Summary: Paul's deep struggle concerning false teachers and false doctrines is one that continues today. We see some of the characteristics of false religions and cults and how the Church can be guarded against them.
Full Disclosure of the Mystery of God
We begin Chapter 2 of Paul’s letter to the Colossians, but this does not begin a different topic in Paul’s letter; it is clearly a continuation attacking the false influences which beset that church and churches in the surrounding area, and false teachings which still plague the Church today.
We read Colossians 2:1-5: 1 “For I want you to know what a great conflict (struggle or battle) I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words. 5 For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.”
History of Paul’s Deep Spiritual Struggle
Paul was experiencing a great spiritual struggle concerning spiritual attacks on the Church, even though he never met most of those believers to whom he is writing. There was much cultural pressure being exerted upon the churches in that area, even as there is throughout the world today. As is the case with most cults and sects, false religions and worldly philosophies, they taught that there were “hidden secrets”, “mysteries” and practices concerning a relationship with God. False religions contain worthless mysteries and secrets not found in Christ or supported in His Word.
False religions and philosophies contain non-Biblical false teachings. If a teaching is not mentioned and affirmed in the Word of God, the Bible, it is not doctrine. False teachers many times take one verse from the Bible which is not affirmed anywhere else in the Bible and develop a teaching from it. This type of doctrine is not acceptable and should not be taught. In contemporary Colossae, there were many worldly teachings being developed which attempted to combine faith in Christ with extra-biblical knowledge and manmade principles.
2 Peter 3:15-16 warned of this: “Consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation--as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.”
It was natural with such teachings to worship false gods, or to worship knowledge or wisdom instead of the One who is Wisdom, the Lord Jesus Christ. The contemporary pressure being applied to Colossae was to worship and pray to angels, who are merely creatures made by God. False gods include placing any man or any created being or thing on a level equal to God Himself. The apostle John made it so clear that to worship any God other than the God of the Bible is to worship falsely.
1 John 4:1: says “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God…. 13 Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.”
Look at 1 John 5:7: “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one….9 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. 10 He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. 11 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God”… 20 And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” To believe otherwise is to follow falsehood!