Free Bible commentary on Colossians

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Colossians 1:9-12

The purpose of the letter to the Colossians is to emphasize that Christians learn Jesus Christ and then walk in Him. The last two days, we have been studying how to study the letter of Colossians and how to unpack its information.

We have arrived at our selected text – 1:9-12. With all of that in our background, we now ask what is the meaning and significance of this text?

Verse 9 begins, “For this reason…,” which points us backward to see for what reason? When we start in verse 3, we learn that Paul has prayed for the Colossians “always,” after hearing of their faith and love (verse 4). His prayer was for their hope that was laid up as a reward for them in heaven (vs 5). That hope is available to them through the indwelling Christ (vs 27) – their “hope of glory.”

They had heard about that hope through the Gospel (vs 5), which had been spreading throughout the whole world, bearing fruit in the lives of everyone (vs 6). They had heard specifically the Gospel message from Epaphras (vs 7).

Now, with all that in mind, read closely 1:9-12. In verse 9, Paul reiterates that he is praying for the saints in Colossae. Verse 9 also shows us the purpose of Paul’s prayer – “that they may be filled with the knowledge of His will.” Remember the theme verse (2:6-7)? That knowledge is to be accompanied by “all wisdom” and “spiritual understanding.” We could do more study on what Paul means by “wisdom” and “spiritual understanding” but I think we probably already have a working knowledge of those concepts.

The purpose of this “knowledge,” Paul writes in verse 10 is that the saints in Colossae “may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and [again] increasing in the knowledge of God.” Remember the theme? Proper knowledge = proper walk.

Verse 11 describes what we have in Christ if we walk in Him, based on our knowledge of His will. Highlight these words (NASV): “strengthened,” “all might,” “power.” The power to bear fruit, the power to live a godly life, the power to defeat Satan, the power to get to heaven comes from Jesus Christ, through the knowledge of His will. No where else is that power and knowledge found.

This strength we receive from the power of Christ, through knowledge of His will also leads us to steadfastness and patience. How do we bear fruit in this life? With patience and endurance.

Finally, verse 12 concludes the content of Paul’s prayer for the saints in Colossae – “with joy giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” So, Paul says here basically the same thing he has said in verse 5 – the hope laid up in heaven is the inheritance Christians will receive.

Now, let us apply that to ourselves today. First, I need to pray; the elders need to pray; you need to pray for one another that we will each be filled with the knowledge of Christ’s will so that we can walk worthy of Him and receive that inheritance.

Then, we each need to pray for ourselves and do what we can to walk worthy of Him and bear fruit. Knowledge of Christ’s will = fruit = inheritance.

YOU can understand God’s will for your life. Just follow the same pattern of study we have presented in these three lessons and you will bear fruit.

For more free Bible commentaries on Colossians visit

–Paul Holland

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Introduction to the book of Colossians

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The letter of Colossians is about the solution to our spiritual problems. But, we are also studying how to study the letter of Colossians and how to unpack its information.

We will eventually end up, tomorrow, in 1:9-12. But before we get there, we need to follow a process of studying the Scriptures. We’ve identified the type of literature and the author of this letter. What about its recipients?

In 1:2, Paul calls them “saints and faithful brethren.” It would take more time and study to learn who “saints” are, but a simple concordance of the Bible, of your own translation, would give you an understanding that saints are people who have been sanctified by the blood of Christ through immersion in water for the forgiveness of sins.

Why does Paul write the letter? Well, Paul does not here give us a clear purpose statement as he does sometimes. Yet, when we read in chapter 2, we learn that the Christians in Colossae were being challenged by a number of false ideas. Let’s read a few verses here to get a sense of the challenge that was facing the Colossians: verses 8, 16, 18, 20-22.

There was not one system of false teaching we know about that included all of these different aspects. So, it seems that they were being challenged from different fronts – Greek philosophy and Jewish teachings. Even though today our challenges are called by different names, the principles are the same. Someone says, “You must do this to please Jesus.” Or “You have to do that to transcend this world.” Or, “You must do such and such in order to get to heaven.” We face the same challenges today, just under a different name.

