Intro to Colossians (2:8-3:4)


Today, we're going to begin a brand new series in the book of Colossians. So, if you have your Bibles, go ahead and turn with me there. But as you're turning, instead of going to the beginning, we're going to start strategically in chapter 2:8...

[Colossians 2:8] 8 "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ."

Okay, so the reason we're starting here and not chapter 1:1 is that understanding Paul's motive (or his purpose) for writing is absolutely vital to rightly dividing the rest of the letter.

As a principle, understanding a situation accurately is essential to a correct application! Or to say it in reverse: an accurate application must follow accurate information.

Say that you and I were having a conversation, and either I didn't give you, or you didn't catch a piece of pertinent information; I think we'd all agree that jumping to conclusions or making uninformed assumptions would be very bad. Right? Instead, the right thing to do is to seek clarification. (quick to listen slow to speak; vocabulary versus dictionary)

These same principles apply when we read in God's word. In order to arrive at an accurate application, we have to seek accurate information.

All too often as Christians, we make a mess of God's word because we don't take the time to understand what's really going on. Instead of growing, and learning as God intended, we take the path of least resistance, thus getting distracted from the real issues. We may even spend years of our life (in the church) missing the point with respect to significant matters.

A friend of mine on Facebook this week posted a question asking what was more important church tradition or the word of God?

I answered," Although this is a great question, you're never going to find a person who'll answer, "church tradition." Just as everyone would say that they go to a "bible-believing church." Most individuals believe the word of God is what governs them. The humbling reality is that each of us has problems with (human) tradition being more important than the word of God."

This is why the scripture tells us that we are to "study to show ourselves approved" or that we are to "rightly divide the word of truth."

When we read something like the book of Colossians but don't know the core issue, we will likely apply the instruction given in a way it was never intended.

SIDE NOTE ON SCHOLARSHIP: There's an idea in the church today that goes something like this: God's truth is so simple that a child can understand it so spending all this time debating the finer points of theology is just not right. Let me offer some insight into this kind of thinking...

Let me give you a few examples of information leading to the application:

In chapter 3 and 4, we see something that is very common to Paul's writings; Scholars know it as the household codes. It governs ideas of how a husband and a wife should treat one another. Also, how a parent and a child should relate or in this particular context, it speaks to how Masters and slaves conduct themselves.

But here's where understanding the point of the letter or the issue being addressed matters considerably. (Paul is writing to combat man-made philosophies and traditions that are setting themselves up against God's way, which is Jesus Christ.)

Misunderstanding the reason behind Paul's letter reduces these" household codes" to behaviors and practices that people should either blindly obey (cause Paul is on some inspired rabbit trail), or they're interpreted as a means by which to "gain" or "keep" God's mercy. Both are dead wrong!

Another example would be to read chapter 1:13-23, where Paul establishes what is called a "high Christology" (a high understanding of Christ) and conclude that he is simply because he wants to sound smart or holier than thou. But if you understand the heart of the letter, connecting the dots is easy. What Paul says about Jesus and what He has done is, in fact, the answer to the core issue in Colossae.

This is one of the key reason why taking verses in the Bible out of context is such a problem. Sure verses in the Bible MAY have what appears to be a stand-alone meaning, but what they DEFINITELY have is a contextual meaning.

This reason for Paul's letter provides the only right filter through which we should look.

So let's see the issue in the book of Colossians?

[Colossians 2:8] 8 "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ."

"Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end," - Hebrews 3:12-14 NASB

"O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called "knowledge"— which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith. Grace be with you."

1 Timothy 6:20-21 NASB

[Colossians 2:9-14] 9 "For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, 10 and He is the head over all rule and authority; 11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ;

The Lexham Bible Guide says:

Colossae was a relatively small agrarian town located in the region of Phrygia in western Asia Minor. It was part of a triad of cities along with Laodicea and Hierapolis, all of which were situated in the Lycus River Valley (see Col 2:1; 4:13, 15; compare Acts 16:6; 18:23). An earthquake devastated the region surrounding Colossae in AD 61. Paul's letter to the believers in Colossae was probably written before this event. Although the people of Colossae were mostly Gentile, Moo (2008, 26–27) cites passages in Josephus and Cicero that suggest the city also had a substantial Jewish population. Paul definitely had Jewish opponents. The city of Colossae was primarily Gentile, but you've got a significant Jewish representation there.

NT Wright says:

The city of Colossae was distinguished by its various spiritual beliefs. According to [Clinton] Arnold (2002, 372–74), the "spiritual climate" of Colossae included beliefs in "dangerous spirits and powers" (see Col 2:8, 15), invocations of angelic and other divine beings for protection, and "ecstatic forms of worship" that often involved forms of bodily abuse (compare Col 2:18). According to Barth and Blanke (1994, 10–12), the people of Colossae also participated in various "mystery religions." On the whole, syncretism—the blending of different religious beliefs - seems to have been the prevailing approach to religion in Colossae (see Wright 1986, 24–25).

This is from Wright's Tyndale New Testament Commentary. He writes:

The problem, in its essence, could be stated as follows. (a) There are clear Jewish elements in what Paul is opposing, and yet there are many things which look more pagan than Jewish—the actual worship of angels (2:18), and ascetic practices which appear to deny the importance of the created order (2:2ff). (b) On the other hand, while much of what Paul is opposing can be fitted into an essentially non-Jewish framework, there are certain features (for instance, the reference to circumcision in 2:11), which remain obstinately and uniquely Jewish…

#Colossians #paulsmotive #introtocolossians

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