 3) nailed to the cross. Three times he states that this entity no longer exists.
He says that these decrees and ordinances were handwritten, and this is an exceedingly important point, because if they were handwritten, we immediately must see that he is not, in any way, talking about the ten commandments. Man writes using his whole hand. God writes with His finger.
God does not use His hand to write. We find three times in the Bible where God wrote something. John 8 in the last part of verse 6 says: “But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.” This verse tells us explicitly that He wrote with His finger.
In Daniel 5:5, we find the account of Belshazzar’s feast. “In the same hour the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and wrote … .”
And finally, Deuteronomy 9:10 tells us how God wrote the ten commandments: “Then the Lord delivered to me two tablets of stone written with the finger of God … .” Imagine the power it took for God to put His finger on the tables of stone and etch the words of the law into that stone. This clearly tells us just how permanent He intended His law to be.
As Christians, we believe that we are to let the Bible interpret itself, so let’s go to the Bible to see just what was this entity, these decrees or ordinances, written by the hand of man, not by the finger of God, that were nailed to the cross and taken out of the way.
The Bible tells us in Acts 15:10 that these decrees and ordinances were a “yoke on the neck” or a yoke of bondage. Peter says that neither we nor “our fathers” could keep these ordinances. In Galatians 5:1–6, Paul again writes about this yoke of bondage, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” Ephesians 2:14–18 and Hebrews 7:16 refer to these decrees and ordinances, this yoke of bondage, as a law of fleshly commandments, handwritten by man, once against us, but now nailed to the cross.
While on Mt. Sinai, Moses received the ten commandments written by the finger of God, but he also received instruction from God, which he himself wrote by hand, that became what we know today as the ceremonial law. In Galatians 3:19, Paul describes this ceremonial law as having been added because of transgression and this law would exist until the Seed [Christ] should come. The ceremonial law required that if a person sinned, he or she had to bring a sacrifice to the sanctuary to be offered up in their behalf, and Paul said that only a sinner was required to keep the ceremonial law. But if a person was tired of sin and instead committed his or her life to obeying God’s commandments and began to live without sinning, they would not have to bring these many sin offerings to the sanctuary.
When Jesus was on earth, He never brought a sin offering to the temple. Why? Because Jesus was sinless. He kept the law and always did the will of His Father.
The book of Leviticus outlines the various aspects of the ceremonial law:
- Feasts (set times)
- Levitical priesthood
- Earthly sanctuary and its rituals
Paul says in Hebrews 13:14, “For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.” We have an altar in the heavenly sanctuary at which Paul says the worshipers in the earthly sanctuary did not have a right to worship. Some people still believe that Jerusalem in Israel is where we must go to worship, but that was part of the old covenant. There is no enduring city on earth where we are told to go to worship under the new covenant.
There are large parts of the Torah written by Moses that were not a part of any ceremonial or ritual law; they were simply explanations concerning the ten commandments that were meant to provide us with a better understanding of the ten commandments and to keep us from being easily deceived by the devil’s smooth talk.
An example of this is Leviticus 11 which contains the listing of unclean foods with the admonition that they should not be eaten. Does that have anything to do with the sanctuary? Absolutely not! But it does have to do with the sixth commandment. Two thousand years ago people had to accept this by faith, but today we have science that proves that there are certain foods that will kill you. They don’t all kill you right away or people wouldn’t eat them. It was sinful to eat these foods before the ritual law was given, so these food laws were not part of the ritual law.
If we study Leviticus 18 and 20, we find that they explain the meaning of the seventh commandment. The Bible tells us many times in the New Testament that no fornicator or adulterer or anyone of this nature will be in the kingdom of heaven (see 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; Galatians 5:16–21; Revelation 9:20, 21; Revelation 21:8; Revelation 22:15). Leviticus 19 gives additional explanation regarding the second, fifth, and seventh commandments.
After Paul discusses the ceremonial or ritual law, which was added because of transgression, he tells about Jesus’ experience on the cross of Calvary, “having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” Colossians 2:14, 15. The “principalities and powers” Paul refers to here is the devil. Because of the cross, Jesus triumphed over the devil and all his host and it was guaranteed that he and his kingdom would be destroyed.
