God Made You Alive With Christ
Key Verse 2:10
“and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.”
Paul had been concerned about the Colossian Christian. He struggled for them in prayer, and wrote them a beautiful letter which later became an indispensible Scripture in determining what is Gospel truth and what is not. In the letter he extols Christ and His redeeming work. He also warns them against false teachings and heresies that had already infiltrated the early church and had led some astray from the True Gospel and the True faith. In the last passage we looked at, Paul urges the Colossians saying: “Just as you received Christ as Lord, continue to live in him.” (6) They needed to remain faithful to the Christian walk. He taught them how to do so. In this passage, his warning not to be deceived continues on a more detailed level. Once again he reminds them of the grace of God to them in and through Jesus Christ.
Read verse 8. “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.”
What is wrong with worldly philosophy or human tradition? Nothing. Nothing as long as the philosophy or tradition have their foundation in God and in his word. Any human philosophy or tradition whose foundation is of this world and not of God, is both hollow and deceptive. And there are too many for us to count and recount them. There are philosophies that come as close to being spiritual in appearance as can be. They appear spiritual on the outside but on the inside they are devilish in nature. There are religions that have the likeness of godliness. But they are ungodly. For generations men have invented and followed philosophies, religions and traditions whose roots are in human ideas and experiences. But in reality they had all proven to be hollow and deceptive. In Paul’s era, men found ways even to distort the Christian faith and to evolve it into something seemingly more practical, more appealing, more palatable, more exciting than the simple faith which Christ requires. They have excited many, and have lured many hearts away from the true Gospel and the true faith. Yet when we examine them with the measure of faith and of the word of God in the Scriptures, they are hollow. They are deceptive. There may be many good reasons to disqualify them as hollow and deceptive, but one reason realty stands above all else. We find it in Paul’s words in this very passage. In verse 23 Paul tells us that “they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” And this is the bottom line. Philosophies and traditions, knowledge and wisdom, as deep and good and nice sounding, whether they are secular or religious in nature, are still hollow and deceptive— because they have no power to change the inner man. They may have the power to influence and captivate and impress the man or woman— but they have no power whatsoever to touch and to change the human heart. And that is the marvelous teaching of this passage. Paul discredits the philosophies and traditions of the world, whether secular or religious. And once again he extols Jesus and what Jesus did. What Jesus did, was to penetrate our hearts. He had the power to pierce right to our hearts, destroy the sin that was rotting our hearts— that was killing our hearts and souls— and brought a change into our very hearts.
We need to look a little at what sort of philosophies or teachings or traditions that were finding their way into the church and its believers at the time— what are some of these heresies that captivated and enslaved some of the early Christians of the time, especially those of Colossae? Read verses 16-23. “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. 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. 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. Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on 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.”
It is not necessary to examine each and every one of these philosophies or false religions or traditions of the day. There were religious festivals, new moons, false humility. There were sightings of angels and the worship of angels, weeping virgins and floating saints. There were boastings in what some mystic Christians had experienced and seen probably in their dreams and when they were experiencing a spiritual high after hours of self torture. There is some of this today too. They were also concerned with dates and times, and foods and clothing. It was ridiculous how many false gospels there were that took the true Gospel and changed it into something worldly and earthy. Some people today who profess to be Christians are as superstitious as the Christians of Paul’s Colossian church. But they were being influenced by these things. It was incredible that they would be influenced by such ridiculous false teachings, when they had already put their faith in Christ Jesus and accepted what he had done for them on the cross. Why then were they being taken captive by such things? We do not know exactly because each person’s situation differs from another’s. But basically people are taken captive when they do not know the Bible well. And they are taken captive when they are not entirely trusting in the Lord. And they are taken captive when they are not fully content with what God had allotted them in life. When a man is not happy with his or her situation which God had given them, it is easy for them to be deceived by someone who promises instant happiness to them. Others are deceived when they compare their lives with some other Christian, and find themselves lacking what the other has. Then someone comes along and tells them that they are missing something, that what the Gospel they had accepted was not enough. And much more we do not need to get into at the moment.
