Colossians 2:9-10, “For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power”
Our Text – Colossians 2:8-15
Our Theme – Christ is all the believer needs
False teachings had become so general in the church at Colossae that Paul devoted much of the letter to the sufficiency of Christ and Christ alone. What a contrast from the emptiness of human tradition and the fullness that is found in Jesus Christ? Renewal comes from our victory in Jesus Christ. This victory brings freedom from the Law and from outward works that is actually a form of self-righteousness. This church like the present church is to be about the business of putting off the old humanity and putting on the new life in Jesus Christ. Our basis for obedience is our union in the Lord, in His death, and in His life. The old man is to die and the new life is in Jesus Christ. Christians should realize that the world is watching and if we are not living Christ-centered lives we can hurt the cause of the gospel and of Christ. Our words, behavior, and our service should speak volumes of the grace of Christ that is in us. Paul dedicates an enormous amount of his letter to the Colossians concerning how Christians are to live; from the inner life in Christ to the outer life in Christ.
Our Complete Savior (Colossians 2:8-10)
Jesus warned us, that soon after a person becomes born again and one of His sheep, religious wolves will begin to attack. Matthew 7:15 puts it this way, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves”. Our text today deals with the terrible danger of being spiritually deceived. We live in an age that is well supplied with impersonators and con artists. Webster defines the word deceive as to cause to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid, to practice deceit or to give a false impression. Have you ever been deceived by a smooth talking person? People don’t like to be fooled but it happens way to often in today’s world. People fall for crooked schemes that cost them money, endanger their health, and waste their valuable time. It happens to elderly people when they trust the friendly and persuasive person who comes to their door selling a too-good-to-be-true product. It happens when a person tells a person they have won a sweepstakes but needs their bank account number so their winnings can be deposited.
Or consider the story of a farmer whose horses kept slobbering over everything. He saw an advertisement in a farm magazine offering a cure for this for a fee of $20. He scraped together the money and wrote asking for the secret. In return he received a very thin envelope containing a single sheet of paper, on which were written the words, “Teach your horses to spit.” We may laugh at this simple-minded deceit, but many people today are being spiritually deceived, which isn’t anything to laugh about.
Such deceptions also occur in our churches throughout the world. It happens when people move away from God’s principles of truth and integrity. Satan, who is called an angel of light, is the master of deceitfulness, and will use false teachers including pastors who have distorted the truth of God’s precious Word. We are deceived by their use of biblical terminology, by their deceitful presentations that make guarantees far beyond what God has clearly promised in His Word. My friend, this isn’t a new concept because the apostle Paul warned us about this kind of deception in Colossians 2:8, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ”.
To protect ourselves from false teaching we are cautioned in God’s Word about people in this world who come up with deceptive ventures. The writer of Proverbs told us not to believe everything we hear when we buy or sell something (Proverbs 20:12). He told us to seek knowledge, understanding, and good counsel in everything we do, and because we cannot begin to see as the Lord sees, we should pray for His wisdom in the decisions we must make. God sees through the lies of deception in a way that we never could and He will steer us clear of good-sounding values, which are corrupt.
A British magazine printed an article some time ago entitled “Create Your Own Personal Religion.” The author wrote, “I just cannot understand how people can devote themselves to a single religion and expect it to answer all their prayers and cater to all their needs. I do not doubt that Jesus was the Son of God, but I think there were also many other sons-and daughters-of God.” She concluded, “I’ve become a sort of theological magpie, taking bits from different religions which happen to suit my needs.” My friend, this is happening today in our churches throughout the world. We are taking bits from different religions so it will suit our own needs or we are adding to or taking away from what God’s Word really says. A false teacher knows what people want and appeals to their desires (2 Peter 2). He doesn’t wear a lapel pin to warn of his lies, but he comes disguised as a representative of the truth. He claims he will enrich lives, but those who follow him often learn at a high cost that they have been deceived.
In order to protect ourselves from these individuals we must be rooted and built up in Jesus Christ, resolutely established in the faith, and firmly grounded in the Word of God. Jesus Christ is a teacher we can trust completely. He offers us the gift of eternal life because He truly loves us. Accepting His gift of salvation is the first step in protecting ourselves from the deceptive gifts that false teachers offer. In view of the present danger there may be no passage in the Bible that is more relevant to our own time than this second chapter of Colossians. Whether we’re listening to a Sunday school teacher, preacher, evangelist or even a believer in Christ, we must be very vigilant concerning what is being said, and the only way to see if it is true is digging into God’s Word. The Bible has the answers to our every need and especially our problems. Thus, God’s Word exhorts each believer in Christ to:
(1) Study the Scriptures (1 Peter 2:2),
(2) Test what we hear (1 John 4:1), and
(3) Grow in the faith (2 Peter 1:5-9).
