Sunday, November 27, 2011

"The World" and "The Flesh" (Colossians 2:20-23)

[20] If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—[21] “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” [22] (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? [23] These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:20-23 ESV)

This is a good place to highlight the way Paul uses language in a technical manner. When he refers to “the world” or “the flesh” he is not referring to creation or the material side of humanity. That is what the Gnostic leanings in our thought and teaching would understand, but it is wrong.

When God created the universe, the physical universe, it was declared by Him to be good. When He made humanity, flesh and spirit, He declared them to be good as well. Rebellion and sin were where good ceased to be. This is what Paul and other New Testament writers talk about when the use words like the world and flesh. It is symbolic of the sin nature we all exercise and that pervades human culture.

Understanding that fact, it becomes silly to think that we can punish or deny our physical bodies into holiness. That is not what is broken, or any breakage is a side effect of a different problem. The problem is worsened when we focus on the symptoms of sin and not the root causes.

Since in Christ we are dead to the sin that pulls us down, it does us no good to focus on sin with an aim to avoid it. Instead we should be focused and preoccupied with Christ, our love for Him, and the love He has for others that we can exercise. How we do that is the focus of the next chapter…

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