COLOSSIANS 2:13-17 - ARE THE TEN COMMANDMENTS NO LONGER BINDING?
The texts found in Colossians 2:13-17 have been used by many Christians to proclaim that the Ten Commandments as God thundered them from Mt. Sinai, and inscribed them in stone with His finger, are no longer binding on God's people. And as a consequence, no longer are His people commanded to worship on the seventh day of the week. They claim that any day, be it Friday the sixth day or Sunday the first day, is just as acceptable as Sabbath the seventh day. But is that what Paul the writer of Colossians had in mind when he wrote the original Greek? Let's compare the NIV translation and a literal translation of the Greek. The translation that I used is The Interlinear Bible, (TIB) by J. P. Green, Sr., Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 1985. (This resource has both the complete Greek and Hebrew texts as well as Strong's reference numbers by each word.)
As most Bible expositors realize, it is improper and dangerous to establish doctrine based primarily upon one text when much of Scripture points to just the opposite. Jesus said,
Certainly this does not sound like Jesus is abolishing or doing away with the Law here. Most of the book of 1 John is dedicated to explaining to God's people that if they claim to be followers of God, that they will no longer continue to sin, sin being the "transgression of the Law" (1 John 3:4 KJV). The NIV translates this as "Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness." Lawlessness is a state or condition of being without a law. Without a set of absolute rules to provide the foundation of one's morality, the "rightness" of actions become relative and what is evil in one person's eyes becomes acceptable in another's. Certainly, this is not what God had in mind when He inscribed the Ten Commandments in the two tables of stone with His finger!
Since the doing away with the Law is not what Paul could have had in mind when he wrote the above phrase (or according to Christ, he would be called the least in the kingdom of heaven), what did he mean? First let's look again at the literal translation of the text to remove any potential bias on the NIV translator's part.
Look at the verse 15 in the TIB version above: "having stripped the rulers and the authorities, He made a show of them in public, triumphing over them in it."
In this verse, it should be apparent that Christ through His death, stripped not the Law, but rather the rulers and authorities of their power, making a show of the rulers and authorities and triumphing over them.
Who or what are these rulers and authorities (powers and authorities - NIV)? Let's look at how Paul and Peter used these terms.
From the above, we see that powers, rulers and authorities are used to refer to 3 different groups with primary emphasis on the third group,
In the three of the four places in the NIV that the term "spectacle" is used, it refers to some entity being made a spectacle before the watching universe, angels, powers and authorities. In addition to the text in Colossians, we have Ezek. 28:17, a lament over Satan which is embedded in God's lament over the King of Tyre.
Paul in writing to the Corinthians continues this theme.
So which of the above powers did Christ triumph over by His death? He triumphed over Satan and his angels. Their false claims that God was selfish, arbitrary and His rules impossible to follow were disproved at the cross as God made the ultimate sacrifice for the redemption of man. Satan, his followers and his false claims were triumphed over at the cross, forever losing their hold on those who would cling to Jesus and His saving grace. The watching universe could see that a "spectacle", (v. 15) a public show had been made of Satan's claims, that his cause was lost, that God had triumphed. Wonderful! Glorious! Hereafter, Satan would be in subjection to Christ and His followers.
Let us continue by looking at Col. 2:14, "blotting out the handwriting in the ordinances against us." (TIB) This handwriting is not that written by the finger of God. Rather it is "handwriting" in the books of record that lists our past offenses and sins against God and His ordinances. These records which stand against us and condemn us to the consequence of death are blotted out when we repent of our sins and accept Christ as our Saviour. No longer will these handwritings testify against us for God has forgiven us. David wrote,
God, through Isaiah added,
So even though we were as good as dead in our sins (Col. 2:13), Christ, through paying the price for our redemption, has made us alive in Him. He forgives us when we repent and wipes our slate clean. Precious, precious Jesus!
