Gratitude Sermon Series
Salem Witch Trials – 1692, Salem Massachusetts
This disaster happened due to a blending of false doctrine, Catholic and Protestant beliefs, etc. Every church has to be alert to watch out for encroaching worldy beliefs.
Thankfulness As a Defense Against False Doctrine (vv. 6-7)
6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
In the first century, when the church was very young, there were a group of people who believed that they were Christians but they were not. These Gnostics believed that there was a sharp distinction between the man Jesus and a spiritual intermediary “the Christ”, which they called an “aeon” who came upon him at his baptism and left when on the Cross. Paul is refuting this type of false teaching.
We don’t know exactly which false belief that Paul is addressing, but we can get clues from what he chooses to emphasize in the text. “It is not merely the identity of Jesus and Christ that Paul here emphasizes but his Lordship and leadership, whether the Messiahship is directly in mind or not.”
Other’s false beliefs (specifically leaders in the church) had put the understanding of the Lordship of Jesus in jeopardy. So Paul reminds the church that they had received, “Christ Jesus the Lord,” – “Colossians, don’t be misled. Let your life (your “walk” or conduct) continue to be in harmony with the fact that you have accepted Christ Jesus the Lord as your tradition.” According to the Scriptures.
Christ meaning the promised Messiah that will save the world from its’ sin, Jesus emphasizing his humanity – he was fully man, who died a painful death on a Roman cross, he laughed, wept, slept, was tired just like any other man, and he was also Lord – the eternal God equal with God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit as the Tri-une God.
Paul then gives three mixed metaphors 1) walking in Christ, “It is the Christ path, the Jesus road.” 2) being rooted 3) as a building being built up. They walk as men, they take root like a tree, and they are built up like a house.” In all three of the metaphors there is movement. Walking along a path, roots growing down and outward, and the building growing upward and layer upon layer of material is added.
All of these metaphors all reference the idea of abiding in Christ. John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
If they do these things, then they will naturally be “abounding in thanksgiving.” Being thankful, and showing gratitude to God is a natural way of defending ourselves against false beliefs. Christ has given us all that we need (salvation, eternal life, an inheritance in heaven, a purpose and calling, etc.)
But Paul is not encouraging them to be thankful, but that they should be “abounding in thanksgiving” – it’s a pool and the water is overflowing the sides. Let what’s already in our heart, overflow to others. Also, “Faith and the nature of a Christian foundation are often invisible, but thanksgiving is a visible response to the grace of God in their lives.” Also, a strong indicator that a person has stepped away from their relationship with the Lord is a lack of being thankful (Romans 1:21).
Watch out For Kidnappers and Robbers (v. 8)
8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
We don’t know what the heresy that Paul is addressing, only his response to it. Paul warns the church to watch out for a leader or leaders who potentially will carry them off as booty, spoil, or as being taken captive.
The word for “captive” was used in other places like where a man’s daughter is kidnapped, the plundering of a house, seducing a maid, captives in a war. But perhaps the best rendering for the passage would be “see to it that no man robs you.”
Those who persuade people to abandon truth for error are seducers and robbers. The false beliefs that Paul is about to talk about will rob a person of a life that is lived out in truth. What is a person robbed of by believing false beliefs? They would be giving up the truth as it is in Christ Jesus the Lord for a lie.
Paul is concerned that the persuasive arguments against Christ may lead people away from Christ and cause their confidence in Christ to fade. He calls this subversive system of thoughts and morals, of rules and regulations “philosophy and empty deceit.” “The false teacher in Colosse is a con artist who uses Christian clichés and slogans to deceive immature believers.”
How important is the truth of who Jesus really is?
Paul then gives the false teachings that the church is be on the alert for “by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world” – There are four things mentioned and they all seem to further explain what Paul means.
This is the only time that the word philosophy is used in the New Testament. Paul calls it “falsely named knowledge” in 1 Timothy 6:20. He is not referencing science, and he is not referring to the Greek philosophy of Socrates or Plato, or the philosophers that he argued with in Acts 17:18.
To seek knowledge and understanding is not wrong, but a godless philosophy is dangerous. When we seek after knowledge apart from understanding who God is very dangerous. “This teaching represents man’s attempt to arrive at the truth. It was therefore, a nonrevelational attempt to solve ultimate questions of life.”
So Paul further adds to his warning by saying, “empty deceit” – “The word deceit means to “trick or cheat” and is opposed to the word of truth. “It is deceptive, for, while it promises big things to those who obey its ordinances, it cannot redeem its promises.”
The teacher’s that Paul is referencing may have been “trying to harmonize Christianity with the prevailing religious outlook of the pagan culture which had molded their own thinking before the gospel came to them. They may have been unaware that their attempted synthesis of Christian and pagan ideas was destroying the unique and liberating power of the new faith in Christ.”
