Colossians 2


‘I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My goal 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. 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 disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is. So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.’ Colossians 2:1-8

Paul has just finished telling the Christians in Colossae that his goal is to help them become fully mature in Christ, here in Colossians 2 he’s going to speak about his real concern for them. Remember that Paul is an example of spiritual maturity and so, he is worthy of our following his example, 1 Corinthians 11:1.

We also now know that he is always concerned for his brothers and sisters in Christ, especially those he hadn’t met personally, 2 Corinthians 11:28-29. We also know that his dear fellow worker, Epaphras was proven to be mature in his labour for the church, Colossians 4:12-13.

Paul says his ‘goal is that they may be encouraged in heart.’ It’s the Will of God that we serve Him with hearts that are full of comfort and encouragement just as Jesus taught, Luke 21:34 / John 14:1 / John 14:27 / 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17.

In other words, one sign of spiritual immaturity is seen in those Christians who do nothing but worry and stress about life and the future, 2 Timothy 4:6-8 / 2 Timothy 4:17-18.

Another sign of spiritual maturity is seen in our ‘united love’ for other Christians, 1 Samuel 18:1. If you remember, this is something the church at Colossae was already practising, Colossians 1:4.

Similar to having hearts that are encouraged, we need to ‘have the full riches of complete understanding’, in other words, a strong assurance concerning ourselves and our salvation. As Christian matures, their assurance will increase which is one of the riches we’re blessed with in Christ, 1 John 5:13 / 1 John 3:19 / Romans 15:4.

Paul also says that we should ‘know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.’ An understanding of the Gospel, which once was hidden, but has now been revealed will help us become mature, Ephesians 3:3-6 / Romans 16:25-26.

Notice as Paul continues he uses the word ‘disciplined’, this is the Greek word, ‘taxis’ which is a military term, suggestive of men marching in proper order and precision, as in a drilling exercise. This tells us that a mature Christian is someone whose walk as a disciple is in proper line with what is expected.

The word, ‘firm’ is the Greek word, ‘stereoma’ and it means something established, but it’s a word that goes right along with this idea of marching in a straight line.

So, these are all signs of a spiritually mature Christian which we all should be striving for and the way to go about it is very simple, Paul says to first grow in Christ, we need to ‘receive Christ Jesus as Lord.’

This is something the Colossians had done but in today’s society, people just want Jesus as their Saviour but not their Lord, Acts 2:36. Christians will never become mature unless they make Christ complete Lord of their lives, Galatians 2:20.

Not only do we need to make Jesus Lord of our lives to become mature, but we also need to ‘live our lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as we were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.’

To live with Christ means being rooted in Christ, ‘rooted’ means Christ must be the foundation and source of nutrition in our lives.

Being ‘built up in Him’ means allowing ourselves to become the kind of building He would have us to be.

‘Strengthened in the faith’ means well taught and grounded in the teachings of Christ, and living by them and ‘overflowing with thanksgiving’ means ever overflowing with an attitude of gratitude.

But, as always there’s a danger when the Christians want to grow that we need to be aware of.

‘See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.’

This warning assumes that one can fall from their saved relationship with Jesus. The false teachings to which Paul is probably referring in this context were the Judaeo gnostic teachers who were infiltrating the fellowship of believers. If the concepts of such teachers were mixed with the truth of the Gospel, the Colossians would be cheated out of their salvation. Any addition to the Gospel of God’s grace would equal no gospel at all, Galatians 1:6-9.

The Greek word for ‘captive’ refers to being plundered. Any philosophy or tradition of man that contradicts the truth of God’s Word will lead to the spiritual destruction of those who would believe and practice such doctrines. It’s important what we believe because our beliefs are the foundation upon which our behaviour stands. In this case, the Christian worldview was under attack by philosophies that brought into question the deity of Christ, 1 Corinthians 15:1-2.

‘Philosophy’ is the thinking of man, and so, the more a person obsesses with the thinking of man, the further they move from God. Traditions originate from the behaviour of men, and so, the more someone focuses on keeping the traditions of men, the less he focuses on obeying the Word of God.

The ‘spiritual forces of this world’ are the traditions that were possibly motivated by the spiritualistic or mystical beliefs of those in the culture of Colossae whose religious beliefs had been affected by human reasoning. Such beliefs work contrary to Christ for they don’t lead one to Christ. Any philosophy or tradition that doesn’t lead us closer to God is a philosophy or tradition that works contrary to the work of God through Christ, Galatians 1:14 / Galatians 4:3 / Galatians 4:9-10.

‘For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.’ Colossians 2:9-10

The character, essence, attributes and deity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were representatively manifested through Jesus, Colossians 1:19 / John 1:1-2 / John 1:14 / John 10:30 / John 17:11 / John 17:21-24.

