What Does Colossians 2:23 Mean?

These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.

Colossians 2:23(NASB)

Verse Thoughts

Paul is eager to make a clear distinction between the sufficiency we have in Christ and the empty futility of worldly philosophies and the deception of human wisdom. He wants to instil in our heart the perils of legalism; mysticism; asceticism and every other kind of man-made rite, religious ritual or self-imposed mortification of the flesh.

He is keen to expound the supremacy of Christ over the restrictive nature of human reasoning, which captivates the unstable mind and enslaves a person's soul. He is critical of the tyrannical practice of self-denial, where strict mortification of the body; attempts to train our sinful nature to be good and other exhausting efforts to conquer our fallen humanity are adopted... in place of our reliance on the sufficiency we have in Christ.  

On the surface, such principles and practices can appear to be so very noble and worthy of our consideration. Those promoting deep philosophical principles can appear to be highly enlightened; those  stimulated by mysticism and asceticism can give an appearance of being exceedingly spiritual and those enmeshed in religious rituals and self-denial can come across as pious and devout individuals.

However, Paul is eager to correct this unbiblical thinking. He explains "there are matters which give the appearance of wisdom..." contained in self-made religion, worldly philosophies and the self-abasement of the body, 'which are of no value against fleshly indulgence".

Attempts to be 'spiritual' through some form of human reasoning or self-abasement will inevitably fail. Trying to make ourselves 'good', other that God's way are futile and will fail. However enticing human-reasoning may be, and however well-intentioned our efforts may be, they are of no significance, whatsoever, in combatting our fleshly indulgences or making ourselves 'more acceptable' to the Lord.

Whatever form it takes, or whatever way it may disguise itself, the appearance of wisdom through self-imposed religion uncovers pride within and exposes a false humility - for it is stating that I can to all things through ME.

God's way is the only way. Our only sufficiency against the perils of philosophy, legalism, religiosity and every other form human of reasoning is in Christ - for in Him are hidden ALL the treasures of true wisdom and godly knowledge. It is only through His sacrifice on the cross; faith in His finished work and humble submission to His authority in our lives, that we will become established in the faith and overcome the perils of the flesh.

My Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank You for the teaching in Paul's letter to the Colossians that denounces the many ways that man-made religion; worldly philosophies and self-abasement of the flesh are adopted... to give an appearance of holiness while denying the Lord Who bought us. Give me wisdom and discernment to renounce all forms of worldly philosophy and man-made religiosity that appear to be spiritual, yet deny Your word. Thank You for exposing the endless struggles and tyranny of the self-life and thank You that our sufficiency is in Christ Jesus My Saviour, in Whose name I pray, AMEN.

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