This chapter also shows us why Paul wrote this letter. While there is not one “purpose” statement in the letter, Paul makes clear that Jesus and their connection to Him is the solution to the problems they faced.

I would suggest that Paul’s “purpose” statement is found in 2:6-7 – “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Incidentally, the word “walk” here is the first command (imperative) in the letter, among 30!

Let me put this “purpose” in my own words, based on 2:6-7. Paul is saying, “You were instructed to receive Christ Jesus. Walk in Him.” When we read chapters three and four, we see where Paul really focuses on the practical, day-to-day aspects of this connection “saints/Christians” have with Jesus (notice 3:1-2).

If you want to know how to live, how to be a good husband, how to be a good wife, how to be a good parent, how to get along with people at work, read chapters three and four. They are very practical and they all flow from our relationship with Jesus.

We’ll unpack 1:9-12 tomorrow. Until then, here are the twenty key words in the letter: “It is” (26); “Christ” (25); “God” (21); “Lord” (16); “Flesh” (9); “Body/flesh” (8); “in” (8); “Word” (7); “Man” (7); “I have” (7); “Wisdom” (6); “Jesus” (6); “I become” (5); “heart” (5); “heaven” (5); “faith” (5); “Father” (5); “Grace” (5); “Love” (5); “Brother.”

Those are the twenty most used words in the letter of Colossians. And, in one way or another, they are going to tie back in to those two verses 2:6-7 – “You were instructed to receive Christ Jesus. Walk in Him.”

Keep feeding on God’s word!

–Paul Holland

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Best Bible study tips

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Divine Rescue – Colossians 1:1-14

We mentioned last week from Luke 7 that Jesus has the solution to man’s problems and you and I, just like the centurion did with his servant, need to go to Jesus – or bring our friends to Jesus – to find that solution.

The letter of Colossians is about that solution. But I want to approach this study in a different way. I’m going to show you how to study the letter of Colossians and how to unpack the information that is found in it.

We will eventually end up, Wednesday, in 1:9-12 (as an example). But before we get there, we need to follow a process of studying the Scriptures.

Ideally, you read the whole book of the Bible, the whole letter through, entirely, all at one time. You really should read it more than once – maybe 4 or 5 times. It took me under ten minutes to read Colossians. As you read it through, you pick up more and more items and see the flow of thought better and better. As you read, you want to ask yourself these questions:
1. Who is the author?
2. Who are the recipients?
3. Why does the author write this letter? Does he give a purpose statement somewhere?
4. What is the audience experiencing that requires this letter?
5. What are some key words that “jump out” at you, words that are used over and over again?

Once you have read the letter, you will be able to answer these questions:
The author is the apostle Paul – 1:1 and his associate minister, Timothy. Notice in verse 1 that Paul identifies himself immediately as an apostle. You would think that Paul identifies himself as an apostle in order to emphasize the authority that he had as an apostle. We could do further study on Paul as an apostle and his life and work but we will assume that we have a fair amount of knowledge in that area right now.

As we read the letter, we also realize that Paul did not establish the church in Colossae. Colossae is a village found in the Lycus Valley, about 100 miles inland from the city of Ephesus. Paul had been in the city of Ephesus several times; we read about that in the book of Acts. But, we do not read about Paul being in the village of Colossae. Notice in 2:1, Paul refers to Christians in Colossae and in another neighboring village, Laodicea, who had not seen him personally. Also, in 1:7 Paul mentions a man named Epaphras from whom the Colossians had learned the truth. So, Epaphras is the one who established the church of Jesus Christ in Colossae. Perhaps Epaphras had been in Ephesus at some point and been converted by the apostle Paul.

That gives us a little introduction to this letter. We’ll answer more of the questions tomorrow. Read Paul’s letter through again!

–Paul Holland

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What is agape love?

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Love: A word to live by

1. For the next few Sunday mornings we will be looking at the word “love.”
2. The Bible is a book about “love,” but this “love” is from God’s perspective.


