Colossians 2:16-19 - 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. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 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, 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.
I wonder if the church at Colossae had heard Paul's teaching about how "a little leaven leavens the whole lump"?
How often the apostle must have spoken these words to those gathered as believers in the various places he visited on his missionary journeys. In a world then like ours, awash in all sorts of theories and speculations, self-taught "experts" and smooth talkers, his admonition that "a little leaven leavens the whole lump" (see Galatians 5) was sage advice. In fact, this saying might well have become one of the apostle's go-to proverbs when addressing churches.
Not surprisingly then, the Colossian church needed to hear it, too.
Paul opens his Colossian letter, applauding the faith and love of this church in Asia Minor. "We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven" (Colossians 1:3-4). Paul's rave review isn't simply for the church; it's also meant for Epaphras, its founder, whom Paul singles out as a "beloved fellow servant" who taught them the faith (see Colossians 1:7).
And 20 centuries later, from our vantage point, we can chime in, too: kudos to Epaphras' solid teaching, as the church at Colossae had no shortage of religious and worldly speculation heaped against it! Paul knew all too well the "leaven" faced by the Colossian church: bankrupt human philosophies and empty deceits; nagging Jewish-based questions about food and drink, law-based ceremonies, and Sabbath issues. There was also an insistence on asceticism or rigorous self-denial being leveled at the Colossian church, along with fantastic details about visions and angel worship.
It was enough to question if whether faith in Jesus alone was all that was needed for salvation. Not surprisingly, it's the same question many ask today.
That's why Paul is big on the essentials. As he told the church at Corinth, "And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2).
Or as Paul longed for those at Colossae to remember: "Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving" (Colossians 2:6-7).
Thanks, Epaphras, for giving the Colossians the essential Gospel truth!
THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, in all our study and learning, keep our eyes set on Your Son, the One who leads us in the way everlasting. In His Name we pray. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Paul Schreiber.
1. Have you ever abstained from something out of respect for someone else's sensibilities?
2. Looks like the Colossians had their hands full with disturbing outside influences. Are there man-made requirements or obligations that unsettle the church today? Can you elaborate?
3. When has a "little leaven" in your life led to a change in direction or focus?
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