Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Colossians 2, the Power of False Teaching

Breakdown of this chapter
2:1-5Paul’s desires:
Knit together in love
Understanding what we have in Christ
Free from deception
            What deception is he concerned about:
1.     V. 6-7  That they get away from the centrality of Christ. 
a.    We accept Christ by faith, and we keep walking by faith.  We can’t get off into thinking God is pleased by human rituals. 
b.    The other foundation is thankfulness, as opposed to pride.
2.     V. 8-10Second kind of deception:  traditions (Judaism), Greek philosophy (gnosticism), nature worship (elemental principles of the world).  All the references Paul makes to the various wrong teaching and practices relate back to these three things, which still exist today, very strongly, and Christians have to be on guard about them:  legalism and focusing on “we’ve always done it that way,” new age and occultism, and neopaganism, evident in the ecology movement.  YOU ARE COMPLETE IN HIM, WHO IS COMPLETE IN HIMSELF.
3.    V. 11-15:  focus on legalism and Judaistic practices in contrast to what Christ did for all and for us personally.  Complete—no need for anything else (v. 10 is the main idea for this).  Notice the agent is God, not men.  You were … passive voice, you are the recipient of it.  Paul makes it personal.  It’s almost as if he’s saying, “the false teachers are trying to get you to have some new experience, to get more.  You’ve already had some pretty heavy duty, mysterious occurrences in your life if you really understand the gospel and working of God.  Be satisfied with what God has done.  You were dead and now are alive—resurrection.  Your heart was hard and now it’s open.  All the debts you had against God are wiped away.  The defeated demonic powers have been led through the streets on display like the Romans do their enemies.  Isn’t that enough?  Don’t get off track.”
I had a friend once who was a dear Christian, but she said she got into the charismatic movement because she wanted a different experience in her Christian life.  That has always bothered me.  Not to knock charismatics, they are often great prayer warriors, but we just don’t need more “experiences.”  We need to fully appreciate what we already have.  But as is typical of Americans, enough is never enough. 
Practical application:
1.     16-17:  People in your culture are going to judge you, even persecute you, because you don’t keep some festival or eat something.  You now understand those, especially the Old Testament practices, were foreshadowing of what Christ would do, and no longer need practicing. 
2.    18-23:  People will also pressure you about ascetic practices and “worshiping angels” (reference to Gnosticism and their “levels” of beings up to their god, who wasn’t really God the Father anyway.)  Don’t fall into that—you’ll lose your reward in heaven for being faithful to the gospel, and it won’t do you any good.  People have tried for years to neglect the body thinking they won’t lust anymore—it doesn’t work.  Abstaining from something doesn’t make you not want it anymore.  The lust has to replaced with a desire for something better. 

The Power—and Problems-- of False Teaching

1.     Denies who Jesus is

Right teaching:  focuses on the deity and humanity of Christ equally  2:9

2.     Denies what we have as Christ-believers

Right teaching:  points to all we have in Christ  2:10

3.     Encourages pride and spiritual classism

Right teaching: teaches true basis for self-identity and self-esteem in light of God’s truth; Bible is open to all who come with an open heart, mind, and willingness to study, not a book of secrets   It is clear that Paul is saying every person in the church, every believer in Christ, has access to the same spiritual growth and relationship, not just those who go through special rituals or know the secret handshake. 

Additionally, the true test of spirituality is not knowledge but walk, life, attitude.

v. 3:  in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge

4.     Causes disunity

v. 2:2:  that their hearts may be encouraged, knit together in love.  This unity comes not from social or ethnic similarity but because of common belief, but more because of common love.  False teaching may base love and unity on something else, or may be more concerned with power.

v. 2:5:  orderliness in the church is valuable

Right teaching: Sometimes causes division, too! 

5.     Causes idolatry of men and sometimes women with strong persuasive skills

Right teaching:  Appreciates giftedness but isn’t swayed by appearance.

6.    Encourages people to look elsewhere than Christ, to

Right teaching: Grace-based. 

7.     False teachers purposefully deceive

Every Christian should know the foundations of the faith.  There are many things upon which we can differ and still worship together, but some are non-negotiable.  If I have any wish for the church it is for it to be well taught in the truth and for its passion to come from that, not personalities, musical styles, programs. 

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