His Complete Doctrine
Colossians 2:8, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” – “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.”
There is much packed into this short verse. The apostle obviously sees these Colossian Christians, whom he has commended and encouraged up to this point in the letter, as facing a great danger of being taken captive by false teaching. Actually the word is “kidnapped.” They are in danger of being kidnapped by error. To bring this up to date, we would say they were in danger of being taken hostage! That is something we hear about in our day. In several parts of the world, ordinary American tourists may suddenly find themselves taken hostage and denied their rightful liberties as Americans. Paul sees a like danger facing Christians who are taken captive by wrong philosophy, wrong teaching, and false doctrine. Such can deprive believers of their Christian liberty and hold them hostage for years, if not for the rest of their entire lives.
The weapon that is used to do this is philosophy. That sounds rather harmless. After all, philosophy means simply “the love of wisdom.” What could be wrong with loving wisdom? We are all much indebted to philosophers of the past, to Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, and others, for their keen insights into the nature of reality and life. The love of wisdom is a good thing in many cases. There are good and bad philosophies, but what the apostle has in mind is the danger the Colossians are facing of being seduced by bad philosophy. What was wrong with the philosophy that endangered them? First, the apostle tells us it was “hollow” empty teaching that had no real content or actual basis in truth. That is true in every age. Many of the philosophies we hear of today when compared with the reality of human existence are far off the mark. They are without content and are sheer illusion.
Another characteristic is that they can “deceive” many. They are deceitful and misleading. They may sound good, they may be followed widely, but they are false detours, leading many astray. When you examine them closely you discover they are empty and manipulative. The apostle Paul goes on to point out three areas that are always characteristic of wrong philosophy. They were true of the particular philosophy that was endangering the Colossians and they are equally true of false doctrine in any age or generation. Thus, we are to watch out for the following philosophies which are empty and deceptive:
(1) They depend on “human tradition”
They arise out of the thinking of men, find a foothold in society, and then are passed along from generation to generation so as to appear popular and widely supported. Hardly anyone dares question them because everybody believes them. One obvious example today is the theory of evolution. Evolution is now being widely challenged on a scientific level. Many evolutionists are beginning to question Darwin’s view of evolution. However, evolution is only a philosophy and not a fact. Today it is being challenged by the counter-philosophy of creation, which is not a religious view at all, but a scientifically supported view that offers another explanation of the universe and all material things in it. The theory of evolution rests upon human tradition and derives its longevity from widespread popular support. That is why it is difficult to answer.
(2) They are “hollow and deceptive philosophy”
They depend on “the basic principles of this world.” The word for “principles” here or, as it is sometimes translated, “elements,” literally means “things in a row,” a series of things. The word became associated with the alphabet because letters in an alphabet are always lined up in a row. One learns a language by first learning the ABC’s. Thus, some scholars feel that this word represents something rudimentary, simple and elementary or basic principles such as the physical elements of the world, the stars and planets, and the spirit beings that pagans believed controlled the heavenly bodies. Are these rudimentary, fundamental or elementary principles of life? These philosophies that Paul describes fit the description of what Paul calls in 2 Timothy “doctrines of demons.”
They are elementary, rudimentary truths, perpetuated by demonic powers among human beings, which have the effect of returning people to childish actions and childish views of life. Have you ever noticed how easily grownups can begin to act like children? Such actions offend us and we say, favorably, “Oh, don’t be so childish.” Until, of course, we behave the same way. Then we justify our behavior on some other basis. See what happens, for instance, when you set a plate of cake in the midst of a group of children? They all grab for the biggest piece. However, take a special stock option and make it available to a group of businessmen, and they too will grab for the biggest piece. They act like children. Children love to show off. They are forever strutting about, seeking to get your attention and telling you of their past accomplishments. They want you to be aware of them.
Have you heard grownups talk that way? Of course you have. It is rudimentary, elementary, childish conduct. Children love to dominate others, to order them around and tell them what to do. Grownups love to do the same thing. Children easily squabble and fight among themselves. But watch a crowd of people arguing over some difference of opinion: the arms race, higher wages, or whatever; note how easily it degenerates into a squalid squabble! All of this is a representation of what the apostle is describing: it is childish behavior.
