Grace Family Bible Church

Subject to Ordinances

By: Scott Morton


Colossians 2:20-23

Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, [21] (Touch not; taste not; handle not; [22] Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? [23] Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.


As we finish Chapter 2 of Colossians, we see the Apostle Paul is going to be using the position the members of the Body of Christ have in order to speak about the practical way in which we are to live. This is something we see Paul frequently do, as this is how Chapter 3 is going to start as well. Paul had used a similar phasing in Chapter 1, which we already covered (Colossians 1:22-23). The members of the Body of Christ are to have an understanding of our justification and the position we have by the time you get to this epistle:


Romans 6:3-6

Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? [4] Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. [5] For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: [6] Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.


Paul had already established what happened to us the moment we put our trust in the gospel message for today (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). We became identified with the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The fact of this is not really understood by many individuals, as they just look at the fact of what He did. Our identity is changed, which is supposed to impact the life we live:


Galatians 2:20

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.


Clearly we are to allow the Lord Jesus Christ to live through us because of the fact He is living in us. How many times do we actually allow this to happen? Too often, we allow the lust of the flesh to have an impact and we are not living in the manner which God has intended for us to do today. This is why we see the Apostle Paul having to make mention of this fact over and over again.


He states we are dead from the rudiments of the world. It would be important for us to know what that word means (definition taken from Webster's 1828 Dictionary):


RU'DIMENT, n. [L. rudimentum. If connected with erudio, it denotes what is taught. But the real origin is not obvious.]


1. A first principle or element; that which is to be first learnt; as the rudiments of learning or science. Articulate sounds are the rudiments of language; letters or characters are the rudiments of written language; the primary rules of any art or science are its rudiments. Hence instruction in the rudiments of any art or science, constitutes the beginning of education in that art or science.


2. The original of any thing in its first form. Thus in botany, the germen, ovary or seed-bud, is the rudiment of the fruit yet in embryo; and the seed is the rudiment of a new plant.


Rudiment, in natural history, is also an imperfect organ; one which is never fully formed. Thus the flowers in the genus Pentstemon, have four stamens and a rudiment of a fifth, (a simple filament without an anther.)


God beholds the first imperfect rudiments of virtue in the soul.


Many take this word and teach it to simply mean the things of this world. It has more to it than just that. It is going back to the issues which came up in the garden in Genesis 3 with the failure of man in the beginning. We can see from the Bible what this actually means:


1 John 2:15-16

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. [16] For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.


It might seem strange at first to go to 1 John to discuss something from the book of Genesis. John identifies the issue of all that is in the world falls into these three categories. These are same issues in which man struggled in the garden and where the Lord Jesus Christ succeeded for man in the temptation in the wilderness. The following table shows the comparisons of these things:


1 John 2:15-16

Genesis 3:6

Matthew 4

Lust of the flesh

Good for food

Turn stones to bread

Lust of the eyes

Pleasant to the eyes

Kingdoms of the world

Pride of life

Desired to make one wise

Cast thyself down


These things show how all of the things of the world fall into these categories, which shows how they are all contrary to God. This is the whole issue of going to the rudiments of the world, as it was this way from the fall. Everything that is contrary to God falls into one of these three categories. This is where Satan had uses trickery to get Eve to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and where he tried to get the Lord Jesus Christ to abandon the plan which had been developed from before the foundation of the world.


With this in mind, we know the Apostle Paul has identified for us we are dead to sin. We can see this from the discussion in Romans 6:


Romans 6:1-2

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? [2] God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?


We see from the beginning of the chapter, which starts the discussion of sanctification, that Paul is identifying the fact we are considered dead to sin. This sin, which is the transgression of the law, has been taken care of by what the Lord Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross.


Now what is being said here is speaking of the position we have. We already identified earlier how we have been identified with the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is why the Apostle Paul can continue and state the following:


Romans 6:7

For he that is dead is freed from sin.


We are considered to be free from sin. This is why Paul is speaking about how this is who we are and what we should be considering ourselves to be. Because sin has been removed from us and the law was nailed to the cross with the Lord Jesus Christ, this is not an issue. The problem becomes that individuals try to make it an issue and feel they need to do something in order to either earn their salvation or to maintain their salvation. This does not line up with the doctrine which has been given unto us.


