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Complete In Him

Christ Is Enough  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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The work of Christ is totally necessary for our justification, but it is also totally sufficient for our justification.

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How many here today enjoy getting something a little “extra” every once in a while? Perhaps its a splurge that you’ve been saving for, perhaps you’ve been doing really well on that diet and you treat yourself, perhaps you receive a surprise - a bonus, something you didn’t expect.
Maybe its an up-sell. In college, I worked as a service advisor at a car dealership. I was that friendly but dreadful person who was the ambassador between the technician working on your vehicle, and you - the unsuspecting customer. Like any job that involves sales, i was trained and expected to convince you, based on data and findings of the technician, that you needed more than the maintenance or issue you came in for. Now I was honest, and it was’t a scam, but when we talk about that kind of “extra,” something extra that you didn’t want, something extra that was going to cost you, maybe we don’t like extra all that much.
Paul, writing to the Colossians, was addressing the problem of “extra” creeping in to the church. It was an extra that some people loved - some people wanted - some people were convinced was totally necessary; but it was an extra that was deadly. It was an addition, not to their bank account or nest egg, not to their food supply or dessert options, not to their belongings or experiences, but it was an addition to the Gospel.
Within a few years of Christianity beginning in Colossae, Paul and Epaphras, who was the pastor of the church there, recognized that the people of Colossae had an appetite for something “extra.” Something more than the Crucified and risen Savior.
Now, as we look at this section of Colossians, this is where Paul begins to address the heresy that was plaguing the Colossian church. He doesn’t name the heresy, or the false teachers, but that is actually very convenient for us nearly 2000 years later. Because he does not name the exact heresy or false teaching, but rather exposes some of its key issues, we find today that we may encounter or be drawn to some of the same errors.
The error contained elements of “Philosophy.”
- Philosophy in that age didn’t refer strictly to rational thinking or reasoning, but often to occultic speculations and practices that were based on human tradition.
It contained elements of “legalism”
- Legalism, of course, is an improper fixation on law or codes of conduct for a person to merit or obtain salvation, blessings from God, or fellowship with God, with a misunderstanding of Grace.
Along with legalism came a form of “Asceticism”
Asceticism is a lifestyle that avoids all forms of indulgence or sensual pleasures for the purpose of becoming closer to God.
Finally, it contained elements of “Mysticism”
Mysticism is the belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience.
Philosophy, Legalism, Asceticism, Mysticism.
Montanism
Paul was well ahead of his time, of course, being under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The very dangers he warned about came to a head about a century later in the very region that the Colossians were in. There arose a group called the “Montanists.” Montanism was a teaching that thrived on ecstatic and invigorating prophecy. It thrived on freedom from and neglecting responsibilities in life for “spiritual” purposes, and rigorous fasts seeking hyper-spiritual experiences. Montanus, the originator of the heresy, had claimed to receive a series of direct revelations from the Holy Spirit bringing all sorts of insight and new teaching. That was certainly appealing, but the only problem was that the insights and new teaching Montanus was receiving were often different from, and sometimes directly contrary to the teaching of Christ and the Apostles.
Although this came 100 years after Paul wrote Colossians, the heresy was already there in seed form. People seeking more. More than Christ. More than the Gospel. More than the finished work of Redemption. Something they could do. Something they could feel. Something they could experience.
And although we live hundreds of years after Paul wrote Colossians, in our modern church experience, we are plagued with the same temptations. Temptations to seek more. More than Christ. More than the Gospel. More than the Finished work of redemption. Something we can do. Something we can feel. Something we can experience.
It is in this sense that the warning Paul gives here is both explicitly for the Colossians in their day, and explicitly for us in our day.
You see, dear ones, one of the greatest temptations in our Christian walk is not to abandon the work of Christ altogether, but to seek to add something to it. We may not have any doubt that Christ is important, but we are tempted to view actions, experiences, or feelings as just as important. Yes, one of the oldest and most persistent errors that creeps into the church is the idea that Christ’s work is necessary for our justification, but it is simply not sufficient.
Did you hear that? Yes, it is possible to agree and believe that you cannot be justified or made right with God apart from the finished work of Christ, while also believing that something you do, say, feel, or experience is also part of that work.
I hope you hear today that the cry of the letter to the Colossians, the cry of the Apostle Paul, the cry of the Scriptures, the Cry of the Gospel itself is that Christ is enough. Christ is enough.

May we cling to Christ as the one who is both totally necessary and totally sufficient for our justification.

