Colossians 2:8-9; Brief Thoughts

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the fullness of deity dwells bodily,…

When a citizen of one country travels to another, they are immersed in their host country’s culture and legal system. The laws may be the same universal laws as in every nation (e.g. do not murder, etc..), but the ideals and philosophies that surround the people may differ widely from nation to nation. As Christians, we live in a world that is not our home. We are resident aliens on this earth, operating by a moral system and ideology that is altogether separate from this world. Yet, before our allegiance shifted to the Kingdom of Jesus, we were at home in this world. The self-righteousness that is so evident on this earth was rooted deep within our core being. Indeed, every person born to man is a slave to sin. Slave to that selfish motivation that claims the divine right of determining good and evil. Slave. Christians, however, are no longer slaves. We have been set free in Jesus Christ (C.f. Romans 6, Galatians 4, and John 8).

As our allegiance now resides with Jesus, we must be vigilant to ensure that we are not deceived or taken in by falsehood. Paul mentions three areas of life in which Christians must maintain an awareness: worldly wisdom, religion, and mysticism.

In modern society, education is sometimes elevated to an unhealthy prestige. A man who holds a doctoral degree in any subject is often called upon as an intelligent and knowledgeable source on various subjects, even if they do not pertain to his scholarly studies. Further, in many modern educational institutions, it is common to blindly accept the testimony and presupposition of professors simply because they maintain the rank of professor. In our modern climate, it is more necessary for Christians to learn discernment in the area of education than ever before. The adversary will strive to convince Christians that they are somehow not intellectually rigorous or honest. Yet, Christians are those who pursue Christ with a fierceness that is unparalleled. We seek the wisdom of God, not merely the observable realities so apparent to everyone, but that supernatural wisdom that contains all the mysteries of existence. A true believer does not avoid knowledge but pursues true knowledge with the aid of the inexhaustible fount of all wisdom. Oh Christian, do not allow the adversary to take you captive by empty deceit.

Where the adversary cannot succeed in the theft of the mind, he will attempt to confine you to ritual and practice. Much of the modern church in the west has fallen prey to the second category. We have forsaken the worship of God in favor of practices and rituals that appease our own sensibilities. We choose churches that meet our criterion of comfort and self-soothing. We rely on our practices to prove our own holiness rather than on a personal relationship with Christ. We insist we are right because we have always been this way and that is the way it is done. Christian, question these things. Just because you were taught them does not make them right. Likewise, just because you were taught them does not make them wrong either. Question the traditions you have been handed to ensure that you are obeying Christ.

The final category of awareness that Christians must cultivate is one of mysticism. It may seem foreign to our enlightened sensibilities, but mysticism still reigns in our culture. The mysticism of our modern culture is much more insidious than the open paganism so prevalent in the first century. The mysticism that many indulge in today is one of karmic understanding. It is the idea that if we will take the right steps we can manipulate our circumstances. Christians, it is not for you to manipulate your circumstances. I is for you to trust the Lord and follow where He leads. Mystic trust in karma and attempts to manipulate have no place in Christian discipleship.

Christians are to place their confidence and trust in Christ alone because Christ is God. Christ is the one in whom “all the fullness of deity dwells bodily” (v.9). Consider that for a moment. Paul calls you to place all your confidence in Christ because Jesus is God! By definition, Jesus holds the power for existence within Himself. He is the Lord of all things and King above all Kings. He is the creator of everything and the sustainer of all life. He is the life-giver and the source of all knowledge. What else is deserving of your fealty? Only Jesus can compel such a devotion. Indeed, all of deity dwells in Him. All. Every portion of God’s infinite nature and power. The entire source of knowledge and wisdom. It is, therefore reasonable to surrender to Him and, through the lens of Jesus, to investigate all philosophies, traditions, and spirits.

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Colossians 2:6-7; Brief Thoughts

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

“Walk,” meaning to conform one’s life in a certain direction or to follow a particular pattern. It is such as simple exhortation… walk. Throughout Scripture, God’s people are instructed to “walk.” Abraham is told to walk to a land God would show him. Moses and the Hebrews are forced to walk around in the desert. Joshua is told to walk around a city. The Kings are told to walk in the statutes that God has given them. The prophets call the people to return to walking in the way God has given them. Jesus calls his disciple to walk after him. And the Apostles call Christians to “walk in [Christ]” (v.6). The term “walk” is used 96 times in the New Testament and is commonly used to refer to a general pattern of life.

