Stephen Caswell ©1999
There are only two kinds of religion in the world ... You can list every "ism," every cult, every religion in southern California under one category. They all say, "Do, do, do." Only Christianity says, "Done." Christ has done it all. Two weeks ago we observed Paul's instructions to the Colossians regarding the false teachers. He warned them to watch out for people with enticing words. He encouraged them to go on to maturity. They could do this through walking by faith and wisely building on the foundation of Jesus Christ. In tonight's passage Paul again warns them to watch out for these false teachers. Paul addresses two forms of error in these verses. He gives the Colossians two commands concerning these false teachers.
I. Don't Be Cheated Of Your Relationship To Christ
II. Don't Be Judged On Your Righteousness In Christ
Col 2:8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
Paul warned the Colossians not be cheated by philosophy and empty deceit. Not all philosophy is wrong, because there is a Christian philosophy of life. Philosophy means to love wisdom. Philosophy is accumulated knowledge on a given subject. But if the knowledge is wrong then you have a deceitful philosophy. Paul warned them not be cheated by such error. The word cheated is not really strong enough. The word means to carry away someone as a captive, to kidnap them. This is what happens today when members of the cults lead people into bondage. They are literally taken captive by Satan through deception. The truth sets people free but error brings bondage.
But what was the content of this error that would rob them and bring them into slavery? Paul says it is according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. Firstly this philosophy originated with man and not God. Secondly it related to the basic principles of the world. This refers to the powers they believed governed the world. Thirdly such teaching was not what they had received from Christ. This philosophy was an early form of what would later became gnosticism.
Paul corrects the error of Gnosticism in these three verses. The Gnostics taught that God was Spirit and man was physical. God could not contact sinful man directly since He was holy. They believed that the universe was controlled by angelic powers and the planets and stars who determined their fate. Do people believe this foolishness today? See how many follow horoscopes. The Gnostic teachers taught that man had to appease these angels or they would suffer. They lived in fear of these angelic beings. The Gnostics at Colossae didn't deny Jesus Christ came from God. But they denied that He was truly God and truly man. To them Christ was an in between spirit being. He was unable to provide a completed salvation. How does Paul refute this? By repeating His claim of Christ's deity given in Chapter 1:15-19.
Colossians 2:9-10 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. Paul gives 3 strong arguments.
1. Christ Is Fully God And Fully Man
In this verse Paul states that the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ in bodily form. The word Godhead is only used here in the New Testament and means divinity or deity. Jesus Christ possessed the divine nature in its fullness. Colossians 1:19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, But as well as being divine Christ possessed true humanity. For He dwelt in bodily form. He is God's visible representation, His exact image. The reason Christ came was to reveal God to man. God no longer speaks through angels as when He gave the Law. He no longer speaks through the prophets as in the past. In these last days God has spoken to us directly through His Son. Why send a telegram to some one on the other side of the room when you can speak to them in person? Why should we seek to reach God through angels when we have direct access to God through Jesus Christ?
2. Christ Is The Head Of Principalities And Powers
In Colossians 1:16 we are told that Jesus Christ made all things including principalities and powers. In verse 10 Paul informs us that He rules over them. He is sovereign over all principality and power. This includes the elect angels and the evil angels. When Christ was on earth He had power to cast out evil spirits. They had to obey Him. How does it affect our relationship to these hostile angelic powers? The Colossians need not appease them! Why should they live in fear of them? Jesus Christ rules supreme over the world. He alone is the one we should fear and serve.
3. You Are Complete In Him
Since Christ possesses the fullness of deity, how does it affect our salvation? Paul says that believers are complete in Him. The word complete means to fill, to bring to an end, perfect. Paul uses the perfect tense to show that we are complete and we will always be that way. Jesus Christ is all that we will ever need. He gave us with all the resources that we will ever need when He saved us. Why seek something new? Why look for some experience to gain what we already have? We don't need visions or prophecy. We don't need to be slain or speak in tongues.
My new computer is so much faster than my old one. It has a lot more memory and lots of features that save time. But I am only using a fraction of it's capacity. Why? Because I am still learning how it works. The resources are there, but I can't use them all because I don't know how to. It is only as I try to do something new and stretch myself that I can use it. The computer has a built in teacher to help me. But it takes time. The same is true in the Christian life. We are complete in Jesus Christ. But until we grow in our relationship with Him we can never use the resources He's made available. This involves spending time with the Lord in His word and then putting it into practice in our daily lives. The Holy Spirit will teach us if we ask Him to.
