SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON PLAN 11 - Col. 2:6-23 - FREEDOM
INTRODUCTION: Last week, in Col. 1:24-2:5, we heard Paul give a detailed report his work for the cause of the gospel generally, and for the Colossian Christians specifically. He began by explaining two aspects of his ministry: his own suffering for the sake of the gospel in general and his stewardship of what he refers to as the "mystery," which is the unfolding of God's plan for the entire world; then in Chapter 2, the details of his specific efforts on behalf of the Colossian believers. He ended the lesson with a general warning about the real dangers of being side-tracked by false teaching. This week, in Col 2:6-23, we'll hear more from Paul about false teaching as he issues a series of warnings that explain how this kind of teaching should be seen as real threat to their church. We'll also hear him give the Colossians important teaching on a believer's new identity in Christ that will not only help them stand firm against the arguments of these false teachers, but also help them live in manner that is worthy of Christ.
Read Col. 2:6-7 - SO WALK IN HIM
6 Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 having been firmly rooted and now being built-up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.
v. 6a1: "Therefore" - In other words, so no one can delude you with false teaching.
v. 6a2: "as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord" - When we "have received Christ," we acquire a personal, intimate, and living spiritual union with Him that is so close that we might say that we now have His "spiritual genes" and "DNA" at the very core of our being.
v. 6b: "so walk in Him" - This is foundational to living a changed life. "Walk," in both and OT and NT, is a frequent metaphor for the manner in which we live our day-to-day lives. It means that we bind ourselves to Christ and walk with Him, following His commands, living as He would have us live.
v. 7a: "having been firmly rooted" - We begin as seedlings that soon grow to be "firmly rooted." And since our roots are firmly planted in Christ, they provide life-giving support in good times or bad.
v. 7b: "and now being built-up in Him and established in your faith" - Christians are the handiwork of Christ as the master builder and craftsman. He gives us a strong foundation, well-made walls, and a solid roof. This house of faith is designed to weather any type of storm, even the unexpected ones.
v. 7c: "and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude" - The Colossians are "established" and strong in their faith because they were firmly rooted and built up by the right teachings of Epaphras, who is a disciple of Paul, and now by Paul himself. So, because they have received Christ, because they are firmly rooted, built-up, and established in their faith, they have every reason to be "overflowing with gratitude." Aren't you glad to be a Christian today?
Read Col. 2:8:10 - LET NO ONE TAKE YOU CAPTIVE
8 See to it that there is no one who takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception in accordance with human tradition, in accordance with the elementary principles of the world, rather than in accordance with Christ. 9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over every ruler and authority;
v. 8a: "See to it that there is no one who takes you captive" - Paul is going to tell them how to keep their eyes wide open so they can identify the false teachers. He's calling them to keep their heads clear so that they can recognize falsehood when its attractively packaged and cleverly marketed.
v. 8b: "through philosophy and empty deception in accordance with human tradition" - Paul isn't condemning all of the old Greek philosophical schools-Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, etc.-but is specifically targeting false teachers in Colossae who were advocating beliefs that were not only incompatible with Christian faith, but actively trying to subvert it. Their tactic was "empty deception," which describes ideas that might seem attractive on their face but are in fact untrue. In this case, the "human tradition" Paul is talking about are worldly concepts which have been passed on from generation to generation that have no relevance or application to NT Christian faith, like the rabbinic traditions of the Pharisees and Scribes that Jesus often encountered in His earthly ministry.
v. 8c: "in accordance with the elementary principles of the world, rather than in accordance with Christ" - The "elementary principles of the world" are a reference to worldly religious ideas and teachings rooted in pagan beliefs and principles of OT Law that Christ rendered obsolete, and like traditions, have been passed-down over the ages. The false teachers were trying to deceive into thinking that their faith in Christ had to be combined with these older beliefs. But Paul is now calling on these Colossian Christians to avoid these errors-to reject making them part of the way they are living-out their new found faith in Christ.
