Colossians 2:16 and Sabbath
Colossians 2:16 is the one particular verse in the Bible that many Christians who don't observe the seventh day sabbath like to quote, to suggest that the sabbath day is no longer binding and that you can keep any day you like. The problem is that many sincere Christians forget to look at the whole context of Bible verses and miss the true meaning of what God is saying. Let's look into Colossians 2:16 and find out the real truth as to what it means.
Colossians 2:16-17 .....'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: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.'
Now taken on their own, these verses could well suggest that the sabbath day may no longer be important for us to keep. But when we look at the whole context of what is being said, then new light is shed upon the Word of God. Notice that the verses above start with, "let no man THEREFORE judge you..." That word "therefore" connects this verse to the previous ones. So let's look at the previous verses:
Colossians 2:8-15 .....'Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ ... In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ ... Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.'
Now this sheds a whole new light upon Colossians 2:16. There are a few key words that give us clear understanding about what Paul was saying here. Paul warns against "philosophy and traditions of man". He speaks about "circumcision" and the "handwriting of ordinances". So what is the context? It is tradition of man and ordinances. Are the ten commandments the 'tradition of man'? Of course not. What system did Paul come out of? He came out of the 'traditions of men', specifically the traditions that the Jewish leaders imposed upon people. This has nothing to do with God's moral law of love summed up in the ten commandments. So what are these ordinances? Take a look at the following Bible verses:
Hebrews 9:6,9,10 .....'Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God ..... Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ORDINANCES, imposed on them until the time of reformation.'
DO YOU SEE?? The ordinances that Paul is talking about were to do with the priestly service with the sacrifices of animals and meat and drink offerings, etc. Now the next key words in Colossians 2:14 are "that was against us". Paul is saying that these ordinances were against us. Were the ten commandments, God's great moral law of love, against us? No, of course not, they are there to help us and guide us to Jesus. So what law was against us? Take a look at the following:
Deuteronomy 31:26 ..... 'Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.'
This "book of the law" contained the carnal ordinances of the priestly service. Now the ten commandments, written on stone were placed INSIDE the ark, and yet this book of the law, containing the carnal ordinances was placed BESIDE (outside) the ark, and note, AS A WITNESS AGAINST THEE. So it was the ordinances of sacrifices, offerings, washings etc, that were against us, NOT the ten commandments. It becomes so clear if we just use the Bible to interpret itself, rather than take verses out of context.
Jesus said the Sabbath was made 'FOR' man (Mark 2:27). This means the ordinances Paul said were 'AGAINST US' in Colossians 2, cannot include the 7th day Sabbath, which is 'FOR' us.
Meaning of Colossians 2:16
Paul is clearly talking about the carnal ordinances, which were the animal sacrifices, meat and drink offerings. And the "sabbath days" are the sabbaths that ALSO contained carnal sacrifices and offerings, NOT the sabbath that was instituted at creation that God included in the ten commandments. Just take a look at the same language between Colossians 2:16 and Ezekiel 45:17 below:
Ezekiel 45:17 ....'And it shall be the prince's part to give burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and drink offerings, in the feasts, and in the new moons, and in the sabbaths, in all solemnities of the house of Israel: he shall prepare the sin offering, and the meat offering, and the burnt offering, and the peace offerings, to make reconciliation for the house of Israel.'
Do you see the clear connection with the above and Colossians 2:16? These are the ordinances contained in the book of the law that was placed outside the ark of the covenant, NOT the ten commandments that were placed INSIDE the ark. And the "sabbath days" talked about here are the sabbaths that contained sacrificial offerings. Now how can we be completely certain that Colossians 2:16 does not do away with the seventh day sabbath of the 4th commandment? Well, if this clear information isn't enough, look at what is says in verse 17:
Colossians 2:17 .....'Which are a shadow of things to come.'
So the sabbaths mentioned in Colossians 2:16 are a "shadow of things to come". Now the weekly seventh day sabbath CANNOT be a shadow of anything, why? Because the seventh day weekly sabbath was instituted at creation BEFORE sin came into the world. So how can it be a shadow of anything? It's impossible! A shadow was something that was introduced BECAUSE of sin, UNTIL Christ came to replace it. Friend, this is the amazing truth of God's Word.
It is the ritual, carnal services that were contained in the "handwriting of ordinances" (the book of the law, or the laws of Moses) that Paul was talking about. These laws were also given, apart from the moral law of the ten commandments, to teach the Jews a deep lesson about the effects of sin and the sacrifice that God was to make through His Son Jesus. It was these 'ordinances' that pointed to Christ Jesus, and were a shadow until Christ nailed them to the cross, taking them out of the way.
Paul was telling the people that you could not judge anyone who no longer kept these carnal ordinances, because Christ did away with them by His body and blood. In no way was he saying that the seventh day sabbath was no longer binding. The sabbath day of the 4th commandment will always exist! (Isaiah 66:22-23).