See To It that No One Takes You Captive
Colossians 2:6–15 – Colossians: Made Alive in Christ
6th Sunday after Pentecost – July 1, 2018 (am)
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more (Melody Beattie). These are the words of a well-known self-help author reflecting on the power of thankfulness. She’s recognizing how effective a strategy it is to express gratitude when we’re seeking to escape the deflating discouragement of hard circumstances in life. And it almost doesn’t matter what you’re thankful for—thankfulness itself is enough.
Jean and I had some friends downtown, a married couple. And the wife struggled with a very destructive disorder. She read all sorts of self-help material to boost her along in the battle and had post-it note and magnet reminders stuck in many frequently-viewed places. I remember one on her frig that said: Remember, it’s supposed to be fun. Helpful as it may have been to her, that reminder has always struck as almost entirely hopeless. What’s supposed to be fun? Life? Her battle? The contents of her refrigerator? What? I think of her today because thankfulness was also a key strategy for her. She had to think of things to be thankful for regularly. Anything would do: getting to the bus stop on time get home from her downtown law office for dinner (though she usually walked), a few minutes peace with her cat on her lap reading a novel. The smallest thing would help. Even for her, gratitude (unlocked any) fullness (there was in) life. It (turned) what (she had) into enough, and more.
Another quote from the same author: gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. It alters our future, our present, and even our past in a positive direction! Amazing, isn’t it, that even apart from any actual change in our present circumstances, thankfulness within those circumstances can bring us help? People today, even in our world, recognize that thanksgiving brings help.
So, how rich a blessing is it that we, here, today, actually have something to be thankful for—something specific and real, an actual change in our circumstances that is permanent and irreversible and precisely what we need? That’s the scenario we encounter in our passage today. Paul is reminding the Colossians that they not only received a Savior in Christ Jesus the Lord, and the hope of eternal glory in him (1:27). They received the One Who’s the very heart of the mystery (1:27). They received the whole body of teaching about Who Jesus is and all He came to express regarding the nature of God and the fulfillment of His will and purpose—(deliverance) from the domain of darkness, transferred to (eternal citizenship in His) kingdom, (redeemed), (forgiven) of sins (1:13-14). They received the Christ Who is celebrated in the hymn of 1:15-20, the Christ Who is pre-eminent in everything (1:18), Who created (1:16) and sustains (1:17) and rules over all things, visible and invisible (1:16-18), the Christ in (Whom) all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (1:19), in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (3). This is the picture! This is the scene around us as we enter 2:6.
You and I have received the very same Christ Jesus the Lord, complete with all that means! So, as we hear Paul’s further instructions to the Colossians in this passage, we can hear them ourselves as descriptive of our relationship with this Lord, Savior, King. And as our eyes open to all that we (receive) in him, we overflow with thanksgiving! Let’s take this passage in three parts984.
The Central Charge to Walk in Christ – 6-7
6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, Paul wrote, meaning all we just listed, so walk in him, live in the reality of what it means that you’ve received the fullness of God in Christ, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (3) in (Him).
Walk in him is amplified by four participial phrases, the first three of them in passive voice, meaning they are done to us: 7 rooted (in him), like a strong, tall tree God has planted by streams of water (Psa.1:3), to draw nourishment from the dampened soil beneath and the bright warm sun above, to (bear) fruit in every good work and (increase) in the knowledge of God (1:10); rooted and built up in him, like a building set on a sure foundation, and established in the faith, confirmed by God as having received the message Epaphras preached among them (O’Brien 108)—received it, just as (they) were taught, and so abounding in thanksgiving—overflowing with the thankfulness of changed circumstances.
This final participle, abounding, is the only one of the four in active voice. It comes off the page as an action on our part. The other three are done to us; this one alone is a response. So, we walk in Christ Jesus the Lord because He has rooted and built us up in him and established us in the faith. And we walk with abounding thanksgiving for all we’ve received in him! We’re so full of Him we’re spilling over—just sloshing all over the place—and the substance we’re spilling is thanksgiving! The ground all around us is colored by it! The atmosphere around us is scented by its flavor! And the people nearby are drenched by it, all because we’ve received Christ Jesus the Lord, and are (walking) in him! We’re abounding in thanksgiving!
These two verses sum up neatly the message of the entire letter (Wright 103). (They) occupy a central place in the letter, serving as a kind of hinge, (summarizing) what has already been written and (providing) the basis for the coming attack on the false teaching (8-23) (O’Brien). So, 2:6-7 could easily be identified as the key verses in this powerful little letter of Colossians, the core of its message!
The Sobering Warning to Avoid Captivity – 8
They also set up the first of several coming charges, this one right on their heels. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. Paul is ramping up toward spotlighting several schemes of the false teachers who were collecting in Colossae. But with all that the church has in Christ, why would they give ear to any other claim of authority or insight? They received Christ Jesus the Lord Who embodies all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (3), what could they gain from any other philosophy? They received Him Who is preeminent in everything (1:18), what could they gain from any other tradition? They received the firstborn of all creation (1:15), the firstborn from the dead (1:18). You can’t top that!