1. One of these words was “eros” – a love between the sexes.
2. This was a word for sexual passion; one writer referred to it as “hot and unendurable desire.”
3. A second word for “love” (which we find in the Bible) is “storge.”
4. Storge love was something like “family affection.”
5. A Bible passage to associate with this type of love is Rom. 12:10.
6. A third word for “love” was “phileo” – a very popular word among those familiar with Greek.
7. This term is associated with personal warmth or looking on someone with affection.
8. Jn. 11:3, 36; 20:2.
9. The fourth word for love– agape.
10. This word was used prior to the NT era, but it was not used a lot.
11. When the Bible talks about “agape” love, it describes or refers to a conscious act.
12. Love that falls into the “agape” category is a love which is done by deliberate thought and action.
13. Agape love is a love which may be contrary to our natural instincts.
14. Mt. 5:44 – “love your enemies. If we consider this verse in view of my invisible picture …
15. Are militant Islamic extremists our friends or our enemies?
16. Agape love says I will love others regardless of what they do to me.
17. Have we ever thought about how the “fruit of the spirit” in Gal. 5:22 begin?
18. This “love” is not eros, or storge, or even phileo. It is agape.
19. Love people, even if they are our greatest enemy.
20. A Christian with agape love has no equal in the world.
21. Just this one quality sets him or her apart from everyone else.
22. Some may think agape love just means letting people do what they want. NO.
23. God is love and He punishes people.
24. Agape love caused God to send a perfect and sinless sacrifice into a perfect and sinful world.
25. Satan apparently does not like the idea of agape love and has sought to cheapen and alter it.
26. All kinds of false ideas are circulated about love, and part of our job is sharing what this love is.
27. If we do not understand what agape love is … if we do not practice agape love …
28. If we do not tell others what this love is … one of the greatest message of all time will be buried.
29. Agape love is a way – a really good way — to change the world.
30. Agape love is so great Paul said at the end of 1 Cor. 13, “the greatest of these is love.”

31. Love is how the Christian live should begin, how it is lived, and how it ends.
32. Do we have and do we seek to practice agape love every single day?

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How to read the Bible

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Set in Order – Titus 1:1-9

When you pick up a book of the Bible, where do you start? You should first start by reading the whole letter at one time (It took me less than five minutes to read the whole letter). You would really want to read it four or five times in order to get the flow of the book or letter and get a feel for the discussion.

Let us take the letter of Paul to Titus as an example, as we begin a study on Fridays from that letter. In the process of reading, ask yourself these questions:

What type of literature is it? From the beginning of the book (1:1-4) and the end of the book (3:12-15), we can observe that it is a letter. Secondly, who is speaking? The apostle Paul (1:1) is the author of the letter. At this point, we are simply observing what the text says. Paul also identifies himself as a “bond-servant” (NASV) of God and an “apostle” of Jesus Christ. When we ask the question, why does he call himself a bond-servant and an apostle, then we move into the area of interpretation.

When you read the whole letter, you see two emphases: sound doctrine and godly living. So, why does Paul identify himself as a bond-servant in God and an apostle of Jesus Christ in the context of the content of Titus? It seems to me that with the emphasis in Titus on how one should live, Paul is pointing out that when we declare Him to be our Savior, we also make Him our Lord, our Master. We are not our own and we do not make our own spiritual and moral choices. We follow Him as His bond-servants. As an apostle, Paul has the authority to command Titus to teach sound doctrine, with authority from the Holy Spirit.

A third question you should ask is: To whom is he writing? What are his circumstances? The recipient of this letter is named Titus, Paul’s “true child in a common faith” (1:4). What is significant about this “common faith?” Well, with a little research (and a concordance) on Titus, we learn from Galatians 2 that Titus was a Gentile. Paul is a Jew. So, although they came to Christ from different backgrounds, they share a “common faith,” the “one faith” of Ephesians 4:5: the faith of Jesus Christ.

