Daily Update #352

Today’s reading:

Colossians 2:4-5

1 I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2 My goal 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, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4  I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. 5 For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.

Have you found recently that more and more suspicious emails are reaching your inbox? Or, if you dabble in social media, have you found that the opinions expressed are increasingly divergent, uncharitable and hard to believe? Are you confident about the wisdom, honesty and integrity of the media and politicians? Do you still trust the words of health experts and church leaders? We don’t want to become cynical but equally we don’t want to be naive and easily misled. These are modern symptoms of a very old problem – who can we trust, who might be trying to deceive me now and how can I know what the truth actually is?

We know from this letter that Paul had received excellent reports about the church in Colossae. It was a loving, faithful and truly committed church. He wanted nothing but the best for and from them. This is clearly shown in verses 1 to 3 above, which Martin considered yesterday. Paul’s goal for this new church was that it be rooted in the deepest truths about God and His creation. So building upon the great start the Colossians had made, Paul pointed them to Jesus “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (v3). As the retired pastor and writer Steven J Cole has written, ‘It takes some effort and diligence to mine out the riches that are in Christ. But the point is, He is our all-sufficient treasure for our every need.’ Now in verse 4 Paul begins to open up his concern about the dangers presented by false teachers. Deceitful teachings were coming their way, irrespective of how well they had done so far!

Each local church needs to be on its guard over seductive and persuasive new teaching. Paul uses the Greek word ‘pithanologia’ which described a lawyer’s clever arguments; the honeyed words that might enable a guilty defendant to escape conviction and justice. ‘The true church should have such a grasp of the truth that it is unmoved by such arguments’  said William Barclay. We need to be alert at all times to the dangers of new doctrinal ideas and attractive initiatives which may not be centred upon Jesus. He alone is “the way, and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). God’s truth matters and we must act on the basis that ‘the only safeguard against error for the Christian is a full knowledge of Christ’ (WH Griffith Thomas). Careless listening to false teaching often leads to damaged individuals and disunited churches whose witness to Jesus is ruined. If anything or anyone is adding to, or taking away from, the gospel of Christ, this is a most serious matter. It requires prayerful discernment from church leaders, and then loving but firm action.

Paul rounds off this section with words of encouragement for the Christians in Colossae (v5). Using military language that usually referred to a highly trained, disciplined and immovable Roman regiment, Paul is delighted with their orderliness and the solidity of their faith in Jesus. If our faith in Jesus is stable, and we are able to stand up for the truth of the gospel, we have the sure foundations we need to guard against subtle spiritual deception. We must fend off false teaching since it can infect any church at any time. So all churches need to gain spiritual discernment through prayer. We are called to keep our eyes upon Jesus, and, like the Colossians, to grow in our faith and understanding. We will then be able to proclaim and to defend the gospel in power, as we maintain a disciplined, perceptive unity in Jesus and in His truth.    

Today’s Prayer:  Father, we thank you for your word which contains all the truth that we need to come to know you better and to follow Jesus more closely. We pray now that you will encourage our hearts and unite us in the love of Christ. May we all grow in our understanding of Him so that our lives will be true to the gospel and bring delight to you. Amen.            (Mike W)

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