January 10, 2021
Paul’s Letter refuting the New Age Heresies
While in prison in Rome, Paul was visited by Epaphras, the pastor of the Colossian Church. Paul wrote of Epaphras as ‘my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus in Philemon 1:23. There is little doubt Epaphras came to see Paul about various heresies causing problems in the Colossian church. The primary heresies were 1) legalism from the Jewish community, 2) oriental philosophies from travelers, 3) pagan astrology, 4) mysticism (secret knowledge), 5) and asceticism or hedonism.
As today, the false teachers rarely denied Jesus, they simply dethroned Him. Oh, He is a wise sage, but not God. After all, He was a man who died on the cross who said and taught many good things. This should sound familiar as many do this still today.
Jesus earthly genealogy is given in Matthew (starts with Abraham) and Luke (starts with Adam), but His real genealogy is in John 1:1-3. Paul is going to address this in today’s verses and in my opinion more strongly than John does. Now, knowing who Jesus is, we should all have a specific question on our minds, “What are we doing about our approaching death?”
Once again this letter is an attack or polemic on all the new age heresies, not by naming them. Instead, a direct focus on the sufficiency and supremacy or preeminence of Christ as a complete rejection or refutation of all the heresies seemingly promising something greater. That is shown to be simply impossible.
v15. To make good sense of v15 we need to begin back in v13 as Paul seldom used periods preferring one run on sentence after another. Let us first talk about the term firstborn here which causes so much confusion among many. Firstborn here is not a term of order of birth, but it is a positional term. It has nothing to do with origin or time, but to one’s position or status. It is telling us Jesus has a position of PREEMINANCE over anything and everything. Firstborn of all creation means prior to all creation. We will see the truth of this in the next verse.
v16. All things, including angels in heaven, including Satan (with apologies to the Mormons, Jesus and Satan are not brothers because Jesus created Satan along with all the other angels). The terms Paul uses here, thrones, powers, rulers or authorities, all refer to various positions or hierarchy of angels. With this in mind, He is the creator of all there was. From this, we need to keep in mind we have a date with our creator. Turn to John 5:25-29 which tells us we have a date with judgment.
v17. Not only is He before all things, but He is what is holding our universe together. Natural question to ask is “What happens when He stops holding it all together?” For the answer let us turn to 2 Peter 3:10 which reads, But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare [or burned up]. There will be a new heaven and a new earth.
v18. Once again, Paul makes the point of Christ’s supremacy or preeminence even over death by conquering death. Our life after death is going to be one of following the path He has created for us.
v19. Fullness? What does fulness mean? It is the sum total of all divine power and divine attributes … the godhead dwelt and dwells in Him. What does He do with this? He showed His love for us as Paul points out in Philippians 2:5-11.
v20. Reconcile all things, both on earth and in heaven as foretold in Isaiah 65:17. A quick point here, there is no way for us to reconcile our individual selves to God. It is only through Jesus this can be accomplished. Thus, there are three main points or truths Paul has made in these six verses: 1) Jesus has taken care of everything; 2) Jesus is sufficient, there is nothing we need that is not in Jesus; and 3) God is pleased whenever Jesus is honored and given preeminence. Knowing this leads naturally into the next two verses.
v21-22. Reconciliation again, which only comes from and through Jesus. And the purpose of reconciliation is personal holiness, a turn away from a life of sin. Personal holiness. With this in mind, let us look at v23.
v23. IF? Our call is to be obedient. Without being legalistic, we have a call to obedience. There are those who try to make believers think they can lose their salvation via this IF which is not true. But what does it mean? It means there is a testing of your profession of faith. Did you truly commit your heart to Jesus? Paul makes this question clear in 1 Corinthians 15:1-2.
v24-25. Paul is making clear here he suffered for the church, not for our salvation. In the second verse (25) he is suggesting we should ask not how much we can get out of our faith and the church/the body, but ask how much will God let me put into it.
v26-27. Mystery here refers to sacred secrets made known to the initiated revealed in the next verse. Gentiles receiving salvation was the mystery.
v28. Fully mature is perfect in some versions. The point is Jesus preached, not some doctrine. In other words, Jesus and Jesus alone.
v29. Striving. Paul fought all the heresies by focusing on the truths of Jesus. Instead of showing all the wrong paths one can take he refuted them by pointing out the one and only correct path – Jesus.