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.
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 whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
- The Colossians had received Christ.
- Jesus is the Lord.
- The Colossians were to walk in Christ.
- The Colossians were to walk in Christ in the same manner was the had received Him.
- The Colossians were to be rooted in Christ.
- The Colossians were to be built up in Christ.
- The Colossians were to be established in faith.
- The Colossians were taught to about Christ.
- The Colossians were taught to be rooted and built up in Christ and to be established in faith.
- The Colossians were to have abundant thanksgiving.
- They were to guard against being led astray by philosophy or deception.
- They were to be careful to not be lead astray by traditions created by man.
- They were to be careful to not be led astray the spirits of the world.
- They were to be held captive by Christ.
- Philosophies and deceit can hold us captive.
- The spirits of this world are not of Christ.
- In Christ the whole deity of God resides.
- The whole deity resides bodily in Christ.
- The Colossians were filled in Christ.
- Christ is the ruler of all rulers.
- Christ is the authority of all authorities.
- The Colossians were circumcised in Christ.
- The Colossians were circumcised by Christ.
- The Colossians were circumcised with a circumcision that was not made with hands.
- They were circumcised by putting off the body of flesh.
- They were buried with Christ in baptism.
- They were raised with Christ through faith in the working of God.
- The working of God was powerful.
- God raised Christ from the dead.
- The Colossians were dead in trespasses against God.
- The Colossians were uncircumcised in the flesh
- God made the Colossians alive with Him.
- God has forgiven us our trespasses.
- God canceled the record of our debt.
- There were legal demands that came with our debt.
- God canceled the legal demands of our debt.
- God nailed our debt to the cross.
- God killed our debt.
- God disarmed the rulers and other authorities.
- God has put the rulers and other authorities to shame
- God triumphed over the ruler and authorities in Christ.
Paul encourages the Colossians and therefore us to continue in the faith as we have been taught. For the Colossians it was as they were taught by Epaphras. For us it is as we are taught in the scripture, since they are one and the same. Paul tells us, we are to walk in Christ. That is, we are to live our lives in Him. We do not own ourselves. We are owned by Christ. 1 Corinthians 6:19b-20a, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.” The only way to live in Christ is to know Him. The only way to know Him is to be rooted in His words, i.e. the scripture.
We should be careful not to be led astray by ideas, whether they are religious, philosophical or otherwise. These can all sound good. But it is Christ and His word to which these must all conform not the other way around.
Many have claimed that here Paul is speaking out against philosophy. That is not necessarily correct. What Paul is talking about is all forms or opinions that men have developed from their own understanding in order to appear wise. Therefore in using the term philosophy, Paul is condemning all thoughts that come from the minds of man and are not grounded in the word of God, because what follows is simply vain deceit.
Next Paul points out exactly the type of vain deceit and philosophy he has in mind, “According to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Man is naturally religious. We seek out ways of being religious. However, religion is from man. Paul indicates that all doctrines and all ceremonies that make the worship of God according to our desires, our pleasures, and our wishes, built around what we enjoy are foreign to Christ. The worship of Christ is spiritual and according to Christ’s rule not our preferences.
In Christ the fullness of the deity dwells in bodily form. It is perfect, nothing can be added. God has revealed Himself to us perfectly and fully in Christ. Throughout Old Testament times God had reveal Himself by power (the plagues in Egypt, the flood), and symbols (the burning bush, the cloud in the wilderness, the temple) but now He has revealed Himself fully in the body of Jesus. And as John states “Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.” (1 John 2:23)
Then Paul goes on to say we have been “filled in Him.” The perfect deity which is Christ has filled us. We, through Christ’s indwelling, are perfect in Him, Christ. Paul does not mean Christ’s perfection is transfused into us, rather in Him there are resources from which we may be filled, so that nothing may be wanting to us. We then can be at peace and rest satisfied in Christ alone. When we do not rest, we both detract from God’s glory and are ungrateful. We detract from God’s glory by desiring some other than His perfection. We are ungrateful because we continue to seek what we already have.
In the rest to this passage Paul deals with the problem of confusing the law and the gospel. First he addresses circumcision. We have been circumcised by Christ. Because we have been buried with Christ in Baptism, we share in His death. Paul declares that we obtained this circumcision by means of Baptism. Baptism, therefore, is a sign of that which is presented to us, which, while it was absent was foreshadowed by circumcision.
The Colossians were gentiles. Being gentiles they were not circumcised. They converted to Christ while they were uncircumcised. They had bypassed the ceremonies of Moses, which were symbols of the promise to come. Paul uses this to point out the absurdity of, leaving the gift of God to return to the shadow of the gift. Where the covenant of grace is not there is only perversion, and ruin. But God has called us, the uncircumcised, to himself.
God does not simply forgive our sins, but He reconciles us to Himself. This overthrows all forms of religious thought and practices that come from the mind of man. Man-made religion is work based righteousness.
