Faithlife Sermons

Utterly Christ Centered - Colossians 2

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  1. The Lycus River Valley had been overtaken by a philosophy that was threatening the spiritual health of the church at Colossae and presumably at Hierapolis and Laodicea.
  2. No one knows with certainty what the philosophy was. There has been speculation.
    • Some think a Gnostic type heresy.
      • Jesus did not come in the flesh. Death on the cross was not real. It only seemed to be so. Because God would never touch flawed creation.
      • Relationship to God gained through knowledge, hence gnosis-ism.
    • Others think a philosophy based on Judaism, syncretized with some other philosphy. Hence worship of angels and observance of food laws.
  3. Paul prays that they will be filled with knowledge of God's will with wisdom and understanding. The antidote to false teaching created by Gnosticism.
  4. Paul is concerned that they will be deceived by the false teaching, Colossians 2:4.

I. Continue to live in Christ Jesus the Lord:

  1. Paul is utterly Christ centered. His letters are filled with admonitions to remain connected to Jesus.
    • In Galatians he chastises those who are seeking to pervert the gospel of Christ, Galatians 1:6,7.
    • To the Ephesians he speaks of the blessings we have in Jesus, Ephesians 1:3-14.
    • To the Philippians he sings a song about the humility and servitude of Jesus, Philippians 2:1-11.
  2. Paul reminds the Colossians to "continue to live in Christ," Colossians 2:6.
    • "Continue" literally means "walk." The aorist means hanging around in a place, not just passing by.
    • Paul cannot imagine a "discipleship" that is separated from Christ.
  3. In John's letter to Ephesus (Revelation 2:5), Jesus exhorts the Ephesians Christians to remember their first love and to return to it.
  4. Paul helps us see the importance of being thoroughly rooted in Jesus to prevent being "blown about by every wind of doctrine," Ephesians 4:14.
  5. The Colossian situation shows how easily a church can become disoriented and uprooted because of shallow teaching and rootedness.

II. Human tradition & elemental spirits:

  1. The heresy they were fighting was took its direction from the world order of things.
    • There is no creative original thought in worldly philosophy.
    • Adherents to this thought walk lock-step with no freedom.
    • I like the way The Message translates Paul's warning. Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. Colossians 2:8.
  2. In Paul's day the philosophy and empty deceit was expressed in conflicting teachings or thought systems.
  3. But that is not the only way it gets expressed. Walsh and Keesmaat reframe our text and write, Resist this McWorld nightmare with all the strength you have! Avoid the Disneyization of your consciousness! This stuff has no substance to it, no depth.
  4. What we're talking about here is actually "idolatry," although the word itself is not used in the text.
    • If you look at descriptions of idolatry elsewhere in the Bible you will find something that looks exactly what Paul is describing in Colossians.
    • A mere "appearance" of wisdom. Constructed by humans. Puffed up and arrogant. No value in checking the flesh. Impotent.
  5. From N.T. Wright. Why are the powers so threatening?
    • When humans refuse to use God's gift of sexuality responsibly, they are handing their power over to Aphrodite.
    • When humans refuse to use God's gift of money responsibly, they are handing their power over to Mammon.
    • When humans give too much importance they allow Hermes to rule their lives.
    • When humans give undo place of the government in their lives
    • When the powers take over, human beings get crushed.
  6. Walter Brueggeman says that one of the greatestest dangers of our time is the "monopoly of our imagination."
    • The world is experienced and interpreted in terms established by the idol.
    • Bowing before an idol is fundamentally a matter of yielding the imagination.
    • We are, resultingly, too numbed, satiated, and co-opted to do imaginative work.
  7. To illustrate, imagine this scenario.
    • Bob is a businessman with a wife and three kids.
    • He decided that he would fudge on the numbers at work in order to give himself a little raise. "No one will miss it," he though, "and I can buy [Wife] a nice anniversary present.
    • Soon he realizes that the little "fudge" is costing him sleep, mental clarity, and trouble free health.
    • An annual audit finds the error. His boss calls him in, fires him, and sues him.
    • The little "fudge" sets off a firestorm of problems.
      • He loses his wife's respect.
      • He can't make the house payment any more.
      • He loses his friends and status in the community.
    • Bob bowed down at Hermes' throne. He was sure that Hermes would bring him financial and business success.
    • The mind that could have been put to great thoughts was trapped by the bondage of the philosophical lie he bought.

III. An Alternative to the Empire:

  1. Keesmaat and Walsh say that the question isn't WHETHER to live out of a philosophy (metanarrative) but rather WHICH philosophy we will choose.
  2. Paul reminds the Colossian disciples that they had elected to live in light of the narrative of Christ. So he writes, If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world?
    • He reminds them that the worldly narrative leads to nothing but slavery.
    • Why do you submit to regulations, “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”? Colossians 2:20-23.
  3. The metanarrative for the alternative to the worldly philosophy is becoming a participant in Jesus' death and resurrection. Paul reminds them:
    • ...when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses..., Colossians 2:12-15.
    • Whatever we thought we could gain by worshiping idols of business, or sex, or money, or power turned out to be a lie.
    • The victory of Jesus over death and the grave freed us.


  1. The key pathology of our time is the yielding of the imagination. Like a scene from the Matrix. Thinking we are seeing the truth.
  2. The antidote to this forgetfulness is remembrance. Paul calls the Colossian disciples to retell and remember their founding story.
  3. Otherwise it becomes like a game of "telegraph" in which our narrative becomes less and less like the original. And we become more and more enslaved to a lie.
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