In his letter to the Galatians, Paul references these covenant markers as “those things… once destroyed” (Galatians 2:18), insisting that the taking up of these works of the law, by a Gentile, as the means by which he or she enters into the Creator God’s covenant people, or as the response to entrance upon the covenant, becomes the equivalent of breaking God’s law (2:18). A profound and potentially startling conclusion! Indeed (though this is not an attempt to join text to text, but merely a reference to others of Paul’s letters as a means to adequately grasp the thinking of the Apostle), he goes on to insist that if covenant inclusion comes from adherence to covenant markers (if righteousness could come through the law – 2:21), “then Christ died for nothing!” (2:21b)
Following from the mention of food, drink, feasts and the like, Paul tells his Colossian hearers that “these are only the shadow of the things to come, but the reality is Christ!” (2:17) While the covenant markers pointed to the kingdom of the Creator God, and while they served to delineate those that were participating, those that were supposed to be participating, or those that were thought to be in a position to participate in that kingdom, it is the confession of Jesus as “the Christ,” or as “the Messiah,” that has enabled the reality of that kingdom and demonstrates its world-encompassing (people, creation, and cosmos) scope.
Moving along to the third chapter, Paul takes up a popular theme from the early church and in his own letters (to Corinth as the most prominent example), which was the idea that the church represented a new humanity---the way of being truly human. As Paul has championed the fusion of Jew and Gentile into one people, one must hear the words to come with a state of mind shaped by that thought as Paul says “Do not lie to one another since you have put off the old man with its practices” (3:9). This is far more than a simple juxtaposition of the “carnal,” “unsaved,” or unregenerate” man, against the “spiritual,” “saved,” or “regenerate” man. The ideal that stands behind this statement is the new creation and the new humanity that is shaped by the mysterious activity of the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead.
The “old man” is the old way of being human, prior to the example provided by the Creator God in Christ, which climaxed with the cross and the Resurrection. That understood, one must allow Paul to add to that the insistence that those that confess Jesus as Lord, and who allow their lives and their interaction in, with, and for this world to be shaped by His cross and all that it implies, “have been clothed with the new man that is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the one who created it” (3:10). The new humanity, most importantly, will finally be able to rightly bear the divine image, to steward His creation (now the creation that is being renewed and will be completely renewed), and to reflect His glory into the world (good stewardship as His divine image-bearers), which had been the purpose of the Creator God in His act of creation.
In this new humanity of divine image-bearers that have been given the physical and historical example of Jesus to imitate in their quest to bear that image, “there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free” (3:11a). Accordingly then, “Christ is all and in all” (3:11b). The Messiah is a Messiah for all peoples, He is the manifestation of the Creator God, and He dwells within His people (reverting back to thoughts of the Temple as the place where the Creator God dwells and as the place where heaven and earth overlap).