Translations: Chinese GB Big5

Colossians 2 (web)

Stand Firm
in the Knowledge of Christ

Being Established 
in the Knowledge of Christ

2:1 For I desire to have you know how greatly I struggle for you, and for those at Laodicea,
and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;

2:2 that their hearts may be comforted, they being knit together in love,
and gaining all riches of the full assurance of understanding,
that they may know the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ,
2:3 in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden.
2:4 Now this I say that no one may delude you with persuasiveness of speech.
2:5 For though I am absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit,
rejoicing and seeing your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.
2:6 As therefore you received Christ Jesus, the Lord, walk in him,
2:7 rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith,
even as you were taught, abounding in it in thanksgiving.

Comparing Dogma 
against the Knowledge of Christ

2:8 Be careful that you don't let anyone rob you through his philosophy and vain deceit,
after the tradition of men, after the elements of the world, and not after Christ.
A 2:9 For in him all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily,
2:10 and in him you are made full, who is the head of all principality and power;
B 2:11 in whom you were also circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands,
in the putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ;
2:12 having been buried with him in baptism,
in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God,
who raised him from the dead.

B* 2:13 You were dead through your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh.
He made you alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,
2:14 wiping out the handwriting in ordinances which was against us;
and he has taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross;

A* 2:15 having stripped the principalities and the powers,
he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

 Exercising Freedom in Accordance 
with the Knowledge of Christ

2:16 Let no man therefore judge you in eating, or in drinking,
or with respect to a feast day or a new moon or a Sabbath day,
2:17 which are a shadow of the things to come; but the body is Christ's.

2:18 Let no one rob you of your prize by a voluntary humility and worshipping of the angels,
dwelling in the things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,
2:19 and not holding firmly to the Head, from whom all the body,
being supplied and knit together through the joints and ligaments, grows with God's growth.

2:20 If you died with Christ from the elements of the world, why,
as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to ordinances,
2:21 "Don't handle, nor taste, nor touch"
2:22 (all of which perish with use), according to the precepts and doctrines of men?

2:23 Which things indeed appear like wisdom in self-imposed worship, and humility,
and severity to the body; but aren't of any value against the indulgence of the flesh.

Discussion Questions

vs 2 What riches come from understanding Christ?
vs 5 What in particular do you suppose that Paul was looking for when he says "I delight to see how orderly you are"? Orderly in what way? And how would he measure the firmness of their faith in Christ?
vs 6 How did you receive Christ? What assumptions did you have about what the Christian life would be like and were your expectations met?
vs 8 What were human philosophies at the time that threatened to take them captive? And what about today?
vs 9 What does it mean that the fullness of the Deity dwells in Christ?
vs 10-15 What fullness were we given in Christ?
vs 11,12 Is the burial spoken of here physical? Is this resurrection physical? In the circumcision physical? So is the baptism physical?
vs 13,14 How much of your sins has God forgiven? What about future sins?
vs 16 How do Christians judge one another with respect to the treating of Sunday as a holy day?
vs 17 What "shadows" exist in practice of Christianity today that perhaps some treat too substantively in your opinion?
vs 18,19 Do you know of examples of such people as described by these verses?
vs 20-23 What value have you found in developing restrictions and personal rules and regulations in living your Christian life?




To Know the Mystery of God

Col 2:1-3
I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My purpose 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, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Naturally people are encouraged when they recognize others are laboring for them out of love, though there be few examples which reflect Paul's love today. Isn't that the identifying mark of agape love, to deny oneself on behalf of others, even strangers, laboring for their benefit without regards to oneself? Could Christians even mature without such a role model in place? We get discouraged largely when we are not loved.  We divide largely because we are not loved. You would think divisiveness in the Christian community would largely disappear if love were practiced, in which case there would be a more open understanding of each other, and differences of opinion would not carry as much weight in relationships, though in such cases there may also be a clearer distinction between the wheat and the weeds among the Christian community as well.

It's is unfortunate what happened to Laodicea to whom Christ characterized saying, "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm— neither hot nor cold— I am about to spit you out of my mouth." Rev 3:15,16 But the fact is, frequently in less than a generation, churches can die. And if one generation does well, there's no guaratee such will be the case with the next generation. In fact in the books of judges and kings we find spiritual zeal often alternates from generation to generation. Now in particular in the case of the Laodiceans the Lord points out their materialism saying, 'You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ Rev 3:17 In contrast here, and elsewhere in Paul's letters, Paul is primarily concerned about imparting a spiritual gift, namely that they may get to know Christ fully, which again is also reflected in the Lord's plea to the Laodiceans. "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me." Rev 3:20 

Eternal life is all about know Jesus Christ. A person receives eternal life by believing in Him, and the Christian grows spiritual by getting to know Him better. Jesus Himself, in His prayer to His Father said, "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." John 17:3 Therefore let us value the riches of the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ above other matters - certainly above material concerns.

