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Colossians – Contrasting Christ with human wisdom 1

Posted by on Feb 10, 2011 in scripture | Comments Off

Colossians – Contrasting Christ with human wisdom 1

I’m studying through the book of Colossians because I plan to teach through the book during the month of March (and the first Sunday in April). So far, I’ve written these posts in the series:

The beginning of the study
Preliminary outline
Salutation (author, recipients, greeting)
Prayer Part 1
Prayer Part 2
Jesus’ preeminence over creation
Jesus’ preeminence over the church
Paul’s service for the gospel

The next section of the letter to the Colossians covers almost the remainder of the book. This section (Colossians 2:6-4:6) includes instructions for the Colossians concerning how to live in a manner worthy of their God and Savior. It is important to remember that Paul has already stated that his readers are “saints” (or holy ones) and “brothers and sisters.” In other words, they are God’s children. He now wants to help them live in a way that demonstrates their relationship to God.

The first part of this long teaching passage is found in Colossians 2:6-3:4. It is composed of alternating reminders of the promises in Christ and warnings against living according to human wisdom. In the first few sentences, we see both the purpose for this section and the first contrast between Christ and human arguments and philosophy:

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. (Colossians 2:6-10 ESV)

Paul begins with the assumption that the Colossian readers have received the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the basis of the remainder of his exhortation and teaching. Jesus Christ, who Paul has just described as being preeminent over all things (creation and especially the church) and for whom Paul was in service, is their Lord. Therefore, they should seek to him “walk” in him, with “walk” being a metaphor used to describe their way of life. Their entire way of life should be defined and submitted to Jesus Christ. (Paul uses the “walk” metaphor three times within this longer section: Colossians 2:6, Colossians 3:7, and Colossians 4:5.)

They begin walking in Jesus Christ by having been rooted in Christ. (Colossians 2:6-7) While I don’t want to get too technical here, this participle is in the perfect tense, pointing to something that happened in the past but has ongoing repercussions. They were rooted in Christ in the past (when they received him), and they are still rooted in him. They are also helped to walk in him when they are being built up in him and being strengthened (“established”) in faith. These two participles are in the present tense, showing the ongoing work of both being built up and being strengthened. (The ongoing sense of the verb is the reason that I prefer the translation “strengthened” instead of “established.”) Finally, they walk in Christ when they are abounding (“increasing”) in thankfulness to God. These descriptions of what it means to “walk in him” sound very similar to previous phrases that Paul has used. For example, see Colossians 1:6, Colossians 1:10, Colossians 1:11-12, Colossians 1:28, and Colossians 2:2.

Why is it so important that the Colossians (and us too?) continue to be built up in Christ and strengthened in the faith? Because human philosophy and wisdom often work contrary to the ways of Christ. For this reason, Paul warns them that if they are not careful (“Watch out!”), human philosophy and empty deception and traditions can captivate them and carry them off of the path that Jesus wants them to walk. Paul says that these things are based on the principles of this world and they are not based on Christ. (Colossians 2:8)

Paul reminds that the full divinity of God was in Christ, and he is the had of all things, even human or heavenly rulers or authorities (Colossians 2:9-10). The Colossians have been filled with Christ, and thus do not have to submit to human wisdom. There is a play on words here: The fullness of God dwells in Christ, and Christ fills you. Paul reminds them that the presence of Christ in them gives them both the godly wisdom to deny human philosophy and it also gives them the authority to refuse to submit to human wisdom and traditions.

In the next few sentences, Paul weaves together passages that remind the Colossians who they are and what they have in Christ with warnings against being “captured” by human wisdom. But, all of these reminders and warnings follow from this introduction by Paul. The Colossians have received Christ and are filled with Christ. Therefore, they should walk in him. Part of walking in him includes continuously being built up and strengthened. But, it also includes not being pulled away from Christ by attractive philosophies or arguments from human or worldly principles.

What would you like to add to this study?


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