Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Col 2:19 ESV and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

Time to comment on Sunday night's message. The preacher put three men in a row, had them connect, then had the line flex. In this way, it is said that the people are able to do the work of the church- each member receives what it needs from another and is flexible.
Paul's picture of a Christian body is set in context of dealing with members of the church who press issues concerning areas in which the Christian has the freedom to choose:
Col 2:18 ESV Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind,
Of whom Paul goes on to say that this person is not holding fast to the "Head" (Christ) from whence the body grows. In other words, the person who makes much ado about external regulations is not seeking their security and growth from Christ, the Head. These people find their security from keeping rules- which, by the way, do nothing to actually restrain the carnal nature- v.18 tells us of their "sensuous mind" ("fleshly mind" KJV) and v.20 tells us that, in any case, they do nothing as far as "stopping the indulgence of the flesh" (v.23; "not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh" KJV).
Verses 20 to 22 tell us about how "external rules" are different from living in Christ:
Col 2:20-22 ESV If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations-- (21) "Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch" (22) (referring to things that all perish as they are used)--according to human precepts and teachings?
Verse 22 says that the "regulations" ("ordinances" KJV) are based in "human precepts and teachings". Why is this? Verse 20 reveals that not only did we, in Christ, die to sin, we also died to this world's idea of goodness. The sin of this present world, as well as imitation righteousness, are done away with in Christ.
Verse 23 admits that the regulations look good, but are of no value:
Col 2:23 ESV These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
This agrees with Php 2:13 which pin-points the power of the Christian as the "God who works in you".
Returning to v.19, then, the "holding fast to the Head" is a matter of the Christian finding their power, identity, and security in Christ alone, and not in the keeping of external rules or in the opinions of others. This verse goes on to say that it is from this identity with the Head that the body "grows with a growth that is from God."
This agrees with John 15 where Christ promises that if we abide in Him, we will bear much fruit.
One final implication of this context concerns the identity of the body of Christ. If there is one Head, "from whom the whole body...grows", then the body is all saved Christians on earth. The body spoken of here is not the local church.
Paul does not restrict the scope of the body in v.19. The parenthetical statement of this verse clarifies Paul's concept of the body: "nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments."
The people are not the "joints" and "ligaments". The people are joined by "joints" and "ligaments". The joints and ligaments are more than likely Christian love ("charity" KJV):
Col 3:14 ESV And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
So then Christians worldwide "the whole body" are to come together "knit together" and help each other "nourished" through love/charity "joints"/"ligaments".
This type of knitting and nourishing occurs with a local church assembly but this passage transcends the modern idea of a local church entirely. It is important to apply this in a broader sense, and not restrict this to a local assembly. It is important to open ourselves to Christians wherever they are. As we do this, the growth will be natural and not forced ("growth that is from God" [v.19] who "gives the growth" [I Cor 3:7]), but it won't necessarily be in one local church assembly, as the growth involves the entire body.

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