Question:

The church of Christ uses Colossians 2:16 to teach against Sabbath-keeping and dietary laws. But the same verse says to not let anyone judge us regarding what we drink as well. This New Testament verse proves the drinking of alcohol is not a sin.

Answer:

"When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day -- things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ" (Colossians 2:13-17).

Why did you conclude that "drink" in this passage refers to alcoholic beverages? I could claim that Paul should not judge anyone who drinks water or tomato juice, but to do so would be adding something that is not in the passage. A claim that it could be a reference to something is not proof that it is such a reference.

The topic at hand was the removal of the Law of Moses which came to an end with the death of Jesus on the cross. The Gentiles were not to allow another to demand that aspects of that Old Law should be kept. Paul gives several examples:

  • food
  • drink
  • festivals
  • new moon
  • Sabbath days

 

Question:

I never said the word "drink" in Colossians 2:16 made a specific reference to alcohol. You responded by saying "drink" could mean anything from tomato juice to water, and that was my point exactly. No drink is excluded. The only thing in the New Testament we are instructed to abstain from eating or drinking would be blood (Acts 15). No other drink would be excluded and therefore a Christian would not be subjected to judgment from others because of what they eat or drink. The word "drink" in Greek is (posei) and it means a beverage. Alcohol is just one of many beverages. You also stated that the verse was dealing with the Law of Moses. I couldn't agree with you more. That is why "drink" was mentioned because those who took the Nazarite Vow under the Law of Moses were to abstain from strong drink (alcohol) wine and anything made from the grape (Numbers 6). You don't have the right to cherry-pick through Colossians 2:16 to teach against Sabbath-keeping, feast days, and dietary laws and yet turn around and say we are forbidden to drink alcohol. Don't add to the law of Christ!

Answer:

As you noted, just because an item could be covered by a term, it doesn't mean that it is necessarily allowed. You contradicted yourself when you said "no drink is excluded" and then noted that other passages forbid the drinking of blood, so even though it is a drink, it is not a drink allowed by the law of Christ.

You stated that Colossians 2:16 proved that alcohol was allowed in Christianity. My point is that it offers no proof one way or another. It doesn't prove that you can drink blood and for the same reason it doesn't prove that you can drink alcohol. If you wish to examine what the New Testament says about alcohol, I would invite you to look at New Testament Beverages.

"And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations -- "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle," which all concern things which perish with the using -- according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 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" (Colossians 2:13-23).

We find Paul making this line of arguments:

  1. The Colossians were in sin and not a part of the Old Covenant (Genesis 17:13-14)
  2. Christ saved them and brought them in by abolishing the Law that kept them separated.
  3. He took away the power of those in power at that time by triumphanting over them. (Acts 2:30-36)
  4. Therefore, no one can judge the Colossians in matters of food, drink, festivals, new moon, or Sabbaths. Why? Because those who would judge are no longer in power and the law they would use as the basis of judgment is no longer in effect.
  5. Paul further argues that food, drink, festivals, new moon, and Sabbath regulations are not important since they were only shadows of the current reality.
  6. Those who keep such regulations are involved in false humility and are worshipping angels. The Old Law came by the effort of angels (Hebrews 2:2).
  7. They are not following Christ.
  8. They are submitting to regulations (do not touch, do not taste, do not handle -- an allusion to the Old Testament regulations concerning uncleanness which includes the dietary laws) which are concerned with physical things that perish.
  9. It is a self-imposed religion, not from God, which only gives the appearance of religion but does not benefit the followers.

Paul is not arguing that laws have been preserved but that they have been done away. The judgment is not in keeping laws but condemnation by others because laws were not being kept. Paul is telling them to keep their course of not following these regulations because they are not under such laws.

The "food and drink" refers to the dietary laws found in the Old Testament (Leviticus 7:10-27).  "Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation" (Hebrews 9:9-10). Colossians 2:16 is about the passing of the laws of uncleanness regarding diet. No one can impose the Old Law on New Testament Christians.

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