Those who are in Christ are ‘spiritually mature for God’s eternal purpose’, to create beings with characters that are fit for eternal dwelling. They are mature or complete because of the grace of God. Therefore, the saints of God are the ‘completion of the work of God in the creation of all things’.

Jesus is the centre of reference from which all things are controlled in heaven and on earth, Ephesians 1:19-23 / 1 Peter 3:22. Christ is the head of all things for the benefit of the Christian.

‘In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self-ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. 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. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.’ Colossians 2:11-17

Many Jewish Christians felt it necessary for Gentile Christians to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses in addition to following Christ, Acts 15:1-5. This teaching was somewhat like a thorn in the church’s side, it was a problem they constantly had to deal with, Acts 15:6-27.

Here in Colossians, Paul deals with the problem by pointing out that through baptism into Christ, we experience the ‘true circumcision’, which is a cutting away of the sins of the flesh. By His death on the cross, Jesus has taken the Old Law out of the way, Ephesians 2:14-16.

In other words, we’re to let no one try to judge or condemn us in matters of the Old Law. Why? Because we have died to the Law and Jewish ceremonialism, Romans 7:1-6.

We’re to let no one try to judge or condemn us in matters of the Old Law. Why? Because ‘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.’ Galatians 5:1

We’re to let no one try to judge or condemn us in matters of the Old Law. Why? Because ‘Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again, I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.’ Galatians 5:2-4

When we see shadows on a wall, we know that they are simply a reflection of the real thing. In the same way, the Old Testament Law was just a ‘shadow’, but the reality was Christ and found in Him.

‘Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have 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.’ Colossians 2:18-19

Why would people worship angels? Perhaps because they felt angels were needed as ‘intercessors’ or perhaps with ‘a sense of humility’, they felt they couldn’t go to God directly. Angel worship is actually the result of a ‘false humility’ and is based upon a person’s ‘idle notions’, Hebrews 4:14-16.

In truth, angel worship takes us away from Christ who is, ‘the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow’. For this reason, angels refused any semblance of worship, Revelation 22:8-9 / Acts 10:25-26.

Have you noticed how popular angels and New Age religions have become lately? Do you know why?

There’s a real reason for it, you see for 300 years we have lived in the Age of Reason. When Isaac Newton discovered gravity, man decided if humanity could unlock the laws of the universe, God’s own laws, why couldn’t it also discover the laws underlying all of nature and society?

People came to assume that through judicious use of reason, an unending progress would be possible. Progress in knowledge, technical achievement, and even in moral values.

The 18th-century writers believed that knowledge is not natural, but comes only from experience and observation guided by reason. Through proper education, humanity itself could be altered, its nature changed for the better. A great premium was placed on the discovery of truth through the observation of nature, rather than through the study of the Bible. They saw Christianity as the principal force that had enslaved the human mind in the past.

Human aspirations, they believed, shouldn’t be centred on the next life, but rather on the means of improving this life. Worldly happiness was placed before religious salvation. Nothing was attacked with more intensity and ferocity than Christianity, blaming it for the suppression of the free exercise of reason.

Now we don’t believe anymore that science and technology can fix our problems or make us morally better. If anything, it has made us morally worse, but that’s what we were told for 200 years. We’ll just study it, we’ll go into a lab, we’ll write a computer program and we’ll fix it. And after 200 years we’ve decided science and technology cannot fix all our problems, so we turn to spirituality and that’s why the New Age is so popular right now.

That’s why angels are so popular, you see angels don’t come with baggage. The spirituality of the New Age is not Christianity, angels don’t demand anything of you. They just show up, they’re cute, they’re nice, they help you and they leave. Isn’t that wonderful? You watch the movies where angels are in them.

Movies like The Preachers Wife or Angels where a team of angels come to the rescue of a children’s baseball team when a young boy pleads for divine intervention. You read books that tell you about guardian angels and which one to approach for help.

Let me ask you this, do you ever hear the name, Jesus?

You see the vanity of the human mind works like this. I need a mediator to help me get closer to God but I don’t want a mediator with an old rugged cross on their back. I would rather have an angel over a crucified Jew as a means to get closer to God.

And so, we live in the exact same time as the Colossians. Where you have all manner of mediators available to help us get close to God and Paul says that doesn’t cut it.

There is only one mediator between God and man, His name is Jesus. And if you have Jesus, you don’t need any more than that. Besides, Paul says, ‘you know all these people that have all these experiences in the other world and meet all these angels.’

