Don’t Get Cheated

Posted: May 19, 2008 in Colossians

Have you ever flipped around on TV, catch a program talking about the Lord Jesus & watched it only to get disappointed? Feels like you’ve been cheated out of something in the end…

That’s what had happened with the Colossian church. They had started out great in the faith having received the gospel from Epaphras, but over time people came in with all sorts of false ideas about legalism & false ideas about being “super-spiritual” & they ended up cheating the Colossian church out of the joy of simply following the Lord in truth.

The solution? Get the church’s focus off of the heretics & back on to Jesus. Thus far in this epistle, Paul’s been doing just that by painting a picture of Christ so big that the church just can’t ignore it. After telling the church how he’d been praying for them, he showed them what Christ had saved them from (the power of darkness) – showed what Christ had saved them for (redemption/forgiveness) – showed them Who Christ is (image of the invisible God & 1st born over creation as Creator) – showed them what Christ did (reconciled us to Himself)… Incredible doctrine so far!

Left off in Chapter 1 with Paul transitioning to his own calling as a minister of the gospel. With all the correction he was bringing to the church, he didn’t want to do it out of nowhere, but took the time to establish a relationship with them telling the church of his suffering for them – his simple call to stewardship of the gospel – and his responsibility to warn & teach every man in all wisdom…it was what God called him (and every minister) to strive & labor for through the power of the Holy Spirit.

So with all that in mind, Paul is going to take the time to show the church how they’ve been swindled out of the truth of the simple gospel of Christ. We all have a tendency to try to “fill in the gaps” in various areas of our Christianity that we don’t understand – and that’s good as long as we’re filling in the gaps from the right source. The problem comes in when we stop looking to Jesus FOR those answers.

Colossians 2:1-10 (NKJV)
1 For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh,

A. Possibly proof Paul hadn’t been to Colosse…

B. What kind of conflict is Paul referring to? A mental conflict in which he desired to see the church succeed. conflict” = ἀγών (agony) = struggle/fight/contention… It hurt Paul to see this church engaged in such heresy…

C. Letter supposed to go to Laodicea as well. [MAP] Possible that they had encounted the same heresy as Colosse…

a. Heresy is a lot like weeds: pops up often – hard to get rid of – easily spread. That’s why it’s so important to (1) address it when it does arise, and (2) keep focused on Jesus! The more we keep our eyes on Christ, the less distracted we’ll be.

2 that their [those who hadn’t met Paul] hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ,

A. How are their hearts encouraged? By being bonded hearts… (knit together in love). encouraged” = παρακαλέω (paraclete) = “call alongside/comfort”. Isn’t this a wonderful thought? As we’re called out of the world by Christ (ekklesia = the church), we’re called to come alongside each other & as we walk together, we comfort & encourage one another in agape love. We’re called into 1 body, so it only makes sense that we would be unified & mutually encouraged.

a. This is something that Paul struggled to see – he desperately wanted to see the encouragement & unity of the church! It’s striking to realize how many times throughout his epistles that Paul called for unity. [Rom 14, 1Cor 1.3.12, Gal 3, Eph 4, Phil 4 & now] Obviously the early church had just as much of difficulty with this as we do.

b. Unity is not optional for us…

B. Paul also wanted the church to be rich! (Never thought I could say that & be Biblical at the same time! J) Obviously not talking about money but the “full assurance of the understanding”… IOW, as the church grows in their unity & encouragement with one another – as they continue walking with Christ – that their understanding of doctrine would grow & we would be assured that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing (Eph 1:3) – that we would have assurance of the character of God – that we would be rich in Him!

C. What do we want to understand? The “mystery of God” – remember our definition of a Biblical mystery from 1:26, “…hidden from ages…but now has been revealed to his saints.” [] How does this apply to God? Obviously generations past knew of God (Adam, Noah, Abraham, etc.)…what’s new? The incarnation of Jesus Christ! God’s character had always been revealed through the prophets & Scriptures, but His person was always concealed. (No man shall see me & live…Exo 33:20) But in the Lord Jesus, His very person was revealed to us! John 1:14, 18 (14) And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. … (18) No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. []

a. both of the Father and of Christ”: Simply saying the Father & Christ are both fully God. Paul’s already demonstrated the deity of Christ in Ch 1 – he’s not going to let go of this point. (And neither should we!)

b. Many English translations don’t have this. Phrase isn’t found in the oldest manuscripts; but it IS found in the majority of manuscripts. Does this add/take away from Paul’s point? Part of the mystery of Christ is His union within the Trinity & specifically the Father. He is of one essence & one substance with Him. This goes dramatically against the grain of gnostic thinking!

