Friday, June 15, 2012

Winning the war against unfulfillment

Colossians 1:9 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.

The war against fulfillment in Jesus Christ
Paul's letter to the Colossians was aimed at showing them their true fulfillment in the fulness of Jesus Christ.  Paul himself experienced a four year stretch of time that tested his resolve for daily fulfillment in Jesus Christ.  The war had been waged, and the enemy lost.

As we saw yesterday, Acts 22-28, and particularly Acts 28:11-31; gives the background behind all Paul went through as he wrote Colossians.  The battle not only had to be won by Paul, but also his readers.

At the church of Colosse, there were teachers within that were planting seeds of discontent concerning Christ's sufficiency and supremacy.  Paul's aim in writing Colossians was to show the fulness of Jesus Christ in His Supremacy.  With that said, what was threatening to unravel the Colossian Christian's true fulfillment in Christ?  As we consider that question, I would urge you to ask this question too, since the battle to find our sufficency in Jesus Christ must be waged in every generation of the Christian church.

Identifying the Colossian heresy
According to Merrill Tenney, the false teaching that was occuring at Colosse, that threatened to unravel their fulfillment in Christ, contained the following combined false Pagan and Jewish influences:
1. Pagan Mysticism, perhaps a precursor to later movements such as Gnosticism and other pagan philosophies. (Compare Colossians 2:11)

2. Voluntary humiliation and abstaining from certain foods for the achieving of mystical experience (sometimes called asceticism).  Colossians 2:16,18,20-21

3. The worship and veneration of angels. (Colossians 2:18)

4. Jewish elements were mixed into the above pagan features such as ceremonialism (Colossians 2:11,13)

With those four characteristics, we can see that these false teachers were attempting to "add to Christianity".  Anytime we try to "enhance" our relationship with Christ with mystical experiences unsanctioned by scripture or legalistic religious "extras", we actually "subtract" our Christianity.   

Christianity is unfulfilling when fulfillment is sought in anything else other than Jesus Christ
Further research on this heresy reveals that whoever Paul's opponents were at Colosse; their aim was to diminish the true fulfillment found in Jesus Christ.  Dr. Wayne House, a theology professor, notes how the heretics in Colossians were attempting to discredit Christ (see citation at the end of today's blog):

1. Christ is one of many avenues to God.  Other routes, such as mystical trances, experiences with angels and religious observances were preferred.

2. Christ was nothing more than an exalted angel, or some type of spiritual being, a view akin to modern day Mormonism. 

3. This group advocated finding a hidden knowledge, called "gnosis" as a way of attaining salvation or "enlightenment".  Christ was, in their view, one of many ways.

In the words of New Testament scholar J.B Lightfoot, concerning this heresy against which Paul wrote in the book of Colossians: "The Colossians Heresy is a syncretism (that is, mixture) of Jewish, Gentile and Christian features that diminish the all sufficiency of Christ's salvation and his personal preeminence." (see citation at the end of today's blog)

How to practically pursue fulfillment in Christ
As we close out today's blog, let me suggest four ways from Colossians 3:15-17 that will equip you to combat the temptation to find fulfillment outside of Jesus Christ:

1. Be ruled by the peace of God. Colossians 3:15
Only in Jesus Christ, by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, can I enjoy the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. 

2. Be enriched by the word of God. Colossians 3:16
Taking in the scriptures through memorization and mediatation is equivalent to finding our fulfillment in Jesus Christ, since He never is unassociated apart from His Word.

3. Revolve your priorities around Jesus Christ. Colossians 3:17a
Whatever you do, do in the "name of the Lord Jesus".  View every act, thought or word as being done in the presence of Jesus Himself.  When you do that, you'll quickly realize how much Christ is essential to your fulfillment.

4. Repeatedly give thanks to God in all things.  Colossians 3:17b
A thankful Christian is someone who has found fulfillment in Christ.  Thankfulness is the incense and smoke from a heart lit by the flame of fulfillment in Jesus Christ. 

Sources cited in today's blog

House, H. Wayne. "Doctrinal Issues in Colossians. Part 1 (of 4 parts): Heresies in the Colossians Church." Biblotheca Sacra Vol. 149: 1992.  ppgs 45-59

Lightfoot, J.B. The Colossian Heresy in Saint Paul's Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon.  Grand rapids: Zondervan Publishing Company, 1979.  ppgs 73ff

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