Colossians 2:16-17 / Trapped in a Shadow

Posted on June 14, 2015


This is the tenth in a verse by verse exposition of the book of Colossians. This message was delivered at Hillcrest Baptist Church on the evening of June 14, 2015. This message deals with the dangers of getting caught up in ritual and ceremony as a substitute for faith. This post contains an audio recording of the sermon, as well as my sermon notes (sermon notes are not necessarily a complete transcript).


Col. 2:16-17



These false teachers were trying to impose dietary regulations, probably based on Mosaic law. In fact, Paul’s mention of the Sabbath all but ensures it. They were insisting that certain festivals or feasts be kept. They had laid down rigid restrictions with regard to eating and drinking and with regard to the observance of the religious calendar. However, Paul’s admonition refuting this, reinforces his position on the all sufficiency of Christ.

If Christ is all sufficient, and if our salvation is based upon His work, then why such rigid requirements?
There is nothing wrong with observing the feasts or other holy days, if you’re doing it as an act of loving worship. There is nothing wrong with observing dietary laws, if you’re doing it as an act of loving worship. If these things are a product of your faith in Christ, then all is good.

What is wrong, is doing these things to earn your salvation, as if the work of Christ was not sufficient. What is wrong, is insisting that others do these things against their will.

There are those today who insist that you must observe the sabbath. There are those today who insist that you must adhere to certain rules. There are those today who insist that you must observe the Old Testament feasts. There are those today who insist that you must adhere to certain dietary laws. They are just as much in error as these to whom Paul was speaking.

God does not condemn people based on what they eat.

  • Romans 14:1-4

In fact, He says that all foods may be eaten with thanksgiving.

  • 1 Timothy 4:3

He also wrote that teaching which forbids these things is taught by demons.

  • 1 Timothy 4:1

Christ has disarmed these demons, so why would we follow their teachings?

  • Colossians 2:15

The apostles themselves seemed to feel liberated from the sabbath observance, in that they chose the day of Christ’s resurrection (Sunday) as their day to gather.

  • Acts 20:7
  • 1 Corinthians 16:2

The simple truth is, this passage specifically condemns those who demand this type of legalistic obedience by others.
Instead, Christians should encourage Christ like living and obedience which is based on faith. Obedience which is done out of love and a genuine desire to please and glorify God.

Obedience should be the result of an inward transformation, not coerced by outside pressure. Laws may dictate a person’s actions, but they don’t change a person’s heart. Therefore, legalistic, forced obedience always misses the mark.

The ceremonial aspects of the OT law (dietary regulations, festivals, sacrifices) were mere shadows pointing to Christ. Since Christ has come, we should step out of the shadow and into the light.

  • Hebrews 10:1

Once one places their faith in Christ, he no longer needs to follow the old shadow.

Paul told the Colossian Christians not to let others criticize their diet or their religious ceremonies. 

Our focus and goal for ourselves and one another should be faith in Jesus Christ. Our worship, traditions, and ceremonies can help bring us close to God, but we should never criticize fellow Christians who don’t want to observe those traditions and ceremonies.

Most important is who we worship, and that must be Christ.  

Old Testament laws, holidays, and festivals all pointed toward Christ. Paul calls them “shadows” of the reality that was to come—Christ himself. When Christ came, he dispelled the shadows. 

If we have Christ, we have what we need to know and please God.

Posted in: Sermons