The Law of Moses was a law of condemnation. The ceremonies did not save us from God’s wrath. The ceremonies of the law were reminders of that condemnation. The ceremonies of Moses did not provide redemption. They did not reconcile us to God. Rather they were an acknowledged guilt. What were the washings other than an admission of pollution? And when a lamb or goat was sacrificed, did not those watching it, see it as a substitute for their death? When people substituted an innocent animal in their place they confessed that they themselves were deserving death. As the ceremonies of the Old Testament sealed our condemnation, so Christ has abolished them. We are no longer under the law but under grace. Christ triumphed over the devil who is the ruler of this world. The scripture represents the devil as accusing us before God. The triumph is we are no longer accused before God. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
For nearly a year now I have been visiting so called Christian churches. Whenever I meet with the pastor to ask about the church I always hear about how friendly the church is. I hear about the program of the church. If I were younger and had children at home I am sure I would hear about the wonderful children’s program. I have never heard about the doctrines and teachings of the church until I ask specifically about them.
When I attend the worship service I have observed all manner of so called Christian worship. They services vary from the pure emotional to the very formal and strict.
Churches today are trying to be relevant. They are trying to understand what would attract people to the church. What is it that people are looking for? That is the secret formula to make their church grow. Usually what people what is emotional support and comfort plus entertainment, and of course a dynamic children’s program. So churches today work hard at trying to provide those things.
They market themselves as a friendly place where you can fit in and feel comfortable. The sermons are around life matters such as: How to raise a family; How to have a happy marriage; How to manage your money. How to overcome depression; How to be the champion you were meant to be. The sermons are intended to encourage and motivate.
They do not preach that we are wretched sinners deserving of eternal punishment in a hell that was intended for Satan and his angel. They do not preach that Christ paid the penalty of our sin and by grace alone through faith alone our sins can be forgiven. They do not preach we can be reconciled to God through Christ Jesus, the King of King and Lord of Lords.
One pastor actually told me we could not preach the gospel every Sunday. What if an unwed pregnant 17 year were to talk into church? She would need help and support. That is right she does need help. She needs to understand that she is a sinner and then she needs to hear the gospel. That is what I need. And that is what you need as well.
If asked why these pastors do church the way they do, the response is usually something around the idea you have to get them here before you can tell them about Christ. While the reasoning seems sound, it is contrary to the word of God. Remember what Paul says here, “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.”
The wrong question is being asked. Rather than asking what can we do to make the church grow, we need to ask, “How does scripture say we should do church?” When we create a product the world wants we are actually turning from God. “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Romans 8:7-8
When the church looks to what the world wants to attract the world, the church becomes just another form or entertainment. It is no longer the Christ’s church.
Here are some warning signs that your church is being taken “captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”
- Is it all about the style of music? Is the music chosen because people like it or because it glorifies, edifies and instructs. A few years ago I was attending a church where the one of those music wars broke out. Some felt hymns were the only way to go. Others thought we needed to sing contemporary Christian songs. The style of the music was the discussion. That was what was important. Neither side communicated a biblical reason for their position. It was purely personal preference. Trying to point out the ridiculousness of their argument and how we were off topic. I maintained I thought the style of music should be country. Then I found out there as such a thing as Cowboy Churches where they sing, you guessed it, country music.
- What solution is presented to various problems? I can tell you what is should be, Christ and Christ alone. I visited a church about a year ago where the pastor did an excellent job of communicating how one of the churches in the book of Revelation failed. The concluding sentence to the sermon I remember to this day because of the despair it left. “Let’s not be like that.” Say what!?! Where is the cross? Where is the forgiveness of sin and reconciliation to God? You mean to tell me I have to do it on my own!?! That is not good news that is the worst possible news. This is the case in most moralist teaching churches. “Just stop sinning. Work harder at it.” Their version of the good news is, “You can do it! Just keep trying.” We need to hear the about the grace and mercy of God and the forgiveness of sin. We need to hear the true gospel.
- Are sermons based on life topics, or do you hear the message of law and gospel, sin and grace. Pastors have found they have their biggest attendance when they do a series on marriage and family. But do you know what makes the best marriage in the world? Christ! Do you know how to be the best parent, Jesus? All the other stuff is decoration.
- Is the Lord’s Supper served regularly? Are those who share in the supper a part of the body of Christ? Or is it simply passed out and everyone encouraged to partake. After all we do not want to embarrass anyone. And after all they are just symbols of Christ blood and body. The idea of the bread and wine only being symbols did not develop until the late16th century. Any church which treat the bread and wine as only symbols shows arrogance in thinking that they are so much smarter than all those who lived in during the first 1600 years of Christianity. Of course the Eucharist can become only an empty ceremony as well. Realize we are consuming the blood and body of Christ Himself and it is a reminder of His coming again according to the scriptures.