Nations and governments often act this way. International affairs are conducted on this basis. When we are removed from it we can see how childish and foolish it is. The apostle reveals that this behavior is inspired by “world rulers of this present darkness, wicked spirits in high places.” There is no other explanation for the evil of humanity that is in accordance with reality. Yet, that explanation is often regarded as ridiculous and laughable. Christians, and others who hold it, are often intimidated and don’t want to admit that they believe in such things as “wicked spirits in high places.” But everywhere in the Bible, from the lips of Jesus himself and from the pen of the apostles, this is the clear teaching of the Bible. The reason why some of the great schools and universities, which started out Christian, soon lost their Christian emphasis, is because people began to give heed to the traditions of men, based upon basic, rudimentary principles of life, that are constantly fed into the stream of human thinking from demonic beings who control the minds of men. That is the biblical position.
(3) They are “not according to Christ”
False teaching always focuses on demoting Jesus, refusing to recognize the full revelation of his Being as it is set out in the Scriptures. Every cult attacks the Person and the work of Jesus Christ. They claim that he was nothing but a very good man, a model man, perhaps, although he lacked the insights into life and reality that are ours through modern knowledge. Thus, they put him down and demote him. Or, going to the opposite extreme, they regard Jesus as a supernatural being, one among several Divine Masters who come periodically into human affairs to teach us wonderful truths that we would never know otherwise, and which, if followed, will release within us great divine powers. This is the teaching of the New Age movement that we are being exposed to today. However, these cults never view Jesus as God himself and willing to die in our place.
Any form of religious error, then, will have these three manifestations: they are supported by human tradition; they establish themselves as the only respectable doctrine to believe; and yet they come from the minds of satanic beings who cleverly, but invisibly, reduce people to childish behavior and childish attitudes, all to the end of setting aside the glory and true character of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul begins his response to this, and his answer is not along the lines we would ordinarily think. When confronted with evil teaching, most of us attack it and try to point out what is wrong with it. But the apostle Paul does not do that. Look at what Paul does. He reviews for the Colossian Christians what they already have in Jesus. He calls them back to the truth and sets it vividly before them in five wonderful statements, the first of which is found in verses 9 and 10:
His Complete Deity and Dominion – Colossians 2:9-10, “For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and ye are complete in him, who is the head of all principality and power”
The doctrine of the deity of Jesus, one of the most basic doctrines of Christian belief, is perverted by many cults falsely assuming the name of “Christian” such as the (Jehovah’s Witnesses/Watchtower Society, Mormon), and “twisting the scriptures to their own liking.” It’s crucial as believers in Christ that we have a scripturally firm foundation relating to the teachings of Christ and His complete Deity. The Gnostics of Paul’s day believed that Jesus Christ wasn’t God in the flesh. In these two verses Paul turns our eyes to Christ and reminds us we must remember who Jesus is and who we are in Him. We are to be “… looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Paul is reminding the Colossians they already have everything they need if they have Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul is saying what more can these false teachers add to that? What new experience, what other additional divine person can you receive than what you have already received when you have Jesus? It may be that we need to discover more of what it means to have Christ in our heart, which is a lifelong process. We shall always be growing in appreciation of what it means to have him, but the point is (and it is a very important one); you don’t need anything more than what you already have in Christ. You merely need to understand more of what you have received. Finally, the apostle Paul says, “He is the head over all rule and authority. That is, everything is under Christ’s authority. Therefore, there is nobody else that we need to go to in order to teach some alien power exercising authority over our lives. Thus, fullness of life is in Him, because in Him the fullness of the deity dwells, because we are complete in Him and because everything is under His authority we need no one else by Jesus Christ.
Our Complete Salvation (2:11-15)
Colossians 2:11-15 “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ. “Buried with him in baptism, in which also ye are raised with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh hath he made alive together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; 15 And, having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it”
Every one of us has had great experiences in our past. For some, it was an accomplishment or award. For others it was a special event, and still for others it was a special someone. Unfortunately, the memory of those things fades with the passage of time. Remember the first time you held your child in your hands? I’m sure even now the warm memories of that day are fresh. But some of the wonder, some of the awe has faded over time. For some it may be a wedding day and the greatest in your life. But over the years the details that weren’t saved on film have become hazy. We still remember and are grateful but it’s not the same. Our salvation is like one of those events.
When we first believed we had a joy and an awe that was like when your child was born. But, as time goes on, the joy and the sense of awe fades. It’s not that we no longer appreciate our salvation or that we aren’t grateful to God. Because we are and we wouldn’t trade our standing in Christ for anything the world has to offer. But the glory has dimmed. That’s why it is good to linger over verses such as these before us this morning. It’s like looking through a photo album or watching a video of the past. These verses become a vivid reminder of what our salvation is all about. These words remind us of how we came to believe in Christ. They stir up the embers and fan the flame of our devotion anew.
