Practically, what were the false teachers saying to the Colossian church? v21 – “Don’t handle, don’t taste, don’t touch?” The false teachers tried to turn the church at Colossae from a community of grace to a community of performance. From a true community of life-giving faith into a community of religion and rules and regulations leading to death.
18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on ASCETIC PRACTICES and the WORSHIP of ANGELS, claiming access to a VISIONARY REALM and INFLATED without cause by his unspiritual mind.
The Colossian heresy evidently encouraged the claim that the fullness of God could be appreciated only by mystical experiences for which ascetic preparation and strict rule keeping were necessary. The false teachers taught that the ascetic practices and regulations were a necessary prerequisite for true knowledge, or true spirituality. If you wanted access to mystical visions, a realm of superior spirituality where you could worship angels and experience things that commoners did not have access to, here’s a list of things you need to do.
See how tricky Satan is. The false teachers are not talking about salvation. I’m sure the gospel was preached. But the focus of this community was not Jesus, not the gospel, not salvation, but the focus was spirituality. Who’s spiritual, who’s ascending up the ladder of spirituality the fastest, who has experienced the most fantastic supernatural experiences because he or she has submitted himself or herself under the prescribed program at the church of ascetism and rule keeping.
Imagine if you were a new convert at the Colossian church and the false teachers were telling you, you need to get circumcised, then you need to sell your TV, give away all your money to the church, live off of food stamps. Electricity, you don’t need electricity. Buy candles. Live simply. If you do this, you will reach heights of spirituality that you never thought possible.
What if the new convert said, no, I’m not interested. I’m happy with Jesus. I know I’m not perfect, but his grace covers my sin. I’m thankful for what Christ has done for me and I’m enjoying my prayer times. I’d rather do that instead of following your program.
How do you think the false teachers and their followers would treat this new convert? Who is this guy? Who does he think he is? Does he think he is better than us? What a proud, unbroken sinner! Doesn’t he know that we can speak to angels? When is the last time he spoke to angels? You see what is happening. The church that is supposed to be place of grace and serving one another and unity has been fractured into the inner circle and the outsiders. If you get with the program and submit to the leadership, we will welcome you into the inner circle and treat you like one of us. If you don’t get with the program and fail to submit, good luck, you’re on your own, we want nothing to do with you.
How does Paul address this heresy?
Col 2:9-10 [READ]
Christ is not second fiddle, he’s not second place, He’s the head over every ruler and authority, everything, in the visible world as well as the invisible world of angels and demons, everything in creation bows the knee to Christ. When you see Jesus, you see the ENTIRE FULLNESS of God, and to highlight the false teaching, he throws in that the fullness of God’s nature dwells BODILY in Christ. The body, the flesh, these are not evil things that need to be punished and circumcised and regulated. In fact, Jesus rose up bodily after dying on a cross.
In v14-15, Paul explains what happened on the cross in the spiritual realm.
14 He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the RULERS and AUTHORITIES and disgraced them publicly; He triumphed over them by Him.
Jesus conquered Satan and the rest of his rulers and authorities. He triumphed over them by dying and resurrecting. So for the believer, because you repented of your sin and placed your faith in Christ, you were not only saved, but Satan’s control over you was broken. Yet, look at what the false teachers were doing.
16 Therefore, don’t let anyone JUDGE you in regard to food and drink or in the matter of a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a SHADOW of what was to come; the SUBSTANCE is the Messiah.
Before the Christian was converted, he was in bondage to sin, but now through false teachers, Satan is seeking to bind them to religion. There was a strong judgmental spirit, which is a symptom of false teaching, that was festering at Colossae. If you ate certain foods, you were shunned. If you didn’t eat those forbidden foods, then you were accepted. If you drank certain liquids, you were shunned. If you abstained, you were accepted. If you participated in certain festivals, you were accepted and praised. If you failed to show up, you were kicked to the curb. Bondage to sin changed to bondage to religion. In both cases, the false teachers have accomplished their goal of cutting Christians off from the Head, Jesus Christ.
Legalistic churches led by false teachers spend a lot of energy passing judgment on behavior. They spend so much energy regulating behavior. Paul diagnoses the problem–these false teachers are focused on shadowy things, pointers to Jesus rather than focusing on Jesus Himself because he is the substance, not the shadow.
In conclusion, let’s circle back to the main point. Don’t lose your Head. Don’t lose Christ. False teachers have plagued God’s true church throughout the centuries and false teacher are all around us today. If you don’t see it, you’re either naive or you don’t know Scripture. Be alert. Be on guard. If someone tells you, I have a vision. I have a secret revelation. Be careful. Test it. Does the vision lead the person who had the vision toward Jesus or away from Jesus? That’s one quick test to discern the truth from a counterfeit. A vision from the Lord will always lead a person to Jesus while a counterfeit vision will lead you away from Jesus and seeking after newer and better experiences or greed or power, something other than Christ.
Beware of legalistic, judgmental Christians who talk more about optional gray areas of behavior than they do their love for Jesus. We are free in Christ that we may love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength..
This is why I believe in expositional preaching, preaching the Bible book by book, chapter by chapter, from cover to cover. It’s because I don’t trust myself. If I teach what I like or what comes naturally for me, I run the risk of majoring in minor things. Placing the accent on something other than Jesus. However, if I am faithful in preaching the Bible, the accent will always be on Christ because the entire Bible is about Jesus.
But don’t trust me. I can be led astray like anybody else. It’s up to you to be knowledgeable about Scripture. Don’t read it academically. Col 2:19 – let Christ, the Head, nourish your soul and spirit. Treat the Bible as if it is food. If you didn’t eat all week and then you went to Hometown Buffet on Sunday, you would not be healthy physically because you are not nourishing your body every day. Likewise, if you rarely open the Bible throughout the week and then you binge on Sundays, you won’t be a healthy Christian. Nourish yourself every day on Jesus through the Word and prayer. No one can force you. It’s up to you.
In addition, knowledge is not a series or hierarchy of breakthroughs. Once you reach Level 1, you beat your body and pray and fast for weeks and you can reach Level 2. Christianity is not like a video game. You don’t have to perform in order to reach higher levels of knowledge.
It’s not like school. You don’t need a seminary education to get access to a higher plane of spirituality.
Col 2:3 [READ]
Every and all treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ. You don’t need more knowledge. You just need to KNOW Christ better. Christ is a treasure. We are going to spend an eternity unearthing the treasure and beauty of Christ. Get used to it. Start today.
Col 2:6-7 [READ]
When you were saved, you received Christ, now walk in Him, walk with Jesus, get to know Him, root yourself in Him, ask Him to build you up as you follow and stay connected to Him.
Look back on this year. Did you grow spiritually? Not in terms of attendance or ministry or service. But did you grow in your personal knowledge and love for Jesus? If you stopped growing and your relationship with Jesus has grown stagnant, then Satan has you right where he wants you. He has been successful in getting you to lose your Head.
Your enemy is not your wife or your demanding boss or your difficult circumstances. Your enemy is Satan. Don’t get angry at these things. Get angry at Satan and let that anger fuel your prayers to Jesus as you cry out to Him. In the process, let’s keep Jesus as our Head, first place in everything.