The Colossian Community was a solid community but they were being challenged by false teaching. It was a mixture of Jewish legalism, Greek philosophy, a false kind of mysticism and asceticism. To combat these false teachings, Paul and Timothy focused the attention of Messiah’s Community in Colossae on Messiah.
Even though he was in a Roman prison waiting for a trial that could result in his death, that didn’t prevent the Lord’s Representative from fighting for them, and others, to remain true to the Faith. I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. Laodicea was 11 miles from Colossae, and the false teachings had also been affecting God’s people in Laodicea. Paul would not let false teaching go unchallenged. Truth is too important. The spiritual well-being of Messiah’s Community is too important for errors to be allowed to spread without a vigorous response.
Paul’s method to contend for Messiah’s Communities? Help the Christians and Messianic Jews remain encouraged, united and loving, and understand Messiah in His fullness. My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Messiah, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Paul wanted encouraged communities: False teaching discourages. It discourages those who remain faithful and see others get into error. It may eventually discourage those who embrace the false teaching, because the false teaching doesn’t work and harms peoples’ lives. Paul wanted Messiah’s Communities to be encouraged, courageously advancing, moving forward with confidence – not discouraged.
Paul wanted united, loving communities: False teaching can divide a community. It separates those who remain loyal to truth from those who embrace error. False teachings may divide communities if the false teacher gathers people around himself. False teaching can create resentment between those who remain loyal to the truth and those who leave the truth. Paul wanted united, loving communities that supported and cared for the members, not divided, resentful communities.
Some of the false teachers may have claimed to have a superior kind of knowledge. The answer to this challenge? Paul wanted wise communities that have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Messiah, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. In contrast to those false teachers who claimed a hidden or superior kind of knowledge, the truth is that Messiah has all-wisdom and all-knowledge unmixed with any error or confusion.
Again, for the second time in this letter, the Rabbi uses the word “mystery” – something previously not clearly understood but recently revealed. The Jewish people knew about the coming of the Messiah. The prophets had given us significant truths about the Messiah. But, with the arrival of the Messiah, new truth about Him had been revealed.
Messiah’s mission had been clearly revealed – to save Jews and Gentiles from Satan, sin, the sin nature and death, by Messiah dying and rising from the dead and giving His Spirit to those who become loyal to Messiah.
How holy Messiah is had been clearly revealed. How He alone, of all humanity, resisted every temptation, and lived a perfect righteous and obedient life.
How special Messiah is had been clearly revealed. He is the only One who has two natures in one Person. He is fully God and fully man, the Son of God and the Son of Man. He is El Gibor, the Mighty God, and a yeled yulad lanu, a child born to us. He is literally Immanuel, God With Us, and the Son of David.
Messiah’s relationship to the Father and the Spirit had been clearly revealed. Three distinct Persons sharing the same nature with a hierarchy of authority.
The power of Messiah had been clearly revealed. All authority in Heaven and on Earth is His. He is Lord over every man, every woman, every Jew, every Gentile; every fallen angel; every angel and archangel; every force of nature.
Messiah’s relationship to Gentiles had been revealed – that they were being welcomed into His Community as full members without giving up their national identity, without becoming Jews.
Messiah’s relationship to His followers had been clearly revealed. He is not just our ultimate Prophet, Priest, King and Savior, but our living Head. He lives in us by means of His Spirit, transforming us, giving us a new nature; giving us power and strength.
How wise Messiah is had been revealed. He is wiser than any of the rabbis or Torah-teachers, wiser than the prophets, even wiser than wise king Solomon. He is the Wonderful Counselor who, out of His infinite wisdom, is able to give us all the wisdom, guidance, direction and understanding that we need.
Paul wanted encouraged, united, loving, wise communities that know the mystery of God, namely, Messiah, who is the source of wisdom and knowledge.
Knowing who Messiah is, and the importance of Messiah, and the centrality of Messiah – being fixed on Messiah would prevent them from falling for false teaching. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.
The fact that Paul was warning Messiah’s Community in Colossae about false teachings doesn’t mean they were being fooled by the false teachings. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Messiah is.