God Has Changed Us
In Him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of your 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. (vv.11-12). As you recall, there were false teachers in the city. They sounded good, they quoted lots of Bible verses, people were talking about the difference that was being made in their lives . . . but they were leading people away from the truth. They were leading them to depend on themselves, not God. It appears that one of the things these false teachers were proclaiming was that circumcision was one of the things required before you could be made right with God. Circumcision was a Jewish rite that took place on the 8th day after the birth of a baby boy. The boy would be circumcised as a visible symbol that this child was part of God’s community of faith. It was a visible reminder that they were one of God’s children.
The false teachers said circumcision was required for salvation. But Paul throughout his letters makes it a point to show that Abraham was justified BEFORE he was circumcised. He also emphasizes the need for a circumcision of the heart. Paul says this internal transformation is what is important. Paul then argues that this is something only God can do. “In Him (not in the temple) you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature (not of the flesh of the male foreskin), not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ.” Paul then uses the analogy of baptism to finish his point, “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.”
We are made right with God not by the act of baptism but by the faith in the one who raised Christ from the dead! We are not saved on the basis of our external ritual . . . but on the basis of who we trust. Now we don’t have people telling us that we need to be circumcised before we can be saved today, but there are lots of people prone to give us a long list of things we need to do or become before we can be saved. Some point to good we must do. Others point to habits we must eliminate. Paul however says, “Conversion starts in the heart!” We must be saved before we can be changed and not the other way around!
He Has Given Spiritual Life to Us
Paul continues, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.” (v. 13).
Where We Were – Notice Paul says “we were dead in our sins”. He says the same thing in Ephesians, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air . . . “(2:1,2)
Notice what Paul isn’t saying! He isn’t saying we were handicapped or that we were sick. He didn’t say we were misguided by our social surroundings. He said we were dead! We were without any spiritual life at all! Paul drives home his point with force in Romans 3. There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away; they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one (3:10-12). Do you grasp Paul’s point? We were not only unable to return to God but we had no desire to turn to God. This is called total inability or total depravity. It means we are unable and unwilling to do anything to affect our own salvation.
This is why Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John. 6:44). We are unable to come to Christ unless he first does something in us. This is what Jesus means when He says we “must be born again.” “But God made you alive in Christ.” What profound words these are! I think it was Charles Spurgeon who said the most glorious word in scripture is the word “but”. He refers to this verse and the parallel verse in Ephesians 2,”we were dead, but God made us alive.” Again, notice what the verse doesn’t say, “God helped us to change” or “God helped me to do what is right” or “God helped me overcome my weakness.” It says God made us alive. Even our faith was something that God gave us. He is responsible for our salvation! He alone makes it possible for you and me to be a child of God. This is Paul’s emphasis here. We can do nothing to affect our salvation. He must first move in us to bring us spiritual life. He must do this before we even realize that we have sinned and are in need of a Savior. Why is this important? Because in our ego-filled society of today many think we are saved because of what we do; not because of what Christ does in us.
Max Lucado speaks with his usual clarity when he said to think back to your own birth. Look at yourself. You’re brand-new with new hands, eyes, mouth and with no pre-owned parts. So, who gave you these parts? Who gave you eyes to see with, hands to work with, feet to walk with? Did you make your own eyes, hands, and feet? No, you made nothing; God made everything. He was the one who made everything new the first time, and he is the one who makes everything new the second. The Creator creates again! “If anyone belongs to Christ, there is a new creation. The old things have gone; everything else is made new! (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Moreover, the analogy contains another truth. How active were you in the process? Did you place your hands against the top of the womb and shove yourself out? Were you in radio communication with your mother, telling her when to push? Did the doctor ask you to measure the contractions and report on conditions inside the womb? Hardly, you weren’t born because of what you did. Someone else did all the work. Someone else felt all the pain. Your mother did the pushing and the struggling. Your birth was due to someone else’s effort. The same is true for our spiritual birth. It’s through God’s pain that we are born. It’s not our struggle, but God’s. It’s not our bloodshed, but His.
This is the point Paul wants to make. The false teachers were telling the people that it was all up to them. They wanted them to work harder, run faster, and do more? And many tried. They spent more time looking back than looking forward. Paul says, “You’ve got it wrong! God is the one who makes the changes. He is the one who brings life. We need a brand new beginning and only God can do that.
How should we respond to all this? It is my hope that the embers of wonder and awe have been stirred up once again in your heart. I hope you have been reminded anew of the privilege you have to be called a child of God. Let me suggest five responses to these truths in the following areas:
If we understand what has been given to us we will be grateful to God for the rest of our lives. No matter what life throws at us we will not complain but only give thanks that we didn’t get what we deserved. We will be grateful that we have God’s strength, power, and provision in our lives. We will spend the rest of our lives saying, “Why me?”
