Author: Ron Graham
Christ, Opponent of All False Religion
—plus “The Three Unthinkables”
Having discussed Christ's full reign and headship over his church, we now move into the theme of the Church's full unity.
Among God’s called-out people (the church), "Christ is all, and in all" (Colossians 3:11). There are no divisions and distinctions. Each person is equally chosen, holy, and beloved.
There was a solid unity in the church at Colossae. It would last so long as Christ was all, and nothing was added to his rule and his word. This is true in any Christian congregation.
We must "hold fast to the Head from whom all the body is nourished and knit together." (Colossians 2:19). Paul was concerned that some were not doing this. There was a real danger that they would place themselves in opposition to Christ.
Jesus Christ, by claiming to be the keeping place of all wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:1-3), opposes himself to all other religions. Jesus instructs his followers neither to persecute other religions, nor to embrace them.
1 Christ’s Word Our Ground
The ground of our unity in Christ is "the word of truth, the gospel" (Colossians 1:5), which Christ has supplied from his "treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:3).
This word is "the faith" by which we are to be "rooted and built up in him" (Colossians 2:7). Paul wants the Colossians to realize that they should keep to this word so he adds "just as you were instructed".
This word is contrasted with "philosophy and empty deceit" based upon "principles of the world" (Colossians 2:8). Worldly wisdom is drawn from earthly elements (usually earth, air, fire, water) and their elemental spirits (real or imagined).
True wisdom comes from Christ the Creator of all things (Colossians 1:15,16,17). He is the "substance" and all else is "shadow" (Colossians 2:17). Obviously you cannot ground yourself in a shadow.
There is no celestial library of wisdom and knowledge to which many spiritual sages have contributed over aeons. As we have emphasized already, all treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ (Colossians 2:3).
Anything else is not a treasure of truth but a tangle of lies, and that will not bring unity to God’s holy people; it will bring only division.
2 Christ’s Word Opposes False Religion
False religion is "hostile to us" so Christ has "wiped out" all "self imposed religion" based on "the doctrines and commandments of men" (Colossians 2:14,22-23).
Note that this even includes the law of Moses which cannot be validly practised any more, because it foreshadowed the death of Christ on the cross.
On the basis of the sacrifice on the cross, Christ established his own covenant. The old one from Moses was "nailed to his cross" (Colossians 2:14). Paul opposed it being brought back.
3 Christ’s Word Gives Hope
The gospel of Christ offers true hope of a heavenly inheritance (Colossians 1:5-6,12,23). We are warned, "Don't let anybody cheat you of your reward" (Colossians 2:18).
Christ is opposed to false religion because it cheats people of their inheritance. So join the opposition, and cling to Christ’s word alone. You will then "be not be moved away from the hope of the gospel" (Colossians 1:23).
Some folk think of opposition as somehow unchristian, and that Christians should be all-embracing and tolerant. In this next part of our lesson we simply point out three things which Paul regarded as unthinkable and not to be tolerated.
The Three Unthinkables
1 To Deviate from the Tradition of the Gospel
Colossians 1:23 “Be not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard.”
Paul warns that we should "not deviate from the hope of the gospel... which was preached to every creature..." (Colossians 1:23). It's a common tendency to deviate or move in a different direction from the gospel.
People listen, and give credence, to voices other than the word of Jesus and his apostles such as Paul. When a vehicle moves out of its appointed lane, or a planet moves out of its proper orbit, a dangerous situation, if not a disaster, occurs.
We must refuse to deviate from the gospel that was originally preached —refuse not just for old time’s sake but for the sake of our salvation.
2 To Deceive the Believers in the Gospel
Colossians 2:8 “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit.”
Paul calls the gospel "the word of truth" (Colossians 1:5). He calls it "all wisdom" (Colossians 1:28) and "all the riches of the full assurance of understanding in a true knowledge..." (Colossians 2:2).
The gospel cannot be improved, because it was already all truth in its original form. You cannot add more truth to all truth. Anything you add to the gospel will be lies. And your lies will deceive believers.
3 To Devalue the Treasures of the Gospel
Colossians 2:23 “These things have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion... but are of no value...”
Paul opposes "the commandments and doctrines of men" (Colossians 2:22) and all religion not imposed by Christ but "self imposed" (Colossians 2:23).
Paul declares the all-sufficiency of Christ’s religion: "In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:3).
It is a dishonor to Jesus to mix into his religion things which are of "no value" (Colossians 2:23). If you mixed sawdust into bread dough, you could make a bigger loaf, but would it be a better loaf, a loaf of more value?
If you mixed water into your petrol you would make more fuel, but would it be better fuel of higher octane? If you added fake pearls to a genuine and priceless pearl necklace, would you make it a more valuable necklace?
The principle also applies in reverse. Those who take away from the perfect gospel make it imperfect.
There are hundreds of different denominations claiming to be Christian. They are all divided because they teach different things instead of the treasures of Christ’s wisdom. Christ is opposed to all doctrine that divides.