After warning the Colossians not to be cheated of their relationship with Christ Paul told them
II. Don't Be Judged On Your Righteousness In Christ
Colossians 2:16-17 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.
I have jumped to verses 16 & 17 because Paul summarizes the previous 5 verses with this command. Paul commanded the Colossians not to submit themselves to man's judgment concerning righteousness. The Judaizers were judging people according to the law. Their teaching was known as legalism.
Paul deals with the threat of Legalism in this section. The false teachers at Colossae didn't deny Jesus Christ or His importance. Like today's cults they added other things to the Gospel denying Christ's sufficiency. They taught the Colossians that to be more spiritual you needed to add other things to Christ's work. Verses 11-17 deal with the Law. Paul speaks of circumcision, the Law, Sabbath days, feasts and dietary laws. Paul commanded them not to submit to judgment based on the Law. Galatians 2:16 “knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
Christ fulfilled the Law and therefore made it obsolete. He gives perfect righteousness to all believers. The Law was but a shadow, whereas Christ is the substance. Jesus Christ is all that we need. The law cannot add to our salvation or make us better Christians. In Christ we have perfect righteousness. Paul explains 4 things Christ has done for us in verses 11-15.
1. Circumcision In Christ
Colossians 2:11-12a In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, Since the legalists were teaching the importance of circumcision, Paul revealed the real purpose of circumcision. The Jews had so emphasized the outward physical sign of circumcision that they forgot why God had given it. Circumcision was the physical sign of the covenant. But the covenant made with Abraham was based on faith. God put righteousness to Abraham's account because He believed what God had said. Unfortunately the Jews didn't continue in faith as Abraham had done. They placed their confidence in a physical sign which meant nothing without faith. Paul emphasized the importance of faith. He said that believers receive a spiritual circumcision from Christ through faith.
Romans 2:28-29 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.
Physical circumcision meant the removal of a piece of flesh. Spiritual circumcision meant the removal of the sins of the flesh. When Jesus Christ died on the cross spiritually we died there too. Through faith the Colossians received a spiritual circumcision. Their sins were removed. Paul alludes to this in the beginning of verse 12 where he says that we were buried with Christ through baptism. We are joined to Christ when we are baptized into Him by the Holy Spirit. When Christ died, spiritually we died with Him. When Christ was buried, we were buried with Him. When Christ was raised we were raised with Him. All of this happened because we were joined to Christ by faith. Christ has removed our sin!
2. Quickened With Christ
Colossians 2:12 Buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
Paul now says that we were also raised with Christ. God raised Christ to new life through the power of the Holy Spirit. We receive this same power in our lives the moment we believe. Our resurrection with Christ means that we are no longer dominated by the power of sin. The Holy Spirit living in us can enable us to do what the Law never could. The Law said do this and you shall live, but it didn't give us the power to obey. However the Holy Spirit enables us to obey the Law as He lives His life through us. Romans 8:1-4 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
3. Cleared By Christ
Colossians 2:13-14 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
When we died with Christ our sin was paid for on the cross. God has forgiven us and we are clean. Next Paul says that God has made us alive together with Christ. Believers are spiritually alive, their sins are forgiven. This is because the new life they have is Christ's life. God has totally accepted His Son. Therefore if any man be in Christ He is a new creation, old things have passed away, all things have become new. The old things were our life of sin. These are now completely gone, forgiven. The debt of sin and the sin itself is gone. But Christ did more than forgive our past transgressions of the Law. He also took the Law itself and nailed it to His cross. We couldn't keep the law in the past, neither can we keep it now. However Jesus Christ fulfilled the law and satisfied a Holy God. His righteousness gained through obedience to the Law is now imputed to the account of every believer. We have kept the law in the person of Jesus Christ. Seeing that the law is no longer binding upon believers who have died with Christ.
Illustration Of An Enlisted Man In The American Civil War
In the American Civil War a young man named John Wilkes was enlisted to fight for the north. He was a family man with five children and asked if he might be excused on these grounds. But the army refused to dismiss him from service. A friend named Bill Peters heard of his plight and offered to take John's place. The army agreed to allow this single man Bill to fight in the place of John Wilkes. During a fierce battle Bill was killed in the conflict. About one year later the army tried to enlist John Wilkes for service once more. John protested that he had fought and died in the person of Bill Peters, therefore he was free from the law of conscription. The army looked into the matter and found this to be so. John Wilkes was given permanent immunity since he had served and died in the person of Bill Peters. In the same way we died to the Law in the person of Jesus Christ. The Law no longer has power over us. We have been freed from the Law by Christ.
