Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 October 21, 2018
“Christ Pre-Eminent over Human Wisdom”
I bring you back today to our series through Colossians with a reminder of something that perhaps occurred just last week. Perhaps you received some solicitation—either by phone, e-mail, regular mail, personally, or some other method. The gist of the solicitation was this: “Send money now,” presumably in view of a can’t-miss opportunity. I hope you resisted this deceitful scheme—for the opportunity was solely for the solicitor, and there was none for us. Most of us have been burned by such a scheme at least once.
Though the Colossian church appears healthy enough, apparently there is some deceitful threat that the church need note. We know the threat—called the Colossian heresy by many a New Testament scholar—principally by Paul’s Spirit-led rejoinder to it. We shall be dealing with this threat for several sermons. Let’s begin today to look more at the problem, and today’s solution, from God’s Word.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
Paul, led by the Spirit, opens today’s text with this command, “See to it that no one takes y’all captive.” He then tells the Colossians and us the agent of captivity: to wit, philosophy (that is, human wisdom divorced from divine revelation and illumination) and empty deceit. These things occur according to human tradition and elemental spirits (or elementary principles) of the world—a system alienated and estranged from God, and hostile toward Him. These deceits from the world are untrue, without ultimate purpose, and without good result. They are also not according to Christ. That is, they take no consideration of Him—and many times are flat-out contrary to the written Word of God.
Before we proceed to the antidote for these threats to the Church, we do well to look at the nature of the particular threat to Colosse (cf. 2:8-23). First, the threat to the Colossian Christian had elements of Jewish legalism. They would force upon the Christian certain Old Testament activities abrogated in Christ’s coming. Second, the threat involved Greek philosophic speculation—and, once again, speculation divorced from the revealed truth found in God’s Word. Third, the threat involved Oriental (think Near Eastern, not Far Eastern) mysticism. This involves ecstatic visions, secret esoteric knowledge, and the like. We’ll see these march out for closer inspection in weeks to come, but know for a surety that Christ is greater than any of these—and this is why the Lord, through Paul, makes so much in Colossians of the Person and work of Jesus Christ.
In Jesus dwells bodily the whole fullness of deity. Remember that Jesus, fully human, is also God incarnate. Jesus is not partly God and partly man—as some assert as they wrestle with the Biblical data about Him—but He is both fully God and fully man. Moreover, we who believe in Christ Jesus as Savior and Lord have been filled in Him. He is the One Who fills everything in every way (Ephesians 1:23), and He fills us via the Holy Spirit. The Spirit both makes real to us the things of God and lives out the risen life of Christ in our flesh. Often we try to fill the empty places in our lives with all manner of things, but Christ alone fills our lives. Without Him, there must be empty places—but with Him, we lack for nothing pertaining to life and godliness.
Jesus, furthermore, is the Head of all rule and authority. The Apostle John tells us that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16). Hence, as Paul asserts to the Philippian Christian households, every knee will bow to Jesus (Philippians 2:10). In fact, He is far above every rule and authority (Ephesians 1:21), and He is the Head of all things for the Church (Ephesians 1:22). True, the Father hath given all authority unto the Son, in order that the Father may be glorified in the Son, but that authority is also for the benefit of those whom the Father hath given unto the Son—even the likes of us.
Therefore, beloved Body of Christ, let us beware anyone telling us that we need something other than Christ for the salvation and healing of our souls. Some will say that we don’t need Jesus, but we need advanced education, or a pile of money, or something else. The Lord certainly uses wealth of money, intellect, and other things for His glory, but when they become substitutes for Him, then we enthrone those substitutes instead of Him—with disastrous results and consequences. Let us also beware anyone telling us that we need something in addition to Christ. Some will say that having Jesus is good, but we must add something else to it for the full life—such as a Ph. D., or a near-impossibly fit body, or something else. Never forget that Christ is alone sufficient. The Protestant Reformers, crying, “Solus Christus,” understood that Christ alone is the ground of our salvation. Moreover, He greater than anything we may try to add to Him. Hence, why bother? Having Christ, we have all.
How, then, do we fortify ourselves—in practical terms—against such deceptions? God has provided fortifications; we tend to call them the means of grace. First, get the Word of God written into you, and know it well. The Word of God never leads astray. Knowing it well puts us at greater advantage to withstand the devil’s schemes. Second, pray. Christians ask often, “How much should I pray?” The best answer I know to this question is, “More.” Let us pray, then, both at regular times and on special occasions (such as special seasons of prayer, quick “arrow-shots” in the course of the day, and the like). In this we enjoy relationship with our Heavenly Father through His Son, and this buttresses our souls against Satan’s schemes.
Third, worship the Lord, both in public and in private. If we allow, then just about any occasion will keep us from attendance upon public, private—and, dare I say, family—worship. Let us resist those temptations to forsake, and let us strive all the more to fortify ourselves against the empty deceptions of the world via worship. Fourth, as we partake of the Lord’s Supper, and as we both receive and witness baptism, we recall God’s covenant of grace with us, we experience His precious presence, and we find ourselves sealed in His love and safe in His care. Fifth, let us fortify ourselves with fellowship. By this we do not mean a mere “Sunday Morning Social Club,” where we meet, greet, go through some motions, and never engage the living God. Rather, we mean true sharing together in Christ: of His company, His benefits, and His sufferings. This binds us together in Christ and strengthens us in Him.
Christ, clearly, is pre-eminent over all human wisdom. Let us, therefore, be wise in Him, and let us resist every scheme of our ancient foe—and that in the power of the Holy Spirit.
 I am indebted, for this succinct summary of the Colossians, to Robert H. Gundry, A Survey of the New Testament, Third Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 395. Note his slightly fuller, yet sufficiently comprehensive, discussion ibid, 394-95.