Finally, why was this letter written? Not all books or letters are as explicit as Titus is, but Paul writes in 1:5 why he is giving these instructions to Titus: “This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you.” That is, perhaps, a two-fold purpose (although some scholars suggest they are actually one purpose): to put what remained in order and to appoint elders in every town.

One last point: key words in a book or letter also give you an idea of what the author thinks is important so I present the key words of the letter of Titus for you to note as you read this letter. The verb “it is” (16); God (13); Work (8); Faith/trust (6); Savior (6); Word (5); Mankind (5); Christ (4); Teaching (4); Grace (4); Jesus (4); Sound (4); It is necessary (3); Exhort (3); Reprove (3); Hope (3); Arrange (3); Blaspheme (2).

God bless you in your study of Paul’s letter to Titus to set in order things that remained to be done in the churches of Christ on the island of Crete. Perhaps there are similar things that remain to be done in our own assemblies.

–Paul Holland

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Ken Ramey, Expository Listening: A Handbook for Hearing and Doing God’s Word

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Expository Listening

Years ago, I was reading an article (I believe it was in the Gospel Advocate) by Charles Hodge. In that article, he wrote that the primary target for God’s word is the ear. That statement struck me and Hodge gave biblical evidence for his contention.

Indeed, we normally start the “plan of salvation” by saying that the sinner must hear the Word of God. As bookends on both sides of the Parable of the Sower / Soils, Jesus says, “Listen to this!” (Mark 4:3) and “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (4:9).

Have you ever thought that you needed to improve your listening-to-sermons-skills? Have you ever thought you needed to become a better expository listener?

That’s the theme of a book by Ken Ramey, entitled appropriately enough Expository Listening: A Handbook for Hearing and Doing God’s Word. Lance Quinn writes in the Forward, “Listening to a sermon, really listening – as in thinking, praying, following the argument, concentrating on the meaning and its application to your life – now that’s hard work! …Actively listening to the preaching of God’s Word requires mental alertness, focused attention, and a spiritually receptive heart” (xi).

The author, Ramey, criticizes the modern practice of making worship more casual, nonthreatening when the interaction between the God of the Universe and sinful man should be challenging and effecting our lives! He writes in his introduction, “My desire within these pages is to create congregations that share this passion to honor God by being discerning hearers of His Word, diligent doers of His word, and devoted lovers of His Word, preaching fanatics, even, who come to church like a thirsty man craving something to drink and whose hearts fervently long to hear the Word preached because they know that in it God speaks to them” (pg. 7).

He is exactly right and goes on to discuss “Biblical Audiology: A Theology of Listening.” He quotes numerous passages that emphasize hearing and obeying God’s Word. Ramey believes in a more direct operation of the Holy Spirit in the process than the Scriptures will allow but he has much to say that is worthy.

He spends a couple of chapters dealing with our hearts and how we need to “harrow” our hearts before the Sunday sermon so that we’ll get the most out of the sermons. He recommends: Read and meditate on God’s Word every day; Pray throughout the week; Confess your sin; Reduce your media intake; Schedule your week around the ministry of the word; Be consistent in church attendance; Go to church with a humble, teachable, expectant heart; Worship with all your heart; Fight off distractions; Listen with diligent discernment; Prepare your heart and soul.

We have long emphasized that preachers need to preach expositorily. Ramey has done us a service by emphasizing also the need to listen expositorily. The church at Swartz Creek will be hearing more about how they can listen to the sermon to get more out of it!

–Paul Holland

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Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?

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Humans are not Dogs

We have a mutt, named Dusty. He is a pretty good dog, even though he is not trained to do anything. Everything he does is natural. He does not bark a lot. He jumps straight up when he gets excited. He’s a medium sized dog. He also stays outside most of the time (even in Michigan winters but don’t worry, God gives him a special winter coat every fall!).