Have a Firm, Organized Faith

Col 2:4,5 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.

There were those who were trying to lead the Christians at Colossea astray, and in particular we will find the gist of the argument had to do with the centrality of Christ versus that of following regulations, as for example in verse 23 he speaks of "Such regulations". Likely it was the same cult of the circumcision he spoke of in Galatians as Colossae was located in Galatia, of which we know a great deal about both from Galatias and the book of Acts and some other places which I'll make reference to as we study this chapter.

Fine-sounding arguments are not the measure of truth. And if an idea makes you feel good, that does not make it correct. In Romans Paul warns of some who "By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people." Rom 16:18 Don't be naive. Compare every idea against a comprehensive study of scripture.

About being absent in body, one does not have to be physically present to effectively minister to a person. Indeed the apostle Paul himself has been dead for thousands of years and yet most Christians can still testify today of the positive impact he has made on their lives. And likewise with regards to others who wrote the New Testament. Jesus Himself is not physically present with us today. For we await His return. But He left us His Spirit. So also Paul here speaks of being present with them in spirit. But on the other hand if we are only there in spirit, our relationship, our knowledge of how others are actually doing, is limited. And so Paul desires to see them to see how they are doing, as also he commonly expresses in many of his letters.

But what is the measure of how other Christians are doing? Here Paul speaks of their orderliness and the firmness of their faith. Discipline and steadfastness are measures of a healthy faith. How disciplined are you in your faith? How steadfast? Or how disorganized? "Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way." 1Cor 14:40

As Received, So Walk

Col 2:6,7 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

The manner in which a person first receives Christ is often reflected in the manner in which they end up living the Christian life. It's important to understand that we are to receive Him by faith alone, trusting in His grace, apart from our own deeds. For "when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: 'Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.'" Rom 4:4-8 However, having been saved and guaranteed eternal life, we are saved unto good works. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith— and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Eph 2:8-10 Not only so, but we are born again and given the Holy Spirit which cause an inevitable change in our behavior such that it may be said, "No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God." 1John 3:9 And further, not only is right behavior a function of our new nature, but also when we receive Christ, we receive Him as LORD, basically pledging allegiance to Him with the intention of doing what He says, realizing we're entering into a kingdom, not a democracy. "And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again." 2Cor 5:15

Now I said all that to clarify what it really means to receive Christ. For we mature in Christ in the same manner in which we first received Him. The point Paul is going to elaborate upon is the idea that we mature in Christ not by relying upon our own deeds. It's not by technique or ritual that we mature in Christ. (As such I take issue with Sacramental Theologies) But rather we rely upon his grace to mature us. For example by his grace He gives us spiritual gifts which we then apply, ministering by the Spirit of God. He transforms our thinking, our attitudes which lead to a changed behavior and fruitfulness.

In contrast, to the Galatians Paul writes, "This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?" Gal 3:2,3 This is the issue at hand.

Speaking of being rooted, his allusion is to a plant, or a tree. For to grow we must first be rooted, and if we are endure we are to be deeply rooted. Recall the parable of the sower of Mat 13. Those not deeply rooted and so died were those who respond quickly to the message with joy, but have not considered the implications of the faith, and so fall away when troubles comes due to the word. Our roots in the faith reflect the strength of our convictions. In Eph 3:16-19 Paul prays that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height——  to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

And just as entering into the faith should result in thanksgiving, given the guarantee of eternal life given to us and in view of all the other benefits we receive in God's salvation package, so also our thankfulness to God reflects the degree of the depth of our convictions. But not only with regards to our salvation, but also our laboring in the Lord will result in thanksgiving as we see God at work in our lives and in the lives of our brethren in Christ, as is characteristic of many of Paul's prayers.

Captive to Deviant Philosophies

Col 2:8-10 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.

