Before we jump in, I want to frame up this study with a brief history lesson (it wasn’t my favorite subject in school, but it will help you to better understand this chapter). During this Greek period, Gnosticism was beginning to take stride. “Gnosticism” is rooted in the Greek word gnostikos, which means “having knowledge.” Gnostics believed that a great mass of elaborate knowledge was necessary for salvation (Guzik). Gnosticism was grounded in the general human act of reflecting upon existence – not to bring glory to God, but to amass self-righteous “wisdom” to be saved. I hope you understand why Gnosticism is a dangerous and heretical teaching. Paul’s going to teach us more, by way of God’s Word, about how this “philosophy” is wrong.
1 I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2 My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, 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. 4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. 5 For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.
- Paul used a powerful word in verse 1: contending. He wanted the people to know he was fighting for them, even though he hadn’t met them face-to-face. I travel quite a bit, and sometimes I don’t get to spend as much time with family and friends as I’d like. However, I absolutely want them to know that I contend for them when it comes to spiritual matters. I pray we all – myself included – can encourage, love, and influence those in our spheres of influence so that we flourish in the wisdom and knowledge of Christ Jesus. Amen!
- Verse 4 says, “I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments….” This is where Paul is referring to the sweet-sounding speech of the Gnostics. While Gnosticism isn’t as prevalent today, there are countless misaligned and unscriptural teachings. We must guard our hearts and ensure we truly know the Word of God; that way, when alternate interpretations and opinions are interjected, we are fully rooted and grounded in the Truth. I’m not speaking about theology here where everyone attends seminary. I’m speaking about a personal and deep knowledge of who Christ is to you, based on His Word.
- 2 Timothy 4:3-4 says, “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” Friends, we live in a world that loves to market that positive self-talk, feel-good, “live a happy life” message. It’s on the radio, in the bookstore, and touted from the pulpit because it’s what our itching ears want to hear. It’s a “light and fat-free” message of comfort, and it is exactly the noise that Satan wants us to hear. Don’t misunderstand me: I believe in positivity, God supplying all my needs, and living the abundant (spiritual) life. But, there’s more to that message and a shocking majority of people fill the seats on Sundays and Wednesdays and are still completely illiterate when it comes to knowing the Word of God. Choose today to be “disciplined” and “firm in your faith” as Paul urges us to be.
6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
- There are powerful words of encouragement in these two verses. Don’t miss this Word for yourself. Christ says to you, “_________________ [insert your name], continue to live in Me. Be rooted and built up in Me, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” God will strengthen you to walk a life worthy of the calling you received (2 Peter 1:3). Get to know Him in a special way that is meaningful to you. So often, we “generalize” Jesus’ love. We say, “Jesus loves you,” or “Jesus loves everyone.” Don’t fail to experience the deep, individual, unique, and intimate love He has towards YOU as an individual. Don’t generalize what was meant to be personalized.
8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
- Again, Paul is directly pointing this verse toward Gnostics who were undermining the work of the gospel. We’re told in 2 Corinthians 10:5 to demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. We can’t take captive thoughts and make them obedient to Christ if we don’t know what Christ says! Study His word because there is plenty of deceptive philosophy, psychology, human tradition, and spiritual forces at work in your life daily.
9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.
- Paul had to make it incredibly clear that the fullness of the Godhead was in Jesus (God wrapped in flesh). There was no separation of spiritual and material – they were one. “A false teaching related to this in the early church was called Docetism, which claimed that Jesus had no actual human body; He only seemed to have one. Another false teaching was called Cerinthianism, and it said that ‘Jesus the man’ was separate and distinct from ‘the Spirit of Christ’’ (Guzik).
11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken 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.
- Verse 11 speaks of circumcision. The Colossians were Gentiles, which means they weren’t circumcised like the Jews. Paul wanted to reassure the Gentiles that while they hadn’t experienced physical circumcision, they were certainly spiritually circumcised by Christ. We are Gentiles, too, and I’m sure this past Easter you were reminded of being buried with Him in baptism, and raised with Him to life eternal! Thanks be to God. If you follow along on Facebook, you saw Monday’s vlog was on praying scripture. Practice this powerful and effective faith-building action and use verses 13-15 as a prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord [don’t worry, I’ll wait until you’re done].
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. 18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. 19 They have 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.
- We love man-made rules. Check-lists, black-and-white policies, to-dos, and not-to-dos. If we can convince ourselves that through works we are righteous, then we have chosen to believe we must reinforce the grace of Christ through human effort, and this diminishes the work of Christ Jesus.
- The Jewish rituals, festivals, and Sabbaths that were practiced weren’t bad. But, remember that those were simply shadows of things to come. Once Jesus Christ – the fulfillment of the law – came, the shadow wasn’t needed any longer. This is why Paul tells the Colossians to not let anyone judge them for what they eat or drink or celebrate – Jesus took care of it all, and the same goes for you and me.
20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely 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.
- “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” Do not, do not, do not. This is the perfect example of legalism (laws to follow to be “righteous”). Trust me, I’ve lived this life before, and so has my husband and many friends. You’d think having a list of do’s and don’ts would produce happiness, but then you figure out how lousy you are at following all those “rules” and you just end up beating yourself up with self-condemnation and guilt. Jesus didn’t come to this earth so we’d follow rules. He came to this earth so we’d follow Him! While all these regulations have the appearance of wisdom and holiness, they do not truly bring us closer to God. I try not to pose too many questions to my readers because sometimes it invokes guilt instead of godly self-reflection; however, I will leave you with a question to ponder today: What “rules” have you self-created or been taught that make you “feel” better about your Christian walk? I’ll share the ones I falsely created in my life, and then we’ll close in praying God’s Word.
o I must attend church on Sundays. That’s what good Christians do.
o I must read the Bible and pray consistently. If I don’t, I’m not pleasing God.
o I can’t show others my imperfections. I need to put on a “good face” for Jesus.
o I can’t share my struggles with others. I’m the only one who has this issue/feeling/struggle.
- Gracious Lord, thank You for the living Word You’ve provided to me personally, so that I may know and understand Your character and love. Teach me Your truth in a real and intimate manner. Help me to grasp how high and wide and deep Your love truly is. There are so many false teachings and opinions floating out in the world today, and I hear them. Regardless of what is placed in front of me, help me to take captive every thought and align it with Your Word. Teach me how to pray using Your Word so I may grow stronger in my relationship with You. Amen.