To do this, I want to view, rather quickly, the simple contrast that Paul makes in verse 8-10.
Our Emptiness without Him
Our Fullness within Him

1. Our Emptiness without Him. Vs. 8

Kidnapped by Deceit
“See to it that no one takes you captive.”
This is an emphatic command from Paul. He is not tiptoeing around the issue. It is a warning of utmost importance and absolutely must be heeded by followers of Christ. Lest we be puffed up for a moment and think that we are immune to error, or that we are somehow inoculated against the possibility of being deceived, Paul calls us on an active endeavor to make sure that we are not duped by false teaching.
“Takes you captive”
this is a rare word, used only here in the New Testament, that literally means to carry away the spoils of war.
Know this, dear one, there is a spiritual battle raging. The enemy is the master deceiver. There is a war being fought against the truth of the Gospel. And in this war, to our dismay, but not without warning, there are many casualties. May we not be numbered among the spoils of war carried of by the enemy.
“Philosophy and Empty Deceit”
Philosophy here encompasses the whole gamut of religious ideas or traditions. The exchange of ideas about who God is and how to approach Him.
Empty deceit here refers to the fact that anything apart from the truth of the Gospel is a deceit, a fraud, a trick. It may sound convincing or even supply a level of experiential evidence, but no matter how profound or deeply religious something may seem, if it is not the truth of God, it is an illusion.
Where to Philosophies and Empty Deceit come from? Paul answers
Human Tradition
Elemental Spirits of the World.
“Human Tradition”
Tradition is that which is given from one to another. Something passed down. Simply because something has been believed and passed down for any length of time does not mean it is legitimate. In fact, tradition without foundation usually serves to perpetuate error, not truth.
“Elemental Spirits.”
There is a debate as to exactly what Paul was referring to here. It is possible that he is addressing a base form of astrology, in which, as was common for that day, there was a belief that the heavenly bodies were living beings that had sway and control over human beings and ideas.
It is also possible that Paul was referring to any kind of elemental or rudimentary religious teaching apart from the truth of Christian Scripture.
Matthew 15:8–9 ESV
“ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”
Matthew 15:
Matthew 15:1–9 ESV
Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”
Within these human traditions and elemental spirits was found the teaching as doctrine the commandments that came from mere men.
1 Timothy 6:20 ESV
O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,”
Paul here minces no words. He refers to a common heresy of the day called “Gnosticism” in which people based their religious experience off of “special Knowledge.” He denounces all this kind of hyper-spiritual “revelation” as babble and contradictory.
No matter where the philosophy and empty deceit came from, Paul assures that it was not according to Christ. That is the key point of examination. A concept or religious idea may sound intriguing, but if its’ source is anything other than Christ, it is a falsehood, and following after it puts you in grave danger of being carried away as a captor of the enemy.
Paul, referring to the right working of the teaching of Scriptural truth, gives this admonition.
Ephesians 4:14 ESV
so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
Ephesians 4:12–14 ESV
to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
Ephesians 4:14 ESV
so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
The tradition of men, the philosophy and empty deceit of the enemy, is nothing. If it is not of Christ, then it is not of the truth. Without Him, we wallow in emptiness.

2. Our Fullness within Him - Vv. 9-10

Perfected by Christ
Ephesians
Paul turns the corner now from the empty to the full, and he does so by referring to the fulness of the divine nature which is in Christ.
That the fulness of deity “dwells” in Christ literally pictures the Divine nature “being settled and at home” in Christ. Its a completeness. It is having every normal and necessary part of something.
The false teachers held that the divine nature was separated and divided among many existences and experiences. The false teachers claimed to be able to lead one to the fulness of divinity through their mystical practices and ritualistic worship. This idea had crept in to the Colossians thinking, and Paul refutes it by again, as he did in chapter 1, taking away any doubt that Christ is in fact God. Not only is He God, but all the fulness, the completion, every necessary element of the divine nature rests in Him.
“Bodily” of course here refers to the incarnation. The miracle of Christ being robed in flesh for the purpose of His reconciling death. How amazing is it that the fulness of the divine nature rests in Christ, and how much more amazing that The fulness of the Godhead became a man to secure our redemption.
Vs. 10
Playing off of the word “fulness,” Paul uses the same word in a different form to teach that we find our “fulness” in Christ.
Just as Christ is the fulness, the completion, bearing every necessary part of the Divine nature, so we, in Him, find our fulness, our completion, bearing every necessary component of our spiritual life in Him.
To put it another way, in Christ we have reached the pinnacle of Spiritual life and experience. That is why it is a fools errand to seek out any other form of mysticism, asceticism, feeling, or experience beyond Christ. Anything that is “beyond Christ” is actually beneath Christ, for, as Paul says, He is the head of all rule and authority.
Believer, know that you are complete in Christ! Do not weary yourselves with seeking some form of second blessing, or a sensual experience of God. You can be no closer to God than you are by the redemption and finished work of Christ! Nothing further is necessary, nothing further is helpful.
And this fulness is not something that we have achieved by our merit, but it comes from christ alone!
Ephesians 3:19 ESV
and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
and that is, to be filled with the fulness that comes from. We do not possess the fulness of the Divine nature, but we receive our fulness, our completion, everything we need for life and godliness from God Himself.
That is why Paul says later on.
Colossians 2:18–19 ESV
Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
And with all this, we cannot ignore that passage that we read corporately earlier.
Colossians 2:6–7 ESV
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
I asked our teens when we studied those verses, how is it that we receive Christ Jesus the Lord?
Of course, the answer is by Grace through faith alone. If we answer that correctly, then we also answer the question, how do we live the Christian life.
We receive our life by Grace through Faith in Christ, and we live, and move, and grow, and walk, by Grace through faith in Christ.
Beloved, rest assured, though many spiritual temptations and enticing ideas may come across your radar promising heightened experience and more fulfilment, do not be deceived into thinking that Christ is insufficient.
Christ is not just necessary, He is sufficient. He is enough.
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