Again, the deceptive philosophy Paul is referring to is that promoted by the Judaizers who are trying to take Christians captive to human regulations. In referring to these heretics Paul elsewhere says, "some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves." Gal 2:4 By the "basic principles of the world", which is the Greek word "stoicheion", he's referring to regulations as we see in this chapter from verses 20, "if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations"

What was happening in the church due to the influence of the false teachers was that the Christians were getting distracted from Christ and obsessing over regulations - not uncommon among Christians today as well. Jesus later warned of the church at Ephesus saying, "know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love." Rev 2:2-4 Churches can get so caught up in their programs and in their regulations that they lose focus on Christ, who is the LORD God in the flesh. The sanctification of the believer is not simply a matter of living up to certain regulations, but rather having Christ live in you. Christ provides both the example and gives the power to live the Christian life.

There are abundant warnings about not being misled by those who are merely wolves in sheep clothing. Paul warns the Corinthians of those trying to lead them astray, "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ." 2Cor 11:13 And this was also the case here. But even those who preach Christ or are legitimate church leaders can be a distraction if Christians follow them as if celebrities. Such leaders may end up overshadowing Christ with their celebrity status.  Such has been the case for many a Christian leader though the ages, so don't be taken in. Thus John the Baptist said, "He must become greater; I must become less." John 3:30

Spiritual Circumcision

Col 2:11,12 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

Ironically many of a legalistic denomination would view this verse as teaching baptismal regeneration, which is just the opposite of the kind of thing he's trying to say in this chapter. Baptismal regeneration is an example of a sacramental theology - the idea that a ritual, something you do to your flesh, confers grace. Is the "circumcision" here referring to one's physical flesh? When a man believes in Christ, is it saying that the foreskin of his penis suddenly magically fall off? Obviously not. So why would one think this verse is referring to water baptism?

This is not referring to water baptism, but baptism with the Holy Spirit, which is the receiving of the Holy Spirit guaranteed to believers. Jesus said, "For John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." Acts 1:5 Being baptized with water is not the same as being baptized with the Holy Spirit. Remember Cornelius in Acts 10. In Acts 10:47, before he was water baptized he had "received the Holy Spirit". In Acts 11:16 Peter says that at that point Cornelius had been "baptized with the Holy Spirit." So we see from these two verse that the receiving of the Holy Spirit is the same as the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Indeed Paul declares,  "We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body" 1Cor 12:13 Contrary to what Charismatic theology would have us believe, baptism with the Holy Spirit is not for an elite few. Rather, everyone who is a believer in Christ has been baptized with the Holy Spirit, which is to say, every believer has received the Holy Spirit. "And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." Rom 8:9b

Physical circumcision and water baptism are allusions, mere shadows of what they represent. In the Old Testament God said, "Circumcise your hearts" Deut 10:16 Obviously he wasn't referring to physically circumcising your heart. Nor were we physically buried with Christ. Nor physically raised with Christ, though there is a physical resurrection to come. But here he speaks of something which has already taken place. Jesus said, "Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." John 5:24 And likewise it says in Eph 2:6 "God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus"

But what is the reality behind all these saying? Or is he simply speaking of a change of our status? No. One thing he's alluding to is regeneration. Even in the Old Testament it says, "The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live." Deut 30:6 Here's a spiritual circumcision that is done without hands by Christ. And what is the effect? It impacts our love for Him. The regeneration - being born of God - affects our attitude such that we serve Him in newness of life. "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." Rom 7:6 and "Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." Rom 6:4

Regulations Cancelled

Col 2:13,14 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.

Likewise Paul said to the Christians in Ephesus, "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath." Eph 2:1-3

What does Paul mean that we were dead? Some would argue that he meant dead in that such people are incapable of doing good in so much as dead people are incapable of doing anything. Well if they are incapable of doing good, then neither are they capable of doing evil, and yet clearly Paul does speak of their evil behavior. So he is not talking merely about a person's spiritual status, but rather he is also speaking with regards to the behavior of the unregenerate.

A sinful lifestyle if characteristic of the unregenerate. But for those born of God it is written, "No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God." 1John 3:9 This is the spiritual circumcision that we receive upon regeneration. For the uncircumcised of heart it is unnatural to live a righteous life. But under the New Covenant it is promised, "I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me." Jer 32:39,40 Or more comprehensively it's written in Heb 10:16,17 "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." Heb 10:16,17

Note these two elements of the New Covenant. One is the forgiveness of sins. The other is regeneration, which leads to a a change of behavior. Again, as I mentioned previously, this second element is important to grasp in avoiding the pitfalls of legalism in that the Christian life is not a function of compliance to regulations, but rather is walking in the Spirit - the underlying principles themselves being the guiding principle in living the Christian life. And with regards to the first element - the forgiveness of sins - it's important to understand that such is not contingent upon compliance to regulations. Through the cross Christ removed such requirements. He took them away - nailing them to the cross. Therefore do not become enslaved to regulations and do not be led astray by those who would make salvation or Christian living a function of regulations. Salvation is by faith, and the Christian life is lived by faith, walking in the Spirit in accordance with the regenerate nature we have received, which is naturally inclined to doing what is right and good.

