The professing Christian who practices asceticism is ignorant of three basic facts:

1.      The believer has died positionally in Christ.
2.      The believer has been separated “from the rudiments of the world.”
3.      The believer does not need to yield to legalism.

“Touch not; taste not; handle not;”
Literally:  “do not touch; do not taste; do not do not nandle”—These are forms of expression very frequent among the Jews. 

          These are specimens of Gnostic rules. In Maccoth, fol. xxi. 1 (Babylonian Talmud)–“If they say to a Nazarite, Don't drink, don't drink; and he, notwithstanding, drinks; he is guilty.  If they say, Don't shave, don't shave; and he shaves, notwithstanding; he is guilty.  If they say, Don't put on these clothes, don't put on these clothes; and he, notwithstanding, puts on heterogeneous garments; he is guilty.”  The Essenes took the Mosaic regulations and carried them much further and the Pharisees demanded ceremonially clean hands for all food. Later ascetics (the Latin commentators Ambrose, Hilary, Pelagius) regard these prohibitions as Paul's own instead of those of the Gnostic condemned by him. Even today men are finding that the noble prohibition law needs enlightened instruction to make it effective. That is true of all law. The Pharisees, Essenes, Gnostic made piety hinge on outward observances and rules instead of inward conviction and principle.
         These words seem intended as samples of the kind of ordinances which Paul condemns.  Paul is saying to these Colossian believers, “Why are you subject to ordinances of various kinds, such as this–Touch not, taste not, handle not?” That is, such as prohibit you from even touching certain kinds of food, or tasting certain kinds of drink, or handling certain prohibited things.
        The rapid succession of the words here, without any connecting particle, is supposed to denote the eagerness of the persons who imposed this injunction, and their earnestness in warning others from contaminating themselves with the prohibited things. Many injunctions of this kind are found in the writings of the Jewish Rabbis; and the ancient Jewish sect of the Essenes abounded in precepts of this kind. These Essenes took the Mosaic regulations and carried them much further than they were intended, and the Pharisees demanded ceremonially clean hands for all food.

Legalists and ascetics always emphasize the negative.  They teach that spirituality is measured by the absence of prescribed sins, rather than the presence of positive virtues.  Paul proceeds to give  us three examples of such prohibitions.

Example #1:  “Touch Not” (Grk.–mē hapsēi)
Since the third command also deals with the sense of touch, this command may stress sexual abstinence for those who are married and the prevention of marriage for those who are single.  Paul advised Timothy to watch for those apostates who prohibited marriage (I Tim. 4:3).  These false teachers were charging that physical marital privileges had to be forfeited in order to gain a sensitivity to the spiritual marriage of believers to Christ.

         “Touch not, taste not, handle not.”  This Paul says, not of himself, but in the person of the Jewish  (Judaizing)  doctors; who urging the use of the Ceremonial Law, to which they added decrees and constitutions of their own, said, “touch not:” the dead body of any man, the bone of a man, or a grave, any man or woman in their uncleanness; not only their flesh, but even the bed they lay on, or the seat they sat on; or any creature that was by the law unclean; of a Gentile, or any notorious sinner, or common man: hence the Pharisees used to wash themselves when they returned from market, lest they should have been by any means accidentally defiled by touching anything unclean. There is a treatise in their Mishna, called Oholot, which gives many rules, and is full of decrees about things.

Example #2:  “Touch Not” (Grk.–mēde geusēi)
This command encouraged fasting and a prescribed diet.  Avoiding specific foods was deemed necessary for the preparation of visions and for promoting a desire for the food of the soul. Quite often this asceticism  leads to vegetarianism.  However, all foods, both meat and vegetables can be eaten by the believer if they are received with thanksgiving (I Tom. 4:3-5).

Example #3:  “Handle Not” (Grk.–mēde thigēis)
A person must touch before he can taste.  This legalistic command prohibited even the handling of a forbidden food.  The legalist is afraid of even an occasional contact with an item that is forbidden to him.

The legalist looks upon his asceticism as a spiritual strength, but it really is a weakness and an obstacle to true Christian living.
1.      Asceticism permits the material to dominate the spiritual.

