For the past three Sundays we’ve been studying the book of Colossians. The “book” of Colossians is actually a letter that the apostle Paul wrote to a small group of Christians living in the town of Colosse.
Paul didn’t know these Christians. It hadn’t been him who had brought the message of Christ to Colosse. But Paul wrote to them all the same because he was overjoyed that the Christ’s message had been received in Colosse.
So far, we’ve examined what Paul wrote in chapter one.
Basically, Paul said, “Hello. I hear that you too have been declared holy, sinless, through faith in what Jesus did for us. I am so thankful, and I pray for your faith to grow in so many ways. Christ Jesus is above all created things because he created them all, and still holds them together. And through faith we have been connected to His greatness! We have been forgiven and completed by Christ coming into our lives.”
The core of Paul’s letter to the Colossians is what we call the “Gospel” or the “Good News”. Basically, the Gospel says that humans are sinful, and therefore separated from the sinless God. But, God sent His Son to suffer for our sins and bring us back into a father-son relationship with Him.
Paul was captivated by the Gospel message. It was his greatest love. In another one of his letters, Paul wrote:
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21 NIV).If Christ is the door to peace with God, what could be more important? What could be more precious? Nothing, Paul thought. Christ was life. Christ was freedom, and peace and strength in a world full of limitation, strife and weakness.
Throughout his letter to the Colossians Paul repeatedly comes back to the Gospel, comes back to Christ, like a man coming home from work – to rest.
When I read my Bible, I like to make notes in the margin. One thing I do is mark the spots where the Gospel is expressed. Wherever I find a reference to the fact that through Christ our sins have been erased, I mark it with a symbol called the “Chi Rho”. That’s Greek shorthand for “Christ”. It looks like a capital “P” with an “X” over it.
Let me show you how much Paul “comes home” to the Good News in Colossians chapter one. Open your Bibles to that chapter.
My first “Chi Rho” is on verse 2. Paul says,
“To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse:” (Colossians 1:2 NIV).They were “holy”, “sinless” through their trust in Christ.
Now go to verse 5.
“the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel” (Colossians 1:5 NIV).The Colossians would one day join God in heaven because of what Christ had done for them.
Next I’ve got three marks by verses 12-14.
“12giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:12-14 NIV).Skip to verses 19-20.
“19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:19-20 NIV).Paul personalizes the Gospel for the Colossians in verse 21-23.
“21Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—23if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel…” (Colossians 1:21-23a NIV).Verse 26 gets another mark when Paul calls the Colossians “Saints” there. The word saint means “Holy ones”. Again, through faith in Christ God no longer sees their sins, all He sees is a people covered in His Son’s sinless perfection.
Last Sunday we talked about how Christ completes us. He makes us whole, covering over our sins and taking their place as the ruler of our hearts.
In our reading for today, Paul is still camping out on that concept – that in Christ we are made complete. But now, in chapter two, Paul changes his tone a bit. Now he’s warning the Colossian Christians not to let anything undermine that idea.
The philosophies of mankind and the teachings of false religions subtly try to contradict the idea that Christ is all we need. They tell us that Christ is nice and all, but His message is old fashioned, or incomplete in some way.
The world says, “We’ve got wisdom in our universities that can’t be found in the Bible.”
Paul says, “In Christ resides ALL wisdom and knowledge. He is after all, the Creator of all things and still holds them together.”
False religions say, “Jesus is good, but you’ve got to add your own goodness to the equation to get God’s forgiveness.”
Paul says, “In Christ is the fullness of the deity in bodily form. There is nothing left for you to add.”
As we read through Colossians 2:1-15, watch for each time Christ is mentioned. And watch for where Paul AGAIN “comes home” to rest in the Good News of sins forgiven through Christ.
Colossians 2:1-15 (NIV)
1I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2My purpose 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, 3in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. 5For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.
6So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, 7rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
8See 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.
