First danger & answer:
4c. The Christ received (1)
We now move on to consider “who is the Christ whom we have received? The person and work of Christ is the central issue when dealing with false teaching. Even in Paul’s day there were those who were peddling another Jesus, another gospel and another Spirit II Cor.11:2-3.
Paul in Colossians leaves us in no doubt as to whom the Christ is we have received. In the first chapter Paul gives us one of the greatest descriptions of the person and work of Christ found in the whole of scripture. It is thought, by some commentators, that this passage Col.1:15-19 was an early church hymn. If that be so then it is an interesting insight as to the content of their songs!
We see 4 sections:
1. Christ the image of God Col.1:15a.
2. Christ: His supremacy to creation Col.1:15b-17.
3. Christ: His supremacy to the church Col.1:18.
4. Christ the fullness of God Col.1:19.
In this section we will only consider points 1 & 4, the others points will be considered in later messages
This description of Christ and His work totally undermines the Gnostic heresy, which stated that matter was evil, spirit good; that the true God was unknowable and that there are many lower (created) beings that had come from out of God, Jesus being the last of them.
Paul’s plain statement destroys this heresy: Christ is the very image of the invisible God. He is not a created being. Jesus is God manifest in the flesh I Tim 3:16. The word image means EXACT representation and manifestation. Alongside Heb.1:3 we are told that Jesus is the precise representation of God. This is a declaration of the full deity of Christ. See also Jn.1:1-2; 14. I Jn.1:1-2.
The question naturally arises: where do people get these heresies from? Rom.1:18-21 gives us the answer. In this section of scripture we see man’s rejection of God’s revelation and the downward spiral as a consequence.
God has revealed Himself in creation, this man rejects, Rom.1:19-21.This in turn results in,
vain imaginations (lit. empty reasonings), their foolish hearts becoming darkened and becoming fools Rom.1:22-22. In turn they make gods in the image of creation (nb. Ps.135:15-18 where it says idolaters become like what they worship!) Rom.1:24-25.
By rejecting God’s revelation man has no basis upon which to build any truth, hence the emptying reasoning. So from his empty heart man makes gods in the likenesses of what he thinks. Man is incapable of coming up with the true image of God. So he makes gods after his vain imagination.
From there the downward spiral descends into sexual immortality ending in homosexuality. All of which is only self-worship. So man goes from rejecting the true God, to worshipping the creation, to making idols and then finally to self-worship.
Thus having rejected God’s revelation in creation man ends up with the image that self is god, which is the line Eve was tempted on originally Gen.3:5. Thus totally eliminating the knowledge of God from their thoughts.
One may ponder: if rejecting the revelation of God in creation brings about such tragic and dire consequences, what does rejection of God’s final revelation in Christ result in?
Because of all the above it was necessary that God sent His precious Son into the world, so that we would have God revealed unto us. Indeed this is one of the key themes of John’s gospel account. Eg Jn.1:14; 14:9.
Man was originally created in God’s image, but the fall ruined all of that Gen.1:26-27; Rom. 5:12-17. When we are born again Christ’s image is planted in us II Cor. 5:17; Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24. The whole purpose being that God is conforming us to the image of Jesus Rom. 8:29; At His return we will be physically changed and bear the image of the heavenly I Cor. 15:47-49. In the meantime we are being renewed in the inner man and changed day by day into His image II Cor. 3:18; 4:16
Returning to our passage on the person of Christ: it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell.
Another Gnostic idea was that all the intermediate beings between the ‘unknown god’ and including the last emanation, were called the fullness, in Greek ‘the pleroma'. Paul refutes this line of thinking by declaring that Christ alone is the fullness of God, and uses the word pleroma to underline the point.
The immediate context of Paul's first warning is given above. In it he points us to the fact that the true mystery is in God. This is a vast subject in itself, too involved to do it justice in this article, but the reader is encouraged to look up the references in the NT to mystery.