2.      Asceticism originates with man.    Christ never imposed asceticism on the church.  I
         In fact, He taught that dietary restrictions push aside the divine commandment in favor of human tradition (Mark. 7:6-9).
3.      Asceticism is hypocritical.  It has an impressive reputation because the world is usually awed by ascetics. 
4.      Asceticism cannot overcome the power of the sin nature.  It actually becomes an enemy to the Spirit-controlled life. T
        a.      The more legalistic one becomes, the more powerful is the sin nature. 
        b.      The cure for sins of the flesh is submission to the Holy Spirit, not conformity to a set of laws.

“Which all are to perish with the using:  after the commandments and doctrines of men?”

“Which all are to perish with the using:”
Literally:  {These} things are all for corruption in the using”–A parenthetical remark thrown in by Paul to show that these foods can bring no real defilement to the soul; for they all perish with the using, and pass away without touching the true inner man. These material things all perish in the use of them.

         This is commonly marked as a part of the parenthesis, or the quotation; and there is considerable difficulty in really understanding its true meaning. It seems most probable that these are the words of Paul himself, thrown in the rapid speed of his dictation (assuming that he was using an amanuensis), and that they are not to be connected with the phrase “touch not,” etc. If this is so, the idea is, that it cannot be of so much consequence as the Jewish teachers supposed.
         They were all to perish with the use of them. Nothing was permanent about them. It could then really be of no great importance what was eaten, or what was drunk, provided it was not in itself injurious. These ordinances had a value among tile Hebrews when it was designed to keep them as a distinct people; but they had no value in themselves, so as to make them binding on all mankind. To suppose this was the common error of the Jews; and hence the apostle so frequently labored to show that the Jewish rites had no permanent value..

“after the commandments and doctrines of men?”
Literally:  “according to the injunctions and teachings of men”—These words should really follow verse, 20} of which they form a part; and it appears from them that Paul is now speaking of the
traditions of the elders, and the load of cumbursome ceremonies which they added to the significant rites prescribed by Moses.

                 COMMANDMENTS:  (Grk.–entalmata)–Many of the ordinances on which the Jews insisted were those which were handed down by tradition. They depended on human authority only, and, of course, should not bind the conscience.

Others take the words here to mean, “All which things tend to the corruption of religion  or are cause of destruction or condemnation (Robinson, Lexicon), by the use of these things, according to the commandments and doctrines of these men.” (Dodridge)

        DOCTRINES:  (Grk.–didaskalias)–Literally:  “what is taught; teaching, doctrine; act of teaching; instruction.”

         A commandment and doctrine of man; and particularly the traditions of the elders, and the various rules and decrees, which the doctors among the Jews obliged men to regard, were human inventions and devices: and this is another reason Paul makes use of to dissuade from any regard unto them; for whatever is of man, and not of God, in religious worship, ought to be rejected.
       This clause points out the method after which, and direction in which, the new teachers were leading their disciples, on the line of a man-made instead of a God given religion. "Commandments" (or, "injunctions") include the prescriptions of ver. 21 and all others like them; "teachings" embrace the general principles and doctrines on which these rules were based. So this expression, following "rudiments of the world (ver. 20), leads us back by a rapid generalization from the particulars specified in ver. 21 to the general starting point given in ver. 8 (see note), and prepares us for the brief and energetic summary of the whole Colossian error which we find in –

“Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship, and humility; not in any honor to the satisfying of the flesh.”

“Which things have indeed a show of wisdom”
Literally:  “Which things indeed are a matter of wisdom”–Which scrupulous observance of the numerous precepts enjoining rites and ceremonies, the observance of days, and the distinctions between meats and drinks. They give a look of
wisdom, but in reality are shows of  being tied.

         All these prescriptions and rites have indeed the appearance of wisdom, of piety, and are recommended by plausible reasons; but they form a worship which God has not commanded.  Again let me stress that they have a show of “wisdom,” or of a deep acquaintance with divine things.
        The authors of them set up for men of wisdom, and were esteemed such, and are often styled “wise men;” and their scholars that received their traditions, and explained and enforced them on others, “the disciples of the wise men:” and they pretended, that these constitutions of theirs were “a hedge for the law,” and for the honor of it, and to preserve it, and keep men from transgressing it; and this carried in it some appearance of wisdom: and their pretensions to it lay in the following things.

