20 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? 23 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.
A Christian’s silence in exemplifying and proclaiming the gospel is one of the most profound indications that something is wrong. Christians are the witness of Christ. By definition, witnesses are not silent precisely because they testify to something. A witness proclaims something… a Christian witness proclaims Christ. Christ commissions Christians to be His witnesses to the whole earth (Acts 1:8). Therefore, when a believer is silent in the face of a dying world, there is something dreadfully wrong.
In Psalm 32, David explains the war of a believer against sin. First, David recognizes the forgiveness of God and then he acknowledges his pain in attempting to keep silent and finally, he confesses his sin. It is this silence that is so terrifying. It is a silence that burns and burdens the heart of a Christian. It is silence that hinders the gospel proclamation.
What is it that causes this silence? The adversary attempts to lie and create subterfuge and sabotage the Christian’s life by laying upon them guilt for that which has been forgiven. The adversary silences Christians by engaging them in excess. Either the excess of license or the excess of legalism. Here in Colossians 2:16-23, Paul warns us not to allow the adversary to lay upon us the excess of legalism. He recognizes this legalistic attempt to self-righteousness will inevitably silence the voice of worship so necessary to the gospel life. Make no mistake, Christian, the adversary is lying. Anytime a demand is placed upon you as a requirement for your faith, it is a lie. When someone attempts to hold over you religious practice as a necessity to be saved or a requirement for Christian living, they are attempting to force you into self-righteousness and works based salvation. Do not let the adversary hold these things over you.
Christians hold fast to Christ because they have died with Him. In Romans 7:1-6 Paul explains that man, before Christ, is bound to sin by marriage to the law. This sinful flesh that characterizes every person ties man to the law and thereby condemns man. Yet, in Christ, your flesh has died and the contract that bound you to the law is nullified in your death with Christ. If you have believed in Christ, you are no longer bound to the law. In Christ, believers have been given victory over the law and have been rescued from their sin. This is true. Christians must live as though it is true.
Paul poses the question, “why?” If it is true that you are no longer bound to the law, then why do you submit to legalistic nonsense. Consider for a moment the gravity of that question. It is as if Paul is asking: if you have been given the keys to a car, why do you continue to push it from the rear? The effort and labor have the appearance of holiness, but the car does not move. Further, the Christian who refuses to throw off self-righteous legalism looks incredibly holy. Indeed, Paul acknowledges that “these have an appearance of wisdom” (Colossians 2:23). However, this pursuit of self-righteous religion bears no fruit. There is no victory over sin by laying religious activity on top of faith. Religious activity is not what overcomes sin. Only devotion to Christ and trust in the gospel can do that.
Let us no longer be silent in acquiescence to the lies of the enemy. Let us speak boldly that Christ has conquered our sin and freed us from the law of sin and death. Let us live a life of holy, devoted worship that proclaims the righteousness of Christ over our own self-exultant efforts. Speak, dear Christian! Shout and roar the call of the gospel! Do not let the adversary accuse you and call you unworthy by some religious standard! You speak because Christ has died, not because you have merited some worth! You are a warrior in the Kingdom of God. So live like it!