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God’s Word for You

Colossians 2:22-23 a self-imposed piety

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, May 25, 2019

22 All these things go to ruin as they are used. They are based on human commands and human teachings. 23 Indeed, these rules have an appearance of wisdom, with a self-imposed piety, a false humility and severe discipline, but they are of no value in checking the self-indulgence of the flesh.

The rules Paul describes are not limited to “Do not eat / taste / touch” of verse 21, but those rules might epitomize what he means. God has not given us the world in order to take it away again. We have not been given freedom by God himself to eat anything just so that certain men or women may tell us we can’t. Marriage is good, a gift from God. Should nuns or priests be told that they cannot marry? In another place Paul condemns those who “forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Timothy 4:3-4). So if I choose not to eat octopus because I don’t happen to like it as a dish, that’s up to me. But I must not forbid anyone else from eating octopus, because it is a gift from God.

On the other hand, this passage and others like it must not be used as an excuse for Christians to commit crass sins. To use the same example of octopus, what I have said about an octopus as food does not apply to octopus regarding marriage. God has given marriage to mankind, as Adam married Eve and made her his wife (Genesis 2:21-24). But that doesn’t mean that a man can decide to marry an octopus and bully the rest of the world into letting him do it. That would be blasphemy and a perversion of God’s laws.

I am not saying that God’s command about marriage applies to the pagans. Marriage is a good work, and good works are impossible for unbelievers. There is no such thing as a marriage among unbelievers that is pleasing to God, no matter who is getting married.

Therefore our Christian idea of marriage doesn’t really even apply to the unbelieving world, and if a government wants to allow men to marry women apart from faith in Christ, what is that to us? If a government wants to allow men to marry octopi, or themselves, or other men, what does that matter to the church of God? The government is not regulated by the church any more than the church is regulated by the government.

What if a Christian has fallen into the sin of homosexuality and wants to get married? There is more than one issue there, and if this happens, it’s an issue for the church to handle. What difference would it have made if such a marriage were forbidden by the government? The sin might have remained hidden, and a hidden sin is not a repentant sin. At the same time, our Christian faith will often dictate the human conscience when it comes time to vote. If you choose to vote, do not sin against your conscience.

Only a pietist thinks that God will smile on our nation if we fill it with unbelievers whose lives look vaguely Christian. What about the Mormons? They look more Christian to the outside world than most Christians. They dress as if their salvation depends on looking sharp. They focus all their attention on having good teeth and good haircuts and always wear their “Sunday best,” but there isn’t a breath of faith in Christ anywhere. Will it go any better for the Mormons on Judgment Day than for the Moabites? Won’t Jesus’ words apply to them, too? “Woe to you! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you” (Luke 10:13-14).

All of the worldly things that the pietists and Mormons and unbelievers (or, in the case of the Colossians of old, the Gnostics and Judaizers) insist on, perish as soon as they are used (or avoided). But God’s people have a lasting treasure. How long do the effects of baptism last? Forever. How long do the effects of reading the Scriptures last? A lifetime. Focus all of your attention on your Savior Jesus Christ, and be assured that your sins are forgiven; you are at peace with God.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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