True or False
Colossians 2:18-19- True or False
The section of Colossians 2:8-23 addresses the false teaching occurring in Colossae. We have mentioned before that although we might not know precisely what the Colossian Heresy was, we do know clearly what Paul’s answer is, that Christ is supreme and sufficient. We need to focus on Christ and not get caught up in the details. However, it is important that we are aware of the false teaching that was being taught. Many of the epistles are written to address false teaching and to then teach correct doctrine. We need to first and foremost to learn about true, orthodox doctrine. We should also be aware of the tactics of Satan and the schemes of false teachers. Although we might not be facing the exact false teaching as the saints in Colossae, we can learn a lot about their ploys to help us to be alert. They might teach a different doctrine, but they have the same sinful heart. The letter of Jude was written exactly to address false teaching and false teachers. Jude explains that false teachers are ungodly people, who creep in unnoticed, who pervert grace into sensuality, denying Christ as our Lord and Master, who are grumblers, malcontents, load-mouthed boasters, using people for gain, and scoffers who cause divisions (Cf Jude 4, 16-19). Although it is a different teacher and teaching we will see the same false teacher in today’s passage. There is nothing new under the sun.
I. False Teaching
We are not sure if there was one person who was leading the Colossian church astray or a group of people. Paul uses the singular when speaking of ‘let no one’ or ‘his sensuous mind.” Often false teachers stand by themselves, but have a following of people. They are not accountable to anyone besides themselves. I tend to think there is one false teacher in Colossae, maybe with others who have been lead astray by his plausible arguments (Col 2:4). Paul begins by saying, “let no one disqualify you…” The false teacher seeks to ‘disqualify’ the saints. The same root word is used in Colossians 3:15a but is translated rule, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” Let no one rule over you, or dominate you. False teachers often abuse their power as a leader. The word is found in a classical Greek text and is translated into English as, ‘victimized.’ This shows the contrast found in verse 19, not holding fast to the head or in Jude that false teachers deny Christ as our only Lord and Master. Paul explains four false teachings that are presented by the false teacher(s).
a. False humility
Often false teaching has the appearance of godliness (2 Tim 3:5). Humility can be deceiving, it can appear to have external fruit which in fact is not true humility. Humility is not an external action but rather and internal impression that flows from a humble heart. Humility is counting others more significant than yourself (Phil 2:3). A false teacher will proclaim a message of false humility. External humility does not change the heart but uses people for their own gain. False teachers will teach self-denial of others so that they might gain an advantage over their hearers. However, Christ taught true humility, that he humbled himself even to the point of death, dying a shameful death so that we might inherit eternal life. False teachers abuse their power to get more power, a true follower of Christ gives up their power to help others.
b. False Worship
I have not run any numbers, but I believe false worship is the number one sin found in the Bible. The first four of the ten commandments specifically address worship. The great sins of Israel are them worshiping other gods, often not denying God specifically but just introducing other gods that other nations worship. John Calvin calls our hearts, ‘a perpetual factory of idols.’ We constantly manufacture idols to worship. False teachers often do not deny God but introduce other idols to worship; they want their hearers to worship them, money, material things, health or wealth. They do not tell you to deny God, but they elevate things to the place of God demanding worship. The first commandment is, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex 20:3). The first commandment shows that we need to worship God as the holy true God but also, we should not give the glory which is due to God alone to anything else. This is the definition of false worship, stealing glory due to God and giving it to something else. The church in Colossae gave glory to angels, rather than to God. Our modernistic minds might struggle with this; however, some churches can worship angels; the catholic church or even the new apostolic movement. However, we need to be cautious that false teachers will not only get us to worship angels but anything. We can be led to make idols out of our families, spouses, careers, house, money, children, or grandchildren. There is a difference from seeing them as a gift from God, whom you give thanks and glory to God as the giver, than making them idols that you worship.
c. False Visions
False teachers can spend more time speaking about the physical that they see rather than the internal change of heart, which is unseen. External is easier to obtain and easier to measure. How can you measure the level of mortification of sin in the members of the church in a week? It is easier to measure money in an offering plate; it is also easier to have people give money than to give up sin. Don’t get me wrong internal and external are connected, however, some people might do good works from the wrong motive. False teachers really only live by sight and not by faith (2 Cor 5:7).
