"Touch Not, Taste Not, Handle Not"

Col 2:21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not;) (KJV)

We're studying the book of Colossians at LWC. This book reminds us that we are complete in Christ. He is all we really need, and the source of all wisdom. Apparently some false teachers had gained some traction in the church there, and were introducing some erroneous ideas. And it appears one of their mantras was "touch not, taste not, handle not". They had a unique brand of asceticism that they wanted everyone else to adopt in order to be a "real" disciple. Asceticism (in case you are not familiar with this term), is basically defined as rigorous self-denial or abstinence from certain things. In a theological sense, it usually carries with it the idea that a person can become a "better" Christian by adopting these disciplines.

It is important that we have balance in our theology. We have a tendency to polarize certain issues that we are passionate about. When we use or hear the phrase "doctrines of devils"- we typically think of doctrines of excessive indulgence and liberty. To that end, Jude warns that we must not "change the grace of God into a license for immorality"(Jude 4 NKJV). And Paul also was quick to point out that the appearance of grace didn't mean the end of holy living:

Rom 6:15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. (KJV)

However, when the bible speaks of doctrines of devils, it can also refer to doctrines of abstinence. When Paul wrote to Timothy, he warned him about these dangerous teachings that would infiltrate the church, and attempt to take the focus off of Christ, and put it on rules of rigid abstinence that God didn't command.

1 Tim 4:1-3
1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. (KJV)

I think most of us are familiar with the concept that it is dangerous to take away from what God says. But equally dangerous, is the notion that we can add to what God has said, and make rules and regulations where there are none. (Prov 30:5-6, Rev 22:18)

The irony of this discussion, is that this rigid asceticism actually provides no lasting benefits to resisting the urges of the flesh. Look at what Paul says to the Colossians regarding their "touch not, taste not, handle not" approach to denying the flesh:

Col 2:23
23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. (NKJ)

There are things the bible says we should abstain from. Abstinence in and of itself is not a bad thing. The error we must guard against however, is the idea that a rigid self-denial can somehow supplement or supplant the sufficiency of Christ (I didn't mean to use such alliteration in that phrase, but it flowed nicely). If we follow Christ and obey the Word of God, we will have enough to keep us busy without having to add anything else. Let me leave you with Paul's statement of Christ's sufficiency.

Col 2:9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. (NKJ)

Until next time....