“in will worship,”
Literally:  “in self-imposed worship”–

        WILL WORSHIP (Grk.–ethelothrēskeia)–Literally: “self-imposed piety or religion.”  A show of wisdom; an empty display. This word occurs nowhere else in the N.T. and was probably coined by Paul to describe the voluntary worship of angels (see v.18).   show without the reality. He then names three things in which this vain show is made.
1.      Will-worship–of man's invention, not required of God.
2.      Humility-a vain show of it.
3.      Neglecting of the body--unsparing treatment of it by austerities of man's invention

         This is worship beyond what God strictly requires.  Probably many of these things they did not urge as being strictly required, but as conducing greatly to piety. The plea doubtless was, that piety might be promoted by service rendered beyond what was absolutely enjoined, and that thus there would be evinced a spirit of uncommon piety–a readiness not only to obey all that God required, but even to go beyond this, and to render him voluntary service. There is much likelihood in this; and this has been the foundation of the appointment of the fasts and festivals of the church; of penances and self-inflicted tortures; of painful vigils and pilgrimages; of works of extreme sanctity and of the merits of the “saints.” A large part of the corruptions of worship have arisen from this plausible, but deceitful argument–“It’s alright what you choose to worship, just so long as you are sincere.Such thinking is sending people to hell by the droves.  God knew best what things it was most conducive to piety for His people to observe; and we are most safe when we adhere most closely to what He has appointed, and observe no more days and ordinances than He has directed us to do. There is much apparent piety about these things; but there is also much wickedness of heart at the bottom of it, and there is nothing that more tends to corrupt pure religion.
         What is here termed will-worship,  (ethelothreskeiai),  signifies simply a mode of worship which a man chooses for himself, independently of the revelation which God has given.  The whole system of Deism is an example of  (ethelothreskeiai);  a worship founded in the will of man, and it is just as profitable to body and soul as that of which Paul speaks of here.  God will be served in His own way; it is right that He should prescribe to man the truths which he is to believe, and the ordinances which he is to use.  To refuse to receive God’s teaching in order to prefer our own fancies, is to light a cheap candle as a substitute for the noonday sun.  From the beginning of the world God has prescribed the worship which was best pleasing to Himself, and never left a matter of such moment to man. 
         Arbitrarily invented worship:  would-be worship, devised by man's own will, not God's. So jealous is God of human will-worship, that He struck Nadab and Abihu dead for burning strange incense (Lev. 10:1-3).  So King Uzziah was stricken with leprosy for usurping the office of priest (II Chron. 26:16-21). Compare the will-worship of Saul (I Sam. 13:8-14) for which he was doomed to lose his throne.

“and humility;”
Literally: “and humility”–Clearly here the bad sense, “in mock humility.” 

         There is a great show of reverence for divine things in the manner in which they pursue their investigations, and in their humble and meek compliance with painful rites and ceremonies; in fasting, abstinence, and penances. Under all this there lurks often the worst kind of pride; for “Pride may be pampered while the flesh grows lean.”
worshipping of angels, and NOT coming directly to God or Christ; or rather in subjecting themselves to the yoke of the Law, and submitting to the decrees of the fathers and doctors of the church, who were more wise, and learned, and knowing than they, and so had the appearance of prudence, gentleness, and goodness.

         “and neglecting the body”
         Literally:  “and severity {in abuse} of {the} body”—Literally: “not sparing of the body.”

