“No Condemnation By Man”
– Carlton Foster – March 2019
“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17 KJV). Some versions of the Bible would say “So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat, or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths (NLT)”.
Judge? condemnation? Both denote a final decision. The Apostle Paul is indicating that with the knowledge of the purpose why Jesus came, that “no final decision” is to be taken by a human with regard to certain religious laws. Why? The answer is that Jesus came to restore mankind to God, to redeem us to the Father; not to condemn us but to restore us; therefore, Jesus followers are to do the same thing, that is, to be in the spirit of restoration rather than in the spirit of condemnation. What was going on before Jesus came?
Paul reminded us in Romans 6:23 that “For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” It was God who said to Adam “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die (Genesis 2:17).” Adam did eat of that tree, and so mankind started to die from that point on. Also, one day while the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they discovered a man gathering wood on the Sabbath day (Numbers 15:32). The people who found him doing this took him before Moses, Aaron, and the rest of the community. They held him in custody because they did not know what to do with him. Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man must be put to death! The whole community must stone him outside the camp.” So the whole community took the man outside the camp and stoned him to death, just as the Lord had commanded Moses (Numbers 15:33-36). This practice of judging and condemning a person who sinned against God continues even after Jesus came to restore us.
The Jewish leaders tried it with Jesus. As Jesus was speaking one day with a crowd of people, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery (John 8). The law said to stone the adulterer. So they put her in front of the crowd, and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The Law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” Jesus answered and said if anyone is without sin, he or she can cast the first stone. None could do that because they were all sinners, just like us; so they left her. Jesus said to the lady, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” She said, “No, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I; Go and sin no more.” Jesus did not condemn her.
Again in Acts 7, the Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen’s accusation, and they shook their fists at him in rage. They said Stephen had sinned, so they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him (Acts 7:57-58). They came to a final decision that Stephen must die, so they stoned him until he was dead.
The Apostle Paul knew these occurrences; he too was once stoned. So after realizing the message of Jesus, he said to the Colossians, “When you came to Christ, Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him, you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.” He continued, “You were dead because of your sins, and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us (Genesis 2:17) and took it away by nailing it to the cross (Matthew 27:35).” Paul said that in this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.
God sent Jesus to us and all who believe in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge and condemn the world, but to save the world through him. So with that thought, Paul would like the Colossians to know and have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself; in Jesus lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. So he said “Don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these rules are only shadows of the true reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality. Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels, saying they have had visions about these things. Their sinful minds have made them proud, and they are not connected to Christ (Colossians 2:16-19).”
Today, if I break the Sabbath, or bear false witness, who is that human, who is without sin that will condemn me and cast the first stone? Is it you? Therefore, Paul is right. Let no man condemn you for breaking any religious or Godly laws. Leave it to the judge which is God. Paul wants us to know that as sinners, we already have died with Christ, and Christ has set us free from the spiritual powers of this world. However, some modern believers still have the Pharisaic ideas of judging and condemning others for breaking religious or God’s law. The instruction that God gave Moses in Numbers 15:35 was for an example to disobedient believers, but God has given us a new covenant. He said, “This is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord’ for everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already (Hebrews 8:8-12).”
Paul said in Romans 2, “You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things. And we know that God, in His justice, will punish anyone who does such things. Since you judge others for doing these things, why do you think you can avoid God’s judgment when you do the same things?”
He said “Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right. And this is the message I proclaim—that the day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus, will judge everyone’s secret life (Romans 2:14-16)”. Therefore, our role is to be “Repairer of the Breach”; helping sinners (even those in church) to know and to be obedient to God’s commandments.