He says, ‘they don’t know what they are talking about’. He says, ‘they’re making it up in their heads’. There was a TV talk show recently discussing mediums and spiritualism. Of course, there were sceptics and believers amongst the audience. They asked someone who exposes mediums and a real medium to give a reading and the audience had to decide who was the fake and who was the real one. The audience voted unanimously that the fake was the real medium and that the real medium was the fake. Making it up in their heads and taking people for a ride.

The only more that mysticism offers is more self-importance, ‘hey look at me I’m talking to the dead.’ By the way, most of us don’t need any more self-importance, we’ve got more than enough already.

In 2 Corinthians 12:1-4, Paul says, ‘ that nobody has ever lived that has had more visions and Revelations than he did.’

He was even taken up into the third heaven and saw paradise and he can’t even talk about it. But Paul says, ‘I will never boast about that, I will never try to impress you with how spiritual I am by telling you of the things I’ve seen.’ He said in 2 Corinthians 12:5 ‘What I’ll do is boast in my weakness.’

You don’t improve Christianity by mixing it with legalism, mysticism or spiritualism.

‘Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 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.’ Colossians 2:20-23

Asceticism has often been offered as a key to ‘self-control’, things like fasting and other forms of abstinence or beating yourself with a whip. But Paul says, ‘they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.’

We have to remember that real transformation comes through ‘renewing the mind’, not afflicting the body, Romans 12:1-2. Transformation comes when ‘those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.’ Romans 8:5.

Transformation comes when we ‘live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.’ Romans 8:13 Transformation is shown when we display the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, which includes self-control, Galatians 5:22-23.

Even today people walk around saying, ‘do not handle! Do not take! Do not Touch!’ It seems like a strange road to Christ’s likeness to refuse the blessings Christ has made and yet for centuries we have tried to measure spirituality that way. Don’t eat a certain food, don’t drink coffee, if you really want to serve God don’t marry. And we’ve come along for years and said, ‘I’m going to measure your spirituality by what you don’t do’.

How many Christians have grown up with an unspoken assumption in the church that Christianity isn’t supposed to be fun? It’s supposed to be grim and if you put up with it, long enough, you get to go to heaven and only then will you have a good time!

A preacher found the roads blocked one Sunday morning and was forced to skate on the river to get to church, which he did. When he arrived the elders were horrified that their preacher had skated on the Lord’s Day. After the service, they held a meeting where the preacher explained that it was either skate to church or not go at all. Finally, one elder asked, ‘Did you enjoy it?’ When the preacher answered, ‘No,’ the elders decided it was all right!

That’s the thinking of asceticism. If you can just deny yourself and keep yourself from enjoying life then you’ll be more spiritual. It’s easier to deny the body than give up the will. You can punish your body to the limit and still have your heart filled with all kinds of wickedness. All these man-made forms of religion have the appearance of wisdom.

Doesn’t it just seem more spiritual to keep all these rules and if you have all kinds of visions and if you deny all these things, doesn’t that seem good? Paul says, ‘they all have the same basic flaw.’

It promotes haughtiness, and man-made religion and encourages spiritual competition, it really does. You start judging each other by things God never talked about. ‘Well, I’ve never eaten raw meat.’ ‘Oh yeah, well let me tell you what I gave up.’ ‘Well, let me tell you about all the rules I keep.’

And we start judging each other on things God never demanded, required or forbid.

All this man-made religion stuff, really does is promote judging, ‘it looks good and sounds good’ but it doesn’t make the body more loving, it doesn’t make the body more unified. The only more it does is create more sin, it promotes haughtiness without promoting holiness. Paul says, ‘in fact, they have no value against self-indulgence.’

Man-made religion is morally impotent because an external approach can never change our internal bent. A yolk can change temporarily what I do, but it cannot change who I am.

There is only one path to real holiness, Christ in you as Paul said back in Colossians 1:27 ‘To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.’

Religion tries to work from the outside in, God works from the inside out through the gift of his indwelling spirit of Christ, Galatians 5:16.

Jesus said the Holy Spirit is a river of Living Water and when the Holy Spirit comes into your life. God from the inside out begins to do a work in you and clean you up, that religion from the outside in, can never do, 2 Corinthians 3:17.

The way to God to make people spiritual is slower and messier than the way of man. You take a brand-new Christian and you give him some rules and stuff to do and stuff never to do. God’s way is so much slower and messier, God’s way you walk by the power of the Holy Spirit. Now which way makes people more spiritual?

The really spiritual man isn’t the person who gave up this or saw that or knows Gabriel on first name terms.

The really spiritual person is the person who practices love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and gentleness and self-control, the fruit of the Spirit.

There is only one way the fruit of the Spirit will take over your life and that’s when the fruit of the Spirit takes over your life and you walk by Him.

Go To Colossians 3



"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."