         This asceticism seems to have rested on the Oriental theory that matter is the source of evil. This also looked plausible (compare I Cor. 9:27).  Unsparing treatment of it by austerities of man's invention. Here alone in N.T. Ascetics often practice flagellations and other harmfulness to the body.
         By fastings and watchings, whereby they seemed to be very religious and devout, holy and mortified persons, who kept under their bodies, subdued their unruly appetites, and fulfilled not the lusts of the flesh: but then this was only a show of wisdom and godliness; there was no truth nor reality in these things; they were only a mere form, an outside show, a mere pretense; there was no true devotion nor religion in them.
         Such things as putting on sackcloth and ashes; subjecting it to painful fastings and penances; appearing in a form of squalid poverty, as if the body were not worth regarding, and as if the attention were so much engrossed by the nobler care of the soul, as to be entirely regardless of the body. Yet, we may observe
1.      God made the body as well as the soul, and has shown His care of it by its “being fearfully and wonderfully made,” and by all the provision which He has made for all its needs.
2.     Religion pertains to the body as well as the soul, and should teach a man properly to regard  it.
        Man is bound so to take care of the body, as to have the most health and the longest life possible in the service of his Creator, and so as to be able to employ it in the best manner. There is no true religion in ragged or squalid clothing, in a dirty face, in offensive personal habits, in filth and defilement, and in setting at defiance the decencies of life.
3.     Much affected sanctity may exist where there is a most proud and corrupt heart. A long face, a demure countenance, a studied disregard of the decencies of dress and the courtesies of life, as if they were unworthy of notice, may be the exponent of the most hateful pride, and of the basest purposes of the soul. A man should be on his guard always against one who, under pretense of extraordinary sanctity, professes to despise the ordinary dress and usages of society.

“not in any honor”
Literally:  “not in honor”–Usually means
honor or price.  That is, there is no real honor in these things; there is nothing to ennoble and elevate the soul; nothing that is to be commended. or to be had in any esteem; for if the rites of the ceremonial law itself were weak and beggarly elements, much more must these additions to it, and corruptions of it, be such; and at most only regarded things external, that were

        HONOR:  (Grk.–timē)–Literally:  “honor, respect, recognition, price, value.”  Legalism has no value in the fulfillment of victory over the flesh.  Asceticism actually becomes an enemy to a spirit-led life. 

         The more legislatic one becomes, the more powerful the sin nature becomes. Regulations lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.  The cure for sins of the flesh is submission to the Holy Spirit, not conformity to a list of laws.  True Christian freedom does not come from restraining desires by rules and regulations, but from the death of evil desires and the bringing out of good desires by the fact of Christ is in the believer and the believer is in Christ.
         Not in honor of the body. As “neglecting of the body” describes asceticism positively; so this clause, negatively. Not paying any of that “honor” which is due to the body as redeemed by such a price as the blood of Christ. We should not degrade, but have a just estimation of ourselves, not in ourselves, but in Christ (Acts 13:46; I Cor. 3:21; 6:15; 7:23; 12:23-24; I Thess. 4:4).
         True self-denial regards the spirit, and not the forms of ascetical self-mortification in “meats which profit not those occupied therein” (Heb. 13:9), and is consistent with Christian self-respect, the “honor” which belongs to the believer as dedicated to the Lord. Compare “vainly,” (v. 18).

“to the satisfying of the flesh.”
Literally:  “with respect to gratification of the flesh”— Referring to all the preceding things, as having for their end not true holiness, but only the satisfying of the fleshly mind. Everything which draws men away from Christ as the only foundation of human hope, or leads them to seek salvation in any way except through faith in Him, tends to rob them of blessings which, by continued active faith and obedience, they would obtain.

        SATISFYING:  (Grk.–plēsmonēn)–This Greek word for “satisfying” implies satiating to repletion, or to excess. Tradition puffs up; it clogs the heavenly perceptions. They put away true “honor” that they may “satiate to the full the FLESH.”

        FLESH:  (Grk.–sarkos)–Pertaining to human nature; earthly descent, bodily cravings. This expresses the real tendency of their human ordinances of bodily asceticism, voluntary humility, and will-worship of angels.

While seeming to deny self and the body, they really are pampering the flesh, puffing-up of ego. Self-imposed ordinances gratify the flesh (namely, self-righteousness), though seeming to mortify it. Their only effect is, to satisfy or please the flesh; that is, the carnal and corrupt  base nature, for so the word “flesh” (sarkos) is often used in the Scriptures. The effect of these observances, on which so much stress is laid as if they would promote piety, is merely to gratify pride, self-righteousness, the love of distinction, and the other carnal desires of our nature. There may seem to be a great deal of humility and piety in them; but in fact there is really little else than pride, selfishness, and ambition.
         These self-imposed sufferings and fastings might have a show of uncommon spirituality and willingness for suffering, but such really give no honor to God, but of self (ego).  They simply tended to satisfy the carnal mind, by gratifying self-will, self-wisdom, self-righteousness, and contempt of others.