v. 9: "For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form" - Two weeks ago, in 1:19, Paul taught that Jesus has preeminence in everything because He has "all the fullness" of God in Him; in particular, he possesses all the wisdom, the power, the Spirit, and the glory of God, which is to say that He is fully God in every way. Scholars suggest that Paul made this point here to contradict the dualistic belief that God and man cannot exist together in human form. The false teachers were apparently claiming that the Christian believers need something besides Christ to achieve true spiritual fulfillment. As Paul makes it plain, however, there is absolutely nothing we can do to draw closer to God and experience spiritual fulfillment than to know and walk with Jesus Christ.
v. 10a: "and in Him you have been made complete" - Since Christ has all the fullness of Deity, His fullness also makes us "complete," restoring us to the image of God that we lost when Adam sinned.
v. 10b: "and He is the head over every ruler and authority" - we'll talk more about Christ's preeminence/headship over rulers and governments when we come to v. 15.
Read Col. 2:11-15 - OUR DEBT CANCELLED AND NAILED TO THE CROSS!
11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision performed without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And when you were dead in your wrongdoings and the un-circumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our wrongdoings, 14 having canceled the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.
v. 11: "and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision performed without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ" - Now, Paul turns from problems related to their worldly Greek heritage to problems related to their Jewish influences. As Christians, we have no need of physical circumcision because with our renewal in Christ, we've received a spiritual "circumcision performed without hands," as an act of God.
v. 12: "having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead" - At our baptism, when we were buried with Christ in the water of baptism and resurrected with Him, it removed the concerns of the "body of the flesh," i.e., the need of a circumcision mark (v. 11), and marked us-spiritually-as members of the community of Christ. And just as we have become united with Him in burial, i.e., baptism = the likeness of death, we will also be united with Him as part of His resurrection.
v. 13: "And when you were dead in your wrongdoings and the un-circumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our wrongdoings" - Here, Paul contrasts out condition prior to being saved-dead-to the transformation that Christ made in us-alive and forgiven! The point Paul makes is that these "wrongdoings," i.e., sins, major or minor, were enough to cause us spiritual death; but Christ, through his forgiveness, has brought us back to life.
v. 14: "having canceled the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross" - The "certificate of death" pictures a written promissory note containing a long list of all our sin debt, like a handwritten document recorded in heaven, which was something we could never hope to pay off by our own efforts. But when we received Christ as Savior, He cancelled all this debt and "nailed it to the cross."
v. 15: "When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him - We're all familiar with governments and authorities. They establish the rules, tax us, and punish us when we violate their standards. Paul tells us elsewhere "such authority is ordained by God." (Rom. 13:1). Christ allowed the authorities-religious and Roman-to exercise their full powers over His life when he went to the cross, yes? Then He "disarmed" and "made a public display of them" when He came roaring back at the resurrection, Amen? Would you agree that the "rulers and authorities" are in reality powerless against Him?
Read Col. 2:16-19 - TAKE CARE THAN NO ONE KEEPS DEFRAUDING YOU
16 Therefore, no one is to act as your judge in regard to food and drink, or in respect to a festival or a new moon, or a Sabbath day- 17 things which are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Take care that no one keeps defrauding you of your prize by delighting in humility and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding firmly to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.
v. 16: "Therefore, no one is to act as your judge in regard to food and drink, or in respect to a festival or a new moon, or a Sabbath day" - Now Paul turns to specific issues raised by the false teachers, starting with "food and drink." Although the early Jewish Christians obeyed the OT dietary laws, it (and keeping the Mosaic Law in general) was completely disavowed as a requirement for Christians by the Jerusalem Council in 50 A.D. The same is true for observing "new moons" under the Jewish calendar and observing the Jewish Sabbath (Ex. 20:8-11). As Christians, we follow the early church tradition (Acts 10:7) of observing Sunday, the first day of the week, as the Lord's Day.
