The Christian's Exemption from Bondage to Outwardness
Colossians 2:20-23
Why if you be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are you subject to ordinances,…

The rudiments of the world, of which our text speaks, are, according to Bishop Lightfoot, "the rudimentary, elementary, ordinances and discipline of the mundane sphere;" or, according to Conybeare, "the childish lessons of outward firings." Taking the two renderings together, does it not seem that Paul is rather speaking of the spirit of outward things, and not of outward things themselves - the spirit of outwardness as opposed to that of inwardness? And if so, is it not suggested here -

I. THAT THE CHRISTIAN IS EXEMPT FROM BONDAGE TO OUTWARDNESS? He is not ordinance ridden. What ordinances does Paul primarily speak of? Mingled and interfused Judaic, Gnostic, Essene, and Pharisaic. Paul quotes the words of some of their prescriptive limitations about wine, oil, meat, etc. And also he shows what embargo that spirit of outwardness placed on intercourse with persons who were

(1) ceremonially unclean,

(2) religiously inferior,

(3) nationally alien.

He adduces three reasons against being bound in the bondage of ordinances and regulations concerning such outward things.

1. That such things themselves are transient and fleeting. "The fashion of the world passeth away," he says in another place; and here, "which all are to perish with the using." They who guide their course by such things are as mariners who would direct their voyage rather by the clouds than by the stars.

2. That the virtues that are cultivated in care for such are artificial virtues. They engender

(1) vanity,

(2) arbitrariness,

(3) false humility,

because voluntary and affected.

3. That such bondage fails in its object. "Not in any honour."

II. THAT IN CHRIST'S DEATH IS THE POWER AND PATTERN OF EXEMPTION FROM SUCH OUTWARDNESS? Paul is accustomed to dwell on the Christian's complete identification with Christ: "crucified," "buried," "risen," with him. Here it is identification with Jesus in his death. "Make thou, O Christ, a dying of my life." This first and mainly describes a dying to sin, here a dying to the dominion of outwardness. It is the paradox of Christian experience, "I am truly alive because I am dead." About this insensibility to the dominion of the external, this "death to outwardness," Paul here teaches:

1. Christ's death is the power by which man dies to merely outward rule and regulation. Through meditation, sympathy, fellowship, faith in the death of Christ, not only is the soul fired with hatred to sin which slew him, and with the love of God who could love thus, but of the hollowness of all formality and the coldness of all legality in the presence of such motives.

2. Christ's death is the pattern of such exemption from bondage to the outward. The unresponsiveness of his dead body on the cross is an imago of the soul that through faith in him is dead to the world. That independence to the external is

(1) complete, and

(2) gradually obtained.

"Let no man think that sudden, in a minute,
All is accomplished and the work is done;
Though with thine earliest dawn thou shouldst begin it,
Scarce were it ended with flay setting sun." U.R.T.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,

WEB: If you died with Christ from the elements of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to ordinances,

The Ceremonial in Religion
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