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A Closer look at the Colossian Heresies

Col. 2: 16-23


Colossian heresy is a mixture of Jewish, Greek and Pagan ideas. I would say it was syncretism. From that, we have philosophy, traditions, legalism, mysticism, idolatry, and asceticism. Somebody has predicted the rise of a new mixture of religion based on the ground that all of the world’s religions must be combined into one.

I. Syncretism is defined as the combination or fusion of different systems of belief. It dates back in the OT with the Israelites temptation to follow the Canaanite practices and worship for Baal. The early church battled this syncretistic belief especially when Rome tolerated Christianity and assimilated into her system the gods of other countries in which they ruled. Babylon was the source of paganism of these countries, so most if not all forms of worship, gods, goddesses, etc., are of Babylonian origin. The mother and child worship is one of the early products of the fusion of Christianity and paganism which the early church opposed. Repetitious prayers, rosary, and bowing to statues are just a few.

Even today the battle continues because there are always people trying to combine Philosophy, Psychology (James Dobson), eastern mysticism, new age, astrology etc., to the Christian faith. And while it may look useful and harmless, they still deny the all sufficiency and superiority of Christ

A. Legalistic Deception (2:16-17)

Legalism is the strict adherence to the law of God. Basically legalists try to add works to achieve salvation or human tradition to deepen spirituality. It focuses more on the rules than in personal relationship with Christ. V. 16 tell about the dietary laws: food and drink, as well as the observance of holyday, (festival), new moon and Sabbath.

1. In food or drink – legalistic people puts rules about what to eat or drink. Probably from the Mosaic Law in Lev. 11. Food however should not be an issue to the Christian. For me, 1 Cor. 10:31-32, is the written word which is enough to settle all problems over food and drink. See also Rom. 14:1-4, Rom. 14:17, 1 Cor. 8:8-9, 1 Tim. 4:3.

2. Regarding a holyday (festival) – Israel observes feast like Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles etc. In the NT times we observe no feasts. Religious days such as Christmas, Easter, Lent, Maundy Thursday, Ash Wednesday, and Good Friday are man-made, and unscriptural. There are people who make Easter their special day for God. For a day or two, they are in their best behaviour and manner to impress God. Nowhere in the scripture represents this as standard for Christianity.

New moon observance is also practiced by the heretics and false teachers in Colosse but this new moon observance has no meaning in Christianity. We don’t look at the moon now to be spiritual.

The seventh day of the week is Saturday. The first day is Sunday. If we were to observe Sabbath, we would worship on Saturday. Sad to say that there’s a lot of people who claims to be Christians and enforce Sabbath and teaches that it is still in effect. But if we take a closer look:

a. The Sabbath is the only one in the Ten Commandments that is not repeated in the NT.

b. Christians met on Sunday, not Saturday (Acts 20:7, 1 Cor. 16:2)

c. Our text condemns Sabbath observance. (Col. 2:16).

Legalism is deadly for the church and for the spiritual life of the believer. Not only can it hinder true spiritual growth, but it can also cause great judgmentalism from those who do not share your convictions. For that reason, Paul began verse 16 by saying, “Let no man therefore judge you.” All believers have freedom in Christ. Nobody has any right to impose regulations on another believer that exceed the requirements outlined in the Scriptures. Christians are free to do whatever their conscience dictates, provided they follow Scripture and cause no offense for another believer. The ceremonial laws of the OT are here referred to as shadows (cf. Heb. 8:5; 10:1) because they symbolically depicted the coming of Christ; so any insistence on the observance of such ceremonies is a failure to recognize that their fulfilment has already taken place.

B. Mystical Deception (v. 18-19)

We defined mysticism as experiencing God beyond the boundaries of scriptures. The pursuit of a deeper or higher, subjective religious experience. Often they say “you should have the same experience or feeling that I have”. I would put the speaking of tongues by the Charismatics and the Pentecostals on this category together with the laughing revival as well as the “drunken” or “slain” by the spirit experiences. The logic here is if you have not experienced those things mentioned, you are not yet baptized by the Holy Spirit so you are not yet saved or fully saved. What a lie.

Voluntary humility is shown by outward acts of self-denial to the body. The problem is if delight on your own humility or boast your humility you stop to be humble. So they are promoting pride.

Worship of angels is idolatrous and prohibited in the Bible so we should not do it (Rev. 19:10). Catholics still worship angels like Michael, and Gabriel in some of their churches.

Visions also play an important role on the Pentecostals as well as Charismatics. Seeing Jesus, being caught up in heaven are common to them. This is very dangerous because false Christ and false prophets will arise (Mat. 24:24-25)

The Bible is our final authority in everything. Not experience, not visions, not traditions. People enjoys telling stories about what things they have seen or experienced to show how spiritual they are but in reality, their minds are fleshy, concerned only of themselves and for their desire for honor.

C. Ascetic Deception (2:20-23)

Asceticism is the voluntary self-denial (often in rejecting the good and beautiful) in an attempt to gain greater spirituality. Rejection of things like: marriage, parenthood, and His creation all to pursue a life of rigid self-denial in an attempt to

bring one closer to God. Living in a secluded place like monastery, Buddhist austere life, and Muslims fasting, and pilgrimage to Mecca, Christians travel to Jerusalem, are revered by the world as appearance of religiosity but not in the eyes of God.

II. Conclusion:

Syncretism is a mixture of different system of belief which has its beginning in the OT times which continues until now. Legalism, mysticism, asceticism, deceives people and denies the all sufficiency and superiority of Christ. Don’t be carried away by false teachers. Put your faith in Christ alone.

Preached: 05 April 2013

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