The Colossians were Christians - they knew Jesus as their Savior. But what threatened them in the proto-Gnostic heresy was a lack of maturity.
They were like plants - plants that hadn’t grown up and were stunted in their maturity. As Christians if we do not grow in our discipleship in Christ but stay at a baby stage we are vulnerable to disfigurement, disease, and pests - and we will not be fruitful. Often times the reason a plant does not mature is that it has no root - in our garden some kind of pest came along and ate the roots off - without a root the plant has no ability to take nourishment from the soil and will eventually die. We don’t have to be that way as Christians - but if we allow ourselves to be removed from the root of Jesus Christ - it can happen - we die spiritually - that is, we are immature and lacking in fruit and true joy.
As I mentioned before this book addresses heresies that came into the church.
Heresies in this chapter:
Vs 2-3 Jesus could not be both human and God
Vs 2, 18 You must have the "secret knowledge" in order to be saved
Vs 4, 8-10 Human wisdom and traditions must be adhered to
Vs 18 Angels must be worshiped
Vs 20-23 You must deny the body and live in strict asceticism.
1 I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2 My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love,
" The key ingredients for withstanding false teaching are internal strength - (encouraged) and external strength (unity). How to get strong on the inside and outside is the focus of this chapter.
so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
" (vs 2b) Paul doesn’t want a bunch of ignoramuses, but the way to get complete understand of God is not through a secret wisdom or worldly philosophy but through the mystery that is now fully revealed - Jesus Christ.
" There is no real understanding of God apart from Christ and there is no complete understanding of God apart from a relationship with His Son Jesus.
" (vs 3) If you want wisdom you will find it in Jesus. He has the keys to understanding the great mysteries of life: who am I, why am I here, where am I going, and what is my purpose?
But get ready - because those who support the Gnostic philosophy are also not ignoramuses:
4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.
" (vs 4) Heresy will never come with a disclaimer "consumer be aware that consuming the following may be detrimental to your spiritual health." Lies always seem plausible when covered in a truth coating ("fine sounding"). Remember the Halloween apple scare? Kids would get innocent looking apples but inside were buried razor blades. We need to examine what we receive - look for hidden razor blades of false doctrine.
" "Fine Sounding" arguments comes from two Greek words - and the idea is "pacifying speech" - or conciliatory talk. Like a baby’s pacifier - it satisfies, even though it supplies no nutrition. The baby thinks it is getting milk - but its just the motion. So too false doctrine can feel so easy - but it won’t save you nor will it help you mature and bear fruit as a believer.
" Just because someone can make a good sounding argument doesn’t mean they are right.
5 For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.
" "Order" means a regular arrangement. "Firm" means grounded or established. I think the idea is that you have received, looked at, and understand the gospel - no aberrations from the basics - then you became "established" in it - not moving from it - that’s part of being "rooted" which we’ll talk about next.
6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
" (vs 6) "just as you received Him" - "continue to live in Him" - problems start when someone comes along and says "its good that you became a Christian, but if you really want to go far then let me give you a mystery that other Christians don’t know about!" It’s exciting to know you are going to learn something "secret" - it makes you feel special - but look out - it’s then that you start moving away from the firmness.
" (vs 7) Rooted and built up - If you don’t put your roots down into the gospel then what you are building on your life is not from God. Rooted here is in the present tense that resulted from a past action. "Having been rooted" - it already happened and it shouldn’t change. "Built up" denotes a continuous action - you have to keep growing, keep praying, keep the relationship alive or you will be stunted and possibly vulnerable to heresy.
" "strengthened" is a legal term signifying a legal contract. As you are rooted and grow in Jesus you will be "bound" to Him and less likely to be swayed.
Three ways that a Christian can be harmed in their "growth" in God’s garden:
Maybe you were raised in the Mormon church, or Jehovah’s witnesses or some other cult. You may need to get saved because the god of those religions will not save you.
Maybe you are a believer but you never went much beyond the baby stage and you never let the Lord really have access to your life. As a result you have seen very few changes in your life. You still walk and think like an unbeliever and are still bound by sinful patterns. May I say that you are indeed very vulnerable? Mormons are taught to prey on immature Christians. They don’t have the doctrinal nutrition and strength to withstand the "fine sounding arguments."
Maybe you have grown in your Christian faith but you are feeling like there must be more - you’ve hit a plateau and philosophies like "name it claim it", "health & prosperity" "new age" "spiritism" "The Jesus Seminar" etc sound pretty enticing. Don’t give up your loyalty - it is a ploy of the enemy to make you ineffective for the Lord.
8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
" (Vs 8) "See to it" you have to do something to make sure you are not deceived. Just sitting around listening and taking in everything without considering its truth is dangerous.
In Acts 17 the Berean’s "examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." 1 John 4:1 says for us "do not believe every spirit but test the spirits to see if they are from God."
" What happens is that certain philosophies "take you captive" - it means to be led away as a slave. It’s not philosophy itself that’s bad. Paul was a philosopher - it’s the type of philosophy. Here it’s described as "hollow" and "deceptive." The point is that it is human wisdom - not wisdom from Christ.
