Colossians 2:16-23, “Calling Out L.I.E.S”

Colossians 2:16-17, “16 Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.”

These aren’t men, women, and children who are anti-Jesus. They are pro-Jesus, love Jesus, believe in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and yet they are getting distracted with these messages that “Jesus isn’t enough” and these messages are going to break down into 4 different categories:  Legalism

  • In the context of the passage the church of Colossae is a smorgasbord of spiritual activity. There were Jewish people who had come to faith in Jesus, Gentile people who had come to faith in Jesus, influences of paganism, family traditions, so that for some people there were literally 1,000’s of years of eating certain foods, not eating certain foods, celebrating key events in life a certain way, so that Jesus was great, but there are also certain rules and behaviors that we should follow to set us apart from one another.
    • Today,we do this with things like where we send our kids to school, because public school is scary, private school is better, and home schooling what Jesus would do.
    • We do this with styles of worship music. Obviously hymns are the most holy style of worship music. We do this with translations of Scripture like NIV, NASB, ESV, and everybody knows the King James Version is the right one.
    • We do this with prayer, how often we pray, how flowery our prayers, and everyone knows long prayers are to be avoided at all times.
    • We do this with cultural involvement like drinking alcohol, going to clubs, listening to pop music, wearing make-up, and how much money we spend on trendy things.
    • We do this with what plastics we use, showing up on Sundays, what food we eat, or don’t eat, and It is all coming from a source of legalism, look at me!

Colossians 2:18, “18 Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind”

In verse 18 we see our second category with words like, “Self-abasement, worship of angels, and visions” so that we can just call this one, “SPIRITUAL SUPERIORIRTY.”

Self-abasement is the denying of one’s self so as to give the illusion of being closer to God like fasting when nobody else does, financially giving more than others, physically serving more than others, and it is done to give an illusion of being closer to God.

Worshipping of angels is implying that we are so special to God that a heavenly host of angels is attending to our needs. (Better is that we think more too lowly of ourselves to pray to Jesus, so we pray to angels…how do I work that into spiritual superiority.)

Referencing visions and dreams or a Word from the Lord, so that we give the illusion that we are just a little closer to God than everyone else. It is “Spiritual Superiority” and it is taking parts of our spiritual life, and twisting them so as to say, “Listen to me.”

Legalism is saying, “Look at me, I am more holy.” Spiritual superiority is saying, “Listen to me, I am more holy.”

Again, I am guessing we might think this isn’t that common in our church family, but I think there are things we can do to give a connotation of spiritual superiority over one another:

  • I am so close to God that I am the only one who really cares about the homeless, health care, education, etc. Everyone else is taking pictures of their food on Instagram, but I am the only one who really cares.
  • I am so close to God that I am the only one is committed to the truth of God’s Word. It is okay if I have to argue and offend if necessary.
  • I am so close to God that I am the only one who really knows what is best for our country and the world. Market collapsing, next president, or corona virus.
  • I am so close to God that I am the only one who has lived long enough to have wisdom. Closed off to young.
  • I am so close to God that I am the only who is young enough to understand. Closed off to old.

Colossians 2:19, “19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.”

In verse 19 we see our third category, and it is the message of independence.  In the context of verse 19 the church of Colossae is getting swept up with false messages, and they are losing touch with the “head” which is Christ who is the head over all rule and authority, Colossians 2:10.

All of us who are in Christ are the body, with knuckles, toes, ligaments and joints, but the “head” is Jesus, and yet still there is a message of independence coming at us every day.

It might be our American culture, it might be our human nature pride, but as I look at the church in the United States, it is easy to see us saying, “Jesus is Lord!” and still there is a fierce drive for independence that can creep into our thinking like, “I am okay, don’t worry about me!”

  • I don’t really need to be a committed partner at local church, I’m fine by myself. Walk with the trees.
  • I am too busy to for a community group, I’m fine.
  • I don’t really need to listen to Scripture, I can figure it out.
  • I don’t really need to listen to the elders as a spiritual authority, they wouldn’t understand.

Jesus is great, Scripture is great, but I really know what is best. By God’s grace this isn’t a huge challenge for us, but I see Independence creeping into my life.

Colossians 2:20-23, “20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.”

In verse 20 we see our fourth category, and it is “elementary principles.” We touched on this last Sunday, but “elementary principles” are just fluffy comments of the day that sound wise, but don’t really bring about any lasting change.

In verse 20 the people of Colossae have been made alive in Jesus, but they are still submitting themselves to the rules of the day like, “Don’t handle, don’t taste, and don’t touch” so that their relationship with the God of Scripture had just become a bunch of rules to keep or not keep.

This is easy to do with Scripture. We don’t know why, we just always have, and we forgotten to connect the Scriptures to Jesus.  For example, we might grow up learning it is wrong to lie, cheat, and steal, and lying, cheating, and stealing is destructive.

Why do we lie, cheat and steal? Is not to advance ourselves in some way? But, the gospel teaches us we have already advanced in Jesus. We are we connect it to Jesus when we see that we have been made alive in Jesus, made complete in Jesus, been given the prize of all prizes in Jesus, being held together by Jesus, so that’s why we don’t NEED to lie, cheat, and steal.

These messages are coming at us every day, and they are loud speakers that say, “Jesus isn’t enough, you better do more, you better do something to set yourself apart from other people, and it can happen in our relationships with one another as well.

Did you see what these messages add up to when you put them all together? Legalism, Spiritual Superiority, Independence, and Elementary Principles?


  • Legalism
  • Spiritual Superiority
  • Independence
  • Elementary Principles


  • Legalism
  • Independence
  • Elementary Principles
  • Spiritual Superiority


There are lies coming at us every day, and it isn’t just out there, but those lies are in our hearts, and they give the illusion of power, illusion of holiness, illusion of maturity, but they don’t compare with what we have been given freely in Jesus.

It reminds me of the Lion King. I am about to spoil the Lion King for you if you haven’t seen it, but Simba is led to believe that he killed his father by Scar.  Simba runs off, hides, until one day he comes across Rafiki, the wise old monkey, and Rafiki says, “I know who your father is!”

Simba says, “My father is dead.” Rafiki says, “No, your father is alive, come follow me.” Simba is skeptical, but follows Rafiki into the dark shadows, entangled in vines, fearful of what is coming until Rafiki says, “Come, see!”

Simba leans forward to look, and we see a puddle of water where Simba sees his reflection, and Simba says, “That’s just my reflection.”Rafiki says, “Look harder. You see, he lives in you!”

Now all Disney movies teach us to look within for the answer, but Scripture teaches us we have all wondered into the darkness of sin, but Jesus has come to take our sin upon Himself, put it to death at the cross, conquer our sin in the resurrection, and gives us His righteousness, so that when we believe in Jesus, Jesus comes and lives inside you.

You need to know lies are coming at us every day, and we listen to those lies, and we look in the mirror and we don’t see anything impressive, but we need to look harder, and see who we are in Christ.

One day Jesus is going to come and destroy the lies of this age, but until that day we are alive in Christ, made complete in Christ, and we need to take those thoughts captive, and ask for His help to believe true things.