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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: March 06, 2020
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
Welcome to HBS.
In Colossian chapter 1 we read, “To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, Since we (what) heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and the love which ye have to all the saints, For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel;” (1:1-5).
In what way were the Colossian saints faithful? Paul commended these Believers for holding fast to their faith in Christ Jesus, the love they had for all the saints, and the truth of the gospel. God’s Word was maligned by Jewish legalists and an early form of Gnosticism. This isn’t an oddity for similar problems were occurring elsewhere in the grace churches Paul had established. One example that stands out is the divided Corinthian church. They too suffered from false teaching, so Paul put the following question to them, “What value is the world’s wisdom when compared to the wisdom of God?”
“For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;”
(1 Corinthians 1:17-23).
Paul defended the gospel of grace by reiterating the preeminence of Christ in all relationships. Said differently, in a chain that links God the Father to man Christ Jesus is every link in that chain. For instance, He’s linked to the Father as One of the Persons of the Godhead, He’s linked to creation not only as the power that brought all things into existence and maintains its existence He is the purpose for its existence; Christ is also linked to mankind as their only hope for salvation from sin and death, and then He is linked to the saved as the Head of the body into which each Believer is placed by the Holy Spirit, and that body is the Church. So, you see, Christ is the connection between every one of these realities. So, Paul shows Christ Jesus has the credentials to not only be the Firstborn of every creature He’s the preeminent Person at every point of contact.
(See Colossians 1:3 thru 2:7).
Please open your Bible at Colossians 2:8-12.
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.”
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”
Here our apostle Paul outlined a new thought which he goes on to explain in some detail. The phrase that stands out here, in my opinion, is his declaration at the end of it, “and not after Christ.” Our apostle Paul presents Christ Jesus as The Standard. He means to say not just the Person of Christ, but his teachings, His commands, and His examples; this is The Standard by which all things are to be judged.
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit” - the underlying objective of the false teachers in Colosse is control; the bible uses the word slavery. Slavery to their doctrine and slavery to their religious authority. However, all those in Christ Jesus have been set free from the yoke of slavery:
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”(Galatians 5:1)
The tactics these false teachers used were the teachings of concepts and ideas from a variety of sources other than The Standard Paul mentioned above, that is, Christ Jesus who will judge the world in righteousness. Philosophy (or human concepts) is a deception based on the lofty notions about man-made rules concerning the way the world is supposed to work. Not all philosophy, of course, but that particular thinking that explains the way the world works but without God and His beloved Son in it.
One notable example of their worldly thinking is the concept of worshipping angels. In 2:18b we have Paul’s response to that notion, “(These men are) intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed by his fleshly mind.” These men claimed to have witnessed visions and had new revelations. Because of this they believed angels should be worshipped and they, the false teachers, should provide some oversight (control) in the way this is done. But Paul warned the Colossians about anyone who professed to have special knowledge saying, “Let no man beguile you of your reward…” or that which should be cherished by you, namely, all you have and all you are in Christ.
That’s a fair description of the mindset of those false teachers. They weren’t educated men, per se, but they were putting forth new ideas based on man-made philosophies involving angels, and other things. So, from this so-called new world-view the false teachers were inventing new rules for living, which had the tendency to “spoil” (rob) the Colossians of their heavenly reward along with their liberty in Christ. This teaching re: our freedom (liberty) in Christ Jesus is one of the great teachings in this letter. If you know Colossians, if you truly understand it, no one will ever enslave you intellectually, or religiously. They might try, but it won’t work because you are grounded in God’s Word, i.e., the truth; and the Truth will set you free (John 8:36).
“For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:”
Here Paul gives the Colossians four reasons why they should not ascribe to any other teachings than that of Christ Jesus, dispensationaly speaking (1 Corinthians 14:37-38):
Christ Jesus is divine (2:9). If anyone asks where in the Bible does it say Jesus is the Son of God, or divine, show them this scripture passage, “For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily…” You can’t make this verse say something else. Therefore, the teaching of Christ is the teaching of God. Why? Jesus is God in human form: “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the father…” (John 14:9). To follow the teachings of Christ Jesus is to follow God’s teachings (1 Corinthians 11:1), and it shouldn’t be replaced by the false doctrine of these men no matter how persuasive and spiritual they might appear.
They are complete in Christ (2:10a). Because the Believer has access to Christ Jesus they have access to all divinity offers. What does it offer? Every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies, eternal life, salvation, revelation, wisdom, and on and on. These saints have no need of additional teachings and/or new revelations they have all they need in their spiritual relationship with Christ. At the risk of hurting some people’s feelings, this is why we don’t need Confucius, Buddha, Mohammed, etc. None of them brings anything new to the table. Here Paul, not I, means to include anyone else who claim they had a vision, special knowledge, that is, a new revelation they want to share. The Word of God, a.k.a. the Bible is complete nothing is to be added to it or taken away from it (Deuteronomy 4:, 12:32; Revelation 22:18-19). People around the world promote a multitude of false religions. They say Mohammed has more than 2 billion followers, but what of it? Even though false religions attract billions of people, this does not imply there is safety in numbers. Jesus Christ said, and I’m paraphrasing, “the path to salvation isn’t broad it’s narrow; and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14; John 14:6).
