I appreciate your in depth analysis of the passage. I do know the context, and there are several points that it seems you either glossed over or simply seem to not see.
This is certainly correct. However, I would contest the precision of what you say he is speaking about. Paul is saying to the Colossians to let no one judge them concerning this syncretistic mix of practices that brought together ascetic rituals with Jewish observances, including the calendrical observances. The reasons are clear. They had already put off the body of sin having been buried with Christ in baptism, and had been made alive together with him, having all their sins and trespasses forgiven. Christ had also blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that stood against them.…and here is where I think your interpretation and the typical Adventist view goes clearly off the rails.
First, traditions of men in and of themselves were not something that stood against people as a condemning agent. Circumcision and the surrounding covenant rituals were never viewed as condemnatory within a Jewish context. They were simply the assumed rituals of covenant life. They were given by God through Moses. What they were distorted into is another story.
Secondly, and much more crucial to Paul’s argument, the term handwriting of ordinances in the Greek is cheirographan en dogmasen. A cheirographan was a commercial term and meant a certificate or record of debt, or an IOU to a shopkeeper. Paul is using imagery, saying that the Colossians owed God a debt that stood against them. And, he already outlined what that debt was…their sins and trespasses. By saying that the cheirographan was blotted out, he is alluding to YHWH blotting out the sins of his people. By saying “… taken out of the way…” literally a judicial term meaning taken out of the middle, he is mixing metaphors and saying that their sins no longer stand in the place of accusation in the court. That is what this term signifies. And, he winds up by saying that God accomplished this by nailing it all to the cross…in the person of his Son. As the hymn says, “My sin not in part, but the whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, it is well with my soul!” The hymn has the theology correct.
Thus, this passage isn’t speaking of any law. This is speaking of our sin, the record of our sin debt and its power to accuse us, being totally wiped out by the death of Jesus! This is truly more about the gospel! The only way the law comes into play here is by the phrase “en dogmasen.” In the Greek dative case, it means that the record of sin stood against us on the basis of the dogmasen…a way of referring to the commandments of God in Hellenistic Judaism. Paul is saying that the power behind the accusation of their sins is the Law/commandments. As he also stated in 1 Cor. 15…the power of sin is the Law.
This leads to, “Therefore/on the basis of the entire removal of your sin and the forgiveness by God of your debt that has been accrued, and the removal of all the accusations that stood against you, all taken care of by the death of Christ and by you being buried and risen with him…let no one judge you regarding eating and drinking, festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. They are a shadow of things to come, but the reality is Christ.”
This leads to the second portion of your reading of the passage that also misses important information. The phrase, festivals, new moons, and sabbaths, was a formula found backwards or forwards seven times in the OT. It always referred to all the Jewish worship times…festivals being the yearly holy days, new moons/Rosh Chodesh referring to the monthly, and sabbaths referring to the weekly seventh day observance. Adventist evangelists and every popular explanation of this text twists this to avoid what Paul is really saying: All these observances, including the sabbath, were shadows of things to come. The rabbis even acknowledged that the sabbath was a shadow of the messianic age to come. This is what Paul is saying, the reality of the age to come has dawned with the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. This is the reality to which Jewish holy times, including the sabbath, pointed as a shadow. He is telling the Colossians to let no one judge them or to try to impose any of these things upon them because they already are participants in the age to come, and are experiencing its reality by dying and rising with Christ.
Paul’s description in the rest of the letter about what the life of the messianic age is to look like amongst the Colossians, describes the transformation of life that avoids sexual immorality, that puts off rage, anger, and violence as characterizing relationships, and calls them as a community to kindness, forbearance, forgiveness, thanksgiving, worshipping with and teaching one another, and over all these things, love for one another that binds them all together in complete unity. It says nothing about sabbath observance. As a sabbath keeping Adventist myself, this was hard to swallow. But, I couldn’t keep denying what the text is saying. I don’t think our denomination should keep doing so, as well.
Nowhere does Paul call the Colossians to the niceties of sabbath observance as part of the new life in Christ and of the reality of the new age that has commenced in him. Instead, Paul seems to indicate that the sabbath, along with the other Jewish holy day observances, were actually shadowy parts of the old age that is passing away. This is consistent with his views on the Torah/Law as a whole in letters such as Galatians, Romans, and in 2 Cor. 3.
The dynamic reality that we are to live in, and to which we are to call people, is through dying and rising with Christ. To a new life lived in diverse, unified, and loving community, as Paul describes, empowered by his Spirit.
How are we doing in this as a denomination? We try to impose uniformity of policy and rule on all, the latest being WO, and then wonder why we are splintering apart. We insist on our own uniqueness among other Christian groups, stand aloof and treat ecumenism as a dirty word, as we seek to impose sabbath and food laws on those who would join the body of Christ as we define it, the very thing that Paul said the Colossians should avoid.
Paul’s letters are goldmines for Christian community and life. In some ways, they are landmines for Adventism…which explains why we never deal with them clearly and forthrightly.