Tuesday, September 9, 2014

CHRIST AND... (Colossians Chapter 2)

Colossians 2:8, “See to it that no one takes you captive.”

The believer in Christ is one who “has been filled in him” (Colossians 1:10).  The term translated “filled” in verse 10 means “to make full, to fill up” and was used of a ship that was fully provisioned and made ready for its voyage.  Christ has provided to him everything necessary for the believer with respect to salvation and life (Cf. Ephesians 1:3; 2 Peter 1:3).  False teachers had gained a foothold in the church in Colossae and were deceptively persuading people to believe otherwise.  Their message was “Christ is not enough.”  They erroneously supposed and taught that there were additional things necessary, by way of knowledge and practice, to possess true spirituality.

That kind of “Christ and” way of thinking is a common problem.  In his book “The Screwtape Letters,” C. S. Lewis imagined this correspondence between the demon “Screwtape” and his apprentice “Wormwood: “My dear Wormwood, the real trouble about the state your patient is living in is that it is merely Christian.  They all have individual interests, of course, but the bond remains mere Christianity.  What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call ‘Christianity And.’  You know—Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology; Christianity and the New Order; Christianity and Faith Healing; Christianity and Psychic Research; Christianity and Vegetarianism; Christianity and Spelling Reform.  If they must be Christians let them at least be Christians with a difference.  Substitute for the faith itself some fashion with a Christian coloring.”

The false teaching confronting the church in Colossae (i.e. “the Colossian heresy”) had various “Christ-is-not-enough” elements to it.  It included “philosophy” (Cf. Colossians 3:8).  The false teachers supposed themselves to be privy to some sort of elevated knowledge and were saying that if you want to be truly spiritual there is something else you need to KNOW.  Some modern day examples of this kind of thing include: the new age movement, Mormonism, and humanistic psychology. 

It also included legalism, with emphasis given to “questions of food and drink…a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath” (Colossians 2:16).  The false teachers were espousing the need to keep food laws and observe certain dates.  They were saying that if you want to be truly spiritual then there is something else you need to DO.  Legalism does not equate to obedience.  The believer is to lovingly obey Jesus (Cf. John 14:15), but the fleshly attempt to gain spirituality through the keeping of man-made rules is nothing more than empty legalism (Cf. Mark 7:8-9; Colossians 2:16, 23).

It had an element of mysticism and included the “worship of angels… (and) visions” (Colossians 2:18).  The false teachers were saying that if you want to be truly spiritual there is something else you need to EXPERIENCE.  Some modern day examples of this kind of thing include: the new age movement; out-of body experiences; channeling, eastern meditation. 

In addition, the Colossian heresy had an element of asceticism, focusing on regulations such as “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (Colossians 2:22).  The error supposed that if you want to be “spiritual” there is something else you need to ENDURE.  These practices have “an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:23).

Paul’s exhortation, “See to it that no one takes you captive” (Colossians 2:8), was relevant to all of these “Christ-and” kind of errors.  There is a need to “see to it” (i.e. “take heed, look out, guard yourself”; Cf. Matthew 7:15; Acts 20:28; 2 Peter 3:17).  Paul well summarized his concern regarding such “Christ-and” kind of errors in his letter to the Corinthians: “For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2-3).  Christ is sufficient.  Through His “once for all” sacrifice He has provided a full and complete salvation (Cf. Colossians 2:13-14; Hebrews 7:25; 1 Peter 3:18).  There is nothing extra one needs to know, do, experience, or endure to be saved or to grow in Christ.  The chief concern for the one who has “received Christ Jesus” (“by grace through faith”) is to “so walk in him” (Colossians 2:6; Cf. Ephesians 2:8-9).

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