This continues my translation with comment of the Letter to Colossians
So do not allow anyone to condemn you for what you eat or drink, nor in respect of a festival, new moon, or Sabbaths; these are a shadow of things to come; reality is the person of Messiah. Do not allow anyone to deprive you of your victory, with willed grovelling or ritual abasement to angels, detailing visions he has not seen, inflated by his all-to-human intelligence, and separated from the Head, from which the whole body, nourished and knit together by its joints and ligaments, grows with God-given growth.
If with Messiah you have died to the elemental spirits of the cosmos, why are you still living as if controlled by the cosmos, subject to religious rules – “Don’t handle!Don’t eat! Don’t touch!” – meaning things that all perish even as they are used- following merely human commandments and teachings? These have apparent wisdom for a self-made spirituality that promotes lowliness and severe control of the body, but has no value against flesh and blood indulgence.
It would seem that the Colossians were being offered a kind of Christian teaching which retained some of dietary and ritual rules of Judaism plus a degree of asceticism that was fashionable amongst religious Greeks. It’s a mixture which still appeals today, giving the devotee a sense of difference from the careless multitude, and a control over their own bodies. The Disciple characterises it as a) cosmic, that is, controlled by the powers of the cosmos rather than God and b) self- made or wilful spirituality. Those who have “died” with Messiah Jesus, he argues, should be dead to the cosmic powers that put him on the stake. Trust in Messiah is not a new religion, but a new humanity.
The person who trusts Messiah and is united with him has gained a victory over cosmic powers, and should not allow herself to be weakened by spurious teaching. The picture of the spurious teacher, who offers “willed grovelling and self-abasement” and “details visions he has not seen” is all too familiar now as in every time and place. Quite a lot that passes for enthusiastic Christianity is sadly similar to this picture.
The great sentence here is: reality is the person of Messiah. Jesus, who lived in Palestine, died on the execution stake, and was raised from the dead, is the one with whom believers are united through trust, liberated from the compulsions of their own sin, the rules of religion and the oppressions of the powers that be. He is real; they are not.