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Overview of Earlier Colossians Bible Studies
Without going into too much detail, before this Bible study, which covers Colossians 2:8-10, we studied the background of the Letter to the Colossians and from Colossians 1:1 to Colossians 2:7 through ten different Bible studies. The study titled Background of Paul's Letter to the Church at Colossae taught us about the cultural, philosophical, and spiritual aspects of Asia minor that affected the Christians in Colossae and Laodicea. Identification helped us understand who Paul and Timothy were and how they identified with the Colossians and Laodiceans. This helped the Christians there understand and identify with them. The Bible study titled Thanksgiving in Colossians explained Paul’s prayer of thanksgiving to God for these Christians. Paul continued his prayer for these Christians in Colossians 1:9-12, as we studied in Glorious Might. In these verses, Paul asked God to give the believers the knowledge of His will with His spiritual wisdom and understanding so they would please Him by bearing fruit in good works. He asked, too, that God would strengthen them with power, steadfastness, and patience and that they joyously give thanks to Him.
In Colossians 1:13-20, Paul began telling about God, Jesus Christ, and how Jesus is enough for salvation. In Snatched and Delivered, he taught that the Father is the one who rescues believers and transfers them to Jesus for salvation.Superabundant Peace explained Paul’s Christology, who Jesus is. Paul proclaimed Jesus is the exact embodiment of the Godhead. In Attaining Hope, which covers Colossians 1:21-23, Paul used an if… then clause to explain who the Christians were and, if they would exercise the faith God gave them, Jesus would save them from their sins and death.
The Bible study titled God's Power and Gentle Persuasion, which covers Colossians 1:24-29, told us of Paul’s calling by Jesus and the stewardship he has to God. God’s call on his life was to proclaim the Gospel. This proclamation included telling people about the “mystery of God,” that Jesus Christ is for all people, not just the Israelites. Jesus died to cleanse the sins from each person who believes in Him and to give them salvation from death. God speaks to each person through the Gospel with gentle persuasion telling of His love for each person and the salvation Jesus offers.
Rejoicing During Trials is the Bible study teaching about Colossians 2:1-5. In this passage, Paul showed his pastoral care for the Christians of Colossae and Laodicea. He struggled for the church because of his love for them, which Jesus put in him. Paul encouraged these Christians to stand strong and unified in love so they would attain “to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, Jesus Christ Himself, in who are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2-3 [NASB]) He taught this so the false teachers could not trick the Christians with persuasive arguments. Paul explained this to them this so they would not succumb to the false teachers and their persuasive arguments. He told these believers he cared for them and did not want the Gnostics to delude them about their surety of salvation and hope of glory.
In Overflowing Gratefulness, which teaches from Colossians 2:6-7, Paul reminded the believers of their salvation by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, through faith in Him. Because they trusted in Jesus and received salvation, they could know they were rooted firmly in Him. As these Christians learned and grew, Paul encouraged and reminded them that Jesus saved them at a point in time and firmly rooted them in Himself. Though their salvation happened in the past, the Christians were to continue being rooted in Christ, built up, and established in their faith. These present continuous verbs show growth as a Christian comes from our actively staying in a close relationship with God. Salvation happens at a point in time, but growth and sanctification should be the continuous aim of each person. It should compel him or her to learn, follow, and be in a closer relationship with Jesus.
Empty Philosophy and Christ
Paul returned to what he had alluded to in Colossians 1:23 and the “mystery” of God in Colossians 1:26. God had called him to preach about these. In Chapter 2:8-10, Paul taught in depth about the philosophical thoughts the Christians of Colossae and Laodicea faced. He explained again who Christ is and how His sacrifice for salvation is sufficient. For Paul, repeating himself several times was not a difficulty. He wanted to make sure these false teachers did not take the Christians captive with their deceit.
“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8 [NASB])
Paul described the false teaching in four ways. He said this teaching was philosophical, deceiving, manmade, and according to elementary principles. When we do a word study of this verse, we learn Paul meant, “Discern what is empty philosophy and deception and do not let them captivate and capture you. Do not let these empty philosophies lead you away from the truth so you become a slave to them.” He wanted the Christians of Colossae and Laodicea to understand that what they heard from these false teachers was empty. It had no truth in it so they should not let these false teachers deceive them.
This philosophy taught ideas contrary to the Gospel Epaphras taught the churches in Colossae and Laodicea. The word “philosophy” Paul used in this verse comes from the Greek word philosophia. Philosophia is a secular philosophy or thought as compared to the wisdom of God. It serves to elevate human wisdom over God’s wisdom. This teaching, Paul said, was philosophical, from man’s ideations.
