The Empty, Deceptive Philosophy of the World Leads Us Away from the Fulness of Christ
There is a story about a new missionary, named Herbert Jackson, who was given a car that would not start without a push. After pondering this problem, he devised a plan. He went to a school near his station, got permission to take some children out of class, and had them push his car off. As he made his rounds, he would either park on a hill or leave the engine running. He used this ingenious procedure for two years.
When a new missionary came to that station, Jackson proudly began to explain his arrangement for getting the car started. The new man looked under the hood. Before the explanation was complete, the new missionary interrupted, “Why, Dr. Jackson, I believe the only trouble is this loose cable.” He gave the cable a twist, stepped into the car, turned the key, and the engine roared to life.
For two years needless trouble had become routine. The power was there all the time. Only a loose connection kept Jackson from putting that power to work. Ephesians 1:19-20 says, “and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.”
It is only when we grasp who Christ is, and what He has done for us that we can live in the power of God. Oftentimes, though, we let the world's thinking obscure who Christ is, what He has done, and who we are in Him. The world's way of thinking and living causes a whole bunch of loose connections between our faith and full assurance of understanding concerning Christ. It is only in the treasures of wisdom and knowledge that are hidden in Christ that we are able to live in the fullness of God. The philosophy and empty deceit of the world robs us of the enjoyment and progress we can have as children of God. This morning we will be looking at verses 9-12 and how the empty, deceptive philosophy of the world leads us away from Christ's fullness.
The Fullness of God in Christ (v. 9)
One of the biggest stumbling blocks of the Christian faith is one of its greatest mysteries. This mystery is how Jesus Christ can be both God and man. It is because of this mystery that many fall into error when they consider Jesus. This error has been to make Him a human being and nothing more.
If you would do a survey of other major religions in the world, who Jesus Christ is forms one of the biggest points of departure between Christians and all others. Islam believes Jesus to be a great prophet... and nothing more. Buddhists believe Jesus to be a greater teacher of morality...and nothing more. Jews don't believe Jesus to be anyone of any value. New Agers...well, its hard to really know what they think. It is in the truth about Jesus that all other religions stumble and go down the wrong path.
For the Colossians to whom Paul wrote, their situation to what each of us face in a pluralistic American culture. They had teachers who came in among them teaching a different Jesus that what the Gospel proclaimed. In verses 15-20 of chapter 1, Paul had proclaimed who Jesus Christ is...He is the Creator and the Redeemer. He is the only hope of salvation. This was consistent with the gospel message that had been given to them by their faithful minister, Epaphras. There had come in among them a message...Christ is not sufficient...you need more.
The “more” that these false teachers were spreading was the need to appeal to angels and other cosmic powers. There was a certain Jewish element in this teaching that said there was a need to return various portions of Old Testament rituals. There was a need to appeal to things outside of the message of the Gospel and the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Jesus just isn't enough. They would say that the full range of what men need certainly includes Christ but doesn't begin and end with Him. This heretical teaching was very subtle. Indeed, most error is very subtle...it always includes a grain of truth. Jesus wasn't cast aside...He was relegated to the side. We need Christ...and....good works to be saved. We need Christ...and...a particular church to be saved. The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:2, “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” Christ is sufficient for in Him is all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.
This means that in Christ dwells all the infinity, eternality, glory, majesty, and power of the One True God. This is the mystery of our faith. Robed in our nature is the One True God. Jesus could say that if you have seen me, then you have seen the Father, because all that is true of the Father is true of Him. The Godhead is One, yet Three. This is indeed a mystery that we cannot explain. But then, we are not called to explain it, but to believe it. And it is in this belief of Christ as the all-sufficient Second Person of the Godhead, that the lie of needing something other than Him is made clear.
The Fullness of Self in Christ (v. 10)
We do not find the completion that we need as human beings in any other source than God Almighty – Jesus Christ. What human beings need, what we need here this morning, is not more self-help books, but God. Our very selves only become full and complete in Christ.
There are two things here in verse 10 that are important for us to understand. First, for anyone to tell you that you need Christ and something else is wrong. Two weeks ago we spent some time looking at verses 4 through 8. One of the things that the Apostle warns against is letting others cheat us of Christ. The comfort and power of the Christian to live with victory over sin is found only when we understand and grow according to the truth of Scripture. We can't have any loose cables. To add to or take away anything from Christ loosens us from Christ.
One of the things that brings trouble to the faith of the Christian is when the reliability of God's revelation is questioned. Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
The Word of God is one complete whole. If all Scripture is given by God, then unless we are willing to call God mistaken and culturally irrelevant, then we must hold to all of what Scripture teaches. To pick and choose what one likes, and then disgard the rest, only goes to harm that person and those who listen.