As long as a person continued in sin, the ceremonial law had to be kept and followed, and sacrifices continued to be made. Hebrews 10:1–4 explains this: “For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.”
Colossians 2:16 says, “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths … .” People like to argue about this text. Let’s look at the whole context surrounding it. Paul has, in verses 7 and 8, raised the issue of false teachers attempting to control the religious experience of those in the Christian church by teaching the philosophy of the world. When we study church and secular history, we find that there were two apostate groups at work. One was the gnostics and the other judaizers. Gnosticism is a terrible thing. It is so bad that almost all of the New Testament writers wrote against it. Some scholars believe that the gospel of John was written mainly to combat gnosticism in the Christian church. Paul consistently teaches against gnosticism in his epistles, but especially in Colossians 2. Gnosticism taught in part that it did not matter what a person did with their body as long as their mind was pure, however that is not what the New Testament teaches. Imagine, sinning and committing all forms of vile wickedness with the body and expecting to keep the mind pure and holy. The gnostics attempted to convince the early Christians that they could lead them to a higher Christian experience, but Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “[C]asting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” The Bible says that we all will one day stand before the judgment seat of Christ and be judged according to the deeds done in the body.
The judaizers taught that you could not be perfect unless you followed all the law of Moses and kept all the Jewish traditions. Based on the types of food and drink outlined in Numbers 6 and 28 and Leviticus 6 and 23 associated with the various feasts and ceremonies of the ceremonial law, these judaizers were judging the members of each new church that Paul established on what they ate and drank. So Paul is saying in Colossians 2:16 that they were not to let the judaizers pass judgment on them because of the food they ate or what they drank. Nor were they to be judged over the feasts, the monthly ceremonies or the weekly sabbaths associated with certain holy days, which were a shadow of things to come.
What were the festival sabbaths? There were different festival sabbaths (weeks) in the ceremonial law in addition to the seventh-day Sabbath. They were:
- The first day of the Passover week (Exodus 12:15; Leviticus 23:5–7; Numbers 28:17, 18)
- The seventh day of the Passover week (Exodus 12:16; Numbers 28:24, 25)
- The first day of the seventh month (Leviticus 23:24, 25; Numbers 29:1)
- The tenth day of the seventh month (Leviticus 16:29–31; 23:27–32; Numbers 29:7)
- The fifteenth day of the seventh month (Leviticus 23:34, 35; Numbers 29:12)
- The twenty-second day of the seventh month (Leviticus 23:39)
- The fiftieth day (Pentecost), known also as the “feast of weeks” (Leviticus 23:15, 16, 21; Deuteronomy 16:9, 10)
As with their food and drink, Paul is telling the Christian churches that they were not to allow the judaizers to judge them on the keeping of these festival sabbaths nor the other feasts and ceremonies. Paul is specific that in proper context, all these things are merely shadows [types] of things to come. All of this had to do with the ceremonial law and Hebrews 8:5 and Hebrews 10:1 distinctly state that all of the ceremonial law—food, drink, new moons, sabbaths, feasts, sacrifices—were all connected to the earthly sanctuary and all foreshadowed heavenly things to come.
“[B]ut the substance is of Christ. Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.” Colossians 2:17, last part, 18. Paul is telling the early Christians that they were to let no one judge them or dictate to them what their religious experience should be, but rather they should go to the body of Christ. He had already told them in Colossians 1:18, 24 what was the body of Christ, “And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. … I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church.” He is telling them, and us, not to listen to the world, but to go to the church. These worldly teachers would have you believe and follow their doctrines and worldly teachings regardless of whether it contradicts God’s word or not. But if you go to the church, to seek out a godly elder or deacon and ask for spiritual advice, they will tell you to believe what they say only as it is in harmony with the Bible.
The church in Paul’s day, just like the church today, was being attacked. Have you noticed recently that Christianity as a whole is being opposed more and more by the world, and this opposition will increase as we approach the coming of Jesus; so much so that if it were possible, even the elect will be deceived. Do not seek out the world for advice. Do not be consumed by worldly philosophy. Do not be cheated of your reward. Do not go to the world, for neither it nor its teachings will make you complete. Only by walking in Christ are we made complete. He has already fulfilled the promise of a new heart, a new mind, and new spirit. If you know Christ, then you will know the completeness of His life in you. [Emphasis supplied.]
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.