Paul continued about this false teaching by saying, it was “empty deception.” In the Greek, these two words mean foolish pretension without truth, and made with the motivation to deceive. These false teachers sought to trick people and gain followers by teaching them they must do more to be spiritual.
Paul added, this false teaching is “according to the tradition of men.” The traditions of men mean generations of people pass the teaching down to the following generations. Divine teaching derives its starting point from God. In an oral society, as in New Testament times, a father or grandfather taught the sons and so the false teaching carried from one generation to the next. The form of Gnosticism during the time of this letter was in its earliest stages. Gnostics continued to teach it from then, and it still deceives people today. Paul taught this false teaching of the Gnostics came from the minds and logic of humanity, not from God. This teaching came from the tradition of men.
Lastly, Paul said these false teachings are “according to the elementary principles of the world.” The word phrase “elementary principles” comes from the Greek word stoicheion. It comes from the philosophy structure of first principles upon which other points build. For the Gnostics, these elementary principles, these thoughts, dealt with heavenly bodies. It served to aid people in attaining the highest principle of life, the highest spiritual stature. Remember, for them anything material was bad and anything heavenly or spiritual was good. Because of that, since Jesus lived in bodily form, He could not be God to them. This meant they aimed to rise in philosophical thought, so they would become a heavenly being, like an angel. This goal was in their minds. To them, no human could be God. They imagined they could get as close as possible to that level by being angels or other heavenly beings. Their minds could conceive of nothing higher than this level to get near in stature to the Godhead.
Each of these four things showed the false teachings in that region directly opposed the Gospel. They taught philosophical, deceiving, manmade, and elementary principles of the world. The instigator of these philosophical thoughts was Satan. As he has always done, he twists the truth of the Gospel to trick people into considering salvation needs more than Jesus provides. Satan wants people to imagine Jesus is not able to save people. This would cause unbelief in Jesus and fewer people in heaven. Yet, repeatedly, the Bible teaches Jesus paid the sacrifice for all people to receive salvation from their sins and from eternal death, eternal separation from God. Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself for the sins of humankind occurred because of God’s love. Satan’s trickery comes from his desire to keep people from receiving eternal love from God. The difference between these two motives is Satan wants to gain and keep people from heaven. God wants people to be saved. Satan is self-focused. God’s love makes Him people-focused.
Who Jesus Christ is, Reiterated
“For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority.” (Colossians 2:9-10 [NASB])
Paul wrote in Colossians 1:15-20 about Jesus being fully divine, though living as a man on earth. He said Jesus Christ created all things, was preeminent before all things, holds all things together, is the head of the Church, is the firstborn from the dead, has all the fullness of deity dwelling in Him, and reconciles all things to Himself through the blood of His cross. In Colossians 2:9-10, Paul reiterated, “In Him (Christ) all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form.” Jesus is completely God. He has divine fullness in Him. In and through Jesus Christ, the superabundance of the Godhead dwells and emanates because He is fully divine, fully God, though He lived in bodily form while on earth.
Paul continued in verse ten by saying, “And in Him you have been made complete.” Completion is not being born with ten fingers and toes. This “completion” is a present perfect verb that began working in the past and continues into the present and future. This verb is in the indicative form; it is factual. Paul meant, “You can know truly, because Jesus Christ is fully divine and is your Savior, you will be brought to completion.” This completion Paul wrote comes by Christ making the believer fully perfect upon that his or her entrance into heaven. The word “complete” comes from pleroo and has the same root word as the word “fullness” (pleroma) that tells of Jesus Christ’s being fully divine. Christ is complete, perfect, fully divine. He gives of His fullness to make each Christian complete, perfect. Jesus makes each believer totally complete, perfect, upon the believer’s entrance to heaven. The life of the Christian from the point of belief and salvation through entrance into heaven shows the continuousness of the verb “have been made complete.” What Jesus begins in each person from when he or she trusted in Him for salvation, that person continues with His grace, strength, etc. given through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit while on earth so that that he or she grows to be more like Jesus Christ each day. Jesus then completes that being made perfect upon entrance to heaven. In Jesus Christ alone, Paul said, the Colossian and Laodicean Christians could know perfection, completion because of their salvation by Jesus Christ. They did not need to add any other philosophy or teaching to get the salvation and perfection Jesus Christ gives. Jesus Christ is fully divine and gives of His fullness to everyone who trusts in Him for salvation from sin and death. Believers in Him “have been made complete.”
