Colossians 2:1-5: Don’t Fall for Nice-Sounding Arguments

January 28, 2015

Measles is a hot topic here in California. Some children, enjoying themselves at Disneyland last month, apparently were exposed to the virus, and the disease is spreading in western states. This outbreak is particularly disappointing to the Centers for Disease Control, which had declared measles eradicated in the U.S. in 2000.

I remember getting measles when I was 8 or so, before the vaccine was available in the mid-1960s. The widespread use of the vaccine and firm public health policies, such as requiring proof of vaccination before entering school, all helped eradicate the illness by the turn of the millennium. However, in the last few years, some parents have refused to vaccinate their children because they believe the vaccine itself causes medical problems.

So let’s say the developers of the vaccine, Maurice Hilleman et al, were still alive today and could comment on the recent outbreak. They might write a letter outlining the incredible effort it took to come up with a vaccine (years worth of research and testing). But they would say it was all worth it, because so many kids were vaccinated and the measles scourge was eliminated in the U.S. Their whole goal, it could be said, was to keep kids safe and free of unnecessary suffering (and even death, when certain complications set in). All families have to do is provide two shots during their kids’ school years in order to be protected. Ah, but what is this we hear, that some people think the vaccine is bad for their children? We want you to have the key knowledge we gleaned, so that you can know the truth and act accordingly.

We can picture that sort of response, can we not? So it is with the Apostle Paul, who, long removed from Colossae’s presence, nevertheless is sure that his contending for the gospel had a direct, protective role in their spiritual lives.

1For I want you to know how much I am struggling for you,
and for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not seen me face to face.
2I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love,
so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding
and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself,
3in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
4I am saying this so that no one may deceive you with plausible arguments.
5For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit,
and I rejoice to see your morale and the firmness of your faith in Christ.

The chapter break here is unfortunate, as the thoughts expressed in chapter 2 are a direct continuation of 1:23b-29. Paul is disclosing his motivation for ministry in such a difficult environment and the purpose of his involvement. I don’t think Paul is tooting his own horn here, but he wants the Colossians to know that he has been working for a very long time on the gospel project, and they are receiving the benefit of his labor!

Paul is writing to the Colossians because apparently some sort of variation of the gospel is leading those Christians astray. Here’s what Paul wants them to know:

  1. Paul has been working (struggling, contending) for a long time on their behalf to secure the message of the gospel. Though he is not present with them, he is with them in spirit and is encouraged by their morale and the strength of their faith. But he is also concerned that something may be going sideways in their understanding and application of the gospel.

  2. Paul desires only that the Colossians continue to grow in spiritual maturity. Signs of this maturity would be three (that Paul indicates):

  • hearts encouraged and loving toward one another (i.e. relational/emotional health)

  • appropriating all the riches of confident understanding and knowledge of Christ (as described in the previous chapter, “the mystery of Christ in you, the hope of glory”)

  • a realization that knowing Christ means having access to his wisdom and knowledge, two essential components for maturity.

  1. If the Colossians can lay hold of this wisdom and knowledge, they will not be swayed by fine-sounding (but false) arguments others may use to derail them spiritually.

Knowledge is not only power, it is protection, according to Paul! There are facts to know, a person (Jesus) to stay close to, and people with whom you can grow and become immune to the falsehoods promulgated by others.

So, my dear fellow sojourners, if one of the urban legends you are incorporating into your faith is the belief that you don’t need the church in order to grow spiritually, listen up! I know the church has been hard on you and hasn’t been a very hospitable place for awhile. I get that, and I feel for you. But somehow, in light of all the falsehoods and denials of Jesus that surround us in the wider culture, we somehow need to find our way back into protective and nurturing fellowship. There we can study the Scriptures together, share our common life in Christ, and learn how to love even when it is difficult. It’s a new century, but Paul’s message is as fresh and relevant to us today as it was 2000 years ago in Asia Minor.


2 Responses to “Colossians 2:1-5: Don’t Fall for Nice-Sounding Arguments”

  1. houstonhodges Says:

    Every word spoke to me: measles and Paul’s efforts, the three desired ends, the word to those down on the church. Thanks!

  2. Craig Pynn Says:

    Those of us who spent our careers in business have a phrase for people like the vaccine deniers: they are engaged in “magical thinking.” Just because they think something to be true does not mean it is. Just as Paul wishes to get his friends at Colossae away from magical thinking and back on the firm ground of faith. Your point is well taken. Disconnection from a church, flawed though it may be (all those sinners there!) is a speedy way to magical thinking, as well.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s