Therefore, because we know that Christ gives us life, we are no longer subject to condemnation by man's expectations. No longer are we to be judged by others as to how we keep the various feasts, new moons or sabbaths. Christ, through His indwelling in our hearts and as we honestly search His Word, will lead us into the appropriate way to keep these. The verse does not say we are not to keep them, but rather, if we have truly been made alive in Christ, then don't let the way we keep the Sabbath under His Lordship be judged by others. For all of these things are not, as the NIV and some other modern language translations put it, a shadow of things that were to come, but rather of things that are to come.
Neither are we to be judged in what we eat or drink by anyone else, but we are to recognize that our bodies are of Christ, who resides in us (see 1Cor. 3:16, 2Cor. 6:16). In spite of this freedom, neither are we to become stumbling blocks to weaker Christians, for they too are a part of the body of Christ, which is also His church. Paul, to the Romans in another letter writes:
In conclusion, we can see that Paul did not degrade the Law here in Colossians, nor did he invalidate the Sabbath. Rather he uplifted them as he uplifted Jesus and His sacrifice, Jesus triumphing over the powers of darkness and showing us a more sure way of life, a shadow of things to come. May the Lord be praised as we seek to love and obey Him.
COMMENTARY: A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE ON THE CHANGE FROM SABBATH TO SUNDAY
Since the creation of the world when God set aside the seventh day as a day of rest for mankind, it has been observed as a sacred day by lovers of God. The seven day work week has stood through the centuries, and other than the creation week, there is no explanation for why the week is seven days long. Other civilizations and countries, such as France, have tried to change the number of days in the week, but this attempt has always failed.
Around 200 years after Christ, and beginning with the church in Rome, Christians began to participate with the pagan religions in their Sunday (Day of the Sun) celebrations while still continuing to observe the Sabbath. Since these Sunday celebrations were more enjoyable than the solemn ceremonies that they participated in on the seventh day of the week, they began to look with disfavor on the seventh day and began to worship on Sunday.
In 321A.D., the emperor Constantine signed a law decreeing that all people, not involved in agriculture, should worship on Sunday (the first day of the week). The English translation of the decree reads as follows:
Who Changed the Day? Since then, the Roman Catholic Church has lent its weight to worship on Sunday and has stated that it is a mark of its authority as a representative of God that the day of worship was changed from Saturday or Sabbath to Sunday. You may find the following quotations interesting and informative. They are all quoted from various publications of or affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church.
James Bellord, A New Catechism of Christian Doctrine and Practice, pp. 86, 87.
Henry Tuberville, An Abridgment of the Christian Doctrine, p. 58.
The Day of Which Lord? In its current usage, as shown in the first quote in the series above, "the Lord's Day" is a term referring to Sunday rather than Saturday or Sabbath. It is important to note that John's words "the Lord's Day" in the text of Rev. 1:8 refers to the Sabbath day, as again, it wasn't until many years later that worship on Sunday took place. Jesus referred to himself as Lord of the Sabbath, commenting in Mark 2:28 "So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." So then how did this association of Sunday with the term "Lord's Day" come about?
Shortly after the flood, Satan through the line of Ham, Cush and then Nimrod, a mighty king, and the builder of the tower of Babel (see Gen. 10:8-12, and 11:1-9) brought in a counterfeit religion to God's plan for the redemption of the world. When Nimrod died, Semiramis his wife, claimed that the people's beloved leader had gone to the sun and was now the sun-god. When she gave birth to what she called an "immaculately conceived" child, Tammuz, she claimed that he was the reincarnation of Nimrod, the sun god, and Tammuz, was worshipped as well. This trio of Nimrod, Semiramis and Tammuz, counterfeited the Father, Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ, the Son. Elements of this Babylonish mystery religion can be found through nearly all the pagan religions of the world today, including those found in South America.
Thus Sunday, even before Jesus Christ came on the scene, was called the Lord's Day in honor of this pagan deity. Sunday worship was just one of the many pagan customs and teachings which the apostatized Christian Church accepted and practiced. The church simply changed the name of the rite, or "christianized" the definition, while keeping the sum and substance of the pagan rite or tradition.
Lost Time? A commonly asked question regarding the Sabbath is, "But how do we know that time hasn't been lost, and that the seventh day as God ordained it hasn't actually fallen onto another day?"
