Basic Facts from Colossians (Part 2)

Basic Facts from Colossians (Part 2)

The first verse of Colossians 2 introduces us to the church at Laodicea. What most folks know about the L ao d ice an chu rch is th at the y we re “lukewarm” (Revelation 3:16), and were therefore in danger of being rejected by the Lord. The town of Laodicea was less than ten miles from Colossae, and Christians in both towns almost certainly knew one another. This is why Paul writes of these two congregations (Colossians 2:1) as facing the same challenges and sharing the same needs. In Colossians 4:16 he will mention a letter to the Laodicean church (which the Lord did not preserve for us), and instruct the Colossian brethren to “trade letters” with them, so that both congregations could receive the full benefit of his instructions. When we compare Paul’s words about the Laodiceans with those of Jesus in Revelation 3, we see what a dramatic difference the passing of time can make; there is no indication in Paul’s letter that the Laodicean church had “cooled off,” but in Revelation 3 they receive a strong rebuke from the Lord Himself!

One of the challenges the Colossian church faced (and probably the Laodicean Christians as well) was the temptation to be led astray by “teachers” who used “beautifully false words” (chapter 2:4). Paul reminds these brethren (vs. 3) that “all” the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found in Christ, which is why he then describes the doctrines of the “enticers” (vs. 4) as “philosophy and vain deceit…traditions of men…[and] rudiments of the world.” All these descriptions mark their teachings as false – based on worldly, human instead of Divine truth. To emphasize the danger these doctrines posed, Paul stressed that the Colossians needed to focus on holding onto the faith as it had been presented to them (i.e., without altering it, vv. 6-7). Paul’s images here – of the Colossians being “rooted and built up” in the faith – correspond to the ideas of a plant springing up from a seed (reproducing exactly the same plant as the original) and of a building rising from a foundation (thus being limited to that foundation). If we are led away by doctrines that differ from Christ’s gospel, we become “weeds” the Lord will pull up and discard (cf. Matthew 15:13) or houses built on sand (Matthew 7:26-27), that cannot stand the test of trial! There is a sharp contrast implied between the “philosophies” of verse 8 and what follows in verses 9- 15: Paul’s description of Jesus in verse 9 leaves no doubt about His nature and identity as God in the flesh (cf. John 1:14). It is because He is Deity (as well as man) that all rights-of-rulership and authority belong to Him (vs. 10). This is why mere men have no authority to “legislate” in His place, nor contradict His laws. As Paul explains the Christian’s relationship to Christ (vv. 9-15) he also describes the act of baptism as a burial (vs. 12). This simple fact – rooted in the actual meaning of the word “baptize” (immerse, submerse) – is a very explicit and exclusive depiction of one’s entrance into the body of Christ. There is no way to be “buried” by having a small amount of water sprinkled or poured over one’s head! In Romans 6:4, Paul goes on to point out that we must be “buried” with Christ in order to be raised with Him; without the “burial,” there can be no “resurrection!” Baptism is neither a “rite” nor a “ritual;” it is a very specific action (immersion in water) rooted in faith, which is required for unity with Christ.

Colossians 2:14 parallels what Paul also wrote in Ephesians 2:15, and emphasizes the words spoken by the Heavenly Father when Jesus was being transfigured in the presence of Peter, James, and John (Matthew 17:5; Luke 9:35). In these verses, we learn that Christians are NOT under the authority of the “old” (Moses’) law. Here, Paul describes it as having been “removed from blocking the road” (taken out of the way) by Jesus, Who nailed it to His cross (in other words, He “crucified” it with Him). Most of our friends in the denominations of christendom do not realize that the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2) takes the place of the “ten commandments” and all the ordinances of the old testament, so it IS important that Christians understand this point.

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