Authorities Disarmed

Col 2:15  And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

The power of authority figures is in the rules and regulations they impose on others. Through the cross Jesus dismantled the necessity for rules and regulations, thus disarming authority figures. With regards to salvation, through the cross a person's salvation status is not contingent upon compliance to a set of rules and regulations, but rather one's righteous standing with God is based solely on the finished work of Christ, though there are denominations such as Catholicism which deny this fact. Catholicism is a good example of institution authority which refuses to be disarmed. Rather they effectively replace the scriptures with their own dogma and impose all kinds of rules and regulations upon their constituents so as to maintain their hold over them, while they refuse to be scrutinized. But degrees of such corruption might be find among many non-Catholic institutional authorities as well. In Jesus' day it was the institutionally religious elite who sought to put him to death. And historically both in secular and religious circles there seems to be a general correlation between pride, with the corruption it brings, and positions of institutional authority, whether it be that the position of authority invokes pride, or that the proud are simply attracted to positions of authority, this correlation seems a part of human nature, which should NOT be characteristic of Christians.

Now as I alluded to in verse 6, this principle of the disregarding of regulations is not only with regards to salvation but also is with regards to sanctification. For regulations are for the purpose of making people do the right thing. But under the New Covenant, those who have been born of God will naturally do the right thing, as I mentioned previously with regards to 1John 3:9. In fact that verse goes on to say that doing the right thing is characteristic of those born of God. For "anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother." 1John 3:10 If a Christians is walking in the Spirit - which is to say, living in accordance with the regenerate nature - there is no need for rules and regulations.  "Law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers— and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine." 1Tim 1:9-10

And again, this disarms authorities. Much as institutional authority would like to lord over the flock by imposing all kinds of rules and regulations allegedly for their benefit, Peter writes such people, "Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers— not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve;  not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock." 1Peter 5:2,3

And as a final observation you will find that non-Christian cultures around the world require there be strong authority ruling over the populace though the implementation of a broad range of rules and regulations. For where people don't love their neighbor, strong authority figures and more oppressive or restrictive forms of government are called for. But for the Christian, under the Lordship of Christ, there is a freedom which many in the world, many in various religions have not experienced. Thus Western Civilization can largely attribute the freedom they experience due to the Christian origins of the foundation of their culture.

Judging Compliance to Regulations

Col 2:16 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.

Many a denomination along with individual Christians violate this principle in judging other Christians based upon, for example, what day of the week the go to church. In fact 7th Day Adventists view church attendance on Sunday rather than Saturday as the mark of the beast mentioned Revelation. Catholicism views it as a sin not to attend their institution on Sunday, and a sin not to eat and drink of their communion once a week as Catholics. But Paul writes, "One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind." Rom 14:5

 Likewise various Protestant denominations divide over issues of ceremony, including those who make salvation itself contingent upon water baptism, or particular types of water baptism. (In fact back in the 1500's Christians would murder fellow Christians over matters of baptism. That is, Christians who believe in infant baptism would murder those who don't believe in infant baptisms. It's like Presbyterians murdering Baptists.) But all such thinking is contrary to the very principle Paul has been teaching up to this point. Paul writes that "the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" Rom 14:17 The kingdom of God is not a matter of the observance of ceremonies. So don't judge other Christians based upon the ceremonial ways in which they've chosen to worship and serve the Lord.

It's interesting how he phrased verse 16. For it doesn't phrase it "do not judge anyone else", but rather "do not let anyone judge you". Here these Christians were viewed as the victims of criticism by legalists. So not only are we not to judge others with regards to ceremonial matters, we are also commanded to stop others from judging us with regards to such matters.

Regulations Mere Shadows

Col 2:17  These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

Sacramental theology is that which confuses the shadows with the reality. Shadows have some relevance, but they are not the reality.

Heb 10:1a "The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming— not the realities themselves." So also human law is a shadow of human virtue, but not the reality of human virtue. Law does not create a better person nor make a person better, but only diagnoses a person's condition. Thus it says, "no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin." Rom 3:20 For the Christian the reality lies not in law, not in mere compliance to a set of rules and regulations, but rather in having Christ live in us. Paul speaks to Peter saying, "Through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" Gal 2:19-21

Visions of Angels

Col 2:18  Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions.