3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

A. All knowledge is hidden in Christ: That’s a pretty high statement. Is Paul saying, “If your 1984 Chevy S-10 Blazer breaks down (which mine did, often!), turn to the book of 1 Automotives for the answer.”? Of course not. J But everything we need to know about God – everything we need to know about life – everything we need to know about truth is all found in Christ Jesus!

a. It amazes me when people look to movies, TV programs, & popular books (even Christian ones) to tell them something new about God. The best any book can do is simply point us back to Jesus Christ – ALL the treasures of the knowledge of God are found in Him.

B. All wisdom is hidden in Christ: What’s the difference between knowledge & wisdom? Knowledge is the accumulation of fact; wisdom is the application of it. Want to know how to apply the truth of Scripture – have a need for wisdom in a certain situation? Look to Christ… James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. []

C. Why are they hidden? These are treasures stored away for us – available to every believer to discover in Christ. Don’t miss the importance of this fact: knowledge isn’t available to only certain believers; knowledge & wisdom are hidden in Christ & thus available to every believer. The gnostics didn’t have any sort of hidden key that was only available through them – and neither does any pastor or teacher have any different access to God than any other believer in Christ.

a. We have a tendency to set up walls in the places where God obliterated them. The OT model of a priestly class set apart from the rest of Israel was meant to picture the difference between believers born again into the family of God & the world… The NT tells us specifically that we’re ALL holy priests – a royal priesthood of believers (1 Pet 2:5-9). We were never supposed to set up a class system among ourselves in Christ! Pastors may have a different vocational ministry than other believers, but we’re all called to minister in whatever vocation God has given us…

4 Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words.

A. Paul had a reason for laying this foundation: people were trying to deceive the church. Note it wasn’t that people were merely wrong; mistakes can be corrected (re: Peter in Antioch – Gal 1). These people were intentionally trying to mislead the church through falsehood & lies.

B. People still try to deceive the church! They come knocking on your door & intentionally try to change the way you understand biblical doctrine & twist it to their own cultic interpretation of it. They can be really persuasive & when they’re standing there in front of you, it can make sense. But just because an argument is persuasive doesn’t mean that it’s true.

i. When in doubt, fall back on Jesus (that’s Paul’s whole point!) – Jesus IS the truth (John 14:6) & we can trust Him & His word…

5 For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.

A. Why was Paul rejoicing in their good order? Understand “order” is a military term that carried the idea of having discipline in the ranks – like a military parade where every soldier is in line. The Colossians were definitely under attack by the various heresies, but they hadn’t completely broken rank yet… Thus Paul rejoiced over their “steadfastness” of faith…

B. Note you can’t have faith in just anything. We must have faith “in Christ

6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,

A. What does it mean to have “received Christ Jesus the Lord”? Some scholars take this to mean the doctrine of Christ, but I think the NIV nails it here. “…as you received Christ Jesus AS Lord…” Doctrine is surely part of it here, but Paul’s talking about our salvation! As believers, we have received Christ Jesus as our Lord & Savior – it’s unthinkable to consider abandoning Him for the lies of those who would deceive us.

B. I love the fact that Paul spells out Jesus’ full title/function here! He is Christ – the fully incarnate Anointed Son of God who paid the price for sin that we could never pay… [] He is Lord – not just the Son of God but God the Son who is fully God & fully King…victorious over death & hell through the Cross & Resurrection… []

a. Have you received Him? That’s what this whole passage hinges on! You can’t search out wisdom & knowledge in Him if you’re not IN Him. We must receive Christ! What’s the result of receiving Him? We’re saved! John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: []

C. After we receive Him, then what? Walk in Him! Note Paul doesn’t say walk WITH Him (though that’s appropriate); here the emphasis is walking IN Christ. We walk in His knowledge – walk in His wisdom – walk in His power – walk in His love – walk in HIM! J

7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.

A. Interesting mixing of metaphors here. (Paul would’ve driven English teachers crazy! J) We walk as a person in Christ, we’re rooted like a tree in Christ, and we’re built like a building in Christ. All very different, but all very true. When we’re walking in Christ, we don’t want to get tossed to & fro by every wind of doctrine (Eph 4:14) – we need a solid foundation & root system. (Ps 1:3, tree planted by the rivers of water) [] In addition, once we’re rooted in Christ we need to grow in Christ – thus we are built up by Him through His word.

a. Described by being “established in the faith”. Established for what? Everything! J 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (16) All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, (17) that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. [] Is there any situation in life you’d prefer to be unequipped/unprepared for? Of course not – that’s what doctrine (teaching) is so important. The more we grow in our knowledge of Christ & our relationship in Christ, the more prepared we are to face the things the world throws at us every day.

B. As we’re rooted, built up, and established through teaching – Paul tells us to be grateful. How do we abound in thanksgiving in relation to doctrine/teaching? It’s virtually impossible to learn more about our salvation in Christ & NOT be grateful! []

a. (Courson) “Truly, the Church is an enigma. We’re the only people in the world who get together regularly to acknowledge that we’re a bunch of worms, wretches and sinners — all the while feeling wonderful about it.”

