Shadows and Substance

So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17)

Sometimes little words mean a lot, and the first word of Colossians 2:16 is just that. The opening “so” is important. It connects this thought with the previous thought in Colossians 2:13-15. Because Jesus won such a glorious victory on the cross, we are to let no one judge you in food or in drink or in other matters related to legalism. A life that is centered on Jesus and what He did on the cross has no place for legalism.

The core of legalism is the idea that our standing with God is based on what we do. When we are good, He loves us more and when we are bad He loves us less. Under legalism, if I eat and drink the right things, God loves me more. If I observe the right days and rituals, God loves me more.

Jesus established the New Covenant, based on grace and not on law. Under grace our standing with God is based on what Jesus did. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, we look at the Old Testament laws about food and drink and days in a different way.

The Old Testament law had certain provisions that are done away with in Jesus, regarding such things as food and sabbaths. It isn’t that those laws were bad, simply that they were a shadow of things to come. Once the substance – Jesus Christ – has come, we don’t need the shadow any more.

The point is clear: days and foods, as observed under the Mosaic Law, are not binding upon New Covenant people. The shadow has passed, the reality has come. So for the Christian, all foods are pure (1 Timothy 4:4-5) and all days belong to God.

Christians are therefore free to keep a kosher diet or to observe the sabbath if they please. There is nothing wrong with those things. However, they cannot think that eating kosher or sabbath observance makes them any closer to God, and they cannot judge another brother or sister who does not observe such laws.

Don’t look to what you eat or drink or days you observe to make you right with God. Jesus did it all at the cross. Rest in Him and live in the freedom to do or not do those things, knowing your standing with Him is based on what Jesus did, not what you do.

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