What does Colossians 2-16 really mean?

Colossians 2-16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:

This verse is often used as evidence to support the argument regarding the relevance of the law today.  It is actually used by both those that claim we are not under the law and those that proclaim we are.

Those that proclaim we are not under the law say that Paul is saying that we should not be judged for not keeping the law and those that proclaim we are under the law say Paul is stating the exact opposite, that we should not let anyone judge us for keeping the law. 

The verse if taken alone, can and in fact does support either position. If we start with either position and take this verse alone then it would adequately support each of the starting positions.

Obviously both positions cannot be correct. The verse cannot in reality support both positions. It supports one or the other. So what does this verse really mean? 

Well the only way to know is to take this verse along with the rest of the Bibles teachings and in context to where it belongs. 

If you are aware of my writings you will probably be aware that I believe the law has in fact been removed and that those in the New Covenant are not obliged to follow the law given through Moses, the law of the first covenant. 

It is no surprise then that I believe Paul is teaching that we should not let anyone judge us for not keeping the things which he outlined in verse 16. I also believe that Paul is specifically speaking to gentiles, although I also believe this can be applied to Israelites. 

The most important word in verse 16 is actually THEREFORE. This is the Greek οὖν oun which means therefore or so. It is a conjunction word. It connects clauses.

In verse 16 Paul states Let no man THERFORE  judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:

Paul uses ‘therefore’ to connect the clause he is about to say “Let no man judge you….in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:”  with the clause(s) he had just stated. 

Therefore in order to understand Paul’s usage of therefore we must first understand the clauses that Paul is connecting this statement in verse 16 to. 

To do this we must go back and see what Paul had stated. 

Paul starts by warning against being spoiled by any man through philosophy and deceit after the traditions of men. 

Colossians 2- 8Beware 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. 9For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 

This is also used by both sides of the argument.

But then Paul states that we are complete in Christ. 

10And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:

Paul is beginning to explain the reasons for why we must not let anyone judge us in the matters of verse 16 

Complete is the Greek πληρόω pléroó. This is the same word that Jesus used in Matthew 5-17 regarding him coming to fulfill the law. 

Matthew 5-17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

Jesus completed the law just as he completes us. 

Paul expands and talks about a non physical circumcision and being buried along with Jesus and rising with him. 

 11In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: 12Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. 



Paul states that those who were dead in their sins and uncircumcised of the flesh, have been quickened together with him and that Jesus has forgiven their sins. 

13And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 

Very clearly this is directed at NON Jews. The Jews are referred to as the circumcision. Paul speaking in this verse to non Jews, those who were not part of the circumcision. 

Quickened is the Greek συζωοποιέω suzóopoieó which means to make alive. Jesus has mae alive the uncircumcised, the gentiles who Paul was speaking to. 

Paul then states that Jesus blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us. He nailed it to the cross. 

14Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; 

The Greek translated as blotted out is ἐξαλείφω exaleiphó and means to wipe out wash off.

Handwriting is χειρόγραφον cheirographon which is legal document or bond

Ordinance is the Greek  δόγμα, dogma decree

Ephesians 2- 15Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, [even] the law of commandments [contained] in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, [so] making peace;

Law is νόμος Nomos which refers to the old covenant law given through Moses.

Jesus triumphed over all rulers and powers.

15And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.



The use of therefore connects Paul’s statements that we, non physical Jews,  are complete in Christ and that Jesus nailed the ordinances that were against us as the reason for which we should not let any man judge us in the matters of “meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days”. 

It is because we are complete in Christ and he nailed the ordinances that were against us to the cross why we, who are non physical Jews,  should not let any man judge us in the matters that Paul then stipulates which are matters pertaining to the law. Gentiles were not required to come under the law when they followed Jesus as Jesus had removed the law. 

The clear message in this passage is that because the law was nailed to the cross a person should not allow anyone to judge them in the matters of verse 16. 


Paul here, just like he does many times in his writings, is arguing against being under the law.