Life-Study of Colossiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In His economy God gives us one Person and one way. The one Person is the preeminent, all-inclusive Christ, and the one way is the cross. As the all-inclusive One, Christ is everything to us. He is God, man, and the reality of every positive thing in the universe. God has given us this marvelous Person to be our salvation. The one Person, Christ, is the center of the universe; and the one way, the cross, is the center of God’s government. God governs everything by the cross and deals with everything by the cross. Therefore, just as Christ is the focal point of the universe, so the cross is the center of God’s government.
In this book Paul points out to the Colossians that nothing should become a substitute for Christ. Christ should not be replaced by ordinances, observances, mysticism, or philosophy. Christ is everything and must not be replaced by anything. In the previous message we covered the matter of Christ versus mysticism. In Colossians mysticism includes Gnosticism and asceticism. Christ is versus all manner of isms. He is versus every kind of replacement and substitute.
We have pointed out that all the positive things in the universe are shadows of Christ. For example, our houses are a shadow of Christ as the real dwelling place. Since Christ is the substance of all the shadows, we should not allow the shadows to be a substitute for the One who is the body, the reality. How foolish to take shadows in place of the reality! The book of Colossians makes it clear that the all-inclusive Christ is everything to us. God’s intention is not to give us thousands of items; it is simply to give us one Person, the all-inclusive Christ.
Midway through chapter two, Paul begins to show us that the cross is God’s unique way. God’s way is not asceticism. It is not to humble ourselves, to abase ourselves, or to treat ourselves severely. The one way is the way of the cross. By the cross God has dealt with all the negative things in the universe. Furthermore, God is still governing everything through the cross. Therefore, we have one Person and one way; that is, we have Christ and the cross.
In this message we shall go on to see that the experience of Christ’s death is versus asceticism. In the Christian life there is no place for asceticism, no place for treating the body severely in the attempt to restrict the indulgence of the flesh. Asceticism is not God’s way. On the contrary, it is a human invention, a product of man’s fallen mind. Hindus and Buddhists may practice asceticism, but Christians should not.
Asceticism is part of the “elements of the world” spoken of in 2:20. These elements are the elementary principles of outward, material things, the childish teachings of externalism. These elements denote the rudimentary teachings of both Jews and Gentiles, teachings that consist of asceticism and of ritualistic observances in meats, drink, and washings. It is an elementary principle of asceticism to mistreat the body or to treat ourselves severely in an effort to suppress the flesh. God’s way, the way of the cross, is altogether different.
According to the economy of God’s salvation, the cross is God’s central way in the universe. However, most Christians see little of the cross in relation to the spiritual world. For the most part, Christians appreciate the physical aspect of the cross, the aspect that can be observed with human eyes. But in verses 14 and 15 there is a window through which we can see into the spiritual side of the cross of Christ. When Christ was on the cross, He was not only suffering; He was working to accomplish redemption by bearing our sins and by doing the Father’s will. God was also working, wiping out the handwriting in ordinances by nailing it to the cross. As we have pointed out, the evil angelic rulers and authorities were busy also, having come to interfere with what God and Christ were doing. But God stripped them off, triumphed over them in the cross, and put them to an open shame. Of course, on the physical side, the Roman soldiers and the Jewish religionists were also very active. Because all this activity was brought to a focus on the cross, the cross became God’s eternal, central, and unique way.
I wish to emphasize the fact that God’s way is not asceticism. No Christian should practice asceticism. As believers in Christ, we are not a joyless people. On the contrary, we are a joyful people, those who constantly rejoice in the Lord. Why then should we inflict pain on our bodies or mistreat ourselves? How foolish! Our way, the unique way, is the cross. Therefore, the experience of the cross is versus asceticism.
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