Women’s Bible study: Colossians 2:16-23

All legalistic, man-made religions and cultures detract away from the centrality of Christ. It’s the focus all on angels, or all on Mary, or all on the Pope, or all on Joseph Smith, or all on Oprah, or WHOEVER.


In Colossians 2:16-23, Paul takes on Gnosticism, an ancient false religious system that still creeps into our lives today. Four gnostic practices:

  1. AsceticismIf the body is evil, then it must be beaten down, starved, its every need refused and its every impulse chained down.
  2. Observation of Days. Feasts and new moons and sabbaths. If you’ve been set free from this, why do you want to go back? (These just point us to the real thing, we don’t need those once the real thing is here!)
  3. Special Visions (“making a parade of the things he has seen”). The Gnostics prided themselves on special visions and special revelation of secret knowledge. There is always a danger when a man begins to think he has attained a height of holiness which enables him to see what “Common men” cannot. This led to a “spiritual snobbery.”
  4. Worship of Angels. Jews had a highly-developed doctrine of angels, and the Gnostics believed in all kinds of intermediaries. They worshipped these.

Paul makes four criticisms of this:

  1. All this is just a shadow of the truth — the real truth is Christ. 
  2. This promotes a sort of false humility because it acts as though God is so high and holy that we must bear all these rules and engage in all this asceticism in order to please Him. But Christianity says the opposite, God is open to the humblest and the simplest person. (Childlike)
  3. This sort of religious observance leads to pride. It is the basic truth of Christianity that no man who thinks himself good is good, least of all the man (or woman) who thinks himself (or herself) better than other people.
  4. All this is a return to unChristian slavery instead of Christian freedom. It does not free a man from earthly lusts. Christian freedom comes not by rules and regulations, but by death of evil desires (death to self) and the springing to life of good desires, as God changes us from the inside out (changing what we want). (Changed)

Colossians: Fully Pleasing God

Week 5 of Colossians: Fully Pleasing God
Scripture: Colossians 2:16-23
Teacher: Kari Patterson
Date: 2/18/14

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things to think about …

  • Where are you susceptible to letting others “pass judgment” on you regarding your decisions to follow Christ? Is there anyone in your life who you tend to fear their judgment about your family, lifestyle, choices? Why do you think that is?
  • In what ways do we take things that were meant to point us to and draw us to Christ and we let them become the end-all? Do any holidays, traditions, or religious activities become the end instead of the means to the end of worshipping Christ?
  • Why do you think rules and regulations are so appealing to our culture? How do we measure “success” in our culture and what part does this play in legalism?

Verse to memorize:

“These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” —Colossians 2:17

Kids’ verse:

“Rules and religion are shadows — the real thing is Christ!” —Colossians 2:17

Scriptures: Colossians 2:16-23

16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no onedisqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Audio for this teaching is included in the RENEW Church podcast: subscribe in iTunes here, listen to all Women’s Bible Study messages at Godrenews.us/women, or access the church podcast feed directly here.

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