Colossians 2:1-23 – Gnostics

Colossians 2:1-23 - Gnostics

Colossians 2:1-23 – Gnostics                     September 07, 2019


  • Colossians, A.D. 60-62, written while Paul was imprisoned in Rome.
  • Paul responds to this new problem growing in the church, known as Gnosticism, a heresy. Gnostic was considered spiritual leaders.
  • These heresies promised people “spiritual perfection”
  • Primary Heresies: Worldly Philosophy 2. Jewish Legalism  3. Oriental Mysticism 4. Live nobly and death cannot matter 5. Man-made traditions, teachings and ceremonies
  • Paul declares and shows that Jesus is God and the Son of the Father

Colossians 2:1 For I want you to know what a great conflict {or contending} I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh {or met me personally},

What he means in conflict is intense struggle like in a game

  • Colossians and Laodicea (about 11 miles apart) were linked together and they were to exchange letters.
  • Laodicea stood midway between the hot springs of Hierapolis and the cold waters of Colossae. It was fed by an aqueduct from Hierapolis, the water being lukewarm when it arrived.
  • Militarily un-defendable, its typical posture was one of compromise.

Colossians 2:2  that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together {united} in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ,

Paul is telling them they can understand the mystery of God without this false Gnostic philosophy teaching, because the Father and Jesus together, gives us the understanding of the mystery.

This Mystery of God is about Jesus and the understanding and knowledge of the gospel.

Colossians 2:3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Jesus is the key: in Him are all the answers, wisdom and knowledge!

Colossians 2:4 Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.

Paul is telling us to not allow deceptive words of false teachers who enjoy

leading us away from the true “wisdom” in Christ.

Colossians 2:5 For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight {rejoicing} to see how disciplined you are and how firm {or steadfastness} your faith in Christ is.

Encouraging words.  Paul is saying that the Colossian Church was sound in doctrine, and strict in discipline. Their faith in Christ was firm.

Colossians 2:6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so continue to live your lives {walk} in Him,  {known as the Way}

Be deeply anchor in the truth.  So walk in him – In the same faith in Him, love, patience, meekness and holiness as Jesus did, always looking to Him.

Colossians 2:7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened {established} in the faith as you have been {were} taught, and abounding in it {or overflowing} with thanksgiving.

  • Rooted and Built up – On the sure foundation, building build up.
  • Remember what you were taught: not listen to false teachers
  • Thanksgiving: We, who are brought into such a state of salvation in the knowledge, love, and image of God, we should abound in gratitude and loving obedience, as we grow in grace.

Gnostic teaching– Eastern speculation: Man-made traditions and philosophy

Colossians 2:8 Beware lest anyone cheat {or takes you captive} you through {deceptive} philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles {or spiritual forces} of this world, and not according to Christ.

Deception: Paul was warning the believers not to be deceived with teaching not according to teaching of Jesus.

Spiritual forces:  We know Satan is the ruler of the world and the world follows him, as we were also under the spiritual forces of the world. 

*Paul wrote in Galatians: were in bondage under the elements of the world.  Galatians 4:3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world.

*Paul wrote in Ephesians: walked according to the prince of the power of the air,  Ephesians 2:2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,

Colossians 2:9 For in Christ {dwells} all the fullness of the {or Godhead} Deity lives in bodily form,

Wow. Fullness: Jesus does not only have divine powers, but divine nature. We are complete in Jesus and we do not need to go to these other places to receive the rest of the story.

Paul contradicts the Gnostic idea that Jesus is merely a spirit and He is part of the angel realm. Jesus is in charge of everything, power and authority.

Colossians 2:10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness {complete in Him}. He is the head over every power and authority {all principality}.

Complete: Seven times the Bible declared: “Ye are the Temple of God” (1 Cor.3:9-17; 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:20,21; Heb. 3:6; 1 Pet. 2:5; 4:17). 

*Remember, last chapter, we read:  In Jesus where in him all things were created, through him and for him.  (Colossians 1:16)

Colossians 2:11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without {not performed} {by human} hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, (when you were} by the circumcision of {or by} Christ,

By the spiritual circumcision of Christ which works in your heart.

Christian circumcision is the spiritual removal of sin from the heart, taking part in the New Covenant of Jesus Christ.

*Paul said: he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter {physical circumcision}; Romans 2:29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.

People make the same mistake today when they rely on any ritual to save them. A contrast between Jewish circumcision and the Believer’s spiritual circumcision in Christ:

* 1 John tells us that: for sin is the transgression of the law.  1 John 3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

Colossians 2:12 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.

Romans 6:3-4 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  (4)  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Paul’s close association of baptism and circumcision is an indication that water baptism is a sign of the New Covenant, just as circumcision was a sign of the Abrahamic covenant.

