Warning about False Teachings
We continue our study in these short but very important Epistle from Paul. From the basic and practical things last week we move again to the doctrinal. We will be dealing again with false teachings this time more specific which is the Colossian Heresy, a mixture of Jewish, Greek and Pagan ideas.
I. What the Colossian Heresy is:
A. Basically it was a denial of the adequacy and perfect supremacy of Christ. (Col. 1:15, 19, 2:2, 9). So Paul refutes the heresy by telling Christ’s true nature, glory and work. All the heresies look down on Christ and do not accept parts of the scriptures that tell about Him.
B. There were two kinds of wisdom, wisdom that comes from Christ and worldly wisdom comes from man. Worldly wisdom includes the following:
1. Philosophy (v. 8) – mentioned only once in the Bible, it is a combination of two Greek words which means “love of wisdom”. God warns us against it. Paul encountered philosophers in Acts 17:18 and the Bible mentioned two philosophical schools of thoughts, the Epicureans and the Stoicks. Philosophy is a system of religious thought that does not place the person and work of Christ central. It exalts human wisdom and knowledge. Examples of this are evolution, atheism and humanism.
Nowhere in the Bible is the acquisition of knowledge condemned, It is the wisdom of this world not its knowledge that is foolishness with God (1 Cor. 3:19). Epicureanism says “Let us drink and be merry for tomorrow we die”. Stoicks says “live nobly and death cannot matter. Hold appetite in check. The man is more than his circumstances; the soul is greater than the universe”.
2. Traditions – For me not all traditions are bad, but most of them are. Traditions are the delivery of opinions, doctrines, practices, rites and customs from father to son or from ancestors to posterity (Webster). Used in two ways in the N.T. and the chief difference between the two meanings is the authority upon which the tradition is based.
a. The vain traditions of false religion (Mt. 15:2-3, 6; Mk. 7:3, 5, 8-9, 13; Gal. 1:14; Col 2:8). This involves any uninspired teaching of man that is placed on the same level of authority as the inspired Word of God. The Roman Catholic Church has exalted its traditions to a level equal with Holy Scripture. Many other denominations are also guilty of founding their doctrine and practice on the uninspired traditions of man rather than solely upon the infallible and all-sufficient Word of God.
b. The authoritative teachings and practices of the N.T. as delivered to the Apostles by inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2Th. 2:15; 3:6). In this passage of Scripture the term tradition is used in a positive sense, referring to that which has been handed down from the Lord’s Apostles by inspired doctrine.
3. Legalism (2:11-17) – means strict, literal adherence to the law or to a particular code as of religion or morality. I would put ceremonial law of Judaism here. In Acts 15:1-5, many Jewish Christians thinks that it is important for Gentile Christians to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses in addition to following Christ. Sabbath keeping and various food regulations still exist to some denominations. By Christ’s death on the cross, ceremonial law has been abolished (Col. 2:14)
Trusting In Activity
The essence of legalism is trusting in the religious activity rather than trusting in God. It is putting our confidence in a practice rather than in a Person. And without fail this will lead us to love the practice more than the Person.
4. Mysticism – refers to experiencing God beyond the boundaries of Scripture. Traditional Christianity is described as too focused on “being right,” too much into “Bible studies” and “apologetics materials.” Instead, the young evangelicals are lusting after “a renewed encounter with a God” that goes beyond “doctrinal definitions.” Pagan practice like chanting, meditation, the use of prayer beads, Stations of the Cross (for Catholics) are now finding its way to lots of groups of Christians. Christianity Today recommends that evangelicals “stop debating” and just “embody Christianity.” Toward this end they should “embrace symbols and sacraments” and dialogue with “Catholicism and Orthodoxy”; they should “break out the candles and incense” and pray the “lectio divina” and learn the “Catholic ascetic disciplines” from “practicing monks and nuns.”
5. Idolatry – The worship of false gods. Idolatry is the breaking of the first commandment (Ex 20:3-5). Idolaters are religious but lost, and must hear the Gospel and be saved (Ac 17:23-31; Ep. 2:1-3,11-13; 1Th. 1:9-10). God repeatedly warns Christians of the danger of idolatry (1 Co. 10:7; 2 Co. 10:14; 6:16-17; 1 Jn. 5:21).
The world’s greatest worshippers of gods may be said to be the Hindus. They have 330 million gods and goddesses, or 8 to every Hindu family.
In Thailand there are 20,000 Buddhist temples – one for each baptised Christian.
6. Asceticism – Ascetic is a person who renounces material comfort and leads a life of austere self-discipline like fasting, celibacy, meditation, etc. This practice is contrary to the teaching of the N.T. While the Christian is to sacrifice his own self will for God’s will, true Christianity is not total withdrawal from the world, but abstention from evil practices (1Co 5:9-11; Ep. 5). Doctrines which forbid marriage and meats are demonic and false (1Ti 4:1-5). The Colossians thought there was religious merit to be gained by obeying such human laws as “Handle not, nor taste, nor touch” (Col. 2:16, 21, 23).
Christianity has nothing in common with the Philosophies, tradition, legalism, mysticism, idolatry, and asceticism. They are not divine revelation so we should avoid them. We should only be thinking of somebody and that somebody is Jesus Christ.
Preached: 21 April 2013