We shall briefly consider some aspects of it as it bears relevance on our subject.
Gnosticism is classified as a 'mystery religion' Mystery meaning, in this context, secret. That is a religion where those involved would become part of the religion by 'secret' rituals; these rituals were not to be revealed to the outsider on some penalty or other. For the Gnostic this would be secret knowledge. Their belief being that within people there is a 'divine spark' and is locked up. This 'divine spark' can only be released by secret knowledge, or Gnosis. If it is released then that 'divine spark' will return to the divine realm.
Paul takes this word mystery strips it of the Gnostic meaning and gives it a meaning and application to the Gospel. This is a common practice in the NT. For example Paul's use of the word 'plemora', as seen above.
In the NT the word mystery is used on a number of occasions. notably in relation to the Gospel. Namely that the Gentiles would be brought into God's plan of salvation. Eph.3:1-3 It simply means that it was a secret until its revelation at the coming of the Spirit in the book of Acts.
In the verses in Colossians above we see what he was warning the Colossians and Laodiceans of. Being beguiled by deceiving words. In the context of the 'mystery religions', of having 'a guaranteed method of success in spiritual ways'. Obtain this knowledge and you will be okay.
And is this not one of the dangers facing God's people today? Not necessarily in the sense of those ancient mystery religions, but certainly in the principle of 'do this, that or the other' and you will have success - reducing the Christian life to a step by step methodology. One of the sickening things to see is when books and courses are advertised claiming the secret of Christian success if you only follow this method, then on further examination one finds that a sum of money needs to be exchanged for this information!
Apart from the fact that the Christian life is a moment by moment dynamic life in Christ, which can not be reduced to a methodology, the gospel is free and not for sale. Any true servant of Christ would want to let all people know the truth in Christ without charge. Freely give for freely you have received.
We are to beware of any who would beguile us with such words. The true secret of wisdom and knowledge is found in Christ alone. All other sources are false and deceptive, and should be shunned at all costs.
The three passages from Colossian quoted in this section are clear and without any argument. The fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ, and not in any intermediary. We see also that in Christ all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Him.
(i) All the treasures of wisdom -- as opposed to the Greek philosophies, which come from emptying reasonings. We shall leave this there for now and return to it in more detail in the next section.
(ii) Knowledge---as opposed to the so called secret knowledge of Gnosticism. True spiritual knowledge is to know the Father for that is eternal life Jn.17:3, not some Gnosis. Jesus' statement about eternal life totally destroys the Gnostic way of thinking.
One of the heresies of these days is the so called 'perennial tradition'. This, in its simplest terms, says that truth is the sum of all different parts of other religions and philosophies. This embraces every and all religions, philosophies, including witchcraft type religions. This being justified by the phrase ' all truth is God's'. In other words spiritual truth is found all over the place and one has to extract these 'secrets' from them. This can be thought of as a sort of modern Gnostic way of thinking.
Those accepting this deception fail to understand that it is not as much the words that matter but the source of those words cf Acts.16:16-18. The devil can speak truth when it suits him, and it is always with the aim to take ones eyes off Christ.
The Lord Jesus is the one in whom is all the fulness dwells, and it cannot be found anywhere else.
On new birth we receive Christ and of His fulness we have we received and grace for grace Jn.1:16. No wonder Paul exhorts us to walk in the same way we started! What else do we need? What else can we have? We are to know the love of Christ which passes all understanding and be filled with the fulness of God which is Christ Himself! Eph.3:19
In this first danger we have been warned not to be enticed by beguiling words. We looked at Satan’s main line of attack, doubting what God said. If this is heeded then it is a downward spiral that ends in disobedience.
We looked at what chapter 1 said about our salvation and two aspects of the person of Christ as revealed: Christ is both the image of the invisible God, and the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
In light of all this we are to walk in Christ in the same way as we received Him, and to be pleasing to Him in all fruitfulness - increasing in the knowledge of God, being filled with the fulness of God, who is Christ Himself.