Paul exhorts Christians to live a lifestyle that is consistent with Christianity. Exhortations are instructions that are based on previously established facts or commonly held beliefs. Paul’s exhortations to “walk” are based on the reality of the indwelling Spirit of Christ in the heart of all who believe. Because Christians have trusted Christ and are subsequently changed by that faith, Paul says, “walk in Him.” In other words: live a lifestyle consistent with that claim of faith.

The life of a believer is one that is “rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith…” and is marked by an abundant and prolific “thanksgiving” (v.7). First, the believer’s faith is “rooted” in Christ. Consider for a moment what it means to be “rooted.” This means that the source of nourishment and strength are drawn from a foundational relationship with Jesus Christ. For Christians the source of life in Christ. As it is with roots, so it is with Christians. The deeper the roots go into the foundation, the stronger the life of the plant. Further, any progress in growth as a Christian also results from Christ. Alongside being “rooted,” Christians are also “built up in [Christ].” Christians derive their strength and encouragement from Christ and knowing Him. He is the source of encouragement and strength.

Another defining Characteristic of those who “walk in Him” is that they are “established in the faith.” Christians have a strong faith. It is strong because it is not dependent on the work of the person, it is dependent on Christ and what He has already accomplished. Paul uses the term “faith” here to describe the collected system of beliefs and doctrines common to Christians. These doctrinal truths that Paul asserts the Colossians are established in are basic to all Christianity. The collected truths that Jesus Christ die for sins, has risen from the dead, ascended into heaven, and is returning one day to reclaim all creation for Himself, is made strong in the heart of a believer precisely because Christ’s Spirit has indwelt those who believe in Him (see further 1 John 2:27). Those who “walk in Him” are marked by a faith that is strong and growing.

Notice that this exhortation to “walk in Him” is followed by descriptors that are past tense. The characteristics of “rooted,” “built up,” and “established” are all traits that already exist in the life of one who is called to “walk.” The faith of a believer is the foundation and strength that one depends on in order to walk in the way of Jesus. It is because of the firm relationship and growing knowledge of Him that believers are able to “walk.”

Believers are marked by gratitude. Gratitude stems from an accurate understanding of God’s work with the heart. True believers recognize the worth they bring to the table of salvation. They know all too well what wretched beings they were before Christ. They are aware of the depth of their sin and disgrace and as a result. They are aware of the death that once claimed their souls. Christians know that they have been redeemed by mercy and not personal or corporate merit. It is not the merit of the Christian or the community that redeems the believer. It is the life and sacrifice and of merit of Jesus Christ. That is the motive for thanksgiving. Thanksgiving marks the heart of a believer. Imagine what this world would look like if every person who claimed the name of Christ were identified as incredibly grateful people who look and live like Jesus. Would it not be a sight to behold!?

 

Colossians 2:1-5 pt. 2; Brief Thoughts

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. [1]

As believers come together, becoming fully dressed through their mutual progress in knowledge and understanding of Christ, the character of Christ becomes manifest among them. The character of Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. As the community of faith grows together, Christ is manifest among them. What a joyous thought! The keeper of all wisdom and knowledge is the means by which Christians attain “full assurance.”

Our ability to attain wisdom and knowledge is dependant on our pursuit of Jesus. As we grow closer to Christ, we become more and more like him and we avail ourselves of the wisdom and knowledge that is in Him. There is no toil to which He has not an answer. There is no quandary that He cannot bring reconciliation to. He is the Lord and He has ALL wisdom and knowledge. It is not merely some… it is all. Oh Christian, if you would simply sit and delight yourself in the nature and work of Jesus, you would find an infinite treasure of wisdom and knowledge. You would find a peace that passes all understanding precisely because it contains all wisdom and knowledge.

As the Colossians read the words of Paul, the surrounding world was urging them to seek philosophical means to achieve their peace and happiness. The world around them purposed that the gods could be manipulated and bent to achieve the result of wisdom. The pagan culture was developing into a civilized, man-centered society that combined a kind of pagan mysticism with a humanistic approach to knowledge. What Paul espouses is entirely contrary to pagan mysticism and Greek humanistic philosophy. Mysticism says that one must do the work to get the gods to do what you want to be done. Christianity says Christ has already done the work and you have only to delight in knowing Him. Humanistic philosophy says that this life is all about amassing for self and that you will find life within yourself. Christ says that life is found in surrendering to Him and you will only find life in Him. This is what Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 1, contrasting the world’s wisdom with that of Christ.

Paul is concerned that the people of God may be deluded by the words of men (v.4). He is concerned that someone may be able to speak eloquently, yet deceitful words that would lead the people to error. The effects of erroneous philosophy and theologies are innumerable. The very fabric of life is laid waste when the foundational understanding of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is discarded. When Jesus is dismissed as a mere rabbi and Christianity is labeled as a non-transformative moralism, then all truth is dismissed. But Christ is not some mere rabbi! He is God incarnate and knowing Him transforms our nature! This is why it is so critical that Christians pursue knowing Christ. He is the truth. He is the storehouse of wisdom and knowledge. He is God made flesh so that you would be transformed from death to life. Seek Him!

