Colossians 2:16-23 ESV Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. (17) These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. (18) Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, (19) and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. (20) If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations– (21) “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (22) (referring to things that all perish as they are used)–according to human precepts and teachings? (23) These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
One of the reasons Christians so often pile a huge and even dangerous burden onto the victimized spouse of an abuser is the crazy notion that her suffering is somehow pleasing to God. Asceticism is the “severe treatment of the body” that supposedly helps a person defeat their temptations and sins — whipping one’s back, crawling up stairs on one’s knees — that sort of thing. Scripture counters any such notion — “they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” When the Lord Himself brings trials into our lives, trials from which at the moment there is no escape, that is one thing. He means this for our good and for His glory. Paul’s thorn in the flesh, whatever that was, is an example. Paul however would have escaped this thorn if the Lord had made it possible.
When a pastor or Christian or anyone maintains that God forbids divorce for the reason of abuse, they are really saying that asceticism is good. That in some way, if the woman will stay in that marriage and endure, God is glorified through her suffering. This is really no different then than telling someone to go back home, pull out a whip, and lash themselves bloody for “the glory of God.” Such “advisors” demand that victims “submit to regulations” of man’s own devising, i.e., that divorce is never permitted, or that it is only permitted for physical adultery and so on. The Christian is not to submit to such regulations. God’s Word plainly says so. “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch” are man-made laws that are, as Paul puts it, “human precepts and teachings.”
And notice what else the Apostle says in verse 23 — “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” That has GOT to be one of the most important verses in the Bible. All of these man-made regulations about marriage, divorce, and re-marriage which are not agreed upon by Christians who continually debate them as if we were still separate schools of rabbis, are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. They are not godly. They are not holy. The LOOK and SOUND like wisdom: “Here in our church we have such a high esteem of the Lord and of marriage that we adhere to the permanence view and deny that divorce is ever permitted.” Sounds pious, doesn’t it? Has the appearance of being very wise and of something that honors the Lord. But it isn’t, and it doesn’t. It only promotes sin and it does so at the expense of the victim AND to the detriment of the glory of God.
So our Lord commands us: “Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, (19) and not holding fast to the Head…”. It’s true, isn’t it? So often these kinds of man-made regulations being put off on us as supposedly the Word of God are in fact nothing more than the product of puffed up, fleshly minds. And they are produced by people who fail to hold fast to Jesus our Head.