Daily Update #357

Colossians 2:20-23

20 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: 21“Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23Such 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.

You may well ask “what is going on here?” Clues are spread out before us in Colossians 2. However, as the commentator William Barclay wrote, “for us this is one of the most difficult passages Paul ever wrote. For those who heard or read it for the first time, it would be crystal clear…every sentence and every phrase would go straight home to the minds and the hearts of the Colossians.”  At first it is rather less obvious to us but please don’t switch off yet. We will now discover some very helpful insights for ourselves in today’s reading.

Paul is firmly refuting here the false teaching which was posing a huge threat to the young church in Colossae. In response to this threat he has already written wonderful passages about the supremacy of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and our Saviour (Col1:15-23) and on the powerful impact of the gospel wherever it is preached (Col1:24 – 2:5). In today’s reading Paul continues to urge the Colossians to enjoy their new freedom in Christ. They are to do so, however, without adopting the unhelpful, unnecessary, and ineffective rules which false teachers were telling them to rely upon. The so-called ‘Colossian heresy’ which Paul was so concerned about seems to have involved:

*    a pretentious philosophy made up by some false teachers i.e. it did not come from God.

*    angel worship combined with strange forms of mystical speculation and practices.

*    a false ‘humility’ that, as with the Pharisees, made sure it was noticed and admired.

*    a severe regime for the body and a reliance upon esoteric but man-made ideas.

We can ridicule such notions but the potential impact of these persuasively argued but misleading teachings was huge. Our twenty-first century world is hardly free from odd human notions of ‘truth’, superstitions and even strange doctrines in some churches. Whatever the exact details of the false teaching circling around Colossae, it detracted from what has been described as ‘the absolute adequacy of Christ.’ It also differed from the real world truth of the gospel which is so grounded in everyday life. By adding further layers to the gospel message, the false teachers were implying that Jesus was not unique and that “His teaching and work were not in themselves sufficient for salvation” (Barclay).

Paul, and the other apostles, were at pains to warn the early churches about ‘deceivers.’ They emphasised the supremacy of Jesus and the completeness of His saving work on the cross (as in Colossians 1:15-23. and 2 John 1: 7-11). Revelation 22:18-19 also warns about adding to or taking away from God’s word! This is why AW Tozer, using somewhat American terms, wrote “we do not preach Christ with a comma after His name, as though waiting for something else; or Christ with a dash after His name, as though leading to something else; but we preach Christ period.” There must be no take-aways or add-ons!

Today’s Prayer: Father, we thank you that in Jesus we have everything we need to please you. We praise you for the truth you have given us in the Bible. Lord Jesus we thank you for the perfect salvation you won for us. May we always be open to you Holy Spirit so that you can lead us into all truth and away from all false teaching. Help us to be discerning and wise whenever we come across new ideas and plans. Amen.  (Mike W)

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