My busy week is finally over! Definitely enjoyed sleeping at 10:20 pm last night 😉 With that said, I’ve been looking for a short letter to study that relates to those studying for finals. I want to be able to finish the main body of the letter in 2/3 sessions, so it has to be short, but I also want something related to the exam standards that we set up for ourselves. It’s anxiety season, the easiest time to forget about God.
Part 1: Colossians 1-2:15.
A few verses from Chapter 1 for context …
[And you] … in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard. (V1:22-23)
We’ve seen Paul reprimand the Galatians for abandoning the gospel, but what Paul talks about here is a bit different. The people of Colossae aren’t abandoning their beliefs of the gospel, they are using truths from the world to solve mysteries of the gospel.
The New Age movement or charismatic movement is a good example of this difference. The use of compromise with Christianity and modern culture brings in new truths, such as the need to be successful so God can use us better. This is a cause-and-effect that shouldn’t even exist! We don’t study to get a degree so that God can use us, we do it because we want to use it for God. We’ll get back to this later on.
For the Laodiceans, and those that he has not yet met, Paul says what he hopes.
… that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. (V2:2-4)
We catch a glimpse of this treasure in reference to the mystery Paul mentions, “the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (V1:26-27)
Paul claims that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ. For us, this is an encouragement to reach a better understanding of the word, to them, it first meant understanding the new covenant. Today, we have the capability to understand how God brings salvation among Gentiles.
Our faith solves the greatest mysteries of the world. It’s just a matter of searching.
This is an essential foundation to layout as Paul points out their problems. He’s not just redirecting them to a better method, he’s explaining why their method is wrong to begin with.
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (V2:8)
I’m not too sure what the trigger was for Paul to write to the Colossians on this topic, but this chapter hints new beliefs and movements were impairing the truth. Paul warns them about philosophy, human traditions, and the ‘elemental spirits’ (elementary principles) of the world, which they were finding interest in.
Is Philosophy … empty deceit?
Paul certainly throws it in the same boat. He uses the word captive as another warning to the dangers of finding yourself in this field; one can become so absorbed in teachings of the world that they end up in the middle of nowhere.
Karma isn’t necessarily an evil philosophy, and it even has parallels to the justice of God. But to follow it as a philosophy leads to an unhealthy view on life; in fact, any reason to live that isn’t in Christ is defined as ‘empty deceit’ here. This isn’t overkill, it makes no sense for Paul to affirm a way of thinking that doesn’t line up with the gospel.
Blank slate? Cool idea, wrong though.
Self-improvement methods? Maybe an option for growth, but still wrong. Will any belief without Christ really lead to life? How can we be followers and still deny that there is only one way to life, through Christ? Every truth that leads to life is already written down for us to find.
What about Human Tradition?
Independence, success, the pursuit of happiness, these can all slowly compromise what God promises us. Millions of Christians are held captive by acceptance movements at this second, “deluded by plausible arguments (V2:4)”, all according to human tradition. Millions of Christians are held captive by a faith that acts as Plan B, where Plan A needs a secure establishment before taking risks.
Let’s look at some more subtle ones.
Self-sufficiency. I provide for myself. I look after my things. I don’t burden God with the things that I can do myself.
Self-deception. It’s okay to be prideful. It’s okay to be sexually immoral. We were created in the perfect image of him and we shouldn’t strive to change it.
God doesn’t need anything from us, and he isn’t waiting for you to first be successful before you can be useful. Prioritizing school over God will never be anything more than human tradition.
In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. (V2:11-12)
Do we realize what our relationship with God entails? Buried with him in baptism, and raised with him through faith, did Christ die so we could submit ourselves to the world?
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (V2:13-14)
No worldly philosophy will give you life.
No tradition entitles you to something greater.
The knowledge we choose to treasure is our choice, but the world has an irresistible allure and a promise to satisfy, and that’s why we end up pursuing it. The gospel doesn’t tell us to stop pursuing a life that satisfies, it tells us we’re already there. You made it! It makes no sense to start over somewhere else.
Our search for truth starts in Christ, not in the childish pursuit of happiness, not in money, nor in something sustainable and comfortable. A life that fulfills is sought through Christ.
Christ overpowers the world.
He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (V2:15)