In Christ, and in Him alone, we find the fullness of what we need for ourselves – what completes us. It is the person of Christ as revealed in the Holy Scripture, and none other, like that being brought into the Church at Colosse, that we are able to be rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith.
The second thing in verse 10 that is important for us to understand is that there is no other way for a human being to become complete. In Christ only we become complete. All other supposed paths to God are attempts to deceive with persuasive words. The common practice of all other paths to God is to bring Christ down. What must be understood is that any attempt to bring Jesus Christ down from being the only way to come to God and the only way to being complete is also the attempt to bring God down. In Jesus Christ is the fullness of the Godhead. To try to dethrone Christ is to try to dethrone God and set other powers, ideas, and even the self above God.
Humanity is empty without Christ...empty with God. We are incomplete...we have a lot of loose cables. In Christ, we are complete and as we hunger and thirst after righteousness, we will be filled according to the promise of Christ Himself. The reason that our personal fullness is found only in Christ is because the fullness of salvation is only in Christ.
The Fullness of Salvation in Christ (vs. 11-12)
This fullness of salvation is expressed in two ways. The first is by speaking of our salvation as a spiritual circumcision. In our Old Testament reading this morning from Deuteronomy 10:12-20, Moses admonished the people about their duty before the God who had redeemed them from slavery. They were to “circumcise the foreskin of their hearts.” The Old Covenant sacrament of circumcision pointed God's people to the need of their hearts. The need of their hearts was to have the sinful rebellion cast away from them. Circumcision itself had no magical power, just as the New Covenant sacrament of baptism has in itself no magical power. What people needed then and what we need now is to have the rebellion of our hearts removed.
The Jews in Jesus' day thought that they were OK because they were circumcised. They were not Gentiles. Becoming proud instead of humbly looking at the need of their own hearts, they continued to be a people that were hard of heart. In Romans 2:28-29 we read, “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.”
The need of the human heart is an inward circumcision. This need is what Christ, and He alone, does for us through His Spirit. Verse 13 talks about our spiritual deadness and inability to circumcise ourselves. What we need, we cannot supply. What we are unable to do and unable to supply, Christ has done and supplied for us. He has put off or cut away the body of the sins of the flesh, which is the old man of which Paul speaks about in the next chapter. What exactly has Christ done, though?
Well, Christ has destroyed sin's power and control over the Christian. Romans 6:6 speaks about our old man being crucified with Christ that the body of sin might be done away with. Continuing to use the imagery of circumcision, the stubbornness of our hearts and the power of darkness that we were under before coming to faith in Christ were put to death on the cross.
The need that we have to be circumcised in heart is something that only Christ...God Almighty...has the power to do. But it's not only the cutting off of the old man that Christ has done for us. It is here that the realities that circumcision and baptism point towards meet. Just as circumcision pointed to the need of the heart, baptism points to what Christ does to the one who is given faith. Holy Baptism points toward our union with Christ - as He was buried and took our sins with him to the tomb, so also our old man is buried in Christ. As Christ was raised from the dead, so also resurrected...new life...comes to those who have faith in Christ.
This is the reality of God's people, not a fond hope or a wish. Those with a true, living faith are changed as the Apostle says in chapter 1, from a life lived under the power of darkness to a life lived in the kingdom of the Son.
Brothers and sisters, there is great power for faith and life in walking in Christ after having received Him. Walking according to the light of Scripture brings each of us closer in fellowship and communion with God. And the light of Scripture leads us to Christ alone. In Him is all the fullness of the Godhead...in Him we find ourselves complete...in Him there is a full and complete salvation.
God's call to all of us as His children is to know the Holy Scriptures and to believe and live according to its truth. The Word of God points to Christ alone and what is necessary to live in the power of Christ. Indeed, our Father in heaven calls us out of the world...and commands us to reject the philosophy of the world and to hold fast to His Son. When we don't conform our minds to the teaching of Scripture, but instead follow the empty deceitful ideas of the world, then we form loose connections, being led away from Christ's fullness.
Understanding Christ and His fullness is not something mystical, but is an experience grounded in the knowledge of the mystery of Christ, which we find in the Holy Scriptures. This record of truth is not merely a human production, rather holy men spoke as they were moved by the Spirit of Christ. Our completeness in Christ is understood and experienced as we hold fast to Christ as He has been revealed to us in the Bible.
May God give us the grace to walk in Christ faithfully and live in the power of the fullness of salvation in this and every day. AMEN.