Paul, though physically absent from them, nevertheless was present with them in spirit. That means that he cared about them. He was hearing about them, was thinking about them, praying for them, writing to them, teaching them. He knew that although false teachers were trying to influence the Colossians, the Christians and Messianic Jews in Colossae weren’t being taken in by the false teachers. They were disciplined and firm in the faith. They were committed to listening to the right spiritual authorities, like Paul and Timothy and Epaphras. Paul wanted to make sure their faith, the things they believed, remained that way, firm and disciplined, so that they stayed within good theological boundaries.
He wanted them to continue their spiritual life as they had started it, by focusing on Messiah Yeshua as Lord. So then, just as you received Messiah Yeshua as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the Faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
How did the Colossians receive Messiah? As Lord. Yeshua of Nazareth was proclaimed as being the risen and living Lord, victorious, powerful, authoritative, greater than Caesar, greater than the Greek and Roman gods, greater than the philosophers and prophets of other religions, supreme over all things, all powers, all forces. The Colossians received Messiah Yeshua as Lord.
How did they receive Messiah? As the focus of their faith. It was the Good News about the Lord Yeshua the Messiah that was proclaimed to them. It was with that focus that they started their spiritual lives, and they were to continue to live their lives focused on the Lord Yeshua, Messiah Himself being supremely important to them. They were to be aware that they were connected to the Messiah, rooted to Messiah like a tree is firmly rooted to the Earth so that it stays firmly attached to the soil. They were to be built up in Messiah, with Messiah Himself being the foundation of their faith, with their goal to become like Messiah.
Paul and Timothy wanted the Colossians overflowing with thankfulness – for all of God’s goodness, and I think, especially for Messiah and their relationship to Messiah, and all that Messiah is – for us. But, in Colossae and Laodicea there were spiritual predators who proclaimed they had a better focus than Messiah. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Messiah. These spiritual predators were looking for followers. Those who were deceived by their false teachings became captives. They were in danger of losing their freedom to think for themselves, losing control of their money or even their lives.
To those not focused on Messiah, the teachings might have seemed to make sense, seemed to work, but the reality was that these false teachings were hollow, empty, deceptive because they weren’t true, weren’t substantial. They wouldn’t produce what they promised.
Some of these false teachers mixed their teachings with human traditions because the human traditions were old and accepted, which reinforced the false teachers’ claim to legitimacy.
Mixing human traditions and false teaching is still a huge danger today. Roman Catholicism and Orthodox Judaism are masters of this. And, there are those in the Messianic Jewish Movement who have embraced false teachings which they reinforce by human traditions.
False teachers also mixed their teaching with elemental spiritual forces, the rudiments, the fundamental principles, the ABCs of religion. Here’s an example of this kind of elementary teaching. It’s obvious that human beings are not holy. We need to be holy. The way to be holy is by avoiding bad things, by not eating this but not that, not touching that, not looking at that. You need to wear this but not that. You need to say this prayer in this way at this time. You need to treat this time period in a special way.
It seems like this is the path to holiness, but it’s not. What God’s way of being holy? Be filled with the Spirit of the Holy One of Israel. Get close to the holy Messiah and He will make you holy. The Holy Spirit of Messiah will make you aware of sin, and give you the power to overcome sin.
Do you understand the difference between these two approaches to holy living? One is based on adherence to outward rules. One is based on inward transformation and empowerment by Messiah. There is a huge, huge difference.
What should be the focus of their faith? Messiah. Why should they focus their faith on Yeshua? Besides the reasons already give, there’s other great reasons. For in Messiah all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Messiah you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Messiah, 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. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Messiah. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Why should they focus their faith on Yeshua? Because in Messiah all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. The Son doesn’t have just a little part of God living in Him. The Son has all the fullness of God the Father living in Him! Yeshua is not like us or like one of the Greek and Roman godlings. He has the totality, the completeness, the fulness of the infinite, all-powerful, all-present, all-wise, all-saving, all-redeeming, all-loving God living in Him! He has the fullness of the God who can love us, create us, redeem us, transform us, bring us to maturity, resurrect and reward us!
Why should they focus their faith on Yeshua? Because in Messiah you have been brought to fullness. Human beings are fallen, damaged, incomplete, empty. No other philosophy or religion or worldview can bring human beings to fullness, to enable us to reach our full potential as those made in the image of God, to enable us to become the eternal, glorious sons and daughters of God. Only Messiah can bring us to fullness.
Why should they focus their faith on Yeshua? He is the head over every power and authority. He is the highest. He is the greatest. He is the most powerful. He is the most authoritative. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Over every human being, every politician, every administration, every angel or archangel, every creature, every force of nature.