C. This is all what we want to have happen. What we DON’T want is what Paul addresses next…

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.

A. We can be cheated! To “cheat” goes back to the military analogy. The word literally means “to plunder” or “to carry off as booty.” Paul’s warning the church against becoming the victory spoil of false teachers…

a. Keep in mind this is exactly what happens when nominal Christians get picked off by various cults…

B. What were they cheated by? Philosophy. Is Paul referring to all philosophy in general? Not really…the term simply means “love of wisdom” & we can certainly have a love for the wisdom of God. Paul was well acquainted with the philosophy of his day & used it as a jumping-off point into the gospel in Athens (Acts 17:28). Yet Paul draws a distinction here between the philosophy that would uphold biblical principles & exalt God, and the philosophy that would be in opposition to God…and there is MUCH of the latter! (Direct hit on the gnostics!) Described as:

a. Empty deceit”: Simply because someone’s ideas sound lofty doesn’t mean that they are true. [ridiculed by college prof.] Philosophy or ideas that take us away from Christ are ultimately deceitful…

b. Tradition of men”: Tradition doesn’t sound too bad until we understand that Paul is pitting it against revelation. Which is better to build our lives upon: the tradition of men, or the revelation of God in Jesus Christ?

c. Basic principles of the world”: The term “basic principles” could refer to elementary things (like the alphabet)…thus Paul might be saying empty philosophy at its core is nothing more than the glorifying of the things of the world. [] It could also refer to supernatural powers…thus Paul might linking the empty deceitful traditions of men with demonic influence (and that’s not too hard to see!).

C. Paul’s point? This kind of man-centered philosophy is all opposed to Christ! The legalism of the Judaizers & the spiritualism of the Gnostics had one major thing in common: they were works-based cults that denied the sufficiency of the Lord Jesus. Whether they worked their bodies or their minds, both were proclamations that “Jesus isn’t enough; you really need ___ to be complete.” That’s heresy!

a. It’s still heresy today! All sorts of people try to sell all sorts of religions and different forms of “Christianity” that tell us “Jesus isn’t enough.” If Jesus isn’t enough, NOTHING is. We have absolutely nothing to offer God because we are utterly & thoroughly tainted by our sin…and without Jesus Christ saving us, we have no hope whatsoever. [] But because Jesus DID die & rise again, He is the hope of glory (Col 1:27).

b. Paul’s drawing a direct contrast here. Christ is whom all the treasures of knowledge & wisdom are hidden (vs 3); not the world. When we look to the world to provide that which only comes through Christ, we’re cheating ourselves…we’re allowing ourselves to be plundered by the enemy. From day 1, Satan has always offered a cheap substitute of what only God can offer…and as Adam learned, Satan’s version is a lie.

9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;

A. Review from Ch 1 – Colossians 1:19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, [] The fullness = Jesus is fully God. Godhead” speaking literally of the divine essence… Basically saying there’s nothing that exists about God that Jesus doesn’t embody.

B. Quick review from last week: why couldn’t Jesus be more than a man but less than fully God? It makes salvation impossible. Only God can perfectly atone for sin & give us His righteousness, and only as a man could He offer Himself as both our High Priest and the perfect sacrifice. Anything less than Jesus being fully God & fully man makes our faith utterly worthless.

a. Here’s the good news: (1) We know that Jesus is a literal human in the flesh because He literally died on the Cross (certified by the Romans)… (2) We know that Jesus is literally God because He literally rose from the grave – this was God’s declaration to the world of the fact…

10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.

A. IOW, since the fullness of the Godhead rests in Jesus & we walk in Jesus, what more do we need other than Jesus? We are complete in Him! complete” similar root to “fullness” (vs. 9) – our fullness comes from Christ’s fullness. (Walvoord & Zuck) “This, of course, does not mean believers become God but simply share in Him. They have or share in the goodness of the nature which He is.

B. He is over everything: principality, power…everything.

Conclusion:

Is there something that you need in life that you’ve been looking to the world to provide? You’ll never find satisfaction through Donald Trump; it only comes from being satisfied in Christ. You’ll never find spirituality through Oprah; it only comes from being filled with the Holy Spirit. The tragic thing for many Christians is that we’ll run everywhere else for the answers, and it’s only when everything else inevitably fails that we turn back to our Savior. The Lord Jesus is not a last resort for believers; He’s the ONLY resort. We are complete in Him – what more could we possibly want or desire?

If you haven’t received Jesus as your Lord – I can guarantee there’s something you desperately need that you’ll NEVER find in the world: forgiveness. How do I know you need it? Because you’re human. Like the rest of us, you’ve lied, cheated, stolen, lusted, hated, or somehow generally ignored God altogether at some point (if not every single day). You’ve broken God’s law & have to face Him on judgment day. What can the world possibly offer you to fall back on? Everyone else is just as sinful as you…we’re all in the same boat! The good news is that Jesus already has done something on your behalf when He went to the cross…

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