Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | December 1, 2006

Colossians – Part 12

Have you ever been tricked into doing or believing something you later regretted? 

Colossians – Part 12:  Reject False Teaching 

1.  Is there a lot of false advertising today?

2.  Do you have any examples of false advertising that fooled you?

Pleas to Reject False Teachers (Ch 2:16-19): Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or Sabbath day – 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.  18 Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.  

The Apostle had just been describing the rich benefits the believer’s were being prevented from enjoying by embracing the false teacher’s, and appeals to them to reject their errors.  He begins to list the conditions or practices that were sold to them as what the Christian life should consist of.  These items were not inherently evil, however when elevated to a state of obligation can be enslaving burdens.  They were never to be meritorious, and as far as those that were instituted in the Old Covenant ceremonial system, these were introduced as a schoolmaster to lead them to Christ.  The ceremonial practices were designed to reveal their need for a Savior, however once the Savior appeared He fulfilled all righteousness and all that the ceremonial rites signified.  All the obligations to achieve salvation were performed by Christ and there are not any conditions that still need to be fulfilled.  He then continues to list more damaging conditions promoted by the false apostle’s, and seems to reveal how they substantiated their claims.  The practice of self-abasement was typical of many Gnostic systems, which deprived the body of any material pleasure.  The other one, angel worship, was accepted since they viewed a spiritual hierarchy that even surpassed Christ.  This hierarchy was seen as intermediaries between God and the material world.   Apparently, they were claiming to have received special revelation that compelled them to institute these practices. However, the Apostle instructs the Church to not let these foolish inventions defraud them from the prize or the freedom that is found in Christ.  He then explains how such outrageous claims can be made by the false teacher’s, which is their dislocation with the Word (Old Testament Scripture and the Apostle’s teaching).  This departure from the faith given was fueled by the lust of pride seeking to claim the authority of the Apostles, which they did not possess.  Again the Apostle makes reference to the Church as the body, of which Christ is the head who holds it together and causes it to grow.   

The Apostle here is not advocating some antinomian (lawless) view of Christian living, as we’ll see in the next Chapter he gives instructions for living.  However, he is making it clear that none of the requirements being thrust onto the believers could earn their salvation.  The Colossian Church had demonstrated how easy it is to let the emphasis of teaching and practices lose their focus on Christ.  Letting such errors prevail in the Church community defrauds the believers of their prize.  Again we see the errors of Gnosticism mixing into the false teacher’s doctrine.  Their inability to not conform to the surrounding culture was a liability to the Colossians.  The Apostle appeals to the Church to resist these inclinations, reject the false teacher’s doctrines, and trust in Christ alone who holds them together. 

3.  Have you ever thought that Christianity was a bait and switch?  At first forgiveness and free grace are promised then an innumerable amount of rules came later.  Is this the Christian life?

4.  Some of the things in this list were commanded in the Old Testament.  How come the Apostle can now say they are no longer required?

5.  What did this Old Testament ceremonies point too? 

Which are a shadow of things to come:  The reason why he frees Christians from the observance of them is, that they were shadows at a time when Christ was still, in a manner, absent.  For he contrasts shadows with revelation, and absence with manifestation.  Those, therefore, who still adhere to those shadows, act like one who should judge of a man’s appearance from his shadow, while in the mean time he had himself personally before his eyes.  For Christ is now manifested to us and hence we enjoy as being present…Hence, the man that calls back the ceremonies into use, either buries the manifestation of Christ, or robs Christ of his excellence, and make him in a manner void.”  John Calvin, Commentary on Colossians 

6.  Does this mean we no longer need any more signs?

7.  What are the signs that continue through the New Covenant? 

Which are a shadow of things to come:  “Should any one ask, ‘What view, then is to be taken of our sacraments?  Do they not also represent Christ to us absent?’ I answer, that they differ widely from the ancient ceremonies.  For as painters do not in the first draught bring out a likeness in vivid colors, and expressively, but in the first instance draw rude and obscure lines with charcoal, so the representation of Christ under the law was unpolished, and was, as it were, a first sketch, but in our sacraments it is seen drawn out to lifeThey are not, therefore, bare shadows, but on the contrary symbols of Christ’s presence, for they contain that Yea and Amen of the promises of God, (2 Corinthians 1:20,) which has been once manifested to us in Christ.”  John Calvin, Commentary on Colossians 

8.  What does Paul say the Colossian false teacher’s practices would do to the Christian?

9.  What else besides the Old Testament ceremonies were they promoting people should do or experience? 

10.  Why did the Colossian false teachers promote self-abasement (or a strict and rigorous depriving treatment of  the body)?

11.  Would fasting qualify under this category?  Is fasting a good or bad thing?

12.  What are some modern examples of strict adherence to rules?  – Mormons 

Let no one take from you the palm:  “He admonishes them, therefore, that the false apostles aimed at nothing else than to snatch away from the palm, inasmuch as they draw them aside from the rectitude of their course.  Hence it follows that they must be shunned as the most injurious pests.”  John Calvin, Commentary on Colossians  

13.  Why were the Colossians worshiping angels?

14.  Why is this wrong? – Hebrews 1 appears to be addressing the same error 

Worship of Angels:  “But, it will be said ‘they do not deny that the Son of God is Mediator.’  Neither did those with whom Paul contends; but as they imagined that God must be approached by the assistance of the angels, and that, consequently, some worship must be rendered to them, so they placed angels in the seat of Christ, and honored them with Christ’s office.  Let us know, then, that Paul here condemns all kinds of worship of human contrivance, which are rendered either to angels or to the dead, as though they were mediators, rendering assistance after Christ, or along with Christ.  For just so far do we recede from Christ, when we transfer the smallest part of what belongs to him to any others, whether they be angels or men.”  John Calvin, Commentary on Colossians 

15.  What did the false teacher’s “visions” consist of?

16.  Were these authentic “visions”? 

Intruding into those things which he hath not seen:  “For such persons in reality break through and intrude into secret things, of which God would have no discovery as yet made to us.  The passage ought to be carefully observed, for the purpose of reproving the rashness of those who inquire farther than is allowable.”  John Calvin, Commentary on Colossians 

17.  What was the result of all the practices the false teachers were doing?  What was their status in relation to Christ?

18.  Who is our head?

19.  What happens when we are defrauded by trying to earn our salvation? 

20.  How do we stay connected with our head?  John 15:1-11; Colossians  1:26-28 

Not holding the head:  “He also confirms his statement on the ground that all things flow from him, and depend upon him.  Hence, should any one call us anywhere else than to Christ, though in other respects he were big with heaven and earth, he is empty and full of wind:  let us, therefore, without concern, bid him farewell.  Observe, however, of whom he is speaking, namely, of those who did not openly reject or deny Christ, but, not accurately understanding his office and power, by seeking out other helps and means of salvation, (as they commonly speak,) were not firmly rooted in him.”  John Calvin, Commentary on Colossians

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