Paul’s View of the Outward Observances


Part 5 of 6 –

Under Paul’s “gospel of the grace of God” for today, the time of outward observances, such as keeping the Sabbath, observing holy days, and dietary laws is now over. Col. 2:16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat (food), or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:

Paul goes on in Colossians 2:17 to say the outward things of “the Law” dispensation are mere shadows of what has now come to be real in the believer’s experience of Christ. “Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body (real substance) is of Christ.” Though they were literal and real in their time, the Old Testament Law shadows are to be seen as allegories that are now superseded by the reality believers now may enjoy in Christ.”

A shadow is an empty image of something real, thus the shadow is not the real thing. These external requirements of the law were empty images of the real thing that was “to come.” Paul’s thirteen epistles and his letter to the Hebrews reveal “the body,” the reality, or the substance of these “shadows” of “things to come,” which have now been “made manifest.” God’s mystery or secret plan was “hid…but now is made manifest” ( Col 1:26 below). Now every believer may enjoy the reality of Christ’s “Spirit of life” (Rom 8:2a) indwelling their spirit as their all.

Colossians 1:26-27 Even the mystery which HATH BEEN HID from ages and from generations, but now is MADE MANIFEST to his saints: 27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is CHRIST IN YOU, the hope of glory:

Christ now is in us, as close as our breath. Today every believer has received and may enjoy Christ’s substantive “spirit of life” that literally indwells their human spirit (1Cor 6:17).

We know from the gospels that Christ is the only reality. Jesus said “I am…the truth (Gk., aletheia, verity, reality)...” John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life… He is the “body of,” or “reality of,” the riches that were originally foreseen as mere “shadows” in the Old Testament.

Allegorically, Christ is the reality of all those bullocks and lambs whose innocent blood was shed to deal with the sins of the people of Israel . He is the true wheat – the uplifted humanity who now indwells believers. He is the true barley, as the first fruits of resurrection life to believers. He is the true pomegranate, with its many seeds of life, to produce the many Sons of God. He is the real water of life, He is the rock cleft and broken for us, dying for us and as us. He is the true manna, the Spiritual bread of heaven to nurture and strengthen believers today. All these things and more were enjoyed by Israel as a foretaste of the reality that we may now enjoy “in Christ.”

Shadows lack substance, missing the element of the real thing. The substantive real thing is “the Spirit of the Lord” (Rom 8:10-11) who indwells every believer. Today, since the Lord rose from the dead He has been available to indwell men ( Col 1:27) as “that Spirit” (1Cor 3:15), the “life-giving spirit” (15:45). All that was outward in previous dispensations has now become an innermost reality for believers today who live under “the dispensation of the grace of God” (Eph 3:2). The outward things of “time past” were shadows of the inward reality that was to come and that we may enjoy today.

The former outward things of outward worship, service and observance of Israel were but a shadow of the inward reality we may now enjoy by and with Christ in us. Today God deals with us one on one – each one being rebirthed individually. Today, God does not deal with the members of “the body of Christ” as a corporate entity, as a people or as a nation – we do enjoy the same riches in and by Christ but they are enjoyed individually, personally.

As we have already seen, this matter of the inward spirit-reality is quite in keeping with Jesus words to the woman at the well. John 4:24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must WORSHIP HIM IN SPIRIT and in truth (reality). Then also, according to Paul, the enjoyment of the eternal life is the fruit of being in union and accord with Christ in our “spirit.” Galatians 6:8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to THE SPIRIT shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

Paul commends us, as the members of Christ’s incarnated body on earth today, to walk, talk, and have our living “in Christ.” We are to live in accord with the indwelling “Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:2, Gal 5:16, 25) who now literally indwells our human spirit as our life and guide, our “Lord” (Gk., kurious, governor). Our relationship with God now, in this time of “the dispensation of the grace of God,” is through the indwelling Christ; we no longer have our relationship with God based upon anything outward.

Therefore, true worship must be rooted in this “spirit-reality.” It is never a self-righteous independent act of show. In my past years as a one-time Charismatic, I saw many who worshipped for “show”; seeming to say “look at me, I’m spiritual.” Jesus said, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” (Matthew 15:8) Such acting out for appearance sake is a negative trait of fallen mankind; it’s in stark contrast to Paul’s admonition. Ephes. 6:6 Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, DOING THE WILL OF GOD FROM THE HEART. There is no greater worship of the Lord than doing His will, as you are led by “the spirit.” You may say, “Why not capitalize the term “the spirit” as Spirit? I do this to connote the fact that He has come to dwell in our human spirit – that is the location in us. Paul uses the term “the spirit” many times, all the time he is referring to the mingled spirit - His Spirit in the believer’s human Spirit. 1 Corinthians 6:17 But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. We are not annihilated; we bear His Spirit-life in our spirit as our regenerated “one spirit-life.”

The outward expression or demonstration of so-called worship is not necessarily an indication of true worship. As I’ve written earlier, worship may or may not include singing, lifted hands, dance or other outward expressions. The core of worship is that of an attitude we maintain that reflexively springs from our “heart.”  A “true” or “sincere heart” is one that is yielded to Him, of one who is walking in accord with Him, trusting Him. Ephesians 4:24 (AMP) And put on the new nature (the regenerate self) created in God’s image, [Godlike] in true (genuine) righteousness and holiness.

Thus, there can be worship with or without any outward indication as we carry our reverence and love for our Lord, moment by moment in our hearts, in our daily walk. We maintain our fellowship with Him by trusting Him, walking assuredly, in confidence, enjoying the inner fixed, secure, certainty of our relationship with God as Father and Christ as our life (Col 3:4a). Enjoy and abiding in the grace and peace of His indwelling life, by faith, is true worship - we are then taking God at His word, by faith.