If we understand the true message of the gospel there is no room for conceit. There is no room for feelings of superiority. What do you have that you have not been given? What basis for arrogance do you have? You are not a believer because of your goodness, your deeds, or even your decisions. You are a believer because God made you alive when you were dead.
We no longer need to fear in our living. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Of course that answer to that question is: “all kinds of people”. But the real message is, “If God is on your side, who can take eternal life from you?” To that we answer “No one”. If the Son has set you free . . . you are free indeed. We no longer need to live hesitantly. We can live with the boldness that comes from being a child of the King;
When we understand what God has done for us the natural and appropriate desire is to honor Him in return. We want to live our lives to please Him and please Him. We know we cannot “pay Him back”. But we can honor Him with our lives. We can seek to do what He asks and go where He leads. This is the response of a true believer. We serve, not because we want to gain eternal life but we serve because we love Him;
Are you being obedient to His call for your life? God chooses to use you because you are the one most suited to minister to the people in your arena of influence. It is not by chance you have the relatives, friends, job, and church family that you do. God led you wherever you are for a reason. Pray today that the Lord will begin showing you the destiny He has for you. Ask Him to help you be obedient to His will for your life. Are you willing to serve Him whatever the cost? It is this unswerving obedience and faithful service to the Lord that God richly blesses. Please note these Biblical examples:
(1) Noah’s obedience saved humanity from destruction.
(2) Abraham’s faith built a great nation of whom we are all descendents.
(3) Joseph’s diligence saved his family from starvation and preserved the line from which Jesus would be a descendent, and
(4) Jesus’ obedience resulted in salvation for the entire human race.
As you can see, it only takes one obedient individual to bring about God’s miraculous power for this generation. My beloved, the lesson for us today is very clear. When Jesus speaks, we must take His Word to heart. He spoke about our heart in Matthew 13. It’s important that our heart hasn’t grown cold and dull to the voice of His Spirit. How dangerously easy it is to neglect our heart. If we become callous we find no joy in living or serving; and life at best seems hollow. However, when our heart is tender toward God our understanding and gratefulness flow through us to others because we were obedient to His Word. In fact, all Scripture must be taken seriously, because to disregard God’s Word shows a heart of unbelief and will eventually leave our lives in ruins. However, to heed its life giving instructions bring reward and blessing. The questions that you must ask yourself would be: So how is your heart and do you listen to the Spirit’s call? Can He count on your obedience?
(6) Lastly, we need to surrender.
What about you? Are you trying to run faster, jump higher, and push the right buttons? Are you willing to stop running and start trusting the one who has promised to transform you? Are you willing to accept the free and undeserved riches of His grace? Has He awakened you today? If so, respond in faith. In the quiet of your heart say, “Lord Jesus, I don’t know why you would love me like you do but I’m glad you do. Today I confess my utter inability to save myself and place my trust completely on Christ’s work on my behalf. Today I am willing to follow you.”
Do you remember the day you first believed? Do you remember where you were headed and how He changed you completely? Have you begun to drift? Are you beginning to try to earn your salvation again? Are you teaching others that they need to earn theirs? Are the feelings of joy and gratitude filling your heart once again? If so, that’s good. And when that reality begins to dim. When you begin to get “fuzzy” on the nature of your salvation, come back to the Book. Read it again. Remember anew and Rest in His Love, Grace and Mercy. Like the first-century Gnostics and the unbelievers of today who refuse to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior. Many of them prefer to entrust their lives to fate, spirits, or stars.
Some thirty-five hundred years ago, Moses asked God who He was and got a peculiar answer. God said, “Say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever” (Exodus 3:14-15). A sentence needs only two things to be complete; a subject and a verb. So when God says His name is “I AM,” and it conveys the concept that He is complete in Himself. He is subject and verb. Jesus put flesh on God’s bare-boned answer to Moses’ question, “Who are You?” Jesus left heaven to show us what it means to bear His Father’s name.
He told His disciples, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). He also said, “I am the bread of life” John 6:48), “the light of the world” (John 8:12), “the good shepherd” (John 10:11), and “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). In Revelation, Jesus declared, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last” (Revelation 22:13). And He said, “Before Abraham was, I AM: (John 8:58). My friend and brethren, He (Jesus Christ) is everything we could possibly need. Thus, we are complete in Him.
So if you’re questioning who God is, take some time to get to know Jesus Christ in the pages of His Eternal Word.