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:…
I. THE POINTS IN WHICH THAT LIBERTY IS TO BE EXERCISED.
1. Those which, in addition to circumcision, were principally in question were —
(1) Meat and drink, which refers to unclean things, things offered to idols, and perhaps the Nazarite vow. As there were few Jewish regulations as to drink, probably other ascetic practices were in question.
(2) Sacred seasons — annual festivals, the monthly feast of the new moon, and the weekly Sabbath.
2. The relation of the Gentile converts to these was really the question whether Christianity was to be more than a Jewish sect, and the main force which, under God, settled the contest was the vehemence and logic of Paul.
3. He lays down the ground on which the whole matter was to be settled. They are a "shadow," etc. "Coming events cast their shadows before." The great work of Christ whose "goings forth have been from everlasting," may be thought of as having set out from the Throne as soon as time was, like the beams of some far-off star that have not yet reached a dark world. The light from the Throne is behind Him as He advances across the centuries, and the shadow is thrown far in front.
II. This involves THE PURELY PROPHETIC AND SYMBOLIC CHARACTER OF THE OLD TESTAMENT ORDER.
1. Sacrifice, altar, priest, temple, spoke of Christ.
(1) The distinctions of meats were meant to familiarize men with the conceptions of purity and impurity, and so, by stimulating conscience to work the need of a Purifier.
(2) The yearly feasts set forth various aspects of Christ's work, and the Sabbath showed in outward form the rest into which He leads His people who cease from their own works and wear His yoke. And all are like outriders who precede a prince on his progress, and as they gallop through sleeping villages rouse them with the cry, "the king is coming."
2. And when the king has come where are the heralds? When the reality, who wants the shadows? And if that which threw the shadow forward has arrived, how shall the shadow be visible too?
III. Therefore THE CESSATION OF ALL THESE OBSERVANCES IS INVOLVED IN THEIR PROPHETIC CHARACTER.
1. The practical conclusion is not, "let no man observe these any more," but "let no man judge you" about them. He does not quarrel with the rites, but with men insisting on them.
2. His own practice is the best commentary on his meaning. When they said to him, "You must circumcise Titus," he said, "Then I will not." When nobody tried to compel him he circumcised Timothy to avoid scandals.
3. In times of transition, wise supporters of the new will not be in a hurry to break with the old. The brown sheaths remain on the twigs alter the tender green leaf has burst from within them, but there is no need to pull them off, for they will drop presently.
4. The bearing of Paul's principles on the religious observance of Sunday.
(1) The obligation of the Jewish Sabbath has passed away, but the institution of a weekly day of rest is put in Scripture independently and prior to the Mosaic institution. That is the natural conclusion from the narrative in Genesis, the fact that Sabbath was made for man, i.e., for the race, and the traces of a pre-Mosaic Sabbath, e.g., in Assyria. It is a physical and moral necessity, and that is a mistaken benevolence which on the plea of culture or amusement for the many, compels the labour of the few.
(2) The gradual growing up of the practice of observing "the Lord's day" is in accordance with the whole spirit of the New Covenant, which has next to nothing to say about externals, but leaves the new life to shape itself. The necessity of a day of rest is not less now than at the first. I distrust the spirituality which professes that all life is a Sabbath, and therefore holds itself absolved from special seasons of worship; but it is better to think of the day as a great gift for the highest purposes, than to keep it as a mere commandment.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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: