Evangelistic Alliance

A Christian service for the digital age that explains the way of salvation through trusting belief in Jesus Christ. We also tackle difficult questions that mystify believers and unbelievers.

Colossians 2:16

Colossians 2:16 is the only Bible verse that seems hostile to the Sabbath commandment. Should we judge 149 positive Sabbath references in the Bible by this 1 seemingly negative verse or judge this 1 verse by the 149 references?

The issue in Colossians 2:16 is a deceptive philosophy around man-made regulations for fasting on holy times. It cannot be talking about the Sabbath of the 10 commandments because the word ‘nomos’ (or ‘law’) is found 100+ times in Galatians and Romans but not once in the book of Colossians.

Col 2:16 prohibits making rules and regulations about how holy times should be kept. It no more wipes out all Sabbath-keeping than it wipes out all eating and drinking. Paul can't mean the 7th day Sabbath has been dumped because he repeatedly supports the Ten Commandments elsewhere, such as in Romans 2:13;3:31; 7:12, 14; 8:4, 7; 13:8-10; 1 Corinthians 7:19; 9:21; 15:56; Ephesians 6:1, 2. 


Is the Bible contradicting itself when it says the law is ‘abolished’ (Ephesians 2:15) and then says the law is ‘established’? (Romans 3:31).

Is the Bible contradicting itself when it says the law is a ‘ministration of death’ (2 Corinthians 3:7) and then says the law is ‘living oracles’? (Acts 7:38)

The answer is in 1 Timothy 1:8: “The law is good if a man uses it properly.” 

When legal compliance with God's law is relied on for salvation instead of faith in Christ's finished works, then all the negative New Testament statements about the law apply. 

When loving obedience to Go’s law out of love is the natural result of faith in Christ's works, then all the positive New Testament statements about the law apply.  Jesus makes this clear in Matthew 5:17-19; 19:17-18; 22:36-40; Luke 10:25-28. 

So when it seems to the casual reader that Paul condemns law, he is only condemning the use of law as a method of salvation, but not the law itself. 

WHich sabbath?

There are 2 types of sabbaths in the Bible:

1.  The weekly 7th day Sabbath of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:8-11) written by God on stone tablets.

2.  Seven annual holy days (ceremonial sabbaths) in Leviticus 23:4-44 written by Moses on a scroll. The 7 ceremonial sabbaths are: 1st  day of Feast of Unleavened Bread, last day of Feast of Unleavened Bread, Day of Pentecost (Shavuot) which coincides with the beginning of The Feast of Weeks, Day of Trumpets (Yom Teruah), Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), 1st day of Feast of Tabernacles (Succoth) and the Last Great Day (Succoth).  Colossians 2:14-16 refers to these ceremonial sabbaths (not the weekly 7th day Sabbath) because the context is about circumcision - a Jewish ceremonial ordinance.

Support for this is found in Ezekiel who puts ceremonial sabbaths in the same basket as new moons and seasons:  “... give burnt offerings, grain offerings, and drink offerings, at the feasts, the New Moons, the Sabbaths, and at all the appointed seasons of the house of Israel.” (Ezekiel 45:17). The context is about Jewish festivals such as the Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread and Grain offering.  Colossians 2:14-16 uses the same descriptors as Ezekiel: food, drink, new moon, sabbaths. 

In Galatians 4:9-10 Paul opposes the observance of ceremonial laws after the cross: “... how is that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days and months and seasons and years”.  By 'days' he means the the 7 ceremonial sabbaths and new moons. (Leviticus 23; Numbers 10:10; 28:11-15). Paul does not mean the weekly 7th day Sabbath because he upholds the Ten Commandments in Romans 2:13;3:31; 7:12, 14; 8:4, 7; 13:8-10; 1 Corinthians 7:19; 9:21; 15:56; Ephesians 6:1, 2.  Other New Testament writers also defend them in Matthew 5:17-18; 7:12; 22:36-40; Luke 16:16-17; Hebrew 8:9-10 and James 1:25; 2:8-12. 

Colossians 2:16 and Galatians 4:9-10 both refer to hand-written rules and ordinances. It is these that were ‘done away with at the Cross’ - not the Ten Commandments. It is these that are the ‘yoke of bondage’ (Galatians 5:1).  

JOHN 5:16-18

Christ’s attempts to clean up the Sabbath from fanatical abuse cost Him His life (John 5: 16-18). Jesus wouldn't define and defend the Sabbath if He intended it to be scrapped a few years later.


The 7th day Sabbath can't be a 'shadow' (or type) because types were introduced after sin had entered the world. The Sabbath was introduced at creation. Before sin.


The book of Revelation is the last book of the Bible. It was written in new covenant times, 66 years after the Cross. It defends the Ten Commandments in Revelation 12:17; 14:12; 22:14.

New covenant Christians preparing for Christ’s return are described as ‘commandment keepers’ in Revelation 12:17; 14:12 and 22:14. If the Ten Commandments were scrapped at the cross, these verses make no sense.

The identical Greek word for 'the commandments' is 'tas entolas' (τὰς ἐντολάς) used in Revelation 12:17; 14:12 and 22:14 is used in Jesus' discussion with the rich young ruler about the Ten Commandments (Matthew 19:17; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20). 

Jesus uses τὰς ἐντολάς in John 14:15, 21; 15:10 and links commandment keeping to loving Him. John uses τὰς ἐντολάς in 1 John 2:3-4; 3:23-24; 5:2-3; 2 John 1:6 and links commandment keeping to knowing and loving God. 

Talking about the Sabbath commandment, Luke uses the virtually identical τὴν ἐντολήν in Luke 23:56.

From this we can safely conclude that under the new covenant the Ten Commandments are plainly in view in Revelation 12:17; 14:12 and 22:14.