Romans 7:1-6 Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another— to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.
4. Conquerors With Christ
Colossians 2:15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.
Through Jesus Christ man has regained dominion over the earth. Adam and Eve were defeated by Satan in the Garden of Eden when they obeyed the serpent rather than God. Satan took the dominion of the earth that God had given to Adam. For thousands of years Satan ruled over this world. But then Christ came and obeyed God's will. He was confronted by Satan in a garden too. Satan's attack started in Gethsemane and ended at Calvary. Just when they thought that they had defeated Jesus on the cross he turned defeat into victory. They killed Christ who then descended into the lower parts of the earth and liberated the captives kept there. Satan had no legal grounds to hold Christ in death. He was innocent and killed unlawfully. Therefore he could not hold Him. Christ conquered Satan rising from the dead and ascending into heaven before them all. Jesus Christ in His weakness proved to be stronger than Satan in his strength. But Satan and his angels didn't know God's plan.
1 Corinthians 2:7-8 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
Roman Generals Returning From War
Often when a victorious Roman general returned from battle he was given a victory parade. Freed citizens of Rome would march before the army joyfully. The general would present these to the Emperor as fruits of victory. Jesus Christ freed the saints in paradise and presented them to God. This is alluded to here and also in Ephesians 4:8-10. Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.” (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) This gives us another reason why we shouldn't appease the spirits. If Christ conquered Satan and his evil spirits why should man fear them and go under their bondage again?
Summary So Far
What is the practical outworking of all of this? Through faith in Jesus Christ our substitute we participate spiritually in His finished work. Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
1. Christ died on the cross receiving the punishment sinners deserved for breaking the Law. By faith we died with him, our punishment for sin has been paid.
2. Christ also died to the Law. God's Law itself was also nailed to the cross. Dead people are not under the law. Just as John Wilkes was free from the Law of conscription because some one else served and died in his place. So too, in Christ we have died to the Law.
3. When Jesus Christ rose from the dead He rose in new life without the Law. He now lives to serve God. The Law has no claim upon Him. We believers, also rose with Christ in newness of life. The Law has no further claim upon us.
4. When Jesus Christ died on the cross He descended into hell and conquered Satan. He then rose from victoriously making a show of these wicked spirits. They couldn't stop Him. Christ conquered sin, Satan death and hell.
I. Don't Be Cheated Of Your Relationship To Christ
Gnosticism isn't taught today as such, but there are those who would deceive us. Paul's command to the Colossians is just as relevant to us. Don't be taken captive by false teachers. Don't let them cheat you of your relationship in Jesus Christ. We don't need to go through angels, saints or any other creature to communicate with the Father. We need not fear them or appease them.
1. Jesus Christ is the only person we need to go through to reach the Father. 1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, Jesus Christ is the God-man, perfect deity and perfect humanity. Why try to reach God some other way. We have direct access to the Father when we come in Jesus name.
2. Jesus Christ made the principalities and powers. He is ruler over them. They must obey Him. Christ alone is the one we must serve. Don't serve the angels Christ rules over.
3. Believers are complete in Christ. We only need to learn what we already have in Jesus Christ. We need not look for some special experience outside of Christ. We are complete in Him.
II. Don't Be Judged On Your Righteousness In Christ
Paul commanded the Colossians not to be judged according to man's judgment based on the Law. Legalism is very much with us today. It is different from the early church but occurs whenever people place laws on believers that God doesn't. The Law can't make one righteous. It was only a shadow of the good things to come in Jesus Christ. Christ is the subsatnce, why pursue the shadow?
1. Why seek physical circumcision when through faith in Christ we have received a spiritual circumcision? Christ has removed our body of sinful flesh!
2-3. Why obey the law when Christ has freed us from it? We have new life from Christ apart from the Law. God has forgiven us all our sins and the Law will never be held against us again. We died to the law in Jesus Christ, why go back under it again?
4. Why submit to the principalities and powers that Jesus Christ conquered and triumphed over? Why live in fear of them? Christ has the keys of death and hell. He has dominion over Satan. We are victorious in Christ. Therefore let us live victoriously in Him!
Hebrews 13:20-21 Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.