Sometimes our anthropomorphic view of Dusty gets the better of us and we let him spend the night in the garage. However, sometimes, for selfish reasons (like it’s 3:00 AM), we put him in the garage! He begins the night outside. Then a rabbit, opossum, squirrel or other animal runs through the yard. As I said, normally, Dusty does not bark. My guess is that if someone were to try to break into our house, they would get little resistance from Dusty. He would more likely hide.

But he does bark if a rabbit, opossum, squirrel or other animal runs through the yard. Then, Dusty barks. He has to bark. He’s a dog. It’s in his nature. A strange animal runs through the yard and the local pet has to bark. He cannot do otherwise. It’s in his genes. It’s practically pointless to yell: “Dusty! Stop barking!” He’s going to bark until the animal is gone.

Humans are not dogs. While we do not, and may never know, just how much our personalities are influenced by our genes, we always have control over our behavior. One lesson my mom drilled into my head is that I always have control of my tongue! That’s been a hard lesson to follow.

“Pathological” means “compulsive” or “obsessive.” We hear the term used with “lying” as if someone could not help but lie. That is false. We can control our words always. We do not have to “lose our temper.” We’ve always got control of our tempers. No one is a “pathological thief.” He or she always has control over whether they walk out of the store without paying for something. We should not tell someone (our spouse, for example), “That’s just the way I am and I can’t change.”

Some people practice sinful behaviors so long that they have a hard time stopping that behavior. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil” (Jeremiah 13:23). The Hebrew writer warns, “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance” (6:4-6).

Why is it impossible? Not because the sin is genetic but because their “consciences are seared” (1 Timothy 4:2). We must keep a tender conscience before God and humbly submit to any teaching or correction that His word offers.

Which means that if we are committing sin, we can stop it. God would not command something that we could not do. We are not dogs.

–Paul Holland

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Effective Bible Teaching

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Effective Bible Teaching

Dedicated to improving my teaching, I am. James Wilhoit and Leland Ryken published a book in 2012 (actually, revised that year) entitled Effective Bible Teaching. It would be worth your expense to obtain and read this book.

Expository Bible teaching is the source of strength and stability in the church. It keeps the preacher or teacher from preaching hobbies and responding to every idea and whim that pops up. Paul tells Timothy to “preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2). The more effectively I can do that, the more likely Christians will be prepared to handle the onslaughts of the Devil and the fiery darts of the Evil One.

Wilhoit and Ryken offer some good ideas and good principles in their book. They begin by discussing the “changing landscape of Bible study.” Their background is among denominational churches but it is easy to see the same weaknesses in the Lord’s church. Not only does the Lord need expository preachers in the church but expository teachers. In fact, all Christians need to know how to expose the text!

The driving force behind Wilhoit and Ryken’s approach is to grasp the “Big Idea” of the passage. I believe that is exactly right. Regardless of the author, Old Testament or New Testament, the paragraph, chapter, letter or book has a “Big Idea.” The way you grasp the “Big Idea” depends on the type of literature you are reading and Wilhoit and Ryken offers suggestions on determining the Big Idea from different types of literature, like poetry or narrative.

One principle they point out in their chapter “Principles of Biblical Interpretation,” is: “the interpreter should give precedence to biblical passages where the doctrine is clear” (pg. 93). How fundamentally important that point is! Our family is reading through the Bible this year and we have finished Romans. When a 15-year-old or a 12-year-old is reading Romans, you frequently get, “I did not understand a word he said.” How do you summarize a chapter in Romans for a teen or a pre-teen? You highlight the verse(s) that is easy to understand and interpret the difficult verses in light of that verse.

Finally, relative to Bible class teachers, Wilhoit and Ryken offer some good suggestions on how to lead a Bible class that is actually devoted to Bible study. Specifically, they offer ideas on how to ask questions to guide the class in observing, interpreting, and applying the text of Scripture.

It is a weighty responsibility to stand before an audience and declare, “Thus says the Lord.” “We who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1). If one is not declaring “Thus says the Lord,” he needs to still down and close his mouth!

Effective Bible Teaching, I believe, will enrich my Bible study and my Bible teaching. It might do the same for you.

