­­­Colossians Study – Session 6

CrossPointe Community Church – Denton, TX

February 17, 2013 - Larry Reynolds, Teacher

 

III.     The Sufficiency of Christ (2:8-23) - This section is both and at the same time the most important and the most difficult part of Colossians.

·        It is the most important because it gets to the very heart of why Paul wrote this letter.  He wrote to reinforce to the Colossians the absolute supremacy and complete sufficiency of Jesus.  This passage, as much as any passage in the NT, spells out how Christ is fully sufficient for all of our needs.

·        It is the most difficult because it is filled with allusions to the false teaching plaguing the church at Colossae of which we have only second hand knowledge.  All we really know about the false teaching is how Paul responded to it.  In these verses we are hearing Paul’s refutation of a system of thought with which the Colossians would have been very familiar.  One thing is crystal clear about the false teaching.  The false teachers were saying that Christ, alone, was not sufficient for our salvation.  In addition to belief in Christ, for a person to be saved that person had to participate in certain religious rituals.  So Paul stresses in this part of Colossians the complete sufficiency of Christ for all of our needs.

 

       Verse 8 is obviously an introductory statement.  It is unclear whether it introduces only the paragraph ending in v.15 or the larger section ending in v.23.  I am going to deal with v.8 as a stand alone verse, then we will explore vv.9-15 as a unit.

·        In the NASB verse 8 begins with the phrase “See to it...”...I don’t think that is nearly a strong enough translation of the word Paul used to begin this verse...it is the same word Jesus used in Mark 12:38 when He said, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”...it’s also the word Paul used three times Philippians 3:2 when he wrote, “Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision...”...the word means to be on guard, to watch out, to beware...and in these verses Paul points out to the Colossians and to us the primary thing we are to be on guard against, we are to watch out for, we are to beware of...

·        It is important that we not misread the warning of v.8...Paul is not saying that philosophy in any form is necessarily evil...the word philosophy simply means “the love of wisdom”...this is the only place in the NT in which this word is used...however, elsewhere in the Bible, especially in the book of Proverbs, we are told to seek wisdom...and in the book of Acts Paul demonstrates on several occasions his ability to engage in philosophical debates...

·        And Paul is not saying here that all philosophy is evil...but, he is saying that we are to be on guard against the kind of philosophy which is characterized by “empty deception”...the grammar of v.8 indicates that the phrase “empty deception” describes the kind of philosophy about which Paul is warning his readers...it is a philosophy void of real truth and it’s ultimate intent is to deceive us or lead us astray...

·        In first part of v.8 Paul speaks of being taken “captive” by such empty, deceptive philosophy...and the word translated “captive” is a compound word made up of a word which means “to carry off” and a word which means “spoils or booty”...was used to describe an army carrying off the spoils or booty of war...Paul is saying that we are in a spiritual battle...need be on guard constantly against our spiritual enemy who will attempt to use false reasoning, empty deception to lead us astray...

·        If you’ll look carefully at the text of Colossians 2:8 you will see three specific characteristics of this false philosophy which we are to avoid—

 --False philosophy looks to human reasoning rather than divine revelation for its source of authority - That’s the meaning of the phrase “according to the traditions of men” means...false philosophies arise out of human reasoning which is passed down from generation to generation...Christianity however arises out of divine revelation...at the very root of Christianity is the presupposition that God has chosen to reveal Himself to His creation...and He has done so fully and completely in Jesus Christ...revelation, not reason, is the authority upon which Christianity rests...

--False philosophy focuses more on creation than on the Creator - The phrase the NASB translates “according to the elementary principles of the world” is one of the most debated phrases in Colossians...the word translated “elementary principles” had numerous meanings...

o   It originally was used to denote the letters of the alphabet and came to mean the basic elements, the ABC’s of learning...if Paul is using the word in that way he is saying the false philosophy is simplistic, elementary, not very advanced, in spite of what its proponents would have you believe...

o   However, the word translated “elementary principles” was used another way...could mean the basic physical elements of the world, specifically the moon, stars, and other physical bodies to which many ancient people attached supernatural powers...since later in this chapter Paul refers to false teachers observing the new moon and worshiping angels, I suspect that’s the primary meaning of this verse...Paul is saying that false philosophy is so concerned with creation that if fails to see the true Creator...in our day such false philosophy can be seen in the astonishing number of people (48% of Americans according to a recent poll) who believe in astrology, that the movement of the stars and planets somehow reflects our souls and governs our lives, [Garland, p.160] and such false philosophy can be seen in those who practice the age old philosophy of pantheism, believing that nature itself is God...

--False philosophy does not have a clear understanding of Christ - Paul says in the last part of v.8 that such teaching is not “according to Christ”...the ultimate test of any system of thought or any philosophy is how that system views Jesus...and so, in vv.9-10, Paul makes four great affirmations about Christ that spell out precisely who He is and what He has done for us…

 

·        Colossians 2:9-10 is the thesis statement of Colossians – “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority.”  Those verses affirm four fundamental biblical teachings about Jesus:

·        He is fully God – The entire, complete, whole, fullness of god dwells in Him permanently.

 

--“for” links v.9 to v.8...the warning of v.8 is based upon the true identity of Christ as revealed in v.9...

 

--”in Him” by its position at the first of the sentence is emphatic...the idea is that in Christ and Christ alone all the fullness of Deity dwells...

 

--”all the fullness” is taken straight from the words of the false teachers...they taught that the fullness of God was distributed among a number of heavenly beings who had somehow spun off the true God...Paul says not so...all of God is in Jesus...