Colossians 2:13 When you were {being} dead in your sins {or trespasses} and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He {God forgiven} forgave us all our sins,

*Paul told us in Galatians: that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. Galatians 2:16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.

Colossians 2:14 Blotting {wiped out} out the handwriting of ordinances {requirements} that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

So, what is blotted out.  We have a written death penalty against us because of sin and Jesus cancelled it by nailing it to the cross with His blood.  Remember, this was taken from a Roman Document. Law.

*Acts tells us to: Repent, be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,: Acts 3:19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,

The legal practice in the Greco-Roman period involved a literal “certificate of debt” which would result from a sentence being passed against an accused. This debt was paid as one served his sentence. In the event of an escape, the jailer was considered liable for any unpaid remainder.

When the sentence was completed, the jailer would endorse the Certificate of Debt as:  means finish, complete, end; to fulfill, carry out, accomplish; come to an end, be over;

What was some of Jesus last word to mankind; “Paid in Full!” “It is finished.” Christ is God’s last word to mankind.  God paid sin’s debt when He gave His Son on the cross,

*John wrote:  Jesus said, “It is finished!” and gave up His spirit.: John 19:30 So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit

Colossians 2:15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities {or principalities}, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in the cross.

Paul said 3 Great Victories by Jesus

  • Stripping Satan and all his power and weapons he had.
  • Exposing Satan’s deceit to the world
  • Jesus Christ won a complete victory by His resurrection

Gnostic teaching – Eastern speculation: What we eat or do not eat

Let No One Disqualify you.

Colossians 2:16-17   Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday {festival}, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days:  (17)  Which are a shadow of things to come; but the Body is of Christ {reality or substance belongs to the Messiah}.

These were merely a shadow of Christ, pointing to Jesus 

New moon is not a high day or Holy Time, celebration on the first of the month, when the new month starts.  Let us know when the feasts days are 

  • Who is Paul writing to, gentiles who became a Christian, who are observing the Sabbath, etc.
  • These Christians were being Judge by their Gentile neighbors by celebrating these things.
  • Paul is saying; do let anyone else judge you except the Body of Christ, the Church.
  • Don’t let anyone get tied up with these Gnostic teaching.

Colossians 2:18-19 Let no one cheat {disqualify} you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up {with notions} by his {unspiritual} fleshly mind, (19) and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.

  • Gnostic and false teachers is the same, really no difference
  • Disqualify you: Not salvation, but reward
  • Gnostic goes into great detail about what they have not seen;
  • False teachers made a great pretense of false humility
  • The Gnostic taught which Paul warned them was angel worship.
  • Paul is saying we need to hold fast to the Head, Jesus so we can grow

Colossians 2:20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces {or basic principles} of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules {decrees}: 

Gnostic teaching – Eastern speculation: Does and don’ts were derived from rules.  So what are we talking about, but Gnostic teachings.

Colossians 2:21, 22 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? (22) These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings {and doctrines of men}.

Religious groups: says what you can do and not do, regulations:

Baptists – dance, drink; Preachers not allow to marry; Hair length, etc.. 

These all {regulations} will go away in the future from and by the Commands of Jesus. 

The members entire life is wrapped up in a system of rules that their church or their organizations puts out for them. 

Do we understand that the Sabbath, Feast Days, God’s Law, etc. are not going to perish in the future.  Maybe, after the Great White Throne Judgment, but  We will be change to Spirit by then.

Gnostics practice rigorous self-denial and even self-mortification or

self-promotion in order to become more spiritual. 

Some practices were popular during the Middle Ages: wearing hair shirts next to the skin, sleeping on hard beds, whipping oneself, not speaking for days (maybe years), going without food or sleep, etc.

Maybe even here.

A good example are the Pharisees

Matthew 23:2-6 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. (3) Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. (4) For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. (5) But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. (6) They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues,

But the “commandments and doctrines” of the false teachers replaced the inspired Word of God

Mark 7:6-9 He answered and said to them, Well did Isaiah prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.  (7)  and in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (8) For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men– the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.” (9) He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.

What about today churches, what makes someone more religious, better than that religious group.

We have all seen things in the churches we have attended in the past.

What are some of the most ridiculous rules you have heard about or read about.  See attached. 

Colossians 2:23 These things {man’s regulations} indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and {harsh treatment} neglect of the body, but are of no value against the self-indulgence of the flesh.

  • Wrong doctrine always leads to wrong living. Right doctrine should lead to right living.
  • The legalistic commands of others individuals over a group of individuals are a self-imposed religion and are of no value for salvation or rewards at Jesus return.

In the two concluding chapters, Paul looks at the daily affairs of life.

If Christ is truly first in our lives, then

  • We will glorify Him by keeping pure,
  • By enjoying fellowship with other saints,
  • By loving each other at home and being faithful at work, and
  • By seeking to witness for Christ and serve Him effectively.

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