20 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.
In Chapter One The Lord introduces us to the absolute figure of true religion, Jesus Christ. He is the Creator, sustainer, head, reconciler, and redeemer of all things and especially the church, those who are truly born again. In Chapter 2 he introduces us to the type of false religion that is most dangerous, one that “Perverts the gospel” but doesn’t totally throw it away. One that has a christ but not The Christ, one that has outward form, rituals, rudiments, and traditions but is rooted in the “Traditions of men” rather than the creator and redeemer of man, Jesus Christ. Here again, man prefers to worship his creation rather than his creator. The Final verses of this chapter sum up this counter-fit Christianity with a question; “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, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?”
The above question is a rhetorical question, designed to inform us of the idiocy of a religion of tradition and ritual. These things minister to the flesh, the same flesh that has died and was buried with Christ. Remember verse eighteen? “Vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind” is what all these doctrines and traditions of men do, they minister to that man'sCain-like religious nature, worshiping God mans way instead of his way. One of the most powerful truths to grasp and appropriate in our Christian life is used here, “Ye are dead with Christ.” If we are dead, why do we continue to minister to a dead, doomed man? It is lunacy to prop up a dead man in his usual chair or position in the house, fix him a cup of coffee, cook his breakfast, and carry on as if he is still the man of the house! If we found a person doing such in reality, we would have them committed, yet it is what we do with our fleshly man when we nourish him and feed him everything he wants, prop him up on the throne of our heart, and place a crown on his head. He is dead, so why minister to him with religious rituals and empty traditions that only puff up the fleshly mind? Also, what good would it do to chasten a dead man? I am reminded of the trial held for the body of John Wycliffe. Forty-three years after his death the pope ordered his bones be dug up, officially condemned as a heretic, and burned and cast into the river. This may have made the partakers of these rituals feel better about themselves but it did not affect Bro. Wycliffe one bit, he was dead. So is it when we abuse our fleshly bodies, depriving them of necessary food, clothing, and sustenance thinking that it will gain us favor with God.
The two extremes we have mentioned above are the fruit of the false doctrines of Gnosticism, that matter was evil, including our bodies. One sect said it is all just matter, so it matters not if we indulge it to the fullest, it is evil and will perish. The other sect said we must abuse it, it is evil and we must treat it as such and it was from this first group of heretics that sprung the practice of asceticism. Christians who supposed a life of misery of body makes them more holy. There was one of this sect, Simon Stylite who lived 37 years atop a 50-foot pillar in isolation from the world. These are not ancient problems either, while we may not have any one living on top of a pillar to devote themself to God we do have those who believe they can live any way they want, do anything they want and indulge the flesh and we have on the other end those who believe if they fast enough, if they deprive themselves enough, even some whipping themselves to “atone for sins.” Dear friend, all these traditions whether they indulge the dead man or abuse him begin and end at their using, they are useless. As our above verse states they have a show of wisdom and “will worship” [think freewill offering] but there is no honor in them. They are hollow forms, “clouds without water” just like their promoters. Dear friend, there are ordinances of God and traditions of God that we find in the scriptures, be careful not to lump those into this category, our verses are clearly speaking of “commandments and doctrines of men” but those that have their root in the dead man will bear fruit unto the dead man and religion that has its root in Christ will bear fruit unto Christ.
Why do you go to church where you do? Is it tradition that holds you there even though Christ has departed and removed his candle stick? Why do you carry out your religious duties? To feel better about yourself or so others won’t think badly of you. Dear friend be careful where our root of religion lies, if it is not founded in Christ and abiding therein then our Spiritual fruits will give way to carnal ritual that puffs up the fleshly mind that “Perishes with the using,” they sprout and wither in the same hour. We have seen the root of David, the preeminent Christ, the cornerstone we must be founded on, and he has exposed false religion that can hide behind every church sign from Baptist to Catholic, who are you serving? The dead man or Christ?