“Why, if you be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world,
Why, as though living in the word, are you subject to ordinances…”
By:  J. Spence, D.D.



         I have been contemplating a very little, but at the same time a very big word in several (including our own) languages.  This word is EGO.   This word EGO is a very interesting little word, with a powerful meaning.  It is used in both Latin and Greek, and in both languages it means the same:  “I Am.”  It is interesting because this is the same name that God told Moses was His Name (Exodus 3:14).  In the KJV we read Moses asking whom should he tell the Children of Israel had sent him to lead them out of Egypt.  The reply that he got from God was: “I AM THAT I AM…”  Then God continued and said, “Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, ‘I AM hath sent me unto you.”
          When we look at this same Exodus 3:14 in the SEPTUAGINT, (the LXX), the koine Greek translation of the Old Testament that was used in the synagogues in the time of Jesus (and the Bible scrolls that Jesus Himself read), we get a better understanding of the word; but before we do so we must clear up a misunderstanding that people have regarding the language spoken by the people in Israel in the First Century AD.   Most people have the misunderstanding that the Jews still used the Hebrew texts at the time of Jesus, but this is a totally erroneous idea.  The Hebrew texts had not been used for hundreds years; for about 250 BCE Pharoah Ptolemy Philadelphus financed the translation of the Hebrew texts into the koine Greek language because by that time, this koine Greek was the spoken language of the people, and had been since Alexander the Great had conquered that part of the world about 322 BC.  Judea had been under either Greek rule or Greek influence ever since that time. Even the last royal family of Judea (the Macabees/Hasmoneons) were hellenist Jews (Jews educated under and influenced by the Greek language and culture).  
            The Septuagint (LXX) was commonly used in the synagogues for worship and as a text book for education in the synagogue schools for the children.  Therefore it is quite safe to believe that Jesus spoke Greek, and NOT Aramaic, for Aramaic had been dead for over 200 years.  Few, if any, could either read, or understand either Aramaic and fewer still could understand Hebrew.  When Jesus cried out from the cross, “It is finished,” (John 19:30),  He did so in the koine Greek word, “tetelestai.”   When He cried out from the cross in Hebrew, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabach thani,” i.e., “My, God, My God, why hast thou forsaken Me,” He did so in Hebrew, and no one understood Him.  The people thought He was calling to Elijah.  So as you can see,  Hebrew was a dead language in Jesus’ day.  REMEMBER:  the New Testament was written in koine Greek because it was the language of the people at that time.    
            When James wrote his epistle only about three (3) years after Jesus had ascended into heaven, he wrote it in koine Greek. And where had James learned his Greek?  In the synagogue school, the same place that Jesus would have studied Greek as a boy, since James was a half-brother of Jesus’ (after the flesh) and another son of Mary’s.  The full brother James, Jude (Judas) also wrote in koine Greek. So then, if the Holy Spirit got the New Testament written in koine Greek because it was the spoken  language of the people, why then would He have spoken to them in any other language, especially in a language that had been dead to them for hundreds of years?
     When we look at Exodus 3:14 in the LXX we see that it says,“And God spoke to Moses. Translated into English this reads,  “And God spoke to Moses saying, ‘I AM THE BEING.’”  and He said, ‘Thus shall you say to the Children of Israel,
THE BEING  has sent me to you.’” Thus, we can almost conclude that man’s use of this word, EGO, is his attempt to make himself to be like God, like the great I AM Himself.  This can further be seen when we look back at what happened in the Garden of Eden as is recorded in Genesis 3:5.  In the KJV we read, “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”  When we look at the LXX we see:  translated into English–“For God knew that in whatever day you should eat of it your eyes would be opened, and you should be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

     “That you should be as gods”—that you should be as the I AMi.e., that you should be as the EGO.  And ever since then people have been striving toward that same end:  to be to be like, “I Am.,”  to be  like the great EGO.   Another interesting fact about this word EGO is that it makes a very interesting (and most telling) acrostic:


 E dging

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Ain’t that the truth?