" It depends on "human tradition and the basic principals of this world" - the thought here is that Paul is talking about the local deities that existed in each Greek city. They were called "daemon" or "demons" and that’s just where they came from: Satan. They had certain rituals that you had to go by. For us - people make up all kinds of stuff that passes for religion - "pray to this saint and you’ll get what you want" - and they make up all kinds of explanations of God and salvation - but if it is not based on the true gospel then it is false!
So next Paul levels right at one of the heresies - again:
9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,
" The Gnostics said that Jesus could not have been a real human - He only "seemed" to be human. But this says "everything that is God was present in Jesus" - He was just like God. In fact, Jesus said "I and the Father are One" (John 10:30)
" There is no "local" god that you have to subscribe to - Jesus is it!
10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.
" This doesn’t mean that we are divine - the word "fullness" in verse 10 is a passive participle - we’ve been given true life in Jesus who comes before anyone or anything.
11 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
" A lot of what was going on in this time was a fight over rituals - one of which was the Jewish rite of circumcision. Many Jews claimed that Christians needed to be circumcised as a sign of their obedience to God. Paul says the sign of repentance and obedience to God for the Christian is baptism - 1 Peter 3:21 tells us that its not washing off dirt from the body that makes you clean in baptism, but the washing of your conscience as you pledge loyalty to Jesus. We "put off" our sinful nature - a clean break.
13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
" (vs 13-14) What really matters is not a physical "rite" or ritual - what matters is that our hearts before coming to God are "uncircumcised" and guilty of sin. All of us have a "written code" on our hearts - our conscience. Jesus death on the cross "canceled" the record of our sins by nailing it to the cross with Him.
" (vs 15) The picture here is of a victorious general, stripping the enemy of their armor. The world, its evil, its religions - have no hold or power over us any more. You don’t have to do ANYTHING to please God if you belong to Christ.
16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
" This is a great proof text to show to Seventh Day Adventists or others who are caught up in legalism. Rituals that existed in the Old Covenant were "shadows" - types of Christ. Now that Jesus has come we have no need of them.
" It would be like having a model of a jet aircraft - looking at it, wondering what it would be like to ride in - then having someone bring you the real thing and you just cling to the model because you’ve gotten so attached to it. The model typified what the real thing would be like - but it won’t fly. So too - the Sabbath, for instance - typified the rest we have in Jesus, but just setting aside a day in slavish legalism isn’t going to get you rest from anxiety - only a life totally at rest and dependant on Jesus will do that.
18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. 19 He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.
" (18) So what is the deal here? The "false humility" apparently came from people who were proud of self denial, self abasement, and following certain rituals. It reminds me of monks who wear uncomfortable clothing, sleep on wood beds, eat vegetables only and pray certain prayers at certain times of the day. It’s false because it is really a form of legalism - do a certain thing to gain a certain outcome.
" The "worship of angels" was a thing taught where you could not get to God directly but had to go through ranks of angels (might I say "saints"?). This is totally non-Scriptural. (See Revelation 19:10). Today we might think of priests being intermediaries between God and man - again, no foundation Scripturally. Look at John 16:23 which tells us that in Jesus we can go directly to the Father.
" The problem here wasn’t that the believers would lose their salvation - but their reward or prize. If we do something in our own strength then that is your reward (Matt 6:2)
" (19) The key is that we get everything from the "head" - Jesus. We get our righteousness, we get our sustenance, we get our direction, we get our ability.
The mistake they made and sometimes we make - is that of forced righteousness - read on:
20 Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 21 "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? 22 These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
" This addresses one of the heresy’s that you must live in strict asceticism in order to find favor with God.
" (20) When Jesus died - we died with Him - and to the demonic spirits that rule this planet - so he’s questioning why then are the Colossians going back to obeying the rule systems in the world!
" The focus here was not on righteousness but on 1) keeping rules and 2) feeling good about keeping rules. So the focus comes off a vibrant relationship with Jesus, allowing the Holy Spirit access to changing your life from the inside.
" (21-22) Ascetics saw the body as evil and that the way to holiness was to deny all of the body’s desires, refuse what it wanted and cut its needs down to an irreducible minimum. Some of the results were: banning of marriage (no sex), monasticism (no contact with the world), dietary restrictions, and self-torture.
" Jesus had already said that "all foods are clean" (Mk 7:19) - but it’s amazing that people keep going back to that.
" (23) On the surface these things sound so wise - but they are really "self worship" and they don’t really do anything at all to make you more righteous. That only happens as you enjoy your relationship with God and have that kind of two-way communication with Him.
A) Sexual impurity, moral failings, harsh speech, lying - cheating, hurting others - no question that these are bad. But you have to have two things in mind -
1) You can’t please God by your obedience - no matter what. You only please God because of Jesus’ obedience - you get your rightness in God’s eyes through Him
2) You can’t make changes in your life by your own efforts.
2 Corinthians 3:18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
The transforming (metamorphosis) happens as we are
a) Connected to the head (we get salvation and rightness from Jesus)
b) Relating to the head (ongoing vibrant relationship in worship, prayer, study, fellowship, discipleship)
c) Allowing the Spirit to acknowledge areas of lack, and deal with them
d) Be aware of the tendency towards legalism - and fight it
B) If you feel stunted in your growth in Christ - re connect to the root stock, become strengthened by a renewed relationship and rebind yourself to rightness from Jesus - it’ll help you grow once again, and keep you from falling into legalism.
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