Why should they focus their faith on Yeshua? Because He is the one who performs the spiritual circumcision Gentiles and Jews need. In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Messiah. Jews and Gentiles are born into this fallen world with a fallen nature that is opposed to God. We are spiritually uncircumcised, which means that we are not in a covenant relationship with God. We need a spiritual circumcision, a cutting away of our old nature, and its hostility to God and God’s ways and standards. We need to become part sons of the Covenant, the New and Eternal Covenant, this amazing agreement God has made possible to atone for us and enable us to live forever. Only Messiah is capable of performing this spiritual circumcision, this cutting away of our old, fallen, rebellious nature; and this inclusion into the New Covenant made possible by His life and death and resurrection.
Why should they focus their faith on Yeshua? Because He alone enables us to die and rise. 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. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Messiah. Human nature is fallen, corrupt, depraved. We need a whole new nature. We need a death experience, so that our old nature dies, and we need a new life and new nature experience, so that we are reborn with a new nature.
Messiah alone can do this for us. When we understand that God the Father raised His Son from the dead, and we believe this and become faithful to God the Father and the Risen Messiah, something happens to us. Just as Messiah died and then rose from the dead, and is alive forever with a nature that wants to serve God, something similar happens to us. Our old, corrupt nature dies and we are given a new nature that wants to serve God and not self; serve God and not the world; serve righteousness and not sin; a nature that is able to live forever.
Why should they focus their faith on Yeshua? Because Messiah did something wonderful for us that only He could do. God the Father forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. Our greatest need is not for better politics, social justice, improvements in science and technology, more money for education, an improving economy or more government spending programs. Our greatest need is for all of our sins to be forgiven so that we can be reconciled to the infinitely holy God who is the Source of Life, and live forever with Him. Messiah alone made that possible by dying on the cross.
In parts of the ancient world, when a debt was paid off, a note may have been put up in a public place, letting everyone know that so-and-so’s debt was paid off. The man’s financial slate was clean. In a sense, God the Father took all of our legal indebtedness we accrued by violating His laws, a debt of sin that would have condemned us to Hell, and in a symbolic sense, nailed it to the cross of Messiah, letting the universe know that the legal indebtedness of our sin had been completely paid by the Messiah. Our slate is completely clean! All of our spiritual debts have been paid for by the death of Messiah! No more debt owed to God because of our sins. No more debts that will result in condemnation to Hell! Instead, eternal life with God in the New Heavens, New Earth and New Jerusalem.
Why should they focus their faith on Yeshua? Because Messiah made it possible for us to be freed from the god of this world. Having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. When Adam and Eve joined the rebellion of the fallen angels, they forfeited the right to rule the Earth. That right was transferred to the fallen angels. They became the rulers of this world and fallen humanity. By becoming a man, and by living a perfect life, and by dying on the cross, Messiah was able to triumph over and disarm these spiritual powers and authorities. Messiah regained the right to rule the world and to rule humanity, which He will fully exercise one day.
In parts of the ancient world, enemies who lost the battle were captured and disarmed and displayed in public, showing everyone that the conquerors were greater than the conquered. In a sense, God has made a public spectacle of our demonic enemies by making it clear to us in His Word that the battle has been won, that Messiah has triumphed and Satan and the fallen angels have been defeated and disarmed. They can only do what they have permission to do, what they are allowed by God to do; and ultimately, when God is finished with them, they will be destroyed and we will be completely and eternally victorious!
Who is Yeshua? Why is He so important that we must stay focused on Him?
He is the One in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
He is Messiah Yeshua, the Lord. He is the head over every power and authority.
In Messiah all the fullness of God lives in bodily form.
He is the Only One who can bring us to fullness.
He alone gives us a spiritual circumcision, cutting away our old nature and bringing us into His new and eternal covenant.
He enables us to die to an old, corrupt life and rise to a new life and a new nature.
He enables all of all our sins and spiritual debts to be completely forgiven.
He has enabled the disarming of the evil spiritual powers and authorities.
Focusing on the amazing Messiah, and all that He is, and all that He is able to do for us, is what’s important. Focusing on Messiah is what’s necessary. Any other focus; any other religion or philosophy; any other way of holiness is off, wrong, dangerous, destructive.
Paul and Timothy’s conclusion: Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Messiah. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. Since you died with Messiah to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.