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Captive In Christ

Posted by Mike Mccauley
Mike Mccauley
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on Sunday, 18 August 2013
in Pastors' Corner
Scripture: Colossians 2:8-17 
KingdomView, Vol. V, Issue 17

Sermon Summary

WE ARE DAILY INUNDATED WITH INFORMATION that seeks to take us captive to a particular worldview or philosophy. This assertion is especially true when it comes to politics, invading our lives through various media outlets. I am curious: what information source primarily shapes your life and worldview? Is it social media, academia, friends or family, politics, the Bible or some combination of all the mentioned? It is amazing what vies for our attention with hopes of influencing our choices and behavior. Well, the first century Christians at Colosse had to contend with competing voices that sought to take them captive to the diverse worldviews and philosophies of their day, especially in the area of religious thought. Likewise, the same is true for Christians today in our contemporary society. Paul addresses this issue in our selected text, Colossians 2:8-17.

In Colossians 2:8, he exhorts the saints at Colosse not to become captives "Through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men" (NASB). I note here that Paul is not condemning all aspects of philosophical thought, only that human aspect that seeks to define spiritual phenomena independent of divine revelation given by the God of the Bible (1 Corinthian 2:14). The Believer’s Bible Commentary expands on my assertion here:

Here the word [philosophy] is used to describe man’s attempt to find out by his own his intellect and research those things which can only be known by divine revelation (1 Cor. 2:14). It is evil because it exalts human reason above God and worships the creature more than the Creator. (BBC, 2002)

Some brief background information is in order here. The "Colossian Heresy," as termed by scholars, is a precursor in embryo form of what became known as Gnosticism in the early second century. This belief system attempted to interpret Christ in terms of heathen philosophy. One of their primary beliefs was that matter is evil and everything spiritual is good. Thus, they concluded that Jesus Christ could not have been the Savior for he was a man (comprised of matter), that consequently made Him evil according to Gnostic dogma! Moreover, the Colossian believers had to deal with the erroneous teaching of antinomianism (i.e., anti means against and the Greek word nomos means Law). "Antinomianism is the teaching that under grace a person does not need to practice self-control but may give full vent to his bodily appetites and passions" (BBC, 1986). The Bible condemns such notions as the apostle Paul anticipates a carnal response to those that might want to exploit grace in favor of antinomianism as called out by the apostle in Romans 5:20-6:2. Finally, Paul deals with another challenge in Colosse, the degeneration of Old Testament Judaism, where Jews were trying to attain righteousness with God through a system of ceremonial observances by human effort alone (Colossians 2:16, 17).

Now, in Colossians 2:8d, Paul encourages the Colossian believers to be taken captive in Christ rather than by the world. This exhortation raises an important question, why should the Colossian believers and present day Christians seek to be captive in Christ? Paul cites seven reasons in our chosen text:

1. Because we have the revelation that the fullness of Deity indwells Christ in bodily form (Colossians 2:9). Paul refutes the Gnostics by declaring that all deity indwells Christ. Theologians speak of Be Enlightened, Encouraged and Equipped! Copyright 2013 JW Henderson Ministries

Jesus Christ as being theanthropic (the God-man). Jesus possessed two natures, one divine and the other human. Some claim that this is a contradiction that in Christ God became a man for how can an infinite being (God) become finite (man), which is impossible. Norman Geisler in his Systematic Theology provides the answer to this seeming conundrum when he writes, "It was not God becoming man, but the second person of the Godhead adding humanity; in other words, the Son of God did not stop being divine in order to become human, but rather He embraced another nature—humanity—in addition to His divinity." (NLGST, 70)

2. Because we have been made complete in Him and He is the head over all rule and authority (Colossians 2:10). In Christ the believer lacks nothing, but enjoys the fullness that He brings when we join in perfect union with Him at conversion (born-again). In essence, there is no secret knowledge to obtain for Christ reveals everything that the believer needs pertaining to life and godliness in contrast to what the Gnostics were espousing. In addition, Christ’s authority surpasses all angelic rulers both in the non-elect (fallen angels) and heavenly host (elect angels) realms.

3. Because we have received a circumcision by Christ (Colossians 2:11). All born-again Christians at their conversion experience a spiritual circumcision, administered by Jesus Christ. This circumcision was that of the heart (Dt. 10:16; Jr. 4:4; Rm. 2:29) and established our eternal covenant relationship with the Triune God. In essence, baptism is "the circumcision of Christ" and it signifies the washing away of sin, personal renewal by the Spirit of God, and membership into the body of Christ (cf. v.13; Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:4; 1 Cor. 12:13; Titus 3:5; 1 Pet 3:21).

4. Because we have been given new life in Christ as symbolized in baptism (Colossians 2:12, 13). Not only has the Christian been crucified with Christ and buried with Him symbolically (water baptism is in view here), but we have also risen with Him to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:1-7).

5. Because we have had the certificate of debt cancelled (Colossians 2:14). In the execution of the death sentence on Jesus when He was nailed to the cross, Paul sees the cancellation of the death warrant that stood against transgressors of the law. The believer is no longer subject to the threat of the law’s (the Ten Commandments) condemnation.

6. Because we have the testimony of Christ’s victory celebration revealed in Scripture over the enemy (Colossians 2:15). The image here is of a conquering Roman general parading his vanquished and humiliated enemies behind his chariot. An invisible cosmic struggle took place at the cross, and the prince of this age (Satan) was "cast out" (John 12:31). Thus, Jesus death, burial, resurrection, and ascension were a glorious triumph over all the host of hell.

7. Because we have been set free from spiritual legalism (Colossians 2:16, 17). The Greek word for "judge," krinō, means "to determine value." By allowing others to determine their value based on Jewish practices like food laws and calendar observance, the Colossians become subject to those things and those people. But for people in union with Christ, such things have no value—Christ alone determines value.1 In essence, legalism, which is human effort to add to God’s Word, which resulted in manmade restrictions that enslaved people to human imposed self-righteousness, is condemned in Scripture. These are the seven reasons Paul cited for Christians to become captive in Christ (Colossians 2:8d).

1 John D. Barry, Michael R. Grigoni, Michael S. Heiser et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012), Col 2:16.

Go Deeper:

1. James White – Scripture Alone

2. Marc Dupont – Walking Out of Spiritual Abuse

3. Norman Geisler – Chosen But Free

4. Charles Stanley – Confronting Casual Christianity

5. Jerry Bridges – The Pursuit of Holiness
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