The Way - Day 134 (Colossians 2)

Daily Reading:
Colossians 2
Don't forget to journal in your Foundations Book!
Daily Reading Audio Commentary:
Today's Question or Action Step:
Paul warns the church to not be captured by "empty philosophy and high sounding nonsense". This is still a very real problem in our culture today. Discuss the way we as followers of Jesus are able to remain in the Truth that we have been taught, and share some of the ways we can discipline ourselves in this.
Weekly Memory Verse(s):
OPTION 1: Psalm 51:10-11
OPTION 2: Proverbs 18:21
OPTION 3: Matthew 6:7-8
Further Study Resources:
Study Guide for Colossians 2 (Enduring Word - David Guzik)
Pastor Tom's Journal on Today's Reading:
Colossians 2:1-10
Keep in mind that one of Paul's primary objectives in writing this letter was to warn the Colossians about the dangers of false teachers, especially the Gnostics who taught that Jesus was not God. He spent most of chapter 1 defending the deity of Jesus Christ and the fact that salvation only comes through faith in His finished work on the cross. The Gnostics' underlying teaching was that there was some type of secret knowledge required to know God and knowing Jesus was not part of it. The Gnostic teachers sought to use persuasive words to convince the Colossians that only they held the true secrets to spirituality. In Colossians 2:1-3 Paul tells the church at Colosse that he was striving to bring them to "full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both to the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." In a very blunt way, Paul was telling the Colossians that God the Father and God the Son held all the knowledge they needed. Contrary to what the Gnostics were saying, a higher knowledge or wisdom was not necessary to have a relationship with God. Pointing his readers back to the beginning of their faith in Jesus Christ, Paul hoped to remind them of the things they had first believed about Jesus Christ and salvation through Him (2:6-7). So far, the Colossians had maintained a "good order and the steadfastness" of their faith in Christ and Paul wanted to see them continue growing. Even in our world today there are many people using convincing and persuasive words to deceive those who are in Christ. It is very important for believers to spend much time in the word of God so they can guard themselves against false teaching. I believe the warning is still the same for the church today: "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." Men do their best to place themselves above God by telling others that they hold the secrets to spirituality, but the "secret" has already been given. In Jesus "dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power." Jesus Christ is God in human flesh and perfectly resembled how God would be if He was in a physical body. Since Gnostics believed matter was bad and spirit was good, it was impossible for them to also believe that God would exist in "matter." In His physical body, Jesus was fully man and fully God. Since He was fully man, He was able to be the perfect sacrifice for sin giving His righteousness to those who believe in Him.

Colossians 2:11-15
In Colossians 2:1-10, Paul attacked the false teachings of the Gnostics who had infiltrated the church at Colosse with erroneous views of the deity of Jesus Christ. The Colossian church had been overrun with Jewish legalism and Greek philosophy and attempted to mix their teachings with the doctrines of Christianity. Epaphras, the founder of the church at Colosse, had traveled to see Paul in a Roman prison where he hoped that the apostle could provide some encouragement and direction in cleaning up the church's beliefs. Paul had many strong words of challenge to the readers of this letter: "As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught." (Colossians 2:6-7) Paul warned them not to stray from the principles which they were taught at the beginning of their faith; in other words, he did not want them to buy into some new teaching. Turning his attention from Gnosticism, Paul now deals with the Jewish legalism which had also become a problem in the church. At its' core, legalism is a man-made system of rules and regulations which supposedly bring salvation and favor from God. Legalism focuses on the external and places much emphasis on what I do, not who I am. The Pharisee of Jesus' time were the best documented legalists. Ultimately, those involved in legalism are more concerned with their outward actions than they are with their heart...Jesus was concerned with both! One of the major characteristics of those in a system of legalism was their belief in circumcision as necessary for salvation. Paul contests this immediately by saying that the Colossians "were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ." Circumcision initially was exclusive to the Jews and really carried many health benefits, but God meant for it to be a symbol of the cleansing of the heart. Jews, over the course of time, viewed circumcision as a necessary action for salvation, but this was never God's plan. Just as the sacrifice of an innocent lamb could not take away sin, circumcision had no power to remove sin. Jesus Christ is the only one with the power to offer forgiveness of sin (2:13). In fact, through His death and resurrection Jesus "wiped out the handwriting of requirements...having nailed it to the cross." All of the rules and regulations were never meant to bring us victory over sin, but rather reveal our sinfulness and need for someone to bring forgiveness.

Colossians 2:16-23
Legalism (a system of rules and regulations which are supposed to bring salvation and spirituality) had been brought into the church by Jews, endangering the very foundation of the Colossians' faith. False teachers promised salvation and power over sin by following a list of rules such as abstaining from certain foods and continuing to observe special days set forth in the Old Testament; however, Paul expressed that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ alone provided salvation and brings freedom from sin (2:16-17). Paul wrote "stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with the yoke of bondage" (Galatians 5:1) to the church at Galatia and I believe his words can also be applied in this situation. Man-made rules and regulations can never bring life, only bondage. True spiritual life stems from Jesus Christ. "If you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations - do not touch, do not taste, do not handle, which all concern things which perish with the using - according to the commandments and doctrines of men?" Paul was reminding them that Jesus Christ died for our sins because He knew we could not attain salvation or spiritual growth on our own. Creating a list of man-made rules for spirituality cannot save. If following rules cannot save, they also do not have the power to bring holiness in everyday life; therefore, we must look outside ourselves for that ability. I believe legalism has carefully disguised itself in churches today because everyone looks good from the outside, but many are corrupt on the inside being filled with bitterness, hatred, selfishness, and greed. The churches' obsession with rules is their way of controlling people and Paul gets it right when he says "these things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body" but Paul declares that regulations "are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh." Don't get me wrong...Paul was not sanctioning a "do whatever you want" spirituality, but he was giving permission for diversity within the body of Christ. Whenever the Bible is specific on an issue, we submit to God's authority and obey Him with all our heart. However, sinful man should not be in the business of speaking for God and creating additional lists of rules and regulations to gain favor with God. Paul was begging the church at Colosse to stay far away from these Jewish legalist and rely on God's word to provide guidance.

Dear God, protect people within the church from relying on a man-made list of rules to get God's attention and help believers to live according to Your word alone.