The Rights of Liberty
Colossians 2:16
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:…

At first sight the advice of St. Paul to the Colossians, not to let any one interfere with their private judgment in regard to meats, days, etc., may seem to conflict with the principle of generosity laid down in the First Epistle to the Corinthians: "If meat maketh my brother to stumble, I will eat no flesh forvermore, that I make not my brother to stumble." But a closer examination of the two cases will show that they differ essentially.


1. It is weak brethren whom St. Paul spares in his Epistle to the Corinthians. But, when writing to the Colossians, he has no such people in view, but a very different class - censorious, bigoted enemies of Christian liberty. Such men should be firmly opposed.

2. In the former case St. Paul was considering the condition of the weak brethren whom he wished to save from stumbling. In the present instance no such consideration is called for. It is not their imperfections that the Colossians are to deal gently with, but the interference of troublesome people who will not stumble the less because they have their own way in unlawful tyranny.

3. In the former case the concession was voluntary. St. Paul spoke of his own action, freely adopted. Here, however, it is not a case of generous concession on the part of the more liberal, but one of tyrannical assumption on that of the more bigoted. This case may be illustrated by St. Paul's vigorous resistance to the attempts that were made by certain professed Christians at Jerusalem to compel the circumcision of Titus (Galatians 2:3-5).

II. IT IS OUR POSITIVE DUTY TO MAINTAIN THE RIGHTS OF LIBERTY. We may be tempted to yield out of love of peace, or from an unselfish feeling of generosity. But this is more than a mistake; it is a fault. Several reasons concur to forbid us to yield to the judgment of the more bigoted in these matters.

1. The claims of truth. If we believe that our position is the right one, to renounce it will be to sacrifice truth. In maintaining our own rights in this instance we are upholding great principles.

2. The honour of Christ. If we renounce the freer, larger gospel for a cramped and mutilated one, we dishonour the Name of Christ. For his sake the broad generosity and liberal spirituality of Christianity must be maintained.

3. The performance of our own duty. We cannot serve God so well when our liberty is fettered by the interference of the narrower minded as when we follow our own conscience without such restraints.

4. The good of our fellow men. By permitting encroachments on the liberty of the gospel, we narrow the privileges which we should be offering to our fellow men. We are put in trust of the gospel. Let us beware of traitorous efforts to rob it of its richest treasures (Galatians 2:5). Nevertheless, let us take home to ourselves a further lesson, and beware of judging our brother Christians in regard to sabbath observance and other external habits either way - on the one hand, for too strict formalism in our eyes; or, on the other hand, for too free behaviour. "To his own Lord he standeth or falleth" (Romans 14:4). - W.F.A.

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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:

WEB: Let no one therefore judge you in eating, or in drinking, or with respect to a feast day or a new moon or a Sabbath day,

The Ceremonial and the Real in Religion
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