–Paul Holland

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The Centurion’s Faith – Luke 7:1-10

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Abortions. Addictions. Bitterness. Depression. Sexual abuse. Guilt. Worry. We or our friends suffer from any number of mental anxieties that cause us problems. Social problems. Financial problems. Mental problems. Emotional problems. Spiritual problems.
The centurion in Luke 7 had a servant (friend) who had a problem. Jesus heals the problem but He does so, responding to the centurion’s humble faith in Christ.

A centurion was a military officer supervising normally 100 soldiers under him. He may have been comparable to a lieutenant. This servant was close to the centurion’s heart; probably because he had worked hard for his boss.

The centurion was a man of compassion, even for those who were below him in many ways. “Walk in love,” Paul tells the Christians in Ephesus (5:2). We have people all around us who are hurting and in need of healing. Let us, like this centurion, be people of compassion and walk in love.

THE SAVIOR – 7:3-5:
Being a non-Jew, he did not feel worthy to come into Jesus’ presence. He felt Jesus might be more likely to answer his prayer/plea if he sent Jews to Jesus.

People need to hear about Jesus and they need to go to Jesus to find healing. Many people say they know “Jesus” but they do not “know” Jesus. They do not read His word; they do not know what He expects out of them; they are both ignorant of His word and neglectful in their obedience to Him.

Three verses show us what kind of heart the centurion has and how he expresses that heart toward Jesus. That’s the reason this event is found in Scripture. The centurion did not demand Jesus to heal the servant. He begged Jesus to heal his servant.
Pride is the enemy of man and the enemy of happiness. It is the enemy of our relationship with God (Prov. 16:18).

Let us not despise the word of Jesus! Not on the plan of salvation or worship or the Christian lifestyle. Encourage friends to come to Jesus with this same type of humble faith.

THE BLESSING – 7:9-10:
Because of the centurion’s humble attitude toward Jesus and respect for His authority, Jesus blesses the centurion by healing His servant.
Distance is no barrier to the power of the word of God. If we will come humbly to Christ with an obedient faith, we too can find the blessings we need.
With what do our friends suffer? Discouragement? Divorce? Forgiveness? Grief and Loss? Loneliness? When we can get them to come to Jesus, they can find the healing and hope they need to heal. The power, the authority to bless, is in His hands.

If you have a challenge, go to the Savior with humble faith and you will be blessed.

Paul Holland

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Beards and the Bible

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Facial hair does not come easily for me. I have gone a couple of weeks without shaving and it is barely noticeable. One four-bladed razor lasts me three months! Beards have been in the news lately in a few ways.

One man in prison in Arkansas, Gregory Holt (there for stabbing his girlfriend in the neck), converted to Islam. Supposedly, his religion requires him to grow a beard, which that prison does not allow. So, he promptly sued and the Supreme Court is set to rule any day.

Another man in a different religion has a different case. Paolo Quezada is a student at the Business College in Salt Lake City, UT. The college is operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons). The college does not allow beards; Mormons frown severely on them. But, Quezada is in a theatrical role in which he portrays a man wearing a beard.

So, the college is giving him special permission to wear a beard if: 1.) He wears a “beard exemption card” strung on a lanyard around his neck for every one to see; and, 2.) he has to compensate for the beard by wearing a dress shirt, tie, and dress slacks to class.

Such silliness happens when humans make laws to either be religious or to appear religious. Paul said that the rules of men: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” are “in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men” but “are of no value against fleshly indulgence” (Colossians 2:20-23).

Jesus rebuked the Pharisees in Matthew 15:3-9 for the same thing: “He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”

Man has no right to require something from his fellow man, religiously speaking, that God has not required. Christians have no right elevating their own likes, dislikes, preferences, and scruples to the level of “thus says the Lord.” My mom use to tell me, “No one died and left you in charge.” The same thing is true in Christianity. Jesus did not die and leave any Christian in charge of His church.

Let us bind what Christ has bound (Matthew 16:19) and leave freedom where Christ allows freedom (Romans 14).
–Paul Holland

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