But we know that the genuine Christians of the time were being judged and condemned by these very standards, and by those who would rob them of their simple Gospel faith and make them captives or slaves to a false Gospel. While they promised them a higher spirituality, a nobler religion, a grander tradition than their mundane Gentile upbringing, in reality they were bringing them death and a separation from the God who loved them and gave his One and Only Son so that they might live and not die. Yet these charlatans were spreading death into the hearts of young and growing Christians of the time. The same thing is happening today. I recently heard that a false prophet has been preaching the end of the world to come today, May the 21st, and has half the world on edge with this false teaching. There is no love involved here. There is no faith involved here. There is only fear and apprehension of what might come. And there is certainly a false representation of the very God who clearly told us that no one knows the day and the hour in which he would return. (Mark 13:32) And there are many such false teachings. Yet men in their ignorance would rather make excuses for a false prophet justifying why the false prophesy never came true. Men and women who do not know the Gospel well, who have been spiritually lazy and have thus allowed themselves to be taught and impressed upon by liars and swindlers, are everywhere. No time in history needs a genuine return to the true Gospel than our own times. And not just a return to the True Gospel, but to the full Gospel encompassing all that Jesus had taught us all along.
We have observed that most Christian confessors are satisfied to be saved from hell. But for many this marks the end of the road of their spiritual pilgrimage. They have no sense to continue their study of the word of God and to learn of all that Jesus taught. Jesus did not only come to teach us salvation by faith. He came to teach us to study his words, to pray earnestly, to give our lives to the work of God, to surrender our desires to him, to feed his sheep, to feed his lambs, to take care of his sheep, to be concerned with the spiritual lives of our neighbors be they those who live on our street, or those who live on a different continent. Jesus gave us salvation but he also gave us a life direction, a mission to walk through, to fulfill. he gave us a mission to be humble, and loving towards each other. He gave us a mission to enjoy and promote fellowship, to learn from each other and uphold each other. He came to teach us what is most important in our lives and it was not to survive— to only survive— and to work hard to put three meals on the table— in honesty and sincerity of heart. He came to shows us that life in him, is a full life, a life of struggle a life of sacrifice, a life of doing our best to expand the kingdom. What are Christians doing these days? They are going to church from Sunday to Sunday thinking that this is all that it means to be Christian. It does not! But they are not going to learn it unless they humble themselves and listen to what Jesus has been teaching us for the last 2000 years. So many are ignorant of what the Bible, what the Gospel is all about, that they are easily taken captive by such as the charlatan who is telling them to sell their possessions, and give him their money, and wait for their rapture to take place. Many are the false teachers. And that is what Paul was so worried about. He worried about the false teachers spreading lies. And he worried about lazy Christians who would not know the difference between a real Gospel and a false one. If we were to be challenged this very day, how many false philosophies and traditions and skewed Gospels would we find lurking in our own hearts! I wonder. One must not allow a question like this to go unanswered in one’s hearts. Like a sleeper cell, when it awakens, the destruction it wreaks is often irreparable.
So Paul once again gives them the Gospel and reminds them of what they had once come to believe and thus be set free from the world and the worldly principles they were subject to. They had believed and come to faith and freedom purely in Jesus and by faith in Jesus. What then has Jesus done for them? What was their faith like? What had they believed? Read verses 9-15. “ 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. 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. 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. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”
In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form means that the Incarnate Christ who suffered and died, who rose from the dead and returned to his glory is sufficient! He is and he has everything a man or woman need for life and salvation and beyond! In Christ Jesus, God Almighty has chosen to impart all the fullness of Deity upon him, and so to also manifest Himself so completely in and through Him. Therefore, nothing was hidden from us or withheld from us who have believed on and who have accepted the Lordship of Christ in our lives. It was Paul’s earnest desire that the Colossian Christians know this not only in mind but in heart and soul. We have been granted fullness in Christ. Whatever Christ has accomplished, his victory over sin and Satan is ours as well, because God has chosen to give us fullness in Christ. In Christ we have been circumcised and thus purified, putting off of the sinful nature and being clothed with a new life hidden in God and untouchable by anything of this world. We need no other purification than the one we already received in Christ and through him. Buried with him, and risen with him even now, neither principle nor law nor obligation that may have once applied to us, applies to us anymore. Jesus has fully disarmed every power that seemed to have any power over us. Now we enjoy (not abuse) the freedom that is in Christ. Paul said this in order to remind the Colossians that what they have in Christ is enough, sufficient, and complete, and therefore they need no longer look for anything more. We too must know this heart and soul. That we have all we need in Christ, and not look for more, because in Christ we have fullness. And fullness is enough!
How beautiful are these words Paul reminded the Colossians of. We have Christ, and in Christ the Christian has forgiveness, and cleansing, freedom and victory on every level we can imagine. We must be thankful, as he said in the last passage, overflowing with thankfulness. And we must also be vigilant to guard what we have in Christ, rather than lose it through our ignorance of the true Gospel and our arrogance and greed. A Christian who has tasted the grace of the Lord Jesus cannot look to anything else that this world offers. A Christian must be content and watchful. This was Paul’s message to the Colossians. Read verse 8 again. “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.”
