Spiritual Intimidation

Colossians 2: 8-23


Have you ever been spiritually bullied?


We have some weird rules in America? In Florida, a woman may be fined for falling asleep under a hair dryer.  In Indiana, citizens are not allowed to ride in a public streetcar within four hours after eating garlic. That seems reasonable.

And, it’s probably a good thing that I’m not a pastor in Nicholas County, West Virginia because no member of the clergy there is allowed to tell jokes or humorous stories from the pulpit.


We may laugh at these out-of-date laws, because many of them seem absurd and ridiculous. But, if we were to list all the rules, expectations, and laws that are on the books in many churches today, chances are we’d stop laughing pretty quickly.


Have you ever felt spiritually bullied or intimidated because of someone else’s expectations of your spiritual life?  If you were really a Christian you would …. Or you wouldn’t  The scriptures give us many guidelines as to things we should or shouldn’t do – our problem is that most of the ones people insist on aren’t in scripture.


The Pharisees were that way. The people at Colosse felt that way.  They were entangled in the old covenant – the system of laws – do’s and don’ts. –they came to Christ but soon there were those who began to insist on a lot of regulations for them under the law.  You need to be circumcised, need to observe the religious festivals, do the sacrifices, have dietary restrictions, observe the Sabbath.  So Paul writes this letter – in it he talks about the all sufficiency of Christ.      Let’s read  COL 2: 8-23

Specifically, as it relates to faith, a legalist is one who believes that performance is the way to gain favor with God.  Lives under the law rather than under grace. 


8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.

 9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

 13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Freedom From Human Rules

 16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. 19 They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

 20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence


So what’s wrong with that?

First. Legalism stifles joy.  It can take a vibrant faith and make it dull and lifeless. Instead of finding freedom through Christ, many believers become burdened by the rules of the church and it stunts Spiritual growth rather than enhances it.


Two: Legalism is highly contagious. legalism can spread like a bad virus through an entire congregation. That’s why Jesus reserved some of his harshest criticism for list-makers in Mark 7:6-8: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.”


Third  Legalism produces large quantities of self-righteousness, judgment and condemnation. The Pharisees puffed out their chest and proclaimed : I ‘m glad I ‘m not like those people.”   


Four   Legalism makes us narrow and divisive. The legalist insists that everyone live up to the standard they have adopted. In other words, everyone needs to be like me. When we think this way, we miss the delight of diversity in the church. Diversity takes work: understanding, listening, prayer, and love.  That’s the way it should be because we are not all alike. We look different, have different preferences, worship differently but at the center Christ binds us together in Him.


Five: Legalism makes it impossible for people to see Jesus. Under the Old Covenant, an eye for an eye means eventually everyone is blind. There is nothing that pushes a seeker away faster than a list of rules and regulations. We inadvertently portray Jesus as a drill sergeant instead of the Savior.

So Colossians tackles legalism.  In addition to Colossians, Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews also warn against legalism. We must be taught over and over that everything is by grace. We’re saved by grace and we grow by grace. … As Jesus said in John 8:36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  If we are going to break free from the entanglements of legalism into the freedom of Christ we have to Remember. Paul starts out not by chastising them but by telling them who they are.


Who we are in Christ 

God has a plan for us – we have all deviated from it; we have all sinned – under the curse – no one who is not guilty try to do right but fail in the Gal. 3: 23  “Before this faith came, we were held prisoner by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed.”   Handcuffed by sin that so easily entangles us  

When we come to accept Christ as our Savior, something happened; Paul says we receive many benefits:

We are complete (10)

you have been given fullness in Christ,

We are alive (13).

In the church at Colosse, the false teachers were suggesting that obedience to Old Testament regulations would help them become more spiritual. 

Our sins are canceled (13b-14

The “written code” is the Law. Jesus not only took our sins to the cross, He also took the Law and nailed it there, forever out of the way. The Law was against us and stood opposed to us because all it could ever do was point out our sinfulness.  Our rap sheet has been canceled.

