Today we continue our series entitled Colossians Remixed, looking at the New Testament book of Colossians. So far we have covered the first chapter of the book, in three different weeks and now we enter the second chapter of Colossians. And we’ll walk through the rest of the book by the end of February.
Today we are looking at Colossians 2:1-15 which you’ll come to find out seeks to address or should I say readdress the two main talking points of the entire book, the supremacy and preeminence of Jesus and the true nature of what the gospel is. You see, for those who weren’t here for the beginning, you need to know the two reasons for the writing of the book of Colossians. The first one is in relation to the fact that Colossae was a city within the Roman Empire and everywhere that they looked they saw signs pointing to, what the Romans called, the true Savior, the true Lord, the true redeemer and deliverer. Signs (both literally and figuratively) and images pointing to Caesar as Lord. That is one main reason why the book of Colossians is such a profound Christ-centered and Christological text. Paul was getting the message across that Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not. And that this statement, while it doesn’t seem all that big of a deal to say right now, at the time was a threat to the establishment and was very countercultural and subversive and could get you killed.
The second reason is what theologians and bible scholars call the Colossian heresy that had cropped up in the Colossian church. The Colossian heresy is hard to pigeon hole but we can get some clues from the words within the book about what made up the Colossian heresy. Probably the main part of the heresy is what is called Gnosticism. Gnosticism is the belief that the spiritual world is wholly good and the material world is wholly evil. The heresy also added various other bits and pieces of other religions and philosophies including Judaism (see the discussion in chapter 2 about circumcision), and some mystery religions (connecting the idea of secret knowledge…which is also a gnostic trait). And so to combat this Paul not only keeps hammering away on this idea of the supremacy and preeminence of Jesus but also spends lots of blood, sweat, and ink on bringing the Colossian church back to what the true nature of the gospel really is. And we’ll definitely see these two main focuses of the supremacy of Christ and the true nature of the gospel in our passage that we are looking at today, Colossians 2:1-15.
Colossians 2:1-15 says, “I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is. So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”
So this raises some questions that we can wrestle together with. One thought was how do you and can you live where it seems like there are no roots or the roots that once were there are now being ripped up from the base? Secondly, what do we root our lives in? To what can we put our hope, trust, and know that whatever may come, come hell or high-water, that we will be firmly rooted? And lastly how do we build a life that goes deeper than just the superficiality that we see everyday. In a world filled with images (eikons…to use Paul’s words) that point towards various Caesars, how do we live a life that is more than just image. Because, Cannon is actually wrong, image isn’t everything. So let’s unpack the text together and see if we can wrestle some of these questions to the ground. And see how Paul again focuses this part of the letter on the two essentials of the supremacy & preeminence of Jesus and the true nature of the Gospel.
So at the beginning Paul lays out the fact that he is contending hard for not only the believers at Colossae but also at Laodicea. He is writing letters, praying for them, and no doubt counseling and training Erastus to plant and pastor the infant community of followers of Jesus. After sharing the fact that he was working hard on their behalf he shares what his dream and goal for the new church at Colossae is. What he dreams at night for this small new struggling community of Jesus followers. He records his dream, goal and vision for the Colossian church in verses 2-4 when he says, “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Again Paul makes reference to the word mystery (like last week and directly from the pages of the mystery religions) and flips it on its head saying that all may know Christ. It is not only Paul’s prayer and goal for the Colossian church but for each of us and for our community as well. But that isn’t his only goal in contending for the believers in Colossae and also his goal for all Christ followers. Verses 6-7 are not only a goal for Paul, they sum up the message of the entire letter. In them Paul draws together the awesome Christology of the introduction and the practical teaching that is to be based on it throughout the rest of Colossians. Verses 6-7 says this, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”
Paul is saying that you need to be rooted in Jesus, like a tree in good soil if you want to withstand the philosophies of this world. The Colossian church needed to grow deeper and root themselves in Jesus and the gospel, so that they wouldn’t be taken captive by the hollow and deceptive philosophy that we call the Colossian heresy. But to make this journey (live your life) of faith in Jesus, rooting ourselves deeper so that we can be built up, we need to live out what Paul talks about in verses 9-10 and 13-15. These verses help us get rooted in our faith so that we won’t fall prey to deceptive theology and philosophy and they focus us on what is really important, the supremacy and preeminence of Jesus over all other lords/gods including Caesar (verses 9-10) and the true nature of the gospel of Jesus and his Kingdom (verses 13-15) Let’s wrap up the message and transition into discussion by looking at these important verses.
Verses 9-10 speak of the supremacy of Jesus over all other lords and gods when Paul writes, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.” These verses reiterate Chapter 1:15-20. He is saying that the image of the invisible God is Jesus. That Jesus was and is not simply a fully human being (though he is that as well. He was and is the bodily form taken by God himself. God in all his fullness. He wasn’t a demigod. He doesn’t have a human body and a divine spirit. He can only be properly understood as the human being who embodies or incarnations the fullness of divinity. And because he embodies the fullness of divinity, he is that head over every power and authority. Over Caesar. Over every empire that has ever or will ever exist. And over any lord or god that we set up in our own lives. He is above all things. He is supreme and preeminent and because of that we need to root our entire selves in him and not in anything that seeks to via for his supremacy.
And why should we give him preeminence not only in our own lives but in the world around us? Because when we fully understand the gospel, we will want to recognize his supremacy. And to combat to the philosophies of this world, it takes the gospel, truly understand and applies to our lives. And the gopsel truly understand is spelled out in verses 13-15, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”
When the power and authority of the Roman empire came down on the head of Jesus, they thought they destroyed his kingdom. After all, when the Romans would attack a country, capture the king, and put him to death, it meant that they also symbolically destroyed that kingdom. Every crucifixion of a “rebel king” was another symbolic triumph of Rome. And so when the Romans crucified Jesus of Nazareth under the sign that said King of the Jews, they thought his Kingdom over which his is King is now destroyed. But nothing could be further from the truth. The Paradox of the Cross is this..God’s weakness overcome human strength, God’s folly, overcomes human wisdom. The cross means that your are forgiven of your sins and the offenses that might have been counted against you. In dying with Him, you have come out from under them all and from all the condemnation that might have pulled down on you. You are alive in Christ.
But let’s unpack this together. What does the supremacy and preeminence of Jesus looked like flushed out in the world? What are the religious and philosophical attractions in the world that are most likely to draw Christians away from the fulfillment that they already have in the King? And how does the gospel touch down in your life and in the lives of the people that God is calling you to be a blessing to? These are some of the questions that we will unpack together.
1. As you look at this text, what questions, comments, insights, observations, etc.. do you have?
2. What are the “hollow and deceptive philosophies” that can take us captive in our world today?
3. How does the supremacy and preeminence of Jesus speak to those “hollow and deceptive philosophies”? And what does it look like flushed out in our everyday life in regards to the supremacy and preeminence of Jesus?
4. How does Verses 13-15 speak to you? What doss it mean for you and I in our everyday lives? What does it mean for the people that God has called you to bless?