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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, December 19 2019

Does Colossians 2:16 abolish the annual holy days?

The apostle Paul wrote to the Colossian Christians, a gentile congregation: “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, 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 …” (Colossians 2:16-17, King James Version).

Does this verse indicate that New Testament Christians no longer were commanded to keep the annual Holy Days?

From the context we can see Paul, in this passage, is countering a local heresy and not changing the observance of the annual festivals of God. In doing so he actually confirms and explains the value of God’s days to Christians. He explains they foreshadow “things to come.” In other words, the focus of God’s festivals is on the future, relating God’s plan directly to the commission Christ gave His New Testament Church.

Paul was trying to keep the Colossians focused on Christ as the head of the Church (Colossians 1:18; Colossians 2:10-19). False teachers were trying to persuade them to direct their worship toward angels (Colossians 2:18) and also teaching asceticism and the neglect of their own bodies (Colossians 2:23). No such distorted ideas are taught anywhere in the Scriptures.

The Colossians were being persuaded to ignore plain biblical instruction in favor of human opinion and teachings. “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle … according to the commandments and doctrines of men” (Colossians 2:21-22). These deceivers were probably forerunners of a major religious movement, gnosticism, that flourished in the second century. The Colossian heretics had introduced various man-made prohibitions against the enjoyment of physical things. They especially objected to the pleasurable aspects of God’s festivals—the eating and drinking aspects—that are commanded in the Scriptures (Deuteronomy 12:17-18).

When Paul wrote, “… Let no one judge you in food …” (Colossians 2:16), he wasn’t discussing what types of foods they should or should not eat. The Greek word ‘brosis’, translated “food,” refers not to the kinds of foods one should or should not eat, but to “the act of eating” (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, “Food”). The point is the deceivers disdained any type of eating and drinking for enjoyment. Paul instructed the Colossian Christians not to be influenced by these false teachers’ objections to eating, drinking and rejoicing on Sabbaths and feast days. They had no authority to judge or determine how the Colossians were to observe God’s festivals. That is why Paul said, “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 …” (Colossians 2:16-17, King James Version).

Nothing in this passage even suggests God abolished His Sabbaths or Holy Days, nor authorized Paul to do so. Succumbing to the judgmental influence of those early gnostic heretics is what Paul condemns, not the observance of Sabbaths and feast days. God’s festivals are times for joy and celebration. He commands us to attend them and rejoice with our children and families (Deuteronomy 12:5-7; Deuteronomy 14:26).