These small group studies of Colossians contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Colossians 2:21-23 Inductive Bible Study

Title: Valueless Traditions

Summary– Man puts too high a value on their rules and traditions, strictly regulating their actions regarding things that will perish because man has taught them to. Though this legalism appears to be wise and righteous, it is self-made therefore valueless when it comes to any true righteousness or victory over the flesh.

Central Teaching– Legalism and self-made religion is valueless in regards to true wisdom or victory over the flesh.

Key Words– Do not, handle, taste, touch, perish, men, appearance, self, no value

Key Verse– 2:23

Ten Things this Passage Says-

1. Man has placed legalistic limitations on what he can or can’t do to be righteous.

2. Man says not to handle, taste or touch certain foods.

3. These limitations refer to things that will perish with use.

4. These rules are in accordance with the rules and teachings of man.

5. These matters have the appearance of wisdom.

6. These matters are a kind of self-made religion.

7. Legalism is a form of self-abasement.

8. Legalism often requires a severe treatment of the body.

9. Legalistic rules are of no value.

10. Legalistic rules deal only with the external and not the heart, and therefore will not help us against fleshly indulgence.

Ten Things this Passage does NOT Say-

1. God allows man to work out and regulate his own form of righteousness.

2. We’re more righteous if we don’t handle, taste or touch certain foods.

3. Following man-made rules regulating food consumption has lasting value or impact on our bodies and souls.

4. God has ordained a specific set of rules regarding how we deal with food.

5. Following man’s traditions regarding food is wise.

6. True religion requires carefully limiting how we handle and eat foods.

7. God requires self-abasement from all who follow Him.

8. God wants us to treat our bodies severely and harshly.

9.  These man-made rules are valuable in our Christian walks.

10. These man-made rules help me to avoid fleshly indulgence.

What does this passage teach me about God?

He does not saddle us with lists of unnecessary rules, just for the sake of it.

He gives a lot of liberty in the areas of things that are destined to perish with use.

He is a God of grace.

He enjoys giving us some liberty in non-essential areas.

His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.

He is the author of true wisdom and religion; we cannot manufacture it on our own.

He is the only one who can guard us against fleshly indulgence.

How does this passage apply to my life?

What are some rules that I might make for my own life that I count as righteous, but God doesn’t mandate? Pray that God would give me clear eyes to humbly avoid man-made rules, and embrace the liberty He has given me. (V21)

What commandments and teachings of man do I find myself following, either intentionally or unintentionally? Prayerfully evaluate my motives behind them, and confess any that I find are becoming idols rather than truly worshiping God alone. (V22)

In what areas am I tempted towards fleshly indulgence? Find out what God’s biblical solution would be towards these things, and pursue that. God does not mean for this to be a free pass towards fleshly indulgence, but rather a prodding to biblically examine my methods of dealing with it and discover and pursue God’s method, rather than the world’s. With God’s method, I will have no cause to boast, and it’s actually effective. (V23)

Discussion Questions-

What were these people saying not to handle, taste or touch? (V21)

Why were people specifically following these rules regarding food? (V21)

Looking at the context of the previous verse, what is the reason we should NOT submit ourselves to this kind of rules? (V21)

What are some rules we make for ourselves that are of a similar character to these rules? (V21)

What are characteristics of legalistic rules, according to this verse? (V22)

What does it mean that these things are destined to perish with use? (V22)

By what authority were people following these rules? (V22)

What does it mean that these things have the appearance of wisdom? (V23)

What does the Bible stay about man’s wisdom versus God’s wisdom? (V23) 1 Cor 1:18-31

18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

19 For it is written,


20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.

22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom;

23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness,

24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble;

27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,

28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are,

29 so that no man may boast before God.

30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,

31 so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.”

What does the Bible say about self-made religion? (V23) Eph 4:22-24

22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

Study Colossians 3:1-4