d. False Reasoning
Again, false teachers do not possess true humility but are arrogant. They are ‘puffed up,’ like a puffer fish, they are just air. The contrast is remarkable, they insist on asceticism or humility but they in fact are arrogant and haughty. False teachers are hypocrites. False teachers might appear humble but in fact they only care about themselves. Their arrogance comes by following their ‘sensuous mind’ or ‘fleshly mind’ rather than reason. Paul explains, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot” (Rom 8:7). Again, we see the issue of submission, authority and headship. Many times, the argument of “do not touch the Lord’s anointed,” is used by false teachers. They elevate themselves above God by claiming they are anointed therefore are untouchable, however, many times their anointing is only attested by a small group of people, maybe just themselves. A fleshly mind is devoted to self and its own pleasures and sinful desires, and not under God. They are hostile, enemies to God, because in their arrogance they think they are better than God. This is who we were before God richly lavished his grace upon us (Col 1:21-23).
II. Christ is head
The problem of false teaching is it does not point us to or direct us to Christ, but to man and man-made religion. Christ is the remedy which we all need. When we look to false teaching, we divert our eyes from Christ who is the true teacher. We do not hold fast to Christ as the head. Why would you turn to a second-rate teaching when you can have the real thing? False teaching is really false headship. True teaching comes from Christ as the head. We should always seek to follow Christ as king of the Church and our lives. This is why we have two sacraments, because Christ instituted it. This is why we worship according to scripture, because Christ commanded it. Christ is king of the Church, Guy Prentiss Waters argues this terrifically in his book, “How Jesus Runs the Church.”
Christ is the head of the body. Paul uses this word ‘head’ three times in his letter to the Colossians (1:18, 2:10 and 2:19). His argument to the saints in Colossae is that they are not holding fast to the head. The head is from whom the whole body is nourished, knit together and grows. The church wants to decapitate the head of the body. They are being taken captive by other things (Col 2:8). But why should we hold fast to Christ? Paul explains why we should hold fast to Christ in verse nineteen.
a. Christ Feeds
Christ as the head of the church feeds his body. He nourishes us with what we need. The Greek word appears five times in the bible and is translated four different ways, provided (2 Pet 1:11), supplies (2 Cor 9:10, Gal 3:5), nourished (Col 2:19), and supplement (2 Pet 1:5). Each says a similar thing but in a different way. Christ feeds his body, giving it exactly what it needs. Christ has given his body the bread which we should live off, the word of God (Matt 4:4). A minister is not an artistic chef that creates a new diet from new ingredients but rather places Christ’s words before his people. Christ does not take, like the false teachers, but he provides for his people everything they need.
b. Christ Fuses
Christ as the head holds everything together. Christ sustains creation and holds all things together (Col 1:17). He does so for the church as well. We are united to Christ and therefore are united together through Christ. One members actions effect the whole church. A negative example is given just as leaven that permeates throughout the whole dough, sin can affect the whole body (1 Cor 5:6). Christ is the thing that unites us. False teaches divide (Jude 19). Why would you want to be united to anything else if Christ is supreme and sufficient? Charles Hodge shows the union is the source of life, “To be in Christ is the source of the Christian’s life; to be like Christ is the sum of his excellence; to be with Christ is the fulness of his joy.” Why do we turn and follow false teachers who promise fool’s gold?
c. Christ flourishes
Finally, Christ is the source of life and therefore any fruit that grows is a result of God’s work in our lives. We need to abide in Christ, for if we abide with him, we will bear good fruit (John 15:1-11). Paul explains that growth comes when each part if working properly (Eph 4:16), he also says that ‘we are to grow up in every way into him [Christ], who is the head’ (Eph 4:15). A farmer can plant, water, fertilize but he cannot make something grow, God is the one that causes the growth (1 Cor 3:6). God is the one that works within us to change our hearts, to convict us of sin and to cause good fruit to grow in our lives. This is a great contrast to the false teaching that gives false humility, worship, vision and reasoning which in the end leads to false fruit. Christ flourishes and shows the grace of God in the life of the believer from the new birth to glorification.