Paul gives us the key to always use when these challenges come before us. We must test all religious teachings and human philosophies with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
What Paul is saying to the Colossians in today’s passage is as true today as it was then. The old adage: “The more things change, the more they remain the same,” seems to apply here. We moderns like to think that we are more sophisticated and less gullible than the human beings who lived 2,000 years ago, but we delude ourselves in thinking so. Human nature is the same now as it was then and it will always be the same.
The faith of the young Church at Colossae was being challenged by all manner of internal and external threats. There were already those who claimed to be Christians, but who were preaching things that were not found in, or consistent with, the Gospel. There were various schools of philosophy that sounded good on the surface but were either empty, or adverse to the Gospel. And their were always the ever present challenges of the world, which made idols out of earthly, materially fragile and temporary things. All of these elements were competing for the hearts and minds of these Christians.
Is this not still true today? Are there not still many brands of humanly constructed philosophies competing for our attention? Are there not dozens of new age “theologies,” and worldly appeals to our spiritual and material comfort, that are constantly presenting themselves as “attractive alternatives” to the difficult demands for holiness that our Christian faith asks of us? Are we not distracted by the temptations of immediate gratification? The worst offenders, of course, are those that pose as Christian. We are not free from the arguments of heretical religious teachings, or the many new age philosophies before us any more than the Colossians were. But Paul gives us the key to always use when these challenges come before us. We must test all religious teachings and human philosophies with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If they are not found in the Gospel they are of a different origin than God and we must reject them. We must always keep our eyes on Jesus.
It is through Christ alone that we have access to God. As Paul tells us here, “For in Jesus Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought into fullness. He is the head over every power and authority” (verses 9-10) We have been “brought to fullness” in Jesus Christ. This is the Gospel truth. We are, then, to test all religious teachings with the Gospel, and we are to reject all those religious teachings that are outside of, or that do not conform to the Gospel. All of the divine truths are contained Christ and they are revealed to us in the Gospel. Paul is reminding us here that we have an Adversary, one who wishes to take us away from God. He is telling us that we must be aware of the many ways in which he tries to deceive us. If we know the Gospel and keep our eyes on Christ alone, we will be able to recognize those deceits and reject them.
Help us, Lord, to recognize what is hollow and deceptive in the world’s philosophies that are rooted in human traditions alone. Brighten our wisdom and enable us to remain awake to the subtleties of religious heresy. We desire above all else to know, to love, and to serve you alone in our daily lives. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen!
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