 

--”Deity” - Only place in NT this word occurs...it’s a strong word meaning the very essence of God...as one NT scholar put it, the word means “...the whole glorious total of what God is...[Moule, quoted by Vaughan, p.72]

 

--”dwells” means to settle down, find a permanent home...the word is in the present tense indicating a continuing state...the thought is that in Christ the fullness of God permanently resides...

 

·        He is fully man – The fullness of God dwells in Him in bodily form.

 

--”in bodily form” is a reminder of Christ’s humanity...and it’s important to see that the present tense verb “dwells” goes not just with the Deity of Jesus but also the humanity of Jesus...as one writer put it, “The One who took upon Himself human nature at Bethlehem will keep that humanity for all eternity.  He will forever be the God-Man.” [MacArthur, p.103]

 

·        He is fully sufficient – Fullness of life is found in relationship with Him.  Every need that we have can be met in Him.

 

--”...in Him you have been made complete...” ...the word translated “complete” is the verb form of the word translated “fullness” in v.9...follow Paul’s logic here...

--Jesus is fully God and fully man...

--we live in union with Jesus...

--therefore, in Jesus we are made full or complete...

The false teachers troubling the Colossians would never have agreed with that logic...they said for a person to be spiritually complete that person needed something in addition to Jesus...but Paul says, “Not so!  When you have Jesus, you have everything you need.  In Him you are made full or complete.”  John Wesley put it this way: “Thou O Christ art all I need, More than all in Thee I find.” [Quoted by Vaughan, p.73]

 

·        He is Lord of all – All things are subject to Him.

 

--”He (Jesus) is the head over all rule and authority...”...this is the second time in Colossians Paul used the word “head” to describe Jesus...in 1:18 Paul says that Jesus is the “head” of the church...now in 2:10 says He is the “head” over all that exists...the word translated “head” carries the idea of being the source of life and lord over something...the point is that Jesus is supreme...He is Lord over everything...

 

I love the way the Living Bible paraphrases Colossians 2:9-10:  “For in Christ there is all of God in a human body; so you have everything you need when you have Christ, and you are filled with God through your union with Christ.  He is the highest Ruler, with authority over every other power.” [TLB]

 

 

The remainder of this paragraph (vv.11-15) give us a detailed description of how Jesus has made us complete. 

 

·        In Jesus we have complete salvation (11-12)

     The false teachers who had infiltrated the church at Colossae were teaching that Jesus alone was not enough to save...they said a person needed Jesus plus something else...what that something else was varied from false teacher to false teacher...and from vv.11-12 we can conclude that some of them were saying that physical circumcision was necessary for salvation...

 

     And in these verses Paul points out a person is not made right with God through outward acts such as circumcision...instead, as the last part of v.12 says, we are made right with God “through faith in the working of God...”...and that phrase “working of God” points to the Christ event, specifically the death and resurrection of Jesus which is symbolized in baptism...

 

     The point of all that is salvation is in Jesus and Jesus alone... apart from a faith commitment to Jesus--which means believing Jesus is Who He said He is and believing that Jesus had done for us what He said He would do--nothing else is needed for salvation…

 

 

·        In Jesus we have complete forgiveness (13-14)

V. 13 describes us as being “dead in your transgressions”…that is, we were utterly defeated by sin and powerless to break the chains of sin in our lives.

 

     V. 14 says there was outstanding “certificate of debt” against us...that phrase translates a word taken from the legal vocabulary of the 1st century...word was used to describe a variety of legal documents and one of those documents was a note of indebtedness...when someone borrowed money or purchased something on credit, much like in our day, they would sign a document specifying the amount of the debt and the terms of repayment...

 

     The thrust of v.14 is that we had such a debt...it was valid and it had come due...and we were unable to meet our obligation...we were about to be foreclosed upon when Jesus stepped in and “canceled” our debt...the word translated “canceled” in the NASB means to blot-out, wipe-out, or erase...it was often used in the 1st century to describe the wiping away of ink from a writing material so the material could be used again...

 

     And the point is that our lives were stained and marred by sin... we were about to be overwhelmed by the weight of it...and Jesus came to wipe our sins away...and the last part of v.14 says he accomplished that by nailing our sins to the cross...that is, it was  through His death on the cross that Jesus canceled our indebtedness...

 

     John’s Gospel tells us that just before He died on the cross Jesus cried out, “It is finished”...the word He used is “tetelestai”...it means completed, done, over...it was the word often written across a note of indebtedness when the obligations were met...it’s comparable to our phrase “Paid in full” which you sometimes see stamped across some bill...

 

 

·        In Jesus we have complete victory

     V.15 refers to a common practice in the 1st century...when an nation was defeated in battle, the conquering army would take the leaders of the defeated nation and bring them back to the capital of the conquering nation...then, on a designated day, there would be a great parade to honor the victors and humiliate the defeated... the leaders of the defeated nation would be stripped of their clothing, placed in chains or cages, and marched through the streets of the city as trophies of war...V.15 says that is what God has done to “the rulers and authorities” which means the spiritual forces of evil and wickedness...the verse says God has made a “public display of them”...they have been defeated and humiliated...

 

     And the last part of the verse says this victory was won through “Him” meaning Jesus or, as some versions read, through “it” meaning the cross of Jesus...either way, the meaning is essentially the same...on the cross Jesus won the victory over evil...it was complete, thorough, lasting...it is still in effect today...

 

Why is it important to give emphasis to both the His deity and humanity and humanity of Jesus?  What happens when we de-emphasize either of those aspects of His nature?

 

What are some specific ways that relationship with Jesus brings “fullness” to our lives?

 

Jesus transformed an instrument of death and defeat (the cross) into an instrument of victory.  What does that say about how we deal with the challenges we face in life?

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