Paul’s concerns are common among faithful ministers the world over. When we are absent from our people we worry that no one else will remind them of the word. When we are distant, our faith in God’s provision for the wisdom of others is tested. So it is with Paul. As he is absent from the Colossians, he wants to be assured that they are not taken in by various deceptive philosophies. Paul wants Christians to be steeped in truth and founded in Christ. It is this very firmness of faith that will bring gladness to the heart of true pastors.

Notice, it is the firmness of their faith. Not the prolific expansion of their numbers or the monetary success of their body. The firmness of their faith is what delights the heart of pastors. If a so-called pastor delights in numeric success over firmness of faith, then that person is not a pastor of Jesus Christ. The men who are called by God to shepherd God’s people are concerned with the people, not the size or monetary gain of the organization. Look for pastors to shepherd you who have the same heart as Paul. Look for men who are concerned for the firmness of faith. Look for churches that will teach sound doctrine and push you to know Jesus more deeply.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Col 2:1–5). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Colossians 2:1-5, pt. 1; Brief Thoughts

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. [1]

Often Paul’s expression of struggle is born from a deep concern for the hearts of those whom he writes. Paul’s concern is that the believers would be encouraged in their walk of faith and that they would be unified through love for one another.

Christians need encouragement. Indeed, all humanity was created to live in community together. It is natural to gather together with like-minded people for the purpose of encouragement and progress. When a person submits to Christ for the first time, they separate themselves from the world around them and become something new. Particularly in Colossae, when someone became a believer, they were separating from a vastly different religious background and community. As a person transitioned from pagan worship to Christianity, they would find themselves alienated and separate from the community that once surrounded them. Thus, Paul wants to encourage them. Christians do not journey alone and meeting and fellowshipping with other believers is a great source of encouragement.

The encouragement of believers stems from the common love that binds all Christians together. When Christ has invaded a heart, love begins to reign as the chief motivation for Christian action: that is, love for Jesus. The motivation prior to the life transforming work of the Spirit was love for self. Though it may have manifested itself in many variants, all actions committed prior to Christ, no mater how altruistic they may seem, were motivated by a love for self (c.f. Isa. 64:6). Once Christ rescues a man, love for self is replaced by a growing love for Christ. It is this common love that serves as the bond between Christians. It is this love that allows the Gospel to transcend all other divides. The love of Christ, birthed in the heart of Christians, unites believers the world over in a common filial relationship that overcomes every cultural barrier, racial distinction, economic disparity, and ideological difference. True Christians are not bound together because they share the same ideological principles. True believers are bound together because they share the same love!

Encouragement and unity serve to propel the Christian community towards maturity. As Christians live in love with one another and display the love of God on the earth to all those around them, they grow in their assurance. The Greek word used for “assurance” is a compound word from the word for “fullness” and the word “wear.” Christians who love each other will become fully dressed in the understanding and knowledge of Christ. A community that pursues the love of Christ will inevitably look more and more like the focus of their love. It is this “full-dressing” that Paul longs to see the Colossians exemplify.

Imagine, for a moment, that you are attending a fancy event. Everyone is dressed appropriately in formal attire. As you wait to enter the gala, you notice to the left a young man whose tie is untied and he has no jacket or shoes on. The young man comes to the entrance of the gala and nervousness begins to overwhelm him. You watch as he begins to realize that he is underdressed for the occasion. His eyes drift to those around him in comparative agony as he recognizes his inadequacy. Then you begin to see a group of fully dressed people gather around the young man. One man shows the young brother how to tie his tie, the next hands him a pair of shoes, and the one places a jacket on him. The young man’s inadequacies are overcome by engaging in the community of mutual love. So the young man is fully dressed for the gala. This is the way Christian community works. Through mutual encouragement, believers lift one another up in the understanding and knowledge of Christ.

This is why it is so important for you to find a healthy church that can encourage you in love. Seek out a church where the community will walk with you, bearing your burdens, teaching you how to live, and working with you that you may be fully dressed in the understanding and knowledge of Christ.

If you do not have a church that does this, you are welcome to join us at Sovereign Grace Fellowship. We strive together as a community to live out the love of Christ in our everyday lives. Come join us for worship on Sunday mornings at 10:30 or for Bible study Thursday nights at 6pm. More information about us can be found on our website at www.sgfbrazoria.org

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Col 2:1–5). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.