Colossians 2:16 (NIV)

16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.

Can we infer from the context that Paul is talking about "ceremonial" Sabbaths only, thus excluding the "moral" Sabbath (as claimed by sites like this one)?

  • 4
    Your 'inference' goes clean contrary to the actual text. '... festival ... celebration ... sabbath day' are three separate and distinct items. There is no such thing as a 'moral' sabbath. It is invented terminology never found anywhere in scripture. The inference and the terminology make this question a matter of opinion.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 6 '20 at 17:33
  • 2
    @NigelJ I'm just presenting the claim, but it is not mine. It's just that I'm currently debating seventh-day sabbatarians on another site, and one of the common claims I come across frequently is that there are two types of sabbaths: moral and ceremonial, and that Colossians 2:16 is allegedly addressing the ceremonial ones only. Check out this site for an example presentation of the position. Oct 6 '20 at 20:19

Paul is saying nothing about such things.

Paul is talking to Christians that are living in a community with many Ascetics, Stoics, etc. who condemned Christians for not suffering and depriving themselves as they did.

These other people were acting morally superior and making the Christians feel bad for eating meat, drinking wine, celebrating festivals and sabbaths, and feeling the joy of life.

Paul's advice is to ignore the judgement of others, and accept only the judgement of the body of Christ (the Church).

For a much more complete description, see my answer to exegesis - Keeping the Sabbath and Colossians 2:16 - Christianity Stack Exchange

  • 1) Quote: "These other people were acting morally superior and making the Christians feel bad for eating meat, drinking wine, celebrating festivals and sabbaths, and feeling the joy of life." any evidence for this? 2) Do you observe new moons 3) Quote: "The food and drink, festivals, new moons (monthly sabbaths), and (weekly) sabbaths refer to things that the Christian community is expected to practice", any scriptural support for this? Oct 6 '20 at 18:41
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator, 1) "… the letter was to address the challenges that the Colossian community faced in its context of the syncretistic Gnostic religions that were developing in Asia Minor. [Those churches which claimed an apostolic foundation attached great importance to the maintenance of the teaching which they had originally received. … One form of incipient Gnosticism is the syncretistic angel-cult of nonconformist Jewish foundation and pagan superstructure attacked in the Epistle to the Colossians]" — Colossae - Wikipedia Oct 6 '20 at 19:11
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator, 2) Yes, I recently saw a new moon somewhere around September 17. Oct 6 '20 at 19:11
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator, 3) There is circumstantial evidence in scripture (e.g. Gentiles learning about Christianity at sabbath services (Acts 13:42 "the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath")); its authors would take such things for granted, and so not mention them explicitly. Historically there are many cases of Christian groups being persecuted for "judaising". E.g. The Council of Laodicea (Ca AD 365) said: "if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ". Oct 6 '20 at 19:11
  • 1) The Wikipedia source provided never mentions Colossians Christians made feel bad about their alleged Sabbath keeping by other groups. The words "sabbath", "rest" and "seventh day" do not appear even once in the whole Wikipedia article. Oct 6 '20 at 20:28

Is Colossians 2:16 addressing “ceremonial” Sabbaths only and excluding the “moral” Sabbath?

In referring to festivals that had been required by God’s Law to ancient Israel, the apostle Paul wrote:

Colossians 2:16-17 NASB

16 Therefore no one is to [a]act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath [b]day— 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

The Christians in Colossae were to let no one judge their standing before God on the basis of observance of festivals of the Mosaic Law. This includes not only "ceremonials" but also " moral" Sabbath.

Paul warns Christians, do not become partners with unbelievers

2 Corinthians 6:14-15 NET

Unequal Partners

14 Do not become partners with those who do not believe, for what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship does light have with darkness? 15 And what agreement does Christ have with Beliar? Or what does a believer share in common with an unbeliever?

In other words, if Christians want to please God, they should not mix true worship with false. If you want to please God, Jesus said,21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. (Mat 7:21 NASB)


To understand the ‘Sabbath’, you need to step back, and take in the ‘wider picture’. The Sabbath came from Genesis, pre-fall.

GEN 2:3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

Later at Sinai, the Israelites received the Law. The Law is spiritual - but was given to man who was ‘flesh’, that is, could only live in the ‘flesh’, because via Adam, man was/is spiritually ‘dead’ (separated from God).

ROM 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, [snip]

(Both ‘carnal’ and ‘flesh’ come from the same Greek source[sarx])

So, man then needed to ‘keep’ the sabbath ‘in the flesh’, that is, man needed to ‘do’ something to keep it. Be ‘seen’ to rest,by not doing anything on ‘a’ day.

But, the meaning/intent of ‘doing nothing’ was to show that on that day/year/jubilee ‘he’(man) was resting (in God), letting God be the provider/source for that ‘sabbath’.

But, after being ‘reborn’, man, a ‘new creation’, now had a living spirit, so now the sabbath can be fulfilled ‘spiritually’. This only works by faith. Now, as James says, this ‘faith’ will be evidenced, be ‘seen’ or be visible to others - in some way, but not necessarily ‘legalistically’. You now don’t ‘do’ something just so you (or ‘others’, i.e. ‘be seen’.) can ‘tick’a box.

COL 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:

Now reminder, the sabbath is a ‘rest’, you ‘rest’ in the finished work of Jesus. And, you do this by/in faith. So this means you can’t get an answer in respect to ‘sabbath keeping’ that is going to be able to apply to everyone - because faith is dealing with ‘things’ that can’t be ‘seen’.

The point is, these questions you are posting regarding the ‘sabbath’ are going to be difficult to answer, unless you drop back to a legalistic position - but - as per Colossians 2:16, Paul says not to do this.

To understand how the sabbath applies to us, you can read Hebrews 4, but as that interpretation is ‘spiritual’, it won’t always make too much sense to our natural reasoning.

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