Some in charismatic community are easily led astry on this point. For while the Bible says, "we walk by faith, not by sight" 2Cor 5:7, yet seemingly in a desperate attempt to substantiate their faith, some "go into great detail about what they have seen, and their unspiritual minds puffs themselves up with idle notions." Some will treat their own dreams as prophecy, but God says, "The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the LORD." Jer 23:28 So stick with the Bible. Everything else is straw.

Also there are those, who having no scriptural basis to promote their idle notions,  falsely claim to have visions of angels and pretend piety, so as to convince the naive. Again, much of this goes on in Catholicism. People go into great detail of how they saw a vision of Mary in a piece of toast, or in a window pain, or claim that a statue of Mary shed tears or some such foolishness. And multitudes of the naive people fall prey to that kind of thing. Likewise with regards to the origins of Mormonism with its claim of visions of the angel Moroni, (just remove the "i" to view Smith's intended victims) As Peter said, "In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping." 2Peter 2:3 And just like the Pharisees and chief priests of Jesus day, such people have a outward appearance of piety, but inward are ravenous wolves, trying to disqualify you for the prize.

Paul advises Timothy, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some." 2Tim 2:15-18 Don't fall victim to the birds.

Getting a Head in Life

Col 2:19 He has 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.

This and previous verses parallel Paul's letter to the Ephesians in which he speaks of spiritually maturing through the mutual cooperation of the body, "until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." Eph 4:13-16

Growing as a Christian is not purely passive thing. It takes work. It takes cooperation both with God and with our fellow believers. But if we do our part, God will do his part. "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow." 1Cor 3:6  and Jesus said, "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain— first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head." Mk 4:26-28 (By the way, note this last phrase and compare with Eph 4:16 We will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ)

The immature can get caught up in all kinds of strange doctrines. But Christ is the Head. Becoming Christlike is a sign of maturity.

Dead to Regulations

Col 2:20-22 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—— "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle," which all concern things which perish with the using——according to the commandments and doctrines of men?

We died with regards to our relationship with God being a function of compliance to rules and regulations. Paul recognized that the Colossians had difficulty embracing this concept by observing their behavior. For rather than trusting in the blood of Christ they were likely influenced by the circumcision to view their salvation status as contingent upon the performance of rituals and following the regulations of the law of Moses. And likewise with regards to their sanctification.

Again to quote Gal 3:2-5 "I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing— if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?"

 Institutional churches often end up imposing unnecessary rules and regulations, even developing heretical doctrines around such. The Catholic church may be the worst offender in this regard. But such is not absent among many non-Catholic churches. Sacramental theology would have us believe that food - the bread and wine of communion - would bring us near to God, but such is not the case. "Food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do." 1Cor 8:8 Nor is salvation contingent upon getting one's skin wet.

Do you find your Christian life just about rules, regulations, and rituals? Do you measure one's spirituality by mere "attendance"? Do you base your assurance of salvation upon having been water baptized? These were the kind of Christians Paul was talking to.

Regulations Lack Spiritual Power

Col 2:23  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.

One is reminded of the Pharisee's prayer, "‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men— robbers, evildoers, adulterers— or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’" Lk 18:11,12 Pride is often the basis of people appearing "religious" in fasting, tithing, and imposing other such rules and regulations upon themselves. And when they attain institutional leadership, they impose such things on others. In Matthew 6 Jesus wisely instructed that such things be done in private, no doubt to test one's sincerity.

But realize that the Bible teaches us that such things lack any value in themselves in restraining the sensual indulgence. Yes Jesus did say, "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out." Mk 9:43 But the sense in which Jesus was speaking was "If it were true sin could be so easily discarded, then ..". His sermon on the Mount was largely proverbial, and here he speaks in hyperbole. Cutting off a limb will not itself restrain the underlying indulgence.

But on the other hand the Bible does instructed us to exercise self-control over the body. Paul writes, "I discipline my body and bring it into subjection" 1Cor 9:27a Self-control itself is one of the fruits of the Spirit mentioned in Gal 5:22-23. So it's by walking in the Spirit that the Christian restrains the sensual indulgence of the flesh. It's not  function of technique. It's a function of walking in the Spirit Thus Paul says to the Galatians, "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." Gal 5:16 The letters to the churches tell us about the attitudes and attributes we should take on. But they don't speak of gaining such through techniques. It is not through ritual or technique that you will become a better Christian. It's by walking in the Spirit.

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Gal 5:1

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources

Jul 29,2015