9For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. 11In 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, 12having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
13When 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, 14having 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. 15And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
In some of his letters Paul is very specific about correcting a false teaching. Here in Colossians he’s more general. “Watch out!” he says, “The world will tell you it’s wiser than God.” And this warning still fits our experience today.
The universities of the world teach our youth that the Bible is religion, but science is reality. Even some people who claim to follow Christ say that the Bible is perfect when it comes to spiritual ideas and teaching, but flawed when it comes to things like history, geology and science. As if the Creator of the universe gets it all right when it comes to spiritual knowledge, but when it comes to visible things, mankind has to educate Him.
For example, the Bible mentions an ancient tribe called the “Hittites”. For a long time secular historians believed that these people never really existed because they hadn’t found any shards of pottery bearing their name.
But then archeologists unearthed the enormous capital city of Hattussa in modern day Turkey.
There are all sorts of examples of Biblical figures and cultures that modern thinkers have dismissed as mere fantasy because they were only evidenced in the Bible. But as researchers have dug deeper, the Biblical record has been repeated verified as correct.
Modern man always thinks he knows better. He presents his “wisdom” as unassailable fact in every age. Whether its bleeding people to cure them, or insisting the world is flat, or telling everyone that he can describe the origin of the universe through logical extrapolation.
Right now you can go to your favorite book store and get a copy of “A Short History of Time” by Stephen Hawking, or “The Universe in a Nutshell” by the same. No doubt it’s interesting reading. Probably full of plausible explanations concerning the universe we live in. But, in a hundred years or so these ideas will seem outdated and unfashionable. Fine sounding arguments to be sure, but arguments from a former age when man was not yet as educated as he is now.
And really, doesn’t the red flag of warning go up in your mind when a person who’s lived only a few decades wants to tell you how everything works?
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.
Paul doesn’t keep all of his warnings general in this section from Colossians. He mentions circumcision. Look again at verse 9.
“9For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. 11In 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, 12having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:9-12 NIV).In Old Testament times circumcision was a mark that indicated that a person was a follower of the God of the Bible. But at the time that Paul wrote this letter it had become something different. Some people claiming to be Christians claimed that you had to be circumcised in addition to trusting in Christ in order to be forgiven.
Again, mankind thinks he knows better than God. Only this time it’s the man in the pulpit saying we’ve got to ADD to Christ’s value in order to enter heaven.
Paul responds by simply pointing to Baptism. He says, You want indication that you’re part of God’s family? Look at what Baptism does. By faith in Christ, you’ve been connected to Christ. By baptism you’ve died with Him on the cross and been buried in the tomb. By faith you’ve been raised to spiritual life. God has done this FOR you. There’s nothing YOU need to add. No ceremony of payment. No sacrifice. No ritual.
Paul comes home to Christ once again verse 13. He personalizes the Gospel for the Colossian Christians who would receive this message:
“13When 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, 14having 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. 15And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:13-15 NIV).When we stand before God on judgment day, we’ll be judged on the basis of whether we stand with His gracious and all sacrificing Son or not. It’s not going to depend on whether we’ve gone through some physical ritual. In fact, circumcision in the Old Testament only had meaning if a person’s heart was marked as God’s by simple trust.
Once again, Paul comes back home to Christ. We were dead in sin, Christ made us alive. We were guilty, Christ made us forgiven. The Laws of God all said, “sinner”, but Christ made us saints by nailing the record of our sins, all of them, to the cross.
Don’t let anyone tell you that Christ isn’t enough. He is. In Him is all wisdom and knowledge.
Don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t enough. In Christ you are. You have been given fullness in Christ.
Prayer: Father in heaven, with thankful hearts we look to you. Fill our minds with your thoughts. Open our Bibles and our minds. Open our hearts in confession, and cleanse them by your Son’s all cleansing blood. Teach us true wisdom. Teach us vibrant faith. Fill all our empty places, and make us your children in every way.