“So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17).
The first five books of the Bible are also known as the books of the Old Testament Law: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Numbers. For the purpose of our discussion here in Colossians chapter two, there are three general aspects to the Old Testament law: civil, ceremonial, and moral. The civil law defined lawful and unlawful activities and various types of contractual agreements for the people of Old Testament Israel. The ceremonial law prescribed the appropriate way to approach God under the Old Covenant sacrificial system. The moral law explained the difference between right and wrong.
In addition to what we read in the passage quoted above, the New Testament books of Romans, Galatians, and Philippians tell us that the civil and ceremonial aspects of the Old Testament law were fulfilled in Christ….
“For Christ has brought the Law to an end, so that everyone who believes is put right with God” (Romans 10:4 GNT).
“Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Galatians 3:24-25).
“…In Christ I have a righteousness that is not my own and that does not come from the Law but rather from the faithfulness of Christ. It is the righteousness of God that is based on faith” (Philippians 3:9 CEB).
We also have Jesus’ word in this regard…
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish these things but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17 NET).
Although we are no longer under the civil and ceremonial requirements of the Old Testament Law, we still maintain a moral obligation to honor God in our personal behavior. Since the Law provides us with the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20), the moral principles we find there are just as valid today as they were when they were originally written.
One source offers an important reminder regarding the Old Testament Law in the context of Colossians 2:16-17…
“A shadow is not the real thing. There is a difference between the shadow and the substance… Why look at the shadow when we can look to Christ, the Author and the Finisher of our faith? These ceremonies are shadows, superseded, and should be abandoned. Since Christ has come, we no longer need the symbols (Heb 8:13; 10:1).” (1)
(1) Hindson, E. E., & Kroll, W. M. (Eds.). (1994). KJV Bible Commentary (p. 2462). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.