So, why listen? Why give ear? Why let anyone suggest that you could do better believing something else, or something more? Why would you ever succumb to thinking someone or something other, or more, than the Person and work of Christ Jesus the Lord is needed to get along in life? But that’s what these false teachers were suggesting; that was the empty deceit and human tradition, the philosophy they were espousing. And these elemental spirits (8, 20), we believe a better translation would be just the elements of the world. In 2Pe.3:10, 12 this word refers to the structural elements of creation, heavenly bodies that will be dissolve in the fire of God’s final judgment. But in Gal.4:3, 9 and here in v.20 it points to requirements from the law, structural elements of the ‘the old world’ order, so to speak, of the first creation (Brendsel), before the coming of Christ and the revelation of the mystery (1:27), before He became the firstborn from the dead (1:18) and inaugurated the new creation in which He is now (reconciling) to himself all things…, making peace by the blood of his cross (1:20). To live according to these old elements now is to deny the coming of Christ (Brendsel), to re-enter that old (captivity).
Look a v.20. Dan will address this passage next week, but it offers a lot of help here to help us see what can (take us) captive. 20 If with Christ you died to the (elements) of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to restrictions from the law, things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom (and that’s what snags us) in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, (they look really disciplined) but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. They don’t offer the help they seem to promise. But we don’t need them anyway! (We) received Christ Jesus the Lord! He’s all we need to stop the indulgence of the flesh (23) and walk in him (6), abounding in thanksgiving (7). Christ Jesus the Lord is all we need!
The Reasons Why Christ Is Superior – 9-15
Why? 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, like in 1:19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 10 and you have been filled in him. We are filled in him Who is filled with the fullness of God! We’re rooted, built up, established in the faith, in (Christ) (7), not by honoring human tradition or the (elements) of the (old world order). What we’re filled with is not clear in this passage, but it comes to us in Christ, so he’s almost certainly talking about our salvation, our being reconciled to God in him. We’re filled in Christ such that there’s no room for any other strategy of being right with God. We’re filled in Christ Jesus the Lord, who is the head of all rule and authority. The One Who fills us stands in authority over every other authority on earth and in heaven. He created them all (1:16), and they answer to Him! So, why would we honor any authority other than Him, and any He charges us to honor—government, church, home?
11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ. It’s hard to know why Paul introduced circumcision here; quite likely it’s because the false teachers were pressing it, like in Galatia. But he uses it to speak of Jesus’ crucifixion. So, Paul is not referring to Jesus’ circumcision at eight days old according to the Law (Luk.2:21-22). He’s speaking of Jesus’ body, the body of the flesh, his body of flesh (1:22), that was was (put) off, lit. stripped away (L-N), in His crucifixion, like a foreskin is cut away in circumcision (O’Brien 117). And in him (we are) circumcised with a circumcision made without hands—another work done to us, for us, in us by God, in Christ. In the OT, circumcision was a physical ritual that was intended to signify a spiritual reality: Israel’s heart for God displayed by their (walking) in complete obedience to (His covenant) commandments (O’Brien 115). Here it is a metaphor of Christ’s death. And we died with Him, in him.
We were also 12 … buried with him in baptism, in which (we) were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. All of this happened through faith, meaning it’s not our baptism that saves us. It is faith. But baptism images our burial and resurrection with Jesus, and also, therefore, the powerful working of God in us, in him, (raising us) from the dead. 13 And (we), who were dead in (our) trespasses and the uncircumcision of (our) flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. And He destroyed the document on which it was recorded (O’Brien 133). This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
Did you hear all that? This is what we have received in Christ Jesus the Lord! The debt of our sin is canceled. It was taken out out that way (YLT) in (Jesus’) body of flesh (1:22) at the cross, (nailed) to the cross with Him, in him! And there 15 he disarmed the rulers and authorities, exposing their utter weakness once and for all, and put them to open shame like a defeated foe, by triumphing over them in him.
This is what we have received in Christ Jesus the Lord. This is the salvation and strength and deliverance and freedom that comes to us when we (receive) by faith the One Who is filled with the whole fullness of God, Christ Jesus the Lord! This is the One Who can strengthen us with all power, according to his glorious might (1:11) to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God! (1:10) When we have received Him, Christ Jesus the Lord, with all this entails, can you imagine any other characteristic being truer of us than that we’re abounding in thanksgiving? And knowing how thanksgiving is revered in this world, as a soul-fixer if we’ll just do it, even in the midst of painful circumstances where nothing has changed, can I urge you have that as your take-away today? Let this passage spotlight all it means that we’ve received Christ Jesus the Lord, so that we are encouraged on to walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith…, abounding in thanksgiving!
To return to our self-help author, and give her quite a bit of help, thanksgiving that is rooted in the gospel of Christ Jesus the Lord actually does (make) sense of our past (by canceling the record of our debt… and nailing it to the cross ), it brings peace for today (as we walk in him…,  abounding in thanksgiving ), and it creates a vision for tomorrow (the eternal hope of glory that is Christ in [us] [1:27]).
Let’s now rejoice in sins forgiven as we remember the death of Christ Jesus the Lord in Communion.