v. 17: "things which are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ" - Here, Paul is saying that the Jewish observances cited above were a "shadow "of things to come. In contrast to the shadow, the "substance" (= body) of Christ belongs to the Colossians right now.
v. 18: "Take care that no one keeps defrauding you of your prize by delighting in humility and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind" - Here, Paul identifies three specific areas of false teaching: (1) "humility" referred to ascetics who practiced all kinds of self-denial for alleged spiritual enrichment, which is in fact false godliness; (2) "worship of angels" that are seen as mediators for God, which is completely false. Angels aren't entitled to be worshiped because they are part of the created order and subject to wrongdoing like humans; (3) "visions" are people who falsely claim special revelation from God and have "inflated" egos about their importance. Jim Jones and the Jonestown incident, 900 dead, is a prime example.
v. 19: "and not holding firmly to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God" - Using an anatomical analogy to the church, Paul explains how, in the way our physical bodies are dependent upon signals from the head, the church is dependent on the directions Christ sets for us.
Read Col. 2:20-23 - SELF-MADE RELIGION
20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 "Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!" 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)-in accordance with the commandments and teachings of man? 23 These are matters which do have the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and humility and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.
v. 20: "If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as - The "elementary principles" may be defined as both pagan ideas about godliness and the OT Law that Christ rendered obsolete. All of these things "died with Christ" and are irrelevant to how we should live the Christian life.
v. 21: "Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!" - Here, Paul is referring to specific taboos the false teachers insisted that the Colossians must obey, which are thought to have been dietary restrictions. The point he makes is that these human rules-legalism-about the foods a person eats or doesn't eat have absolutely no relevance to one's spiritual life.
v. 22: "(which all refer to things destined to perish with use)-in accordance with the commandments and teachings of man?" - This is thought to refer again to ascetism. That they denied themselves consumables that eventually spoiled over time highlights their foolishness. It represented an attempt to achieve godliness by human effort rather than receiving it from God.
v. 23: "These are matters which do have the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and humility and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence" - This refers back to the specific areas of false teaching Paul listed previously: philosophy, human tradition, elementary principles¸ ascetic practices, angel worship¸ visions-all fall into the category of "self-made religion," which are examples of man trying to reach God through a series of self-imposed rules-legalism. This is self-will, not God's will, and it never produces godliness. Moreover, self-made religion does not help us overcome our tendency to sin. Our relationship with Christ by faith and baptism completes us in every way. We need nothing else.
APPLICATION-Walking in Faith in the ONLY way of life.
1. Walking in Christ is the foundation of the Christian life. Walk refers to the way we live our day-to-day lives and means that we must deliberately bind ourselves to Christ and follow His commands. If we are firmly rooted, built-up and established in our Christian walk, we are prepared for anything.
2. Our faith in Christ, once established, is complete. Since Christ has "all the fullness" of God in Him, He possesses all the wisdom, the power, Spirit, and glory of God. Therefore, we need nothing more in order to draw closer to God and experience true spiritual fulfillment other than knowing and walking with Jesus Christ.
3. Christ is the final authority in our lives. Having been buried in baptism with Christ, we can be completely confident that Christ, and only Him, has the authority to cancel our sin debt and nail it to the cross. In contrast, rulers and authorities-secular governments-have no final authority over us.
4. All "self-made religion" in false. All the examples of self-made religion listed by Paul--philosophy, human tradition, elementary principles¸ ascetic practices, angel worship¸ visions, etc.-fall under the heading of legalism: attempts to add man-made rules and requirements to what we believe and practice as Christians. If we're not careful, churches can easily fall short in this area. It's okay to establish church traditions as a certain way of doing certain things, however, we must never require things that are inconsistent with our faith. As Southern Baptists, we are fortunate to have written Articles of Faith that clearly delineate and explain the how our faith is defined.