Even though the dates of the calendar have been changed several times throughout history, the order of the seven days has never been lost. An example of a new calendar, is the one instituted under Pope Gregory XIII. The Gregorian calendar which is the one currently in usage was instituted in 1582 and adopted by Britain and the colonies in 1752. The orthodox Jewish people use their own calendar which has not lost the cycle of days. Their weekly cycle coincides with the calendar in usage today. Similarly, the Muslims have kept accurate track of the weekly cycle in their calendar system, and their days of the week also coincide with ours.
Even if we felt that time had been lost, the motion of the moon and stars is so precise that the days could be reestablished or confirmed. Astronomers confirm this.
A Sneak Attack? Why is it that some calendars have been modified to reflect Sunday as the seventh day of the weekly cycle? As mentioned earlier, it is impossible to prove that Sunday is the day to be kept sacred from the Bible. In fact, the Catholic Church has in the past offered a $5,000 reward to anyone who could prove that the Sabbath was changed to Sunday. This reward has never been collected. Therefore, in order to minimize questions that might be asked regarding the keeping of Sunday instead of Saturday as the seventh day, some have deemed it appropriate to change the calendar to reflect Sunday as the seventh day. However, just because men make this change, doesn't mean God does. God has not changed the day. It takes just a cursory glance at various languages to show that Saturday remains the Sabbath. In Spanish the word for Saturday is Sabado, the same as for Sabbath. In German, the word for Wednesday is Mittwoch, meaning mid-week or the middle day of the week.
Some have asked, "Does it really matter what day of the week we keep sacred?" In response to this, two examples come to mind that may help provide an answer.
A Test of Obedience. The keeping of the correct Sabbath day may be compared to the command that God gave to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
The food of the tree was not poisonous in the sense that we think of it. It was beautiful to look at and the fruit when eaten tasted good. Why not partake of it? Because God had commanded Adam and Eve not to. It was a test of their obedience to Him. By disobeying God, they sinned and broke their relationship with Him. Similarly, the keeping of the correct Sabbath will be the final test for God's people as we draw closer to Christ's second coming. Efforts will be made to downplay the importance of keeping God's designated day. The false claim may be made that somewhere down in history, an extra day was inserted, and that Sunday is actually the seventh day. To the uninformed, this will appear like a satisfactory answer, but time has not been lost. God's day stands today as it did for the centuries since creation.
Are we willing to obey God in all areas, to be faithful even unto persecution and death? For Jesus said in Matt. 10:28,
And in Matthew 7:21-23,
A Tale of Two Rings. My wife came up with an excellent second example. When a couple gets married, they wear rings given to each other. These rings symbolize their commitment to each other. Imagine the feelings of jealousy that would ensue if the woman decided to wear a ring that another man gave her, especially an old boyfriend. She might rationalize to her husband, "But I know we are married." Nevertheless it would be frustrating to the husband, knowing that the ring he gave her was a sign of their mutual commitment. Similarly, God's day is a sign between Jesus Christ as the husband and we as his bride (see Exod. 31:13, 17 and Ezek. 20:12, 20). Are we willing to wear Christ's ring or are we going to wear that of our old boyfriend, the evil one?
The choice is yours - and the test will soon come - whether you will worship on God's day, the Sabbath, and keep it holy, or to worship on the day of the sun, the day of Baal, the sun god, and desecrate God's day. Won't you join the many who are choosing to obey God.
Where now? If you desire to worship on the seventh day with other Christians, check the yellow pages of your phone directory under the heading "Churches" to see if there are any "seventh-day" churches in your local area. The following headings have been seen.
Of these, by far the largest and most active are the Seventh-day Adventists, with an educational and medical system second only to the Catholic church.
Scripture quoted by permission. All scripture quotations, unless indicated, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. Many thanks go to Zondervan.
Scripture compilations, and commentaries copyright © 1992-2003 by BiblePlus/The Bible Research Company. All rights reserved. The Bible Research Company/BiblePlus is a non-profit organization dedicated to spreading the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ, and to disseminating the marvelous truths of the Bible.