Living Under Christ, Part 1 of 2
“For I desire for you to know how great I have struggled for you and for those in Laodicea and as much as they have not seen my face in the flesh, in order that their hearts might be encouraged after being united in love and in all the riches of the full assurance of the understanding in the knowledge of the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom they are all treasures of wisdom and hidden knowledge. I say this in order that no one might deceive you with enticing arguments. For if indeed I am away in the flesh, I am yet with you in spirit, rejoicing and seeing your order and your firmness of faith in Christ.
“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him, taking root and building up in him and confirming the faith just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that none of you will be taken captive by philosophies and empty deceit according to traditions of humanity, according to the elements of the world and not according to Christ; for in him dwells all the fullness of deity in bodily form, and you have been filled in him, he is the head of every ruler and authority. In whom also you were circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands in the putting off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ, being buried with him in the baptism, in whom also you were raised by the faithful work of God which raised him from death; and you were dead in transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he made you alive together with him, forgiving us all the transgressions. Wiping out each of our record of debts in ordinances which was against us, and he took it up from our midst nailing it to the cross; disarming the rules and the authorities, mocking in boldness, triumphing over them in him.
“Therefore, let no one judge you in matters of eating and in drinking or in sharing in festivals or new moon festivals or sabbaths; these are a shadow of what is coming, and that is the body of Christ. Let no one condemn you while desiring in humility and worship of the angels, which he has seen in great detail, puffing up in vain by the mind of his flesh, and grasping the head, from whom the entire body grows with godly growth by supplying and uniting joints and ligaments.
“If you died with Christ from the elements of this world, why do you submit as though you are living in the world? Do not eat, do not enjoy, do not consume, which is all for the purpose of destruction by consumption, according to the commandments and teachings of humanity, whichever is a word indeed having wisdom in self-made religion and humility and asceticism, not having anything of value against the satisfaction of the flesh.” (Col 2:1-23, my translation)
Remembering that Christ is supreme, Paul now charges his readers to live under Christ’s reign. In contrast, one can live under the reign of the world, under its elements, philosophies, religious constructions, rulers, authorities, rules, and ordinances. Paul was going to great lengths to encourage them to unite in love and in the very knowledge of Christ. His charge to them is succinct–walk in Christ. Walk language is metaphorical for “live.” Living in Christ is then expounded in much detail. Positively, Christians are to take root and build up in Christ, confirm the faith, and abound in thanksgiving. Paul is therefore adding additional traits that characterize believers. Negatively, believers to not get captured by philosophies, empty traditions, or the elements of the world. These things matter not. But Christ is everything. Christ is human yet fully divine. And, again, Christ alone is supreme; he is in fact superior to the rulers and authorities of this world. Christians live in relation to the Supreme One. Christians were baptized with Christ, raised to life with him by God. As a result, their slate has been wiped clean. God is triumphant.
Paul then charges his audience not to live as though God has not won or that their slate is still extant. Matters of eating and drinking, festivals and Jewish events, or even the observance of the Sabbath have no jurisdiction. Furthermore, angel worship–whether the direct worship of angels or, and perhaps the better way of understanding this phrase, the indirect worship of the holy God through the mediation of angels–is not necessary. Elitism has no place. The body of Christ is organic; each of its constituent parts are intimately linked together and they grow up together. Paul is exhorting his readers and listeners to live as part of the unified body.
Those who live in the unified body have died with Christ, as evident in the baptism, which means they have died and separated from the elements of the world, so there is no reason that they should still live as though they are accountable to the world. Food was meant for consumption. Asceticism is designed to deny what was meant for consumption; it is a worthless self-made religion.
Simply put, those who recognize Christ as supreme live as though Christ is their Lord. They are devoted to Christ and not to philosophy. They walk in Christ and not in worthless self-made religion. They are characterized by love, faith, and unity. Furthermore, they worship God directly and do not have need for an elite group of mediators. They are not accountable to matters of asceticism. They can enjoy food and drink with a clear conscience. Finally, their slate has been wiped clean. They can live a life that is marked by forgiveness rather than condemnation.
Are we living lives that display God’s victory? Are we as Christians reflecting Christ in our lives? Or are we caught up in matters of philosophy or religion? It is not that philosophy or religion is a bad thing. However, Christ is to be our focus inwardly and outwardly. Christ has set us free from our sins, but we now answer to Christ. We are part of him, and we ought to live like it. We ought to live as though we answer to Christ alone and not to the world, not to humanity, and not to philosophy or religion. There are two contemporary examples to mention. “I thought Christians can’t eat meat on Fridays.” Not true. “I thought Christians can’t drink alcohol at all.” Not true. Such ordinances are not part of Christ. Christians need not live as though such things are required of them. What is required? Faith, love, and unity.
And there is still more to be said. For now, let it suffice to say that Christians live under the Supreme One, and, as such, they are to walk in him.