Nepaug Bible Church - - Pastor's Evening Sermon Notes -

Colossians: Maturing Over False Beliefs By Christ's Supreme All-Sufficiency
Part VIII: Applying Christ's Supreme All-Sufficiency To Discern False Movements
D. Using Christ's Supreme All-Sufficiency To Discern False Asceticism
(Colossians 2:20-23)
  1. Introduction
    1. One of the forms of artificial spirituality that is common today in Christendom is asceticism, the practice of denying indulgence in various things for religious reasons! For example, some deny marriage or certain foods to be "holy," or the wearing of dresses by women with hemlines higher than the ankles or the wearing of jeans by women while working on their knees in a household garden, etc.
    2. The Gnostic error Paul's Colossian readers faced was partly ascetic, and he both defines and counters this error with edifying application for us today (as follows):
  2. Using Christ's Supreme All-Sufficiency To Discern False Asceticism, Colossians 2:20-23.
    1. In Colossians 2:8, Paul began to critique the Gnostic error itself, an error that detracted his readers from Christ and His supremacy and all-sufficiency, cf. Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament , p. 677.
    2. A part of this Gnostic error was asceticism, an entity Paul exposed and countered in Colossians 2:20-23:
      1. Theologically, since the believer is positionally dead with Christ to the stoicheia of this world, the "elementary teaching of material and external things" or "elemental spirits'" that inspire heresy (Col. 2:20; J. B. Lightfoot, Colossians, p. 180; Ibid., Bib. Know. Com., N. T., p. 679, 677), he is no longer to heed them as though living under the jurisdiction of this world and its rules, Col. 2:20. [Note how Paul elsewhere claimed demonic teachings would arise that were ascetic, teachings that denied meeting sexual appetites in marriage and the gratifying of one's hunger with certain foods, 1 Tim. 4:1-3! We must thus be especially wary of calls to heed denials of the body that are unscriptural.]
      2. Such rules that deny ("touch not, taste not; handle not") arose for the Gnostics partly from ideas formed from the Mosaic Law and partly from "Essene prototypes" who avoided oil, wine, flesh-meat, contact with a stranger or a religious inferior, etc. to be righteous, Colossians 2:21; Ibid., Lightfoot, p. 203.
      3. Paul exposed more revealing problems and characteristics of asceticism in Colossians 2:22b-23:
        1. Ascetic rules embrace spiritually useless exercises, for they involve denials of items in this life that are transitory and have nothing innately to do with eternal things, Colossians 2:22a. This is the same point Jesus made in Matthew 15:1-2 with 10-11, 17-20; Ibid., Lightfoot, p. 204.
        2. Ascetic rules rise from the authority of men, not from God's authority, a critique Jesus made in that same context as He referred to Isaiah 29:13, cf. Matt hew 15:7-9 with Colossians 2:22b; Ibid.
        3. Ascetic rules may impress onlookers as being typical of those who are wise "with their self-imposed worship and false humility," revealing they tend to appeal to the external as did the false Judaizers Paul countered in Galatians 6:13; cf. Colossians 2:23b,c NIV.
        4. Ascetic rules typically involve "harsh treatment of the body," and that eventually leads to ungracious pressure toward others when these rules are promoted, a goal opposite the kind and gentle spirit believers are directed by God to express to one another, Col. 2:23d NIV with Eph. 4:32.
        5. Ascetic rules do not actually restrain sinful sensual desires, anyway, Col. 2:23e NIV, ESV. Only a life lived in dependence upon the Holy Spirit can restrain such sinful sensuality , Gal. 5:16-23.
Lesson: Asceticism, the denial of articles or activities for religious reasons apart from God's directing and power, errs, and is to be avoided: (1) we are dead in Christ to the world and its rules, so they have no jurisdiction over us. (2) Asceticism also involves denials of things that have nothing to do with innately spiritual things, (3) it rises from man's and not God's authority, (4) it appeals to the external versus the spiritual, (5) it leads to ungracious pressure and (6) it does not restrain the sinful nature.

Application: May we opt to overcome and resist asceticism by recalling that we are dead to the jurisdiction of this world so that we are not to live under its rules, that we must focus on true spiritual things versus externals, heed God's versus man's authority, be gracious not harsh to others and depend on the Holy Spirit for control of the sin nature's lusts versus trying to restrain it by self-imposed effort.