Paul said in Colossians 1:16, “By Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things have been created through Him and for Him.” [NASB] He reiterated in Colossians 2:10, because of Jesus’ authority and power, He is head over all rule and authority. Nothing and no one has authority or rule over Jesus Christ since He created them, as Paul said in Colossians 1:16. The word “rule” comes from the Greek word arche, which means principality. Paul used this word to include angels and demons. Jesus, the fullness of God, is the head over them like He is the head of the Church. He exercised His headship over all authorities, too. The word “authorities” comes from the Greek word exousia, which means power and authority. These powers ad authorities include the physical, spiritual, and moral power and authority. As fully divine and as Creator preeminent before all things, Jesus Christ is the head of all things, including spiritual and natural beings who rule and have authority over parts of His creation. Jesus Christ rules and reigns over all things.
Because of this, Jesus is greater than Satan, sin, and death. He gives a sufficient salvation to each person who believes in Him as the Messiah sent from heaven. Paul, with this reiteration, said Jesus provides complete, full, perfect salvation and brings believers to perfection, completion, and fullness because He is fully God. No other sacrifice is necessary for salvation. Nothing more is required for salvation to occur for any person who wants to be saved. No one can add to belief in Jesus to make it more perfect. The idea the Gnostics had of becoming more perfect is a deception. A person cannot become more perfect than what Jesus gives from His fullness, His superabundance. You cannot perfect perfection. Each Christian is being made complete. It started when they first believed in Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah. Jesus will complete it when they enter heaven. Paul taught the churches in Colossae and Laodicea that all Christians can have freedom because of Christ. John said it this way in John 8:36, “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” [NASB]
Thoughts to Consider
People often want to feel better or greater than others. To do this, they devise ideas to teach and trick people into feeling smaller so they themselves feel more powerful and knowledgeable. Sometimes these ideas and deceptions cause people to question their faith and consider adding something more to make it salvation more effective. Paul told the Christians of Colossae and Laodicea the false teachings they heard were philosophies based on human reasoning. They were empty and deceptive. These teachings were “nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9 [NASB]) They came from the traditions or men. In addition, these false teachings were according to the elementary principles of the world, like astrology or Gnosticism. They were fanciful human beliefs to make those teachers feel secure. Instead, their sole purpose was deception.
The Lord knows people try to plan their every step, but they cannot gain salvation without Christ. Psalm 94:11 speaks of this. It says, “The LORD knows the thoughts of man, that they are a mere breath.” Instead of thoughts that are only a mere breath, which passes after its exhalation, Paul wrote to the Colossian and Laodicean Christians to remind them Jesus Christ is the fullness of Deity. Jesus never passes away like people, their thoughts, and their philosophies. He will perfect His followers, when he or she enters heaven. Jesus gives from His fullness, from His superabundance, so people may receive perfection.
Paul said Jesus Christ is above all things and the Creator of all things. He is the ruler over all rule and authority. Psalms 33:10 speaks of this, “The LORD nullifies the counsel of the nations; He frustrates the plans of the peoples.” God has supremacy. His plans and power are greater than anything people can imagine. Nothing can thwart Him.
Paul said the church can stay free from false teachings by remembering who Jesus is. The Church, Christians, can stay free from these and all false teachings by accepting the fullness Jesus Christ gives from Himself. The salvation He gives is enough to save each person and bring them to fullness, perfection. No one ever needs to add anything to make salvation perfect. Nothing mankind plans lasts forever or has the fullness of power from Deity. The LORD is almighty and all-knowing. He directs the steps of people. (Proverbs 16:9) Jesus gives from His superabundant perfection to make each believer perfect. Perfection cannot be perfected. Neither people, principalities, rulers, or authorities can make more perfect what God through Jesus Christ provides and perfects.
- Are there steps or processes you required of yourself and/or others to make sure you get to heaven when you die? If so, is that working for you? Is it keeping other people from knowing Jesus Christ as their Savior?
- Do you have the peace of assurance in God because of knowing the perfection through salvation He gives is enough to save and keep you? Isaiah spoke about this peace when he said, “You (LORD) will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You.” (Isaiah 26:3 [NASB])
- What keeps you from accepting and acting on the faith God gives you to believe in Jesus as His Son?
- What keeps you from teaching the truth that Jesus’ sacrifice for sins is enough to make each person complete and perfect in Him?
For the next Bible study, re-read Colossians 2. Specifically, look at Colossians 2:11-15.
“Having been buried with Him in baptism, you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:12 [NASB])
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