The Danger of Imposition

Two questions

  1. What is the danger of imposing cultural traditions not rooted in the word of God upon the body of Christ?

  2. What is the danger of returning to the pattern of former things [authored by the Old Testament] in how we practice our faith?

And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

–Colossians 2:6-17

There are only two ordinances for the New Testament believer:  

  • Baptism [the answer of a good conscience toward God, according to 1 Peter 3:21]

  • The Lord’s Supper [this do this in remembrance of me, according to 1 Corinthians 11:24] 

Anything more than that [instituting any other practice within the assembly of the saints] is man imposing his own traditions upon God.

Certainly, God grants believers much discretion in how we practice our faith in our own homes and lives, like what we do and do not eat and what days we do and do not esteem (Romans 14).

However, this is far different than creating and participating in wide-scale, religious traditions that, over time, serve as obligatory rituals for every follower of Christ–as if righteousness is determined by these things–and as if faith should be placed in these things.  

Our faith should stand in the cross of Christ alone.   

Consider:  all the pagan religions of the world have sacred places, temples or worship, and a priesthood elite.  

This is not so with followers of Christ [for Romans 12:2 commands us not to be conformed to this world]:  rather, we look forward to New Jerusalem and a new earth (Revelation 3:12, 21:2), are ourselves made temples of the Holy Spirit and a habitation fit for God (1 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:22), and are all members of a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9).  

Now, under the New Covenant, Old Testament understandings and worship practices have been nailed to the cross by Christ [being fulfilled, they are no longer in force for those who believe], having given way to daily communion with the Holy Spirit.

Christ has supplanted the types and shadows of the old covenant with the fulfillment of the new covenant,  for which cause, we read “but the body is Christ”:  those partaking of His divine nature belong to Him, and He has power to conform us according to His will.  The world and its cultural traditions have no claim to us, and we are not to regard or be conformed to the world’s traditions.  

Consider the verses that precede the central passage quoted above:  

As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. and ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.  

–Colossians 2:6-12

These truths are apparent in the above passage:

  • We were saved through the faith of the operation of God and are to be established according to His teachings:  therefore, we have no authority to deviate from His divine intent and exercise our faith through the types and shadows of things that have been fulfilled.  Notice, it is not the circumcision of the flesh [an Old Testament type] that saves us, but rather, the circumcision that is made without hands [the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart] that makes us Jews inwardly (Romans 2:28-29). It is not following church traditions and adopting worship practices founded in or modeled after the old testament covenant that approves us, but trusting in and believing the word of God [that we are complete in Christ and no longer have need for types and shadows and things that have been fulfilled by His work upon the cross].  

  • It is ONLY by trusting the work of Christ ALONE that we demonstrate thanksgiving for His sacrificial, atoning work–for we are not to look back [“for no man having put his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62)]–but rather, to content ourselves with communing with God.  

  • Deceivers are everywhere among us:  the fact that they are so many in number and that their false practices are so popular is not a justification for promoting ritual above obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  We cannot be conformed to both the world and Christ:  “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him … herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world,” (1 John 2:15; 4:17).  

  • We are not to add to or detract from the word of God. Christmas and Easter are extra-biblical practices created and organized by man, which have no part with the work of the Spirit and fall short of the Father’s wisdom. Repentant believers [those with weak faith] may choose in all sincerity to participate in these rituals by faith, and if they do these things on that basis, we are to receive them on the basis of their faith, letting each man be fully persuaded in his own mind (Romans 14).  

  • We should examine our own lives to ensure we are not participating in vain and ungodly customs or partaking of things sacrificed unto idols.   

What is our corporate responsibility in these things?  

  • We should not deny fellowship to other believers who are weaker in the faith, nor strive with them concerning these things (Romans 14:1).

  • Where our conscience divides us, we should each follow our own heart. 

  • Where we have agreement, we should work together to accomplish the Lord’s will.  

3 thoughts on “The Danger of Imposition

  1. Colossians 2:6-12 is some of my favorite Scripture. Not to be rebellious towards man, but to be obedient in Christ. I am reminded of what Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew

    28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Mat. 11:28-30)

    If His yoke is light, then anything added on top of His yoke makes the burden heavier. When we are yoked with Jesus we are walking with Him. Do we want to be hindered if we are walking with Him? If not we do not to be burdened by the simple faith we are called to. God Bless bro!

  2. Until the people see [understand] that they are laboring under heavy burdens given to them by men, they will not seek to come free by calling out to Christ. They are made captive by ignorance, and we are God’s mouthpieces to speak His truths and sound the alarm in His holy Name.

  3. Hi Mark,

    There is one more ordinance overlooked today – head coverings. Watchman Nee in – “Love on another” – breaks this down wonderfully for us. When I read head coverings it says as much for the man to uncover his head before God when praying or prophesying as it does for the women to cover her head. Think about that the next time we see the pope in his oversized mitre!

    The reason given for uncovering and covering – “because of the angels”. Head coverings are for today as much as they ever have been, unless the angels have ceased to exist! But only when praying or prophesying with in public or private worship – women don’t have to wear them all of the time same as men can wear hats when not praying or prophesying.

    It goes back to the Garden of Eden and the symbolism in the head covering is overwhelming. Before we could have women bishops and apostasy in the church world wide – the devil got rid of head coverings! This was symbolic in the church lifting itself above the word and name of Christ into the same position as Christ. That might seem a big jump but when you accept that the Lord commanded women to cover and men to uncover then we see more. We get to see more in the doing of it. Whether women obey by covering and men obey by uncovering is another matter but to say that we don’t have to do it today is the same as all the other arguments that we find in not obeying Christ.

    However, I would never allow this to get in the way of fellowship with another brother or sister but when people ask me (or my daughters who both do this) then they tell them that Christ asks us to do it so what is the problem?

    My daughter was asked by a Muslim why she covered and she told her about Christ and the symbolism of covering and what it represented to her. This opened up the gospel to this Muslim girl and she wanted to know more…who knows if this wasn’t the beginning of salvation for this young muslim girl. She got to hear the love of Christ – something that she never hears in Islam.

    And I repeat – yes – through Christ we are made whole – He is our Righteousness and our Life – but let us not use the grace of God to ignore the simple things that He asks us to do. Remember the blessings that are given through doing what the Lord asks – they are for today too.

    Every blessing,

    Colin

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