We have victory (15).  Disarmed the powers/authorities

The word for “disarmed” is literally “stripped,” as in stripping a defeated enemy of armor on the battlefield. Friends, evil no longer has any power over you because Christ has stripped Satan’s weapons from him.


The key to removing the handcuffs is Jesus – our faith in Him.  REMOVE handcuffs

People of Colosse said:  Jesus is not enough – need more – need the Jewish laws – religious festival – sacrifices– the Sabbath– dietary laws you have to keep those  


Just like today, Well meaning – good hearted Christians try to put the cuffs back on us again.  Put the cuffs back on Try to put us back in the OT under the law instead of under grace.

But when we remember our position before God ­ we are complete, alive, forgiven, and we have the victory. Vs. 16  therefore  don’t get entangled in the old law again.  Gal. 5 says don’t let yourselves be burdened by a yoke of slavery The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love.


So what about the law? Matt. 5:17 I haven’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it.

How did he do that?   Vs. 14 says he canceled it and nailed it to the cross. 

Rom. 10:4  says:  Christ is the end of the law  a very basic principle of biblical interpretation is that all OT teaching must be examined in the light Christ and the NT. 


Romans 6:14 tells us “we are not under law but under grace.”  Rom. 7:6 tells us “we have been released from the law.”


Food restrictions, special diets, observance of ceremonies and holy days rose out of specific practices in the Old Testament to mark them as distinct people.


Food restrictions were daily:  Leviticus food restrictions law -John 6:48  Jesus says:  I am the bread of life – feed on me.  Dietary laws may be beneficial physically but spiritual, they are just a shadow. Christ fulfilled the law


Religious festivals were annual, Since Christ has now come, obligatory  festival days are no longer necessary because every Old Testament feast looks forward to Christ. we longer celebrate the Passover because I Cor. 5:7 says get rid of the old yeast – for Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed.” Christ fulfilled the law of festivals.


New Moon celebrations were monthly. Although there was a daily sacrifice, new moons required special sacrifices.  – Hebrews tells us that Christ sacrificed himself for us once for all time – never to be repeated. His blood did what the blood of animals could never do; took away our sins. Christ fulfilled the law of sacrifice.


the Sabbath was weekly. Hebrews 4 says there is a Sabbath rest for the people of God who are in Christ. Jesus said: Man wasn’t made for the Sabbath but the Sabbath for man. It was the sign of the Old covenant; the sign of the new covenant is the Holy Spirit that dwells within us. Christ fulfilled the law of the Sabbath.


Vs. 17 these laws, regulations, festivals and food were just shadows of the reality that is fulfilled in Jesus. Hebrews 10:1 puts it like this: “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming-not the realities themselves.”


When you come to know Christ, don’t be handcuffed by those who put you under condemnation because of a man made rule. 

Down through the centuries people have tried to add to the sacrifice of Christ for our sins.  For the Colossians, it was you have to obey the OT law; for some it is you have to baptized in a certain way; others you have to speak in tongues, belong to a certain denomination, you have to sign a certain creed, you have to dress a certain way.   Handcuffs. 

Paul tells us we don’t get to heaven by following a list of do’s and don’ts. And, we don’t live the Christian life that way either. We cannot earn God’s favor. All we can do is receive it. So how do we stay on track?


We must teach grace before commitment, because once grace is understood and embraced, it will lead to commitment.  But, required commitment and rule keeping always leads to legalism. Titus 2:11-12: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”

What teaches us to say NO – it is not a list –it’s an understanding of the marvelous grace of God in Christ.


As we close this morning, let me ask you, “What is your Christianity like?” Has it set you free or tied you up?  The Bible teaches us that Christ is sufficient for our salvation, our life and even our death. Do you believe that Jesus is sufficient for you? In Christ alone we find our hope.


Christ centered faith brings joy; legalism brings drudgery; Christ can set you free. Legalism handcuffs you.



Gal. 3: 23-25 

Chains are a sign of restrictions – slavery but he who the son has set free is free indeed.

Communion is a sign of our faith.