They may even have thought they were improving Christianity, giving it wider appeal, but if they had been successful Christianity would have been clumped in with the rest of the world’s ideas and empty philosophies and lost.
Then he adds “human tradition” – tradition means something that is handed down from generation to generation. So that is not necessarily wrong. The Hebrew tradition of passing on the oral story telling of the Bible to its’ eventual writing down, and then copying was meticulous in its’ attention to detail.
“This philosophy and empty deceit” were merely “the tradition” passed from one to another, from one generation to the next. The Essenes were the predecessors of the Gnostics, who claimed to possess secret knowledge. The Essenes had a secret oath to pass on their doctrines as they had received them. “The later Jews gave the name “kabbala” or tradition to their mystic theology.”
And then adding “the elemental spirits of the world” – there is no clear understanding of what Paul means by this, other than to say there is a worldly way, and a spiritual or Christ like way of moving through life. Don’t be fooled into believing that salvation can come from following the rules and regulations of this world, only through a proper understanding of Christ as revealed through His Word.
One way to interpret “the elemental spirits of the world” – is where forces within nature control the actions of people. “If man’s nature and destiny are determined by the elements that make up the physical world, including structure of the human body, whether these are considered simply as natural substances, or as natural substances controlled by spiritual beings and powers, then human personality is not spiritually free and self-determining but the product of the interaction of these natural and amoral elements.” The sense of guilt vanishes when we lose moral freedom and responsibility.
Also notice how Paul seeks to persuade them toward the truth. “He respects their integrity, and approaches them with love guided by intelligence, and with intelligence illuminated by love.”
The Truth of the Deity of Christ (vv. 9-10)
9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.
Paul again is arguing against false beliefs that were threatening to “carry off” the church, specifically that Jesus was fully God. The “fullness of deity” dwelt within Christ. He was not partially man, and partially God – he was fully God, and fully man. All the attributes of God dwell in the Son of God who also is the Son of man, the incarnate Son of God.
Christ in his human incarnation (body) has fully revealed the moral nature and the loving heart of God. We can understand what God is like by observing Jesus.
Athanasius and Arius Controversy – “The issue was settled at the Council of Nicaea. The bishops of the church discussed and debated the issue and finally decided by overwhelming majority that homoousious (“same substance”) best encapsulates the teaching of the New Testament on the nature of Jesus. The Nicene Creed was the result of this meeting and reads in part,
“We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father.” That last phrase of one being is a translation of the Greek word homoousious. The word homoousious is not found in Scripture, but the Council felt this was the best word to describe orthodox biblical teaching concerning Christ.”
“you have been filled in him” – In Christ we have all we need, we have been given all that is needed for salvation, and a relationship with God. We can grow in that relationship, and we can grow in our knowledge and understanding of God, but we have all we need, “we are filled” in Christ. There is no need to seek another savior, spiritual guidance, or rely on anything other than Christ.
“who is the head of all rule and authority” – Christ is the creator and sustainer of all that exists, therefore He alone is its’ ruler and has authority over everything.
It’s not just enough to know the facts about Christ, as in knowing the correct doctrine, if it does not mean anything to you personally. “Biblical faith is very concrete, rooted in the teachings and work of a person, Jesus of Nazareth, and embodied in personal and social relationships.
Thus, when one’s understanding of Christian faith centers on a collection of elegant, even powerful ideas at the expense on an experience of God’s love, it quickly becomes an idolatry; the idea of God replaces a life-transforming relationship with the Lord.”
Bad ideas of Jesus are dangerous because it effects how we relate to Him – A worldy view of Christ is that He is was a great teacher, a moral man. If we bring Him too close, we lose his divinity. If we put Him in the cosmos somewhere, then we lose his humanity. We therefore look to the Bible to show us what He is like – not man-made traditions, flowery elegant words – simply what the Bible says.
 John Phillips, Exploring Colossians and Philemon (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Kregel Publishing, 2002) 108.
 A.T. Robertson, Paul and the Intellectuals, The Epistle to the Colossians (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press; 1956) 76.
 William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Book House, 1994) 107.
 Robertson, 77.
 Richard R. Melick Jr., The New American Commentary, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, vol. 32 (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman and Holman Publishing, 1991) 248.
 Robertson, 77.
 Phillips, 114.
 Wall, 101.
 Melick, 253.
 Hendriksen, 109.
 Buttrick, 190.
 Robertson, 79.
 2 Peter 3:15-16 “ . . . Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.”
 George Buttrick, Gen. Ed., The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 11 (Nashville, Tennessee; Abingdon Press, 1955) 192.
 Ibid, 191.
 Robert W. Wall, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, Colossians and Philemon (Downers Grove, Illinois; Intervarsity Press, 1993) 99.