Embrace The Whole Bible: 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.” Colossians‬ ‭2:16-17‬ ‭
Paul now touches on an area of great controversy, misunderstanding and contention among Believers. Sincere Christians in the early church and today apply spiritual freedom and liberty “in Christ” differently with regard to Old Testament foods, drink, festivals, a new moon or keeping the Sabbath.
Some kept nearly all of the ceremonies found in the Law, some picked portions of them and others disregarded nearly everything. The meal menu in the home of a Gentile believer and a Jewish believer in the early church most likely looked very different, but they both loved Jesus. There was a sharp contrast between Jewish and Gentile believers. It was often divisive and explosive. (See Acts 21:17-22)
Paul righty understood there was freedom in Christ so long as the religious ceremony was not considered the basis of salvation or a means of earning merit with God. Many Old Testament ceremonies such as the Passover had very significant object lessons connected to them and revealed amazing truth about Jesus Christ. They were and are great evangelism tools.
Paul also points out in verse 17 that many Old Testament stories, festivals and ceremonies were a shadow or prophetic preview of things to come. The book of Hebrews was composed based on this principle. Look at Hebrews 8:5 and 10:1 as an acknowledgment of this concept. Hebrews 11:19 also uses the word “type” related to Issac.
Many New Testament books point to Old Testament illustrations and examples as the foundation for doctrinal truth. Read Romans 4 or Galatians 3 for examples of New Testament doctrinal truth anchored in Old Testament stories.
Furthermore, Hebrews 8:4-5 suggests that many aspects of the Old Testament are a shadow or reflection of heavenly and eternal reality. In Colossians 2:17, Paul was introducing the broader phenomenon of symbolism, types, shadows, patterns, illustrations, object lessons, divine calendar and theological foundations packed into the Old Testament. Don’t minimize the importance of the Old Testament!
The born-again Christian is to avoid legalism related to the Old Testament, but invite illumination and the revelation of truth. Legalism involves keeping the Law to earn salvation or merit with God. Spiritual maturity involves inviting the Holy Spirit to illuminate Jesus Christ, the gospel, truth, prophecy, the character of God, the ways of God, the wisdom of God and the calendar of God packed into the Old Testament. The Old Testament is a treasure chest of truth and revelation.
But… apart from the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit, the above aspects of the Old Testament will forever be hidden from the reader. Paul concedes this point in 2 Corinthians 3. The entire chapter is significant to this conversation, but verses 14-18 are crucial. A veil remains over the eyes of those who read the Old Testament until they turn to the Lord and are filled with the Holy Spirit. The veil is taken away “in Christ.” The same principle applies to a non-Christian reading the New Testament.
So what is the take away from these two verses? Keep Jesus Christ as your focus and total substance of salvation, but invite the Holy Spirit to illuminate both the Old and New Testament to you. Spend time daily reading from both the Old and New Testaments. Become a student of the whole Bible and enjoy your Bible learning journey through the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global