03 Colossians: Pressure To Turn Away

Updated: Nov 6



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Our family recently returned from a quick trip out of town. Just outside of Glen Rose, Texas, is Dinosaur Valley State Park. Here, in the riverbed, are fossilized dinosaur tracks. We planned to explore the area where dinosaurs roamed for several years. The weather was beautiful, and we had a great outing. My youngest daughter dreams of being a paleontologist someday, so she was excited about this adventure. For the last few years, she has been collecting fossils. While there are a lot of replicas and fake fossils, she has learned to be careful when purchasing fossils. Substitutes and compromises are not genuine artifacts.


In our study of Colossians, one of the themes we notice is pressure to turn away or substitute the gospel of Christ. There were cultural pressures that sought to add to the message of Christ. In this letter, the apostle Paul centers the church's focus on Christ. Christ is all-sufficient. The gospel does not need to be substituted, nor are additions required. Christ is all-sufficient. Paul warns the church not to turn away and accept something other than the authentic message of Christ.


The Text


Colossians 2:6–15 (NIV)

"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross."


Pressure to Turn Away


The church was faced with outside pressures to turn away and substitute the authentic message of Christ for something more. Two things noticed pressuring them were deceptive philosophies (ref. 2:8) and elements of the Old Law, circumcision (ref. 2:11).


Deceptive Philosophies


Colossians 2:8 (NIV)

"See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ."


Modern readers should use a bit of caution here. Paul is not speaking against the study and discipline of philosophy. "The term philosophy had a broader meaning in the ancient world than it does in ours." 1 It was not limited to simply Greek and Roman philosophy; “it could also refer to all sorts of groups, tendencies, and points of view, including magical practices.” 1


Paul contrasts this type of "philosophy" and the gospel:



This type of philosophy is based on the human traditions of the world. Although there is nothing inherently wrong with tradition, Paul desires the church to know the glories they have in Christ. Compared to the glories of Christ, this type of philosophy falls short.


Colossians 2:9–10 (NIV)

"For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority."


Identity In Christ


Another pressure challenging the church was its identity. Since the time of Abraham (see Gen. 17), circumcision, for Israel, had been a sign of faithful obedience to God's covenant. It was a marker of being God's chosen possession (see Deut. 10:15; 1 Sam. 12:22).

In the narrative of Scripture, God's promises of blessing have flowed downstream like a river. From Abraham to Israel, the river's current has flowed through each page, each story, and every narrative. The river has flowed to the ocean of abundance found in Christ. Now, through Jesus, it's not one nation that is called but all people of every nation. The river flowed to the shores of the ocean. At the ocean, we find the deep and powerful blessings of Christ.


Isaiah 2:2 (NIV)

"In the last days the mountain of the Lord's temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it."


Those in Colossae are pressured to turn away, to turn back upstream, not fully relying on the abundance of Christ.


Colossians 2:11–15 (NIV)

"In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross."


The marker and identity of God's new creation is Christ. In Him is the forgiveness of sins, new life where freedom is found, and barriers of division are taken away. At the cross is where the river merges into the ocean of all nations. The full blessings of Christ are seen at the ocean's shore. Chris