Believers who had once believed the Gospel, who have received Jesus as Lord, have also become part of God’s family. They have come under God’s divine protection. But they also have a duty before God to maintain their spiritual life rooted and built up (2:7) in Jesus and his teachings. As Christians we are called to remain in Jesus and to walk in him. We who have confessed Christ as Lord have a divine responsibility to study his word, to exercise our faith and to produce fruit for his kingdom. Jesus himself had taught us in John 15:5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Surely every Christian understands that apart from Jesus he or she can do nothing, and therefore must remain in Jesus. It is a divine responsibility! And if we do not actively and consciously remain in Jesus, according to Paul, even believers can find themselves going astray from the true Gospel and the true faith. How? By allowing themselves to be polluted by false teachings and false gospels. For if believers do not listen to the warning and remain in Jesus, they find themselves the victims of false teachings which may grow in their hearts to replace the true teachings of the Gospel. And those who do so, are not entirely without blame.
Paul says to them and to us in verse 8, “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.” “See to it that no one takes you captive” marks the responsibility we have as believers to remain rooted and built up in Christ. “See to it” is the apostle’s warning that we who believe ought to make sure, make an active effort, take every step needed, to ensure that nothing and no one take us captive. In other words, being taken captive implies that the man or woman of faith were not vigilant enough, or not serious enough in digging roots and building up the life which the Lord would have us build in him and on him and his teaching. The responsibility is ours! Yet many Christians live as if there is no danger around them. They live as if they are beyond harm, and beyond falling for the devil’s schemes. Many live independent lives believing that they are able to lead themselves in all the pitfalls of Christian life. They resent authority. They scorn teaching and mentoring. They avoid wholesome fellowship with believers and intermingle with the world, all the while convincing themselves that every thought they have, and every feeling is inspired by God. So when their thoughts and feelings guide them in a direction contrary to the Gospel way, for the most part they really do not know it, since even their own interpretations of the Gospel are only the reflections of their own thoughts and emotions. Many today are led astray by their own thoughts and emotions, that even false gospels are not needed to lead them astray. They do it themselves, leading themselves astray by their own pride or self-righteousness.
Paul warns us in verse 8: “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.” While Paul was talking about the lure of the philosophies and humanistic ideas of the times, believers are also taken captive by their own sinful nature. They disregard the fact that their sinful nature is so powerful and so deceptive that it can easily lead them to ruin. A man who loves ease and comfort too much, and who does not fight against them with the proper godly weapons, can easily find himself taken captive by some spiritual philosophy which promotes a life of ease and comfort. A believer who has not severely dealt with the sinful desire of loving money and material things, can easily find himself taken captive by a Gospel of health and wealth. A believer who does not know the spiritual principle that resurrection can only come after suffering and death— that suffering in the Christian life is a prerequisite to spiritual maturity and greatness— may find himself taken captive by some good will— God doesn’t want you to suffer kind of Gospel. A man who does not know the essence of what real spiritual gifts from God are, may easily be taken captive by a Holy Ghost good time Gospel designed in hell. A man who have not solved the problem of God’s absolute sovereignty in his life, may easily find himself taken captive by the “you’ve got to solve your own problems” philosophy, or the false Gospel of “God helps those who help themselves”. It is alarming how many genuine believers actually think that this philosophy is Biblical. A man who has not yet surrendered his marriage to God in faith, can easily be taken captive by the “you’ve got to follow your own heart” Gospel. It is even more alarming how many genuine believers actually think this is a good sense philosophy straight from the Gospel pages. A man who has not yet solved the problem of idol worship in his heart, may easily be taken captive by the greatest lie of all time— the “God understands” lie which seems to ease the great guilt the Holy Spirit usually puts on that man’s heart to lead him to repentance. Yet he goes astray and shipwrecks his faith.
Paul warns us not to be taken captive. To be taken captive is to be enslaved by such things as philosophies, and traditions, and ideas and standards that this world idolizes and puts ahead of all that is soundly Scriptural and divinely wholesome. We have a responsibility to know what is truly of the True Gospel and what is simply a false Gospel so similar to the real Gospel that its hard to tell the difference. Yet we have a responsibility to know. God has given us tools by which to know. He has given us a Bible. He has given us the Holy Spirit. He has given us teachers. He has us every opportunity to humble ourselves and submit our hearts to his guidance. According to Paul, every believer has been granted fullness in Christ. It is this fullness in Christ that gives us the grace to remain in Christ now and always. “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.” (8-10) Amen.