Paul Confronts the Gnostic Lie
Colossians 2: 6 – 23 Pauls direct confrontation.
Paul is continuing in Colossians to confront head on the false teaching that has tempted the Colossians to conform to a Gnostic and mystical form of Judaism.
First the Apostle reminds them of the beauty of the gospel which they had first received in the early days of the church, a few years before. Paul had pointed out the fact that in Christ alone is the gospel complete. He uses the word “Fullness” (Greek Pleroma), in counteracting the “Pleroma of gods of the Gnostics. He emphasized this in showing The Supremacy of Christ, the Pre - Eminence of Christ and the Mystery of Christ, now Paul confronts the heresy head on.
Col 2:6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
(Therefore) Col 2:7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
He says to them, “Remember what you were taught and hold fast to it today and for the future and walk in Christ by faith”
He reminds them that they were:
Rooted in Christ. (Greek - rhizoō) to root (figuratively become stable):
Once they were tender shoots but now they have taken firm root, figuratively, they have been "planted on a firm foundation, fixed firmly, become stable in the faith." That Christ is the foundation and in Him,“Dwells all the fullness (Pleroma) of the Godhead bodily” and that “Christ is the express image of the invisible God”.
Built up in Christ. (Greek - epoikodomeō) Paul uses a word from the building trade to describe their growth: "to engage in a building process of personal and corporate development, edify, build up, build on."
He encourages them to continue in unity, being knit together in love in order to build one another up in the faith.
Col 2:2 That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love,
Stablished in the faith. (Greek - bebaioō) The word comes from the root basis, "foot" (from which we get our word "basis"). It means "to make a person firm in commitment, establish, strengthen," to make them firm upon their foundation.
Abounding or Overflowing with thankfulness. (Greek - perisseuō) The imagery here is to superabound (in quantity or quality), be in excess, be superfluous; excel: - (make, more) abound, (have, have more) abundance, (be more) abundant, be the better, enough and to spare, exceed, excel, increase, be left, redound, remain (over and above).
Paul is saying to the Colossians, you have come so far, don’t let anything drag you back.
Col 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
The word for “Spoil” is (Greek – sylagōgeō), "to gain control of by carrying off as booty, make captive of, rob." The imagery is of carrying someone away from the truth into the slavery of error.
Paul is saying here that there is no substance to what they offer, it all falls short of what you already have in Christ. What's more, their approach is deceptive.
Spoil you through:
Philosophy: (Greek – Philo/ Sophia) (Love/Wisdom). (Love of Wisdom)
Paul stands against them by calling their philosophy "hollow and deceptive," Col 2:8, that is, both empty and false.
I remember my daughter who was studying English, History and Philosophy at University.
We used to discuss her course work.
English was fine, You could come to a correct answer to any question. E.g, Spell Philosophy? there is only one correct answer. Or in history, when was the battle of Hastings? Again it was 1066, not 1117 or 1213.
However with Philosophy there was never any answer, there never seemed to be a conclusion to anything.
Philosophy results in endless discussion with no satisfactory conclusion.
The concept of Philosophy (seeking ‘wisdom’) isn’t mysterious. Being wise means attempting to live and die well, leading as good a life as possible within the troubled conditions of existence. The goal of wisdom is fulfilment. You could perhaps say ‘happiness’ but ‘happiness’ is misleading, for it suggests continuous chirpiness and joy, whereas ‘fulfilment’ seems compatible with a lot of pain and suffering, which every decent life must by necessity have.
So a philosopher or ‘person devoted to wisdom’ is someone who strives for systematic expertise at working out how one may best find individual and collective fulfilment. (Extract from www.theschooloflife.com)
However as Christians we are aware that outside of Jesus Christ no one can find fulfilment.
The scripture reveals to us that Jesus said, John10:10 “ I am come that ye might have life and have it more abundantly”.
In the Gospel, the answer is only found in Christ. Anything else is hollow, empty and false.
Vain (Greek – kenos) Empty) Deceit (Greek - apatē) Delusion)
This kind of wisdom is false wisdom, (Empty Delusion). It derives in type from "the tree of knowledge," through the "vain deceit" of Satan, who tries to persuade us that partaking of it would "make one wise" and that "your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods" (Genesis 2:17; 3:5-6). It has "indeed a shew of wisdom" (Colossians 2:23), but "the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God" (1 Corinthians 3:19), and eventually all "the wisdom of this world, . . . |and| of the princes of this world, . . . |will| come to nought" (1 Corinthians 2:6).
Traditions of men: (Greek – paradosis) transmission,
"instruction by word of mouth; an oral transmission of information, beliefs, or customs from ancestors to posterity without written records." (Webster)
Paul is warning against these traditions, they have no scriptural basis. The word "tradition" (Gr. paradosis) is found thirteen times in the Greek New Testament, but only three times does it carry a favourable connotation. In all of the other passages it incurs the disfavour of Christ and the apostles.
