Colossians 2:8-15 (ESV)
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits [elementary principles] of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in Him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In Him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Him.
When Paul wrote this, there was a philosophy called Gnosticism that was common. It taught that the physical is evil, and only spirit was good. We are all part of God inasmuch as we are spiritual beings, but we are hindered by our evil physical selves. To attain holiness and oneness with God, we need to shed the physical. This was not, However, the only empty philosophy circulating in those days, and it is not the only one still circulating today. Obedience to the Law of Moses was and is one of the things Paul spoke against. Yet he obeyed it for the most part. He even paid for the purification of some of the Jews to show that he was not out to destroy the Law.
Jesus never taught that merely having a physical body was evil. In fact, He not only had a physical body, but brought it into submission to His Spirit. He perfected it. As the Word of God, He actually created our bodies. He declared them good. Jesus did tell us that if we are to follow Him, we must deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Him.
It is important to note that in the Epistle to the Galatians especially, Paul warned against being subject to the Law. We may honor God by being obedient to the Law, but we are not to subject ourselves to it as though it will gain us honor, or acquittal for our sins. Only the Blood of Christ can provide us justification.
Having grown up Catholic, I still think in terms of what is required of me. It should be noted, however that I have come to terms with Grace. The Grace and Mercy of God is way better than obedience to the Law. I can never be good enough, but the Grace of God makes me perfect. The Scriptures tell us that Jesus became sin, that we might become the righteousness of God.
What a gift. What glorious redemption. What will you do with your holiness? I will do my best to serve others, not for any glory or forgiveness, but to show God that I am grateful for what He has done for me. We are not to beat ourselves up over our past mistakes. Use your freedom not to continue to sin, but rather to give grace to yourself, as well as to others.
by Virgil Stripes