Supreme Freedom – Colossians 2: 8-21- Part 1

A parent’s worst nightmare is their child not coming back from school. Unfortunately, kidnapping statistics show that this nightmare turned into reality for many families, as they suffered such a worse-than-death fate not to see their beloved kid ever again.

Top Kidnapping Stats and Facts (Editor’s Pick)

  • More than 460,000 children go missing every year
  • 12+ years old children are the kidnapping victims in around 80% of all cases that include minors
  • Girls from 12 to 17 years of age are the most typical victims of abduction
  • Human trafficking is a $150 billion-worth industry
  • 99% of sex trafficking victims are females
  • The United States, Mexico, and the Philippines were the three worst countries for human trafficking

I want to do everything in my power to make sure to protect my family from being kidnapped.

Using the same language our passage today issues a warning of being kidnapped spiritually.  No one can snatch us away from the love of God, but we can allow ourselves to be taken away into captivity and lose our freedom.  How does this happen?

Let’s look at our text together:

8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on ChristColossians 2:8 (NIV)

The words “take you captive” means, abducted, kidnapped, bound and carried away causing you to lose your freedom.

Paul says don’t let false teachings do that to you.  Don’t let false teachings and false teachers grab hold of you, kidnap you, carry you away and hold you hostage.  Because just as certain as physically some one was held hostage their freedom was taken from them, if you are taken by false teachings and false doctrines Paul says your freedom will be taken from you in that exact same way.  He warns these people not to be taken by false teachings.

What were the philosophies that threatened the Colossians?  A whole bunch of them.  Most of them mixed Judaism and Gnosticism together.  But there were three that are mentioned in this passage, three philosophies that threatened to kidnap the Colossians.

  1. The first is legalism.  Following man made rules V. 16Don’t let anybody judge you by what you eat or drink.”  Evidently the Christians there were being judged by exactly that.  He says don’t do that.  That will kidnap you and take you away from the truth.  He says “Don’t let anybody judge you in regard to what you eat or drink or in regard to a religious festival, a new moon celebration or a Sabbath day.” A new moon celebration, the Jewish calendar was tied to the moon and a new moon celebration was every 28 days there was a new moon and there was a celebration that went along with that.  It had to do with the calendar.
  1. The second philosophy that threatened to take the Colossians captive was mysticism in verse 18.  He says, “Don’t let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you from the prize.”  Worship of Angels Gnosticism was a system of beliefs that felt like man was not good enough in and of himself to talk directly to God.  We needed intermediaries between us and God.  They felt that there were angels and they were arranged in an hierarchy and that the angels got better and better and more and more powerful as you moved up the line until you could eventually get to God.  They felt like these angels all had names like Wisdom, an angel called Power, an angel called Reason.  You had to acknowledge these angels and you had to placate them to get anywhere in your spiritual life.  They felt that every single person starts in a state of total ignorance of spirituality but as you talk to these angels and have more and more contact with them you can eventually find the oneness that is in all.

Does this sound at all vaguely familiar to something that comes down the pipes these days?  It’s exactly the same.  This is the kind of philosophy that the Gnostics propagated.  Contact with angels.

This kind of New Age teaching is what was permeating the church at Colossae.  This was the threat they were facing, this concept of a philosophy that was manmade and promises to move you above yourself.  Doesn’t New Age philosophy promises to move you out of yourself?  Move you to the god within you?  It sounds so humble.  It sounded humble when the Gnostics talked about it.  “I can’t go to God.  I have to go through angels.  I can’t possibly approach God.  I have to go through an angel.”  It’s the ultimate form of pride because it says God in His revealed word doesn’t tell the truth.  God in His revealed word says there is one mediator between Him and man, the man Jesus Christ.  No angels, no spirit beings, no spirit guides, No looking deep inside.  It’s you going to Jesus Christ and making a connection with God.

The truth is that Jesus is the mediator.

  1. The third gospel that was threatening them was asceticism. Verses 20-23 has the concept of Don’t touch, Don’t handle, Don’t taste. Don’t do anything that has to do with the physical world.  There were some people in that time who felt like the way to please God, the way to really get on God’s good side was an extreme form of self-abuse.  That the body was bad.  The body was evil.  So if you hit yourself with whips, if you starved yourself, if you slept on beds that were cold rather than putting a blanket on yourself somehow you were earning spiritual brownie points and this made you more acceptable to God.  Asceticism was one of those philosophies that threatens to kidnap us and still today if we think that we can get God’s favor by harming ourselves.

Paul says in those verses 20-23 that it looks real good on the outside and other people who see that you do those kind of things, practice that form of extreme self denial Paul says it looks so good on the outside.  People will think you’re so super spiritual.  But what little you gain by that is completely lost in the end because in God’s eyes it means nothing.  So really you don’t gain anything by practicing asceticism.

God answers to man’s deep longing to know truth is only found in Jesus Christ.  It’s not found in punishing yourself.  It’s not found in angels.  It’s not found in following man made rules.  It’s only found in Jesus Christ.

The true teaching is the contrast that goes with these.  No matter how elaborate or complex these philosophies were they all had one thing in common.  They were very empty and hollow.  He says back in verse 8These philosophies are hollow and deceptive.”  *It’s like those chocolate Easter Bunnies.  They look so cute on the outside and you take a big bite and there’s absolutely nothing but air.  What a let down!  That’s what happens if we look to philosophy of human origin.  Mankind’s thinking.  It’s empty.  It leaves you with nothing.

Paul says in contrast the truth is in Christ you have everything.  .  Verse 9 “For in Christ all the fullness of the deity lives in bodily form. You have been given fullness in Christ who is the head over every power and authority.”  One of the translations says, “I am complete in Christ.”

The Greek word for “fullness” is pleroma.  It was a word that Gnostics liked to use because it meant fullness.  They thought that pleroma was what they were looking for.  It meant all the fullness of deity.  They thought that by going through the angels one step at a time that they could get to that pleroma.  And Jesus Christ was like the ABCs.  He was for the people who were just getting initiated.  He was one of the little stepping stones that could get you to pleroma.

But God says, no.  Rather than Jesus being a stepping stone to fullness, completeness.  Jesus Christ is fullness, He is completeness.  Because He contains all of God.  Jesus is part of the trinity – Jesus, the Father, the Holy Spirit.  Each one of them is fully God.  They have separate personalities but each one is fully God.  *So when you have Jesus Christ you have God.  You have everything you can possibly need.  You don’t have to search for anything else.  You don’t have to search for pleroma.  It is in Him.

So why would you need a false teacher?  Why would you need a man made philosophy.  If you’ve got it in Jesus Christ there’s no need to search anywhere else.

So we have freedom from hollow human philosophy, in the next post we will see that we have freedom from the penalty of sin and of death.



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About dkoop

Lead Pastor of Upwards Church: Leander & Jarrell, TX
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4 Responses to Supreme Freedom – Colossians 2: 8-21- Part 1

  1. Pingback: Supreme Freedom – Colossians 2:8-21 – Part 2 | Upwards Church

  2. Pingback: Supreme Relationships – Colossians 3:18- 4:1 | Upwards Church

  3. Pingback: This Sunday Looking at Colossians ch 2 – Belgian Ecclesia Brussel – Leuven

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