In the three passages where the term is used favourably it is plainly evident that the writer was talking about something which he and other inspired individuals had taught. 1 Cor.11:2; Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.
2 Thess. 2:15; Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.
2 Thes 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.
It is evident that Paul is not talking about human traditions which have been handed down by word of mouth.
He warned in the strongest possible language against any traditions that men might add. Gal. 1:8-9; But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
Gal 1:9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
Col. 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
Today the traditions of men are added to church doctrine, especially in the Roman Catholic church. Teachings such as confession and penances, the teaching of purgatory, the buying and selling of indulgencies, the worship of Angels and saints, the saying of the rosary and the keeping of sacraments are all additions to the teachings of scripture and are accounted as necessary towards salvation.
The Rudiments of the world: (Greek – stoicheion) Basic, fundamental, initial.
The rudiments of the world, the weak and beggarly elements, those things that have no merit in them, they have no power. In Gal 4:3,9 Paul writes, "When we were children, (we) were in bondage under the elements of the world"; "How turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?"
The apostle here means the ceremonial precepts of the worship of the Jews. These requirements involved effort and created much difficulty in their observance; they were "a yoke .... which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear"
Yet the Galatian converts were turning back again to these legal ordinances, and desired to be in bondage to them. These elements were "of the world," they had reference to material and not to spiritual things, they were formal and sensuous. They were "weak," for they had no power to rescue man from condemnation, and they could not save him from sin. They were "beggarly," for they brought no endowment of the heavenly riches. The Colossians were in danger of being drawn away with this same teaching.
Paul taught that since the coming of Jesus the Messiah these rites, ordinances, sacrifices, observance of days and seasons belonged to the Jewish religion, which had now come to an end, because Christ had come and fulfilled all the requirements making salvation possible in Himself.
These things were necessary at the time they were divinely instituted, but the time had come when they were no longer required.
Because of this, Paul writes in Col 2:20, "Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why .... are ye subject to ordinances?"
There is no need for this anymore.
Such were the rudiments of the world, not necessary, they are "not after Christ."
We are not to be judged any more, we are in Christ and through His death He has satisfied all the requirements of the law.
There is no need for circumcision or the keeping ordinances or paying for our own sins, all this was layed on Him and nailed to the cross.
Col 2:11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
18 Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,
19 And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.
20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,
21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not;
22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?
23 Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.
Pauls exhortation to the Colossians
Col 2:6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
If we are in Christ then we should walk in Him.
What does it mean to walk in Christ.
Keeping in context to the passage, “Therefore” the way in which the Colossians received Christ is the way in which they should walk in Christ. “So” walk in Him.
Of course like we are told in the book of Jude, we are to contend for the faith. So knowledge of the enemy is necessary.
However before we can do that we need to be familiar with what we believe, we need to be grounded in the faith. We need to have the ability to give an account of what we believe.
1Pe 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
1Pe 3:16 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.
First we need to be solidly grounded in the teaching we have received from the Gospel.
To walk in Christ Jesus as they received him (Col. 2:6).
The word here used is "received" (Greek – Paralambano) it the same one used elsewhere to speak of the reception of the apostolic traditions about the life, work, and significance of Jesus.
1 Cor. 11:23; For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:
2Th 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.
These are not secrets that are only handed down through the ranks of the elite as the secrets of the Mystery religions of Gnosticism.
These are the teachings of the apostles, which are now known to us as the New Testament.
So, then, Paul is exhorting believers in Colossians 2:6 to hold fast to the Christ spoken of by the prophets and apostles and not to fall prey to the false traditions of those that would try to drag you away from the truth which you first heard from us.
Walking in Christ is holding to that which you received through the true Gospel and walking in obedience to that which is taught in the Apostle doctrine.
This is why everything should be checked against what the word of God teaches.
If it is not in harmony with the word of God, it needs to be avoided.
We will reflect the fact that we are in union with Christ, and we will grow in our knowledge and application of the gospel as we bow to Him as Lord.
Col 2:7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
Matthew Henry writes, “If we live in him, we shall be rooted in him; and the more firmly we are rooted in him, the more intimately we shall live in him.”
Obedience to Jesus is a humbling ourselves and embracing His way as we think on and give Him thanks for His salvation. The true Christian life is, first and foremost, a life of thanksgiving.
Quote: “Ingratitude is very frequently the reason why we are deprived of the light of the gospel, as well as of other divine favours. ”Walking in thankfulness for salvation keeps us in the light of the gospel, which reminds us always how grateful to God we should be”. (John Calvin)