21 October 2014

Colossians 2:16-23

“These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” (v. 17)


The philosophical Paul apparently makes references to Platonic idealism in verse 17. Plato believed that reality was not what we experience; rather, all we see are hints of it. It is like being a cave looking at the back wall and seeing only shadows of the real world thrown onto it.

For the Christian Paul, however, philosophy was not enough. As humans we may only be able to see a shadow of what is real, but God has reached out to us. God has become flesh and bones in Jesus - 'substance' and not shadow. It is this substance that some of the shadows relate to. But that is not enough for us. Why have shadows when you can have the real thing itself? Paul reflected on what he judged to be human efforts to talk about what matters to God, and how we might behave. The relevance of those shadows is open to questioning when the presence is revealed. We can check out what we thought we saw in tradition and human rules against the startling reality of God in the flesh.

To Ponder

  • What distinctions can you make in your life or perhaps the Church between rules and disciplines we have adopted as Christian, and the knowledge we have of Jesus himself?
  • When do our rules and regulations actually help?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Mark Wakelin

Born in Africa to missionary parents, Mark Wakelin is a Methodist minister, He was the President of the Methodist Conference 2012/2013, and before that worked for the Connexional Team, as the secretary for internal relationships. He is now the minster at Epsom Methodist Chuch.