This oft quoted passage written by Paul to the Corinthian qodeshim (saints, set-apart ones) is used by a large segment of Christendom to teach that the Hebrew Sabbath and Yahweh's Holy Days are no longer a part of the New Covenant. But what exactly did the apostle mean?
The Colossian colony was being led astray by teachers who were trying to introduce their own philosophy by "empty deceit", who were trying to create a "human tradition" under the inspiration of "elemental spirits" or demons, denying the plain teachings of Christ (v.8). His audience clearly understood the Law since he speaks of the inner circumcision that they had received (v.11). He explains how these demonic "principalities and powers" have now been disarmed (v.15).
Hebrew Christians are being deceived by false teachers. Who were these false teachers and what was their deception? What was the heresy they were teaching? As we look at the major heresies that the apostles were combatting in New Testament times we see that, for the most part, the problems lay with a group of people called Gnostics who believed that salvation was through acquired knowledge and not the atonement of Messiah. Indeed, they denied that Messiah had any real physical substance at all but was a phantom. Accordingly, the cross had no meaning for them and they denied the deity of Messiah (v.9). The Gnostics, who thought that the flesh was evil, were aescetics who did all in their power to deny the hold of the physical body on them and longed for the day when they would be pure spirits again. They disdained sex and therefore discouraged marriage and viewed with disdain anything physical. The teachings of these heretics had a profound influence on the Catholic Church that was to emerge later.
Paul says: "Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink and with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath". The Gnostic elements were aescetic -- they rejected the physical -- anything that could be handled, tasted or touched (vv.21-22), believing that by denying the material world they could thereby become more spiritual. Though believing there was much spiritual merit in such behaviour, Paul strongly disagreed saying that "these have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting rigor and devotion and self-abasement and severity to the body, but they are of no value in checking the indulgence of the flesh" (v.23). Like the Catholics after them they would beat the flesh, indulge in long fasts to show their contempt for the body, and in so doing believed they were becoming more spiritual. They considered the Hebrew sabbaths and festivals "too physical" and wished to make them purely spiritual.
But the Colossian believers were obedient to the Torah (Law) of Yahweh - they observed the Seventh Day Sabbath and the Festival Days of Israel (Dt.16:10-11,13-14). It is a point of interest that the false teachers did not object to the holy days themselves, merely in the manner in which they were observed, for they despised anything involving physical pleasure - they wanted nothing to do with rejoicing and feasting. To which Paul replied: "So let no one judge you in food or drink, or regarding [Gk.meros, meaning "part" or "regarding any portion of"] a festival or a new moon or sabbath" (Col.2:16, KJV). He was telling the qodeshim (saints, set-apart ones) to ignore the heretics' demands to abstain from from the enjoyment of the eating and drinking aspects of the festivals of Yahweh.
These predominantly gentile Colossians (Col.2:13) were observing the weekly Sabbath and the Holy Days of Yahweh according to the mitzvot (commandments) more than three decades after the death and resurrection of Yah'shua (Jesus). Had they not been doing so the false teachers would have had no basis for objecting to the eating and drinking aspects, that is, the feasting portion, of the Sabbath and Holy Days.
The heresy of these false teachers was great. They despised the physical body and worshipped malakim (angels), boasted about their personal revelations and visions which contradicted the Davar (Word), and were losing their grip on the central doctrine of the Messianic Community (Church), the deity of Christ, and so demonstrated that they were being led by demons (vv.18-20). They were inventing new rules: "Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch" (v.21, RSV).
The solution to the problem of the carnal nature is not the rigid aesceticsm of the heretics but "putting to death the earthly parts of your nature" (Col.3:5, JNT). Denial of the body never achieved anything worthwhile - we must get to the root, to the fallen nature itself, for which the only treatment is death - not mortification of the body but a supernatural act of spiritual surgery on the part of the Messiah (Christ).
The heretics were, in effect, saying thay ANY kind of physical indulgence was a sin -- eating and drinking -- for these were, and are, a part of Yahweh's Holy Festivals. In their teaching they declared that they were yet alive in sin and had not come to the foot of the cross to the Man-God to have their sinful nature expunged. They had not died with Messiah (Rom.6:7) for they had, in truth, already denied His Deity and the provision for the atonement of their sins (Col.2:9). Their aesceticism was "another Gospel" (2 Cor.11:4; Gal.1:6) and was dividing the peace of the Colossian believers, a 'gospel' that has survived throughout the centuries in one form or another in the churches. And in its most successful manifestation it has denied the veracity of Yahweh's Sabbath and Festivals in the flesh. It is a most subtle heresy, outwardly convincing and "spiritual" but fundamentally denying Yah's pronouncement of "good" on many of the pleasures of His created world.
"We know thast our old nature was crucufied with Him [Christ] so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin" (Rom.6:6-7, RSV).
We urge you to study this site exhaustively to discover the restoration of the Besorah (Gospel) that is now taking place in Christendom - a completing of the Reformation of Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Knox and others.