CONSIDERING COLOSSIANS 2:20-23

New International Version:

Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

Some of the more modern translations, fooled by today’s use of ‘elemental’ to mean ‘supernatural’ have assumed that Paul is talking about spiritual forces or powers, but he is simply referring to the way the world, as Satan’s system, functions ‘without’ God. Clearly nothing actually works without God in any real sense, but Satan’s suggestion is that we can get along just fine without Him by ignoring Him.

The point of having died with Christ, in this context, is in order that the world’s useless methods are no longer remotely applicable. We don’t live as the world lives so the world’s methods no longer apply to us.

These rules are developed by fallen human beings as God-free workarounds, attempting to improve themselves by ‘tugging on their own bootstraps’ as a method of leaving the ground. In particular, these rules refer to the principle of having no fellowship with heathen practices. Things included would be both unacceptable sexual partners, often in a religious context, and certain kinds of ‘forbidden’ foods, so abstinence and the avoidance of certain foods and drinks were targeted.

All the translations miss Paul’s main point here: they are fooled by the word order in the Greek and assume that either the ‘rules’ will perish from use, or that they refer to ‘things’ which perish from use. Neither idea makes any sense at all.

Paul’s point is that relying on these fallen directives will actively corrupt us, and that all worldly principles and learning designed to ‘improve’ the sinful man, to remove our corruption, will have the same effect. “Everything which is not of faith is sin,” and therefore corrupts.

Using the power of the flesh, as we have here, to combat the power of the flesh, is ultimately doomed to failure: the more we use the flesh for anything, the stronger it gets. What we are trying to do is consign the flesh to death, so we must turn to the Lord’s provision by faith and allow our flesh to simply die by denying it. We accept our death with Christ by getting baptised, ie, buried with Him, and thus, since death could not hold Him and we are in Him, we are automatically raised with Him.

The Mouse Companion Version (MCV):

Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of the world, why, as if still alive to the world, do you follow its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Don’t even touch!”? Use of these will lead to moral decay, just like all man’s tenets and teachings. Such maxims may indeed seem wise, with their contrived religious practices and humility, and their brutality to the body, but they have no value against the indulgences of the flesh. >ᴥ<

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