Freedom from Bondage to Cosmic Powers (Mon. Nov. 2)

The word of the day is “requirements.”  In our reading of Colossians 2:13-20, St. Paul confronts the new regulations and restrictions that his opponents would impose on the believers in Colossae.  The Apostle writes that Christ has “wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us” (vs. 14). The “handwriting of requirements” here refers to the writing that established legal contracts (Strong’s #5499, 271). That image means that Christ has invalidated the obligations of Law of Moses. The Apostle teaches that these regulations were nailed to the cross with the Lord when He was crucified (vs. 14).  Thus, they were put to death with Him.  But Paul proclaims that just as Christ rose from the dead, so believers have been raised with Christ.  That means they have a New Life of freedom from the duty to obey the Mosaic Law (vs. 13)

Going Beyond the Gospel

In contrast, Paul’s opponents in Colossae are saying that believers must go beyond the Gospel.  To achieve superior wisdom, they must get in touch with the cosmic powers that reign over the human race. And to do that, the Colossians must obey new laws to replace the former Law of Moses. They include new constraints on food and drink, the observance of festivals on new moons and sabbaths, and the worship of angels.

Paul does not indicate the origin of these new decrees.  One suggestion is that they were prescriptions of a “mystery cult” (See Thursday, October 29 on Colossians 1:24-29).  Nevertheless, Paul vehemently opposes such restrictions. Concerning the new instructions, he notes that Christ died to forgive believers of their disobedience to the old, legal covenant with God.  But not to enslave them again to another set of rules. St. John Chrysostom remarks, Christ “hath not set works against works, but works against faith” (NfPf1:13).

Christ’s Triumph, Our Freedom

Concerning the cosmic “principalities and powers, in this passage, we find the overriding Orthodox theme that Christ has trampled down death by death. In this vein, Paul writes, “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them (vs.15).  Chrysostom says that these forces are “diabolical powers” (NfPf 1:13).  The Lord not only broke their hold on the human race. But like a conquering hero in the Roman Empire, the Lord paraded them before the world in a triumphal procession. As the Gospel proclaims, when Christ rose from the dead, He showed himself to be the conqueror over sin, death, and the devil and the Lord of heaven and earth (Acts 10:36; Philippians 2:10).

For Reflection

In every era, some charlatans predict a “new age” based on astrological signs.  According to them, cosmic events in the heavens are supposed to usher in a new consciousness, an “Age of Aquarius,” or a time of global enlightenment.  Yet history soon overtakes what the astrologers foresee, and the forecasts of the soothsayers are soon forgotten.  Paul’s opponents in Colossians were like these stargazers who trade in deception.  Today’s reading offers us a standard for evaluating claims of new revelations, inspirations, and celestial predictions.   That criterion is the certain and reliable Gospel of Jesus Christ. Hearing it, learning it, and living it is the sure way to resist the temptations of those who preach a counterfeit Gospel.

Fr. Basil

About Fr. Basil

Now retired, the Very Rev. Archpriest Basil Ross Aden has served as a parish priest, parish pastor, diocesan mission director, writer, and college teacher of New Testament and Religious Studies. He has a Master of Theology and a Doctor of Ministry degree from the University of Chicago and has published daily devotional and stewardship materials as well as a college textbook on Religious Studies. He also has published papers and/or lectured on the Orthodox perspective on Luther and the Reformation. religious freedom, current issues of religion and society, and St. John Chrysostom. He is married to Sandra and has two sons and three grandchildren. He is still active as a priest as well as a writer of articles and materials on Orthodoxy and topics of faith and life today.

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