The spirit of this world

The spirit of this world

“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— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body. Still, they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” (Colossians 2:20–23 ESV)

We come to the end of chapter two, and I hope you have grasped the Sovereignty of Christ. In this chapter, we have seen that the enemy of the church and their teaching are false and lack wisdom and substance. Jesus Christ is the substance that we need to nourish our lives. We are not called to live in the shadows but in Christ.

It is interesting that from verses 16 to 20, we have the enemy’s attack upon Christians, but we also have the answer that Paul has, and that answer is Christ.

V.16 – Do not be judged – The substance is Christ
v. 18 – Do not be disqualified – Christ is the Head
v. 20 – Do not submit – In Christ you died, we are buried with him.

In verses 20-21, Paul begins to close his argument, and he is not soft, he is not polite, and he is straight and refreshingly honest.

Let us unpack these verses:

“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— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings?” (Colossians 2:20–22 ESV)

Paul asks a fundamental question that we all need to hear as if he is asking us.
This question is found in these two verses.

We need to pay attention to at least three things here.

First. Paul asks if you died to the elemental Spirit of the world with Christ.
This is a reference to what he already said in verses 8 and 15

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8 ESV)

“He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” (Colossians 2:15 ESV)

There are active spiritual powers in this world, and this world is divided between the physical and the spiritual. We all know what physical reality is all about, and in the same way, we should know that there is a powerful spiritual reality that is active in this world. To be ignorant of this spiritual reality is to be unaware of the Word of God!
It is not about how comfortable or uncomfortable you may feel. It is not about our feeling, and it is about belief. There are so many references in the Bible about this reality. Just let me tell you that if you don’t know it, then I question your love of God, who is a Spirit.

“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and truth.”
(John 4:24 NIV11-GKE)

The devil and all his hosts do not need advertising! His influence is everywhere for all to see, and he is a liar, a destroyer, a stealer, and a killer. He wants to kill you. He works in the minds of unbelievers, and he confuses and brings doubts to Christians.
There are rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms that are here to cause chaos, and we are seeing this in the War that is taking place in Ukraine.

Paul, therefore, asks why you submit to the principalities of this world when you are covered with Christ, you are found alive in Christ, and through his death, you are free from the dominion of darkness. We are no longer under the dominion of darkness, but we are now with Christ! We are in his marvellous light! As 1 Peter 2:9 says.

Second, Now I want you to see this, this is where we belong.

Paul uses the language of rulers, authorities in the heavenly realms, and principalities of darkness. He uses this language in Ephesians.

“And his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 1:19–20 NIV11-GKE)

So, Christ is seated at the right hand of God in the heavenly places! Right? Yes!

In chapter two, Paul explains that we are saved by grace alone and not by our works says this about us!

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6 NIV11-GKE)

Where is our place? Where did God place us? We are raised with Christ, which is the same as saying we were buried with Christ, which implies resurrection. We are seated with Christ in the same place where Christ is seated, which is the heavenly place! So, knowing that we are in Christ, established with him, do we submit to the world and the elemental spirits of this world when we don’t need to.

Therefore, it is useless and a waste of time paying attention to all human commands and teachings, which Pauls is against!

Do not handle it!
Do not taste!
Do not touch!

The truth is that this kind of thinking is found in most churches!! As well as in other religions! It is not based on relationships but on legalism! Paul discloses the danger of asceticism and self-denial to gain spiritual high and wisdom. Instead, they go to such lengths as to hurt themselves, castigate the body, and inflict pain!

Third. There is something significant here that cannot be ignored! It has to do with the inclination of our hearts! I am with our affections!

“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.” (Colossians 2:23 NIV11-GKE)

It is about what we love most and what we worship most!

The word flesh is also translated Sensual!
Sensuality is most associated with sex, yet it is more than that! It is the gratification of the senses, something that brings pleasure. It is physical, carnal. It belongs to the flesh! They are part of us. We all have them.

“Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind” (Colossians 2:18 ESV)

Paul is saying that those who are trying to tell us that by living a self-denial life, following the regulations of men, not tasting, not touching, and handling, we will live free from the burden of sensuality or gratifying the flesh! Paul says that this type of life does not solve the problem; they act more as an incentive.

Let me give you an example!!

Eat a bar of chocolate!!
It is lovely! I can’t live without it! It just gives me a high! It makes me feel so good about myself! You should try it! I have one in the morning, afternoon, and evening. I just can’t live without it. I go to church, and I sneak one when no one sees me! And it gives me such a high! You don’t believe how much I love it! Ah! When I don’t have one, I don’t do that well. I am a bit down! But I have set my alarm to remind me that I need to have one! I am not addicted!!!

The only one who can bring true fulfilment is Jesus!
We are in Christ, and we have the fullness of him!

V.16 – Do not be judged – The substance is Christ
v. 18 – Do not be disqualified – Christ is the Head
v. 20 – Do not submit – In Christ you died, we are buried with him.

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