Today: [Colossians 2:] Christ and Christ Alone! In chapter 2 of Colossians Paul calls upon the Colossian believers to identify the contaminating influence of religious culture and the pagan society around them that is toxic to faith in Christ. He insists that we are complete in Christ and that Christ in us is all of God that will ever be needed or necessary to complete us and secure our salvation.
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[Col 2:1-23 KJV] 1 For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and [for] them at Laodicea, and [for] as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; 2 That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; 3 In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words. 5 For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ. 6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, [so] walk ye in him: 7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. 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. 9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: 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.
In v. 1 Paul communicates to the Colossians the intense spiritual warfare he engages in over them and those in Laodicea although they had never personally met him. He desires that their hearts would be knit together in love making this reference again to love with understanding and acknowledgment of the mystery of God covered in the first chapter regarding the supremacy of Christ. Still Paul’s emphasis here is that being loving is excellent and commendable but not without proper doctrinal understanding regarding who Jesus is and what his position in cosmology is as the originator and supreme Lord over all creation. He continues stressing this point (v. 4) because there were teachers in Colossae and probably Laodicea as well who were beguiling or seducing them with inducements to be more inclusive of the pagan beliefs of those around them (as a proof of their love and tolerance toward others). Worship of Jesus was not a problem to these teachers – they just didn’t want the believers to worship Jesus to the exclusion of other deities in the pantheons of the ancient world. Why would this be an issue? Because in rejecting the gods of the prevailing pagan culture the Christians in the early centuries of the church opened themselves up to charges of atheism for which untold thousands were brought up on capital charges, convicted and sentenced to death wholesale. Thus suggesting that Christ merely be added as one more deity among many deities worshipped in their culture alleviated the very real pressure upon the church that ultimately led to much bloodshed and loss of life. Paul realizes this and is deeply engaged in spiritual warfare and continued prayer over the believers in this region because if syncretism (blending Christian faith with pagan culture) takes hold here, it could spread throughout the ancient world.
In v. 6 Paul reminds them of the simplicity of their faith when they first accepted Christ. He urges them that as they initially came to faith with great commitment and loyalty so they should continue (v. 7) rooted and built up in Him alone and not making compromises in the name of cultural expediency or inclusiveness just to save their necks from persecution. He warns them to beware lest they are spoiled by combining (v. 8) pagan philosophies and deceits with their newfound faith. What is the point of all this? Even at the point of the sword, we as believers cannot make peace neither make alliances with those not rooted in faith or belief in Christ. Can’t we all just get along? No, we cannot. Jesus declared no man comes to the Father but by Him and that those not bending the knee to His throne will suffer eternal damnation in a burning hell forever and ever. To marginalize this fact or pander to those who try to make Christianity more palatable to non-believers is courting blasphemy and destruction and must be resisted (so Paul contends) even to the point of death if need be. Why? Because as verse 9 argues “in Him and Him alone dwells the fulness of the Godhead bodily…” There is no deity nor sovereignty nor validity in any spiritual pursuit or belief system outside of Christ. We cannot make peace with other belief systems. We cannot capitulate to atheism, or the agnostics, to Bahá’í, Buddhism, Confucianism, to the Druze, the Gnostics, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Rastafarianism, Shinto, the Sikhs, Zoroastrianism, neither the pantheistic African Religions or the shamanistic superstitions of the indigenous peoples of North America. There is one Lord and one faith and one creed centered on the absolute supremacy of Jesus Christ who lived, died and rose again for our deliverance and to make peace with any other belief system is to deny Christ and his place in creation as only God and Sovereign over our hearts. This the early church believed, and for this, they died by the thousands and for us to take any other position is a disgrace to our faith and an insult to the martyrs who died that we might live.
The fulness of the godhead abides in Christ (v. 9) Paul insists and goes on to say (v. 10) that we are complete in Him without any need of spoil or to look to another faith, or to the political or any other ally outside of Christ. It is not by might and not by power but by the Spirit of the Living God that the initiatives of the kingdom will be established in the earth and in our lives. It is in Christ (v. 11), Paul goes on that we are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands. We do not need some outwardly imposed system of religion even if it calls itself Christian in character – if it detracts from who Jesus is on the inside of you, it is illegitimate and to be rejected. We are not just living for Jesus but (v. 12) we are buried with him and risen with Him.
We are (v. 13) quickened with Him and do not need to add anything of man’s religious ideologies or beliefs to find our place in God.
It is in God revealed in Christ that everything in us that is contrary to our salvation is blotted out. We don’t need a religious protocol or a connection to a particular ministry or to read someone’s book or add any gnostic understanding to our faith because everything in that offends our God was NAILED TO THE CROSS in the person of Jesus. It is Jesus and Jesus alone that spoiled principalities and powers making an open show of them, triumphing over them without anyone’s help and we, therefore, have no need of any allegedly necessary theological explanation other than the simplicity of our faith abandoning ourselves to a singular and solitary faith in Christ and Christ alone as the originator of our salvation!
Because we are committed to Christ we are to let no one judge us (v. 16) because we are not engaging in the observance of holidays or some self-stylized Messianic tradition even if it is rooted in the scriptures of the Old Covenant for these things are nothing more than a shadow of the substance of Christ on the inside of us. You must refuse (v. 18) to be beguiled and thereby defrauded by those who suggest you must immerse yourself into their particular brand of religious observance regarding what you wear, what day you worship, what version of the bible you read, or any other practice. Any dependency (even if it arise from venerated Christian tradition) other than upon who Jesus is on the inside of you is nothing more than rank idolatry. We are not dependent upon man, upon his church or ecclesiology, or man’s doctrines or the imposition of spurious religious protocols. Christ in us is our all-sufficiency and anything that encroaches upon that is to be rejected as an intrusion whether it come by word of angels, or by those who are vainly puffed up in their mind to the point that they have strayed from holding the Head (v. 19) who is Christ and instead have given themselves over to the religious deceits that have perverted the Christian faith into 10’s of 1000’s of denominational systems that have nothing to do with Christ did for us on the Cross.
Our nourishment and any other necessary grace is received from who Jesus is on the inside of us as we are banded together and knit to one another in the body of Christ and to Jesus the head whereby we will then increase with the increase of God and not instead to merely grow fat in the counterfeit religious understandings of man. We are to be dead to all these things therefore dead with Christ (v. 20) to the rudiments of any cultural compromise even if it estranges us from the world around us, even if it cost us dearly and for the church of Paul’s day we know they shed a river of blood for believing just these things that he is urging the Colossians to accept. We will not be dictated to by those outside the faith neither will we be imposed upon by those in Christian culture who insist we must conform to their ideas of proper Christian behavior such as “don’t touch that, don’t taste that,” etc., for these are nothing more than the commandments of men and have nothing to do with what Jesus did for you on the Cross. These things may be compelling, and they may seem to be possessed of wisdom all their own, but all they do is satisfy the flesh, trading a pagan set of values for a Christian cultural subset of religious values that have no more significance than those beliefs and convictions of the godless world around us. Our total and complete commitment is to Christ in us the hope of glory to the utter and complete exclusion of all else – no matter what!
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