The problem faced
The church at Colossae, as far as
the records show, never had a visit from the apostle
Paul. Yet this great servant of God had reports of its
standing by a man called Epaphras (Col.1:7-8).
This man let Paul know the
state of the saints there. From the way Paul wrote,
they were in a goodly position: they had started well
in the Faith and were continuing strongly. In his
prayer for them Paul prays that they would go on
further in the things of God.
However at the commencement of
the second chapter Paul says that he has had great
conflict for them and those at the neighbouring Laodecian church
(Col.2:1). Why was this? Although the church had
not fallen into error there was a great danger of it
doing so. For a strange set of false teachings were
doing the rounds, and the believers were in danger of
being drawn into it.
This set of
false teaching was a strange admixture of Greek
philosophy, Judasic legalism and mysticism. According to many commentators this
was an early form of what we now know as Gnosticism.
This heresy didn’t come to fruition until about the
second century AD, but its elemental forms were present
at the time of the early church.
the Colossian letter as a warning to them not to be
drawn into these false ideas and thereby from Christ.
So what exactly was this teaching (for convenience we
shall refer to it as Gnosticism) and why was it so
The whole system, as it developed,
became quite sophisticated, but the basic ideas were as
1) They believed that matter was
evil and spirit good.
2) The true God was far off and
could not be known; neither was He the creator of the
universe. Thus they rejected that the God of the OT was
the God of the NT. ( a heresy taken up by Marcion,
about a century later, and further developed, and is
sadly slowly creeping back into some quarters of the
3) There were ‘emanations’ from
God who were called the ‘Pleroma’, and were
intermediaries. These were, what we might call demi-gods,
beings in a sort of hierarchy with each one a lesser
divine being than the previous. This led to the
blasphemous deduction that Jesus was not God manifest
in the flesh.
There were various teachings about Jesus. But none of
them said that he was God manifested in the flesh, as
the NT records declares.
5) Human beings had a ‘divine
spark’ imprisoned in the physical body, which could
only be released by gaining secret knowledge, called
‘gnosis’. Hence the name Gnosticism.
We will deal with these and other aspects of this
heresy as we study Colossians.
Thus we see
this heresy attacks every fundamental teaching of the
Christian truth. Paul in Colossians goes about
masterfully, under divine inspiration, dismantling it
and showing the glorious truth of the true gospel. It
must not be thought that Paul alone tackled this
heresy. John in both his gospel record and first
epistle addresses some of the Gnostic’s false
teachings. We shall refer to some of these passages in
Indeed Paul refers to this 'gnosis'
as being opposed to the gospel in a later epistle
|O Timotheus, the thing entrusted guard
thou, avoiding the profane vain-words and
opposition of the falsely-named knowledge (Gk.
gnosis)which certain professing- concerning the
faith did swerve...
I Tim.6:20-21 YLT
The problem answered
Colossians, tackles the error by firstly presenting the true
nature of the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Secondly
he demonstrates unequivocally that the work of
salvation that Christ achieved is sufficient, and that
we do not need anything else to add to our experience,
in order to live the true life that God wants for us.
this series we see:
supremacy of the person of Christ. Jesus is preeminent in all
sufficiency of the work of Christ. By warning his
readers of four dangers Paul shows that the salvation
work of the Lord Jesus is sufficient for anyone. Any
other experience will only take us away from Christ.
(C) The substantiality of the life of Christ. If
this salvation means anything then it will be seen in
our everyday life and in our relationships with
others around us. The gospel of Jesus is not a belief
system, rather it is a dynamic relationship with the
Godhead that alters our disposition and rules our
This series of studies is not an
exhaustive look at Colossians. There are many fine
works that do that. It is meant to be a series of
messages, which highlight the dangers that were around
in Paul’s day. Its relevance being that in all the ages
of the past two millennia such teachings in various
disguises, and variations thereof, have been present, and indeed
are now around in the 21st century. Indeed as Solomon
says, there is nothing new under the sun.
The writer prays that these studies will
encourage everyone to look
unto Jesus constantly and not be drawn away by the
sleight of men. If this series helps only one person
the writer will have considered the efforts all