The Life Project: Colossians
Cluttering the message of Christ; this is what the Christians in Colosse were guilty of.
They had been given the simple Gospel message of Christ crucified, Christ resurrected,
Christ as salvation. But they had allowed other ideas and philosophies to creep in. Two
of the primary philosophies of the age were that of Gnosticism and Asceticism. The
Gnostics as well as the Ascetics called themselves Christians, but believed they had
been given special knowledge and that through this knowledge salvation was available.
This sounded appealing to the Colossians. Who wouldn’t want in on “special
knowledge”? That sounds like something you don’t want to be left out of.
One of the Gnostics primary beliefs was that this world, and all matter was evil. They
went so far as to say that it was not God who created our earth, but an evil demigod.
This is why Paul emphatically states in Colossians 15-20 “The Son is the image of the
invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in
heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or
authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things,
and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the
beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have
the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and 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.” Clearly, it is Christ who created
the heavens and the EARTH!! Christ was preeminent. Paul was adamant that the
Colossian church hold to this teaching.
The Ascetics also believed that matter was evil, and participated in rituals, holding fast
to religious rules that served to subdue their flesh. There was a great deal of legalism
and pride that went into these rituals. Though Paul does not specifically mention what
the rituals were, as surely the Colossians already knew, he does say in chapter 2:20-23
“Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though
you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste!
Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish
with use, are based on merely 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.” Now Paul was not saying that we should live lives of debauchery
and do whatever the heck we want. In fact he spends a large part of chapter 3
describing how those made alive in Christ should behave. He was saying that the
Gospel of Christ does not need anything added to it. The Gospel of Christ is complete.
Any attempts by man to add rules, regulations, rituals, only serve to cheapen the work
of salvation through Jesus Christ.
I wish we could see a different world in 21st century America than was alive in 1st
century Colosse. Sadly the same sorts of things that plagued the Colossians, plague
Christians today. We still are being bombarded with forces trying to clutter the message
of Christ. There are still some who claim to have the corner on salvation. They believe
they have been given a special revelation and without it, we are doomed. There are still
those who try and tell us that maybe Jesus is not God. Maybe in fact there are many
Gods. Maybe there are many ways to salvation. Then there are those who cheapen
grace by adding legalism; prideful man trying to earn salvation instead of realizing that it
is a Gift from Christ Jesus. But before we start pointing fingers at other people, perhaps
we should examine our own lives. Are there times when we think our knowledge of God
will be our salvation? Are there times when we are tempted to work our way to
salvation? Are there times when we would like to embrace other gods as a means to
salvation? Are there times when we add to the work of Christ?
Let’s stick to the simplicity of the Gospel and remember the words from 1st John
“Stay with what you heard from the beginning, the original message. Let it sink into your
life. If what you heard from the beginning lives deeply in you, you will live deeply in both
Son and Father. This is exactly what Christ promised: eternal life, real life!”