Paul brings up the issue of people trying to put themselves under ordinances. Let's look at the definition of this word (definition taken from Webster's 1828 Dictionary):




1. A rule established by authority; a permanent rule of action. An ordinance may be a law or statute of sovereign power. In this sense it is often used in the Scriptures. Exo 15. Num 10. Ezra 3. It may also signify a decree, edict or rescript, and the word has sometimes been applied to the statutes of Parliament, but these are usually called acts or laws. In the United States, it is never applied to the acts of Congress, or of a state legislature.


2. Observance commanded.


3. Appointment.


4. Established rite or ceremony. Heb 9. In this sense, baptism and the Lord's supper are denominated ordinances.


As we can see from the definition of this word it is speaking about the issue of putting oneself under some form of a rule system to manage their life. This is what unfortunately so many people do with the law of Moses. This was given to the nation of Israel for them to obey in order to become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:1-8). This was never something which was intended for us today in this dispensation. We can see how the Apostle Paul speaks of the things of the law here:


Galatians 3:10-13

For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. [11] But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. [12] And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. [13] Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:


This passage show how the law had already been dealt with. Mankind has been redeemed from the curse of the law, as it was nailed to the cross. This should not be anything for us to be worrying about, as Paul tells us in Romans 6 we are free from the law. To be free from the law means it has no impact on who we are. This is tremendous news because there were nothing but curses which were associated with the law system.


The question becomes why do people still try to put themselves under something which has clearly been taken out of the way. The simple answer is because of the failure to rightly divide the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). The majority of the Bible speaks about the things of the law and needing to perform. The Lord Jesus Christ said He came to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17-18) and also informed individuals they needed to keep the commandments in order to have salvation (Matthew 19:16-25). This shows that Israel needed to keep the law, as it was part of the covenants which had been given unto them. When someone tries to follow all of the things which are written in the Bible it is just going to cause confusion for them. They are not going to be able to do all of them and they are putting themselves under a system which was never intended for them. This would not lead to salvation and can only lead to a loss of rewards for those who are saved.


Too many individuals let someone else do their studying for them or just believe the traditions which had been passed down to them. This is why the Apostle Paul dealt with those things already, which we have looked at as we have studied this epistle. This is why he is concluding with the issue of not being subject to these ordinances, as this is not who we are. We are to be following the example which is laid out here:


1 Thessalonians 2:13

For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.


We are to take what has been taught to us by the Apostle Paul and apply it to our lives. This is the doctrine we find in Romans through Philemon, which clearly shows we are not under the law. No matter how a person tries to twist passages around to fit their personal thought process, we are not part of the law program.


In fact, the Apostle Paul shows how positionally we are dead to the law. We see Paul start this conversation as he speaks about our justification:


Romans 3:21-22

But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; [22] Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:


Paul speaks here of a righteousness which has nothing to do with the law. Those who had proceeded him could never have said such a thing. They were all ministering to Israel and were under the covenants which had been established. They were teaching righteousness according to the law. This includes the Lord Jesus Christ in the gospels, as He told individuals they needed to keep the commandments in order to be saved.


We see as Paul continues on in this chapter, he is going to identify the justification which is for us today, which is apart from the law (and the ordinances which he is warning the saints in Colossae to avoid):


Romans 3:23-26

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; [24] Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: [25] Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; [26] To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.


When we put our trust in the gospel message (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) we are justified by his grace. This is because of everything He did on the cross and has nothing to do with us. We could not follow any commandments/ordinances or do enough good works to even attempt to earn salvation. This is where so many people end up being confused in this.


We see Paul speak here about the issue of the remission of sins. This is speaking about how the issue of sin, which separated individuals from God, which is defined by the following:


1 John 3:4

Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.


The sin that separates man from God is defined as being the transgression of the law. This definition can truly be represented in the following manner:


Sin = Transgression + Law


This is the sin which speaks about individuals coming short of the glory of God. This sin leads to death, the separation from God. Something needed to be done in order to take care of this sin:


1 Corinthians 15:55-57

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? [56] The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. [57] But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.


This passage shows how the issue of death is tied in with sin, which needs to be taken care of if we are to have the gift of eternal life. This is why we can see there is a victory which has been given to us through the Lord Jesus Christ. We clearly needed something to happen for us, as we would not have been able to take care of this on our own and been able to get a victory over these things.


