Are You Losing Your Connection to the Head?

What do you depend on for your spiritual growth in your Christian life? Are you feeling discouraged and thinking that you are missing something in your Christian walk and perhaps you need to be more disciplined in your daily devotions and prayer life? Is your desire for spiritual growth expressed in the words of this hymn?“I want to scale the utmost height and catch a gleam of glory bright; But still I’ll pray till heav’n I’ve found, Lord, lead me on to higher ground.”That was also the desire of the Colossians believers. However, in their desire for deeper knowledge and sanctification, they fell prey to the allurements of false teaching. This was why Paul wrote to the Colossians to warn them of the pitfalls of empty philosophy and to help them grow in the fullness of Christ. In Colossians 2:16-23, Paul issued two warnings regarding the false teachings and offered the solution that would safeguard the Church from spiritual disaster. These false teachers were teaching a different message that contradicted what the Colossians had received from Epaphras (Col. 1:7). Their “philosophy and vain deceit” (2:8) were not clearly defined in this Epistle. But based on Col. 2:16-23, we can infer that it is a mixture of Jewish legalism and Greco-Roman paganism. For instance, Paul warned the believers not to be intimidated by the criticism of those who insisted that the observance of Jewish dietary and ceremonial laws was necessary to gain spiritual purity. Paul exposed the inadequacy of Jewish legalism by pointing to Christ as the substance of the Levitical laws. These OT laws point to the reality in the coming of Jesus Christ (Col. 2:17). Therefore the keeping of these laws in order to gain holiness is actually a fruitless exercise like the grasping of shadows. The second warning had to do with the errors of Grecian pagan religions. The population of first-century Colossae consisted of local Phrygians, Greeks and Jews. So it is not surprising to see that the false teachers taught an amalgamation of pagan, Jewish and Christian beliefs and practices. Paul alluded to three strands of this syncretistic religion: extreme form of asceticism, angel worship and a heavy reliance on visions and revelations (Col. 2:18). The Greek word threskia can be used to denote invocation or conjuration. Paul was referring to the magical invocation of angels to ward off evil and such a practice had its roots deeply ingrained in folk beliefs and habits. The errorists also loved to investigate into ecstatic visions for divine insights. They claim that they had penetrated into heaven but in reality all they had discovered in their mystical experiences was a set of imaginary fantasies (Col. 2:18). These visions puffed up the worshipper’s unspiritual mind with idle notions. The root of the error is the failure to hold onto Christ the Head (Col. 2:19). Holding to something other than Christ will cause them to disintegrate and perish. All who do not hold on to Christ and His teachings have cut themselves off from the only source of vitality and unity. Paul reminded the Colossians of Christ’s supremacy over all things and their total dependence on Him. They would not find growth or fullness in earthly taboos, celestial observances, and ‘worship of angels’ or mystical visions. Finally, Paul summarized the main teaching of Col. 2:11-15 in vs. 20. By dying with Christ, believers have moved out of the elemental spirit’s control. Believers need not submit to the taboos listed in 2:21. What is the divine antidote to the Colossian heresy? The answer lies in Christ and Him alone. As believers we must hold fast to Christ and His word. May God help us stay connected to Christ, the Head of the Church. Amen. Rev. Mark Tay