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Colossians 2:20–23 ‘These rules… are based on merely human commands and teachings.’ (v22)

Some people find the apostle Paul difficult, thinking that he’s harsh or unfeeling. But if we try to find out more about the individual churches to whom he wrote, we might reshape our view of him.

For instance, to one group of people who were lax in their faith –such as in his first letter to the Corinthians – he writes (paraphrased), ‘Shape up! I want you to know God’s truth as revealed in Christ and His sacrifice for you!’

To those bound or enticed by rules – such as the Colossians – he says, ‘You’re free in Christ!’ He modifies his message according to the needs of those he addresses.

We don’t have to see him as harsh, but rather as passionately concerned that the young believers aren’t misled by lies and half-truths.

Paul notes that the rules they follow concern temporal things – such as food that ceases to be food when it is consumed.

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These rules are made by humans, not by God, and thus lack the weight of the commands of the Lord for the good of His people in the Old Testament or Jesus’ rules for living in the Sermon on the Mount (see Matt. 5–7).

Instead of imparting life and health, these harsh rules will bring oppression and won’t result in lasting transformation and change.

If Paul was writing to you, how do you think he’d approach his letter? Do you prefer the safety that rules may appear to give, enabling you to know how to act?

Or do you long for freedom and the unfettered nature of life without being told how to live? Or somewhere in between? Why?


A Prayer To Make:
‘Lord Jesus Christ, in You we have freedom. Help us not to adopt human rules, which will not foster our growth in You. Amen.’

An Action To Take:
Consider if you more prefer freedom or the safety of rules. How therefore can you lean on Christ for His wisdom?

Scripture To Consider:
Ps. 119:44–45; Isa. 61:1–3; Rom. 6:20–23; 2 Cor. 3:17–18

Micha Jazz is Director of Resources at Waverley Abbey, UK.