Paul speaks about how the issue of sin has been taken care of in the book of Romans. The following passages show the breakdown of the above representation of sin:


Romans 4:15

Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.


Romans 5:13

(For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.


Romans 6:14

For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.


These three passages show how this formula completely breaks down. When there is no law, there can be no transgression and therefore cannot be any sin. The law has been removed from us in this dispensation, as this was part of Israel's program and had nothing to do with us. This sin led to death and wrath, which is why we are said to have a victory over these things. This victory is accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ and we are putting our trust in what He did. There is nothing we could have done which would have put us in this position.


The glorious thing is the law was removed for all of mankind during this dispensation and has therefore taken care of the issue of sin which is the transgression of the law. This removes a huge barrier between God and man. There is still a sin which does impact us from the practical side. This is the whatsoever is not of faith, which Paul mentions in Romans 14:23. This sin impacts the rewards which we would see at the Judgment Seat of Christ and would not have anything to do with separating an individual from God.


The problem so many people have is they are taught they still have to do things for salvation. This is why the Apostle Paul lists out some things as examples of the law. The traditions of men take a hold over man instead of what the Word says. There are multiple warnings in the Bible about traditions:


Colossians 2:8

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.


1 Timothy 4:1-5

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. [4] For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: [5] For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.


Mark 7:1-13

Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. [2] And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault. [3] For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. [4] And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables. [5] Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? [6] He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. [7] Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. [8] For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. [9] And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. [10] For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: [11] But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. [12] And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; [13] Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.


The Pharisees were attempting to demonstrate how righteous they were by adding their own traditions to the law. They were putting these in an equal standing with what God had given them and were holding other accountable to this system. The Lord Jesus Christ tells them they are making the Word of god of none effect in their lives by doing this. Their traditions had become a stumbling block to their ability to serve God.


How often do we see individuals doing this today? They put their own belief systems in place and replace what the Word of God clearly teaches. This gets people farther and farther away from the Word of God, to the point where they will eventually believe these traditions are what God has commanded them to do.


The Apostle Paul does tell us how we should handle these situations when we are dealing with individuals:


Titus 1:13-14

This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; [14] Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.


This passage does create a little confusion for some. They think they are the sharp instrument which is being used to rebuke. They end up yelling at people to the point where they are screaming and turning multiple shades of red when they are rebuking them. Another way, especially with social media, is to start calling the other person insulting names. Neither of these is truly a rebuke and is not what God has intended for us. This is not demonstrating love to other members of the Body of Christ to help them get out of doctrinal error.


The sharp rebuke is actually the Word of God, which is sharper then any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). It is only the Word of God which can actually work on changing a believer and getting them to understand exactly what needs to be done during this dispensation. Paul saw these things with his own eyes and talked about there was a need to help individuals recover themselves from the snare of the devil (2 Timothy 2:24-26). Yes, there were times when he named the individuals who were teaching error, but we don't see him calling them names and yelling at them in the manner which people think they should be doing.


A quick note about dealing with individuals who are not saved. The Word of God is not going to work in them until they are saved. The gospel message (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) has to be given to them first and then there can be discussions on the things of how the doctrine should be working in them. The Word does not have anything to take root in them because the Spirit is not in them to compare spiritual things with spiritual.


A question that some might have is related to is there anything good which can come from the flesh and doing the things which are contrary to God. Paul gives us information about this:


1 Corinthians 6:9-12

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, [10] Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. [11] And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. [12] All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.


Just because everything is okay for me to do in this dispensation related to my salvation does not mean I should be doing all things. There are some things which can take control (under the power) of my life and impact the life I should be living. This is the warning which is being given to us here. We need to make sure we are doing the things according to the doctrine which has been given, which does not include the ordinances.


Romans 8:1-8

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. [2] For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. [3] For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: [4] That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. [5] For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. [6] For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. [7] Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. [8] So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.


The warning being given here is that we could not please God in the flesh (doing works) related to salvation. The only thing which could come about from that is condemnation. This is why we are not seen in the flesh and it is said we cannot walk in the flesh at this time (Galatians 5:16). We have been removed from this.


We have been given the information about how we should be living our life, which is apart from the ordinances which were given to Israel. It is time for all believers to be acting that way.