Colossians & Philemonby Mike Raiter
Ionce heard someone who had a near-death experience speak in church. He shared, “I thought I was a Christian before, but now I’m more of a Christian.” I thought to myself, how could you become more of a Christian? It is like an expectant mother saying, “I’m more pregnant.” Her pregnancy may be more advanced, but you are either pregnant or not pregnant. Likewise, you are either in Christ or not in Christ.
In Colossians 2:10, Paul says, “and in Christ you have been brought to fullness.” Not 25 percent, or even 99 percent, but fullness. We have been “made . . . alive with Christ”(v. 13), not left hovering between life and death. You get the picture? Done. Finished. Complete.
In this next section (Colossians 2:16–19), Paul addresses the second danger to our growing in Christ. Apparently there were some Jewish Christians who were accusing the Gentile believers of not being fully or properly Christian because they were not keeping the Jewish food and drink laws or the religious festivals (v. 16). Of course, there are certain wilful, sinful behaviours that do disqualify unrepentant practitioners from God (see 1 Corinthians 6:9–10), but that is not what Paul is talking about here.
Paul briefly explains where these judgemental Christians have gone wrong (v. 17). They have forgotten that these Jewish laws were only the foreshadowing; the reality is Christ. You and I belong to this new age. Do not let anyone try to take you back to a bygone age.
You simply cannot say to someone, “I recognise that you are fully ‘in Christ’, but you cannot fully belong in my church because you do not keep the Sabbath the way we do, or eat or drink what we do, or dress for church the way we do.” And so on.
Today we are reminded that no one is a slave, or second-rate, in God’s household of sons and daughters; we are all equally and fully His children. There is no “next level of spiritual power” or “deeper spiritual intimacy with Jesus”. We have already been given all the riches that God has for us in Christ.
Are there certain behaviours that do cut us off from Christ and His body? How can we discern what is essential for maintaining fellowship and what is not essential?
How should we respond when we believe that we are being judged for a belief or behaviour that is a matter of Christian freedom?