Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. (Colossians 2:16 ESV)
For many, these are the magic words. “let no one pass judgment on you.” For many of us, these words turn into some sort of grand permission slip whereby we can do whatever we want because God is love and He said not to judge me, bro.
Well, to be sure, there is a commandment here concerning judgment, but I don’t think it quite means what so many of us hope it means. To understand what it truly means, it helps to first understand the context of the passage and to understand the context, I want to point out three prior verses in Colossians:
[Verse 1: 28] “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” – This is a verse that really helps to illuminate the Apostle Paul’s whole purpose for writing to the Colossians. He wants to “present everyone mature in Christ.” To do this, Paul proclaims Jesus Christ and he warns everyone and teaches them with all wisdom. What is “all wisdom?” It’s teaching things the way God wants us to understand them. We are made in His image, for His glory, to be used as His instruments.
We need to remember this verse — where the overall purpose of the letter is described — so that we may properly understand the context of the message being delivered.
[Verse 2:4] “I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments.” – Paul is telling the audience something so that they will not be deluded with “plausible arguments.” Paul is delivering a message so that the audience will properly understand things in such a way that they won’t later be led astray. So what is this very important message? We are told in the previous passage:
 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face,  that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ,  in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:1-3 ESV)
Here’s the message:
All of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Jesus Christ.
Now, these things aren’t “hidden” in such a way that they can never be found like Jimmy Hoffa’s body, but these things are spiritually discerned, which means that access to them is granted by God Himself. And God wants us to have them. He wants us to have a relationship with Him. But here’s the key. That relationship — understanding that treasure — only comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ. It doesn’t come through working. It doesn’t come through reading a bunch of books. It doesn’t come through paying God back for a lot of things we’ve done. It simply comes through Jesus.
This is a key point for not only understanding today’s passage, but for also understanding the Bible itself and for understanding Christianity and for having a relationship with God.
[Verse 2:6] Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, – Paul wants us to be mature in Christ and he wants us to avoid the “plausible arguments” that the world will try to delude us with. Instead of falling for the deceptive arguments of the world, he wants us to “walk in” Jesus Christ. We received Christ with brokenness and humbleness and with humility because we were finally before God with the understanding that we were sinners. We begged God for His grace and mercy and for forgiveness. We accepted His offer of salvation. This is how we received Jesus Christ and this is how we are told to walk in Him — with a moment by moment understanding of the grace and mercy and forgiveness that was shown to us.
So what does this have to do with passing judgment? What we’ve done here is to remind ourselves of the context of the passing in which Paul is giving us this reminder about others passing judgment on us. Here again is verse 2:16:
Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.
At the time of the letter, some would come along to Christians and throw up to them questions about what they were eating or what they were drinking or about certain activities. At that time, there was a strong current trying to pull followers of Jesus Christ away from being saved by simply grace and back into the deep waters of doing religious stuff.
Here, when Paul says “don’t let them judge you,” what He is doing is pointing the audience back to the cross of Jesus Christ. He’s reminded them he wants them to be mature in Christ. He’s told them that others will try to delude with plausible arguments. But he says that instead of falling prey to the judgment of others, Christians — us, we — should simply abide with Christ and walk with Him in the way we received Him.
“Monday Colossians” is a weekly Bible study series from the book of Colossians. All Bible quotations are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible translation. You can read all of the posts in this series by clicking here.