Summary: Knowing that there were already enemies attacking the church in Colossae, Paul offered encouragement.
IIIB2? Reasons for This Concern (Colossians 2:4-5)
• “Special Notes” and “Scripture” follow associated verses.
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Colossians 2:4-5 (NIV)
(4) I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. (5) For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.
Knowing that there were already enemies attacking the church in Colossae, Paul offered encouragement. By heeding his warnings, the Colossians would overcome their enemies.
In the Christian life, we never stand still; we either go forward or gradually slip backward. It says in Hebrews 6:1, “. . . let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity . . .” This is a call we must obey. The Christian who is not making spiritual progress is an open target for the enemy to attack and destroy.
(2:4) I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.
I will begin with a paraphrase of this verse of Scripture: “I am concerned about you; I love you with a deep love and I am saying this to put you on guard against those teachers who do not speak truth, who are very capable from the standpoint of words - but persuasive, enticing words are not going to bring the new birth (1 Peter 1:23), nor will they bring faith (Romans 10:17), nor will they bring salvation” (John 5:24). And they teach their own ideas concerning things pertaining to the spiritual world; they attempt to reason out things that are beyond reason. Paul’s advice for this church: Stand by what I have taught you and turn a deaf ear to the teachers of error.
Only the full knowledge and wisdom of Christ can keep a believer from being deceived “by fine-sounding arguments” [lit. persuasive speech that uses plausible but false arguments]. Truth and persuasion do not always associate. Error can persuade, and truth can be compelling at times. It all depends on whether one has the full truth and a complete commitment to it. Hence even though Paul was absent from the Colossians, he was “delighted” in “how disciplined” they were (I Corinthians 14:40) and how firm (steadfast, solid) their “faith in Christ is.”
Paul is going to deal with the matter of philosophy and enticing words. Philosophy and psychology have been substituted for the Bible, and this is the thing that is enticing to so many young preachers in our seminaries today. I am amazed to find that some of these young men with a PhD. from a seminary know so little about the Bible. They know all about Plato, Kant, Nietzsche, Buddha, Confucius, Averroes, Hagel, Freud, and Jung, but they don’t seem to know very much about the Word of God. That is the great problem of our day.
The problem Paul was combating in the Colossian church was similar to Gnosticism [from the Greek word for “knowledge”]. This heresy [a teaching contrary to biblical doctrine] attacked Christianity in several different ways: (1) it insisted that important hidden knowledge was kept secret from most believers; Paul, however, said that in Christ we see all we need to see of God’s provision for us. (2) It taught that the body was evil; Paul countered with “God Himself dwelt in a body - that is, He was embodied in Jesus Christ. (3) It said that Christ seemed to be human, but was not. Paul insisted that in Jesus we see one that is fully human and fully God.
Gnosticism became fashionable in the second century. Even in Paul’s day these ideas sounded attractive to many and could easily seduce a church that didn’t know Christian doctrine well. Aspects of this early heresy still pose significant problems for many in the church today. The antidote for heretical ideas is a thorough acquaintance with God’s Word through personal study and sound Bible teaching.
The Need for Progress: Satan is deceptive. He wants to lead believers astray, and to do this he uses deceptive words. Satan is a liar (John 8:44) and by his lies he leads believers down the wrong path. It is important that we exercise spiritual discernment, and that we continue to grow in our knowledge of spiritual truth.
(2:5) For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.
“For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit . . .”
When Paul wrote this epistle he was in prison, but his heart was in Colossae. He was absent in body, but present in heart and spirit . . . “present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are.” Although his body was in prison, he was in Colossae mentally, and he was delighted with them because of their love for all the saints, because of their stewardship, because they were mature and “disciplined,” and had an unshakable faith in Christ. His spiritual presence with them brought joy even though he was behind bars, and this deep joy in the spirit delighted him, and he rejoiced because of the consistency of the believers in the church at Colossae.