Jesus is the Head and ruler of all authority (2:10b). Do you understand what Paul means to say? He’s inferring the Emperor Nero, his nemesis, will one day answer to the Creator God. And that standard applies to every authority figure that has ever lived or died on earth for “(He) is the head of all principality and power.” Said differently, Christ Jesus is the Lord of Lords and sovereign over all authority and rule. Since this is true, there is no need for someone else to assume His divine position, which is exactly what the Judaizers were attempting to do.
Christ Jesus is the Savior. Here Paul explains why the Colossians should follow only the teachings of Christ; He is their Savior. The Judaizers and false teachers were boasting that circumcision and their adherence to strict laws re: feast days, dietary restrictions, etc. made them superior to their gentile counterparts who simply trusted in Christ’s finished work. Thus, they were worthy to be obeyed and followed. Paul shows the salvation the saints in Colosse have in Christ has far greater value than circumcision and the Law. Circumcison is of God (See Genesis 17) that’s an undeniable fact. It was the sign imposed by the LORD God on Abraham and his offspring. But it was only a shadow of something far greater that was to come and that is Christ: “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Galatians 5:24).
“(Christ) In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.”
Physical circumcision, what we call minor surgery today, was the sign of the covenant between the LORD and Abraham and his offspring, that is, the Israelites (Genesis 17). This religious rite distinguished God’s chosen people from the wicked gentile nations among whom they lived. But here’s the thing, they soon began to boast about this distinction, believing it made them not only different, it made them better than the gentiles. But it did not. Physical Circumcison had no effect on their behavior, but circumcison of their hearts most certainly could (Deuteronomy 10:16).
We read in Romans 4:11 about Abraham and circumcision; it was merely a sign, “a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had.” But his offspring began to boast in the rite itself, just as many churched Christians boast in water baptism today believing Acts 2:38 is addressed to them. I attended one such a church many years ago because the woman I was dating attended that church. That minister boasted about the number of people that were baptized (saved) at such and such event, as though water baptism did anything at all for anyone, other than making them wet and in some cases soaking wet. However, Paul is not speaking about water baptism here; he’s talking about Spirit baptism. Getting wet no matter what form it takes, and this includes being dunked in the River Jordan, does not save anyone and it does not place anyone into the Body of Christ. I base this teaching on what the scriptures, rightly divided, say: “For by one Spirit (this word is capitalized so it’s referring to God the Spirit) are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13).
Getting back to verse 2:11, Paul declared that in Christ we have what circumcision was intended to signify. First, he said we have been circumcised with Christ, that is, the putting off of “the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.” When Christ Jesus was cut-off at Calvary, “by wicked hands” (Acts 2:23; Psalm 2:1-3), “the body of our sins” was “put off” by the cutting off of Christ. Said differently, the Believer has been “crucified with Christ:”
“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.” (Romans 6:6-7)
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20-21).
This in no way implies the Believer no longer sins – some folks teach this as truth; but it does mean in Christ we are perfect for this is how God, by grace, now sees us. So, let no one “rob” you of this. I mention this, again, because some people are constantly telling their audience they have to do this or that and one of those things is submit to water baptism. They have gone so far as to teach the phrase “buried with him in baptism” (2:12) means baptism by immersion but again that’s not biblical. They mean to say water baptism is a saving ordinance, but Paul makes it quite clear we are saved by God’s grace, through faith, without works of any kind: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;” (Titus 3:5).
Every Baptist, and every church that believes in immersion would agree the moment I accept Christ as my personal Savior, I am crucified with Christ and I am raised to walk in newness of life. I am given new life; “he that hath the Son of God hath life” (1 John 5:12). Furthermore, God’s Word tells us we are complete in Christ, meaning everything that needed to be done for our salvation has been done by Christ. Not one more thing needs to be added to that, including being totally immersed in water. As for church membership rolls, that is, the need to undergo water baptism in order to become a member of a church group, that’s entirely up to you. Please know God only requires one thing and that is that you trust in His Son’s shed blood for all your sin. The moment you do that you become a saved member of His Church (Colossians 1:20).
“Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.”
Or, in 1 Corinthians 12:13 our apostle Paul said, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles.”
Here Paul broadens his explanation re: the preaching of the mystery to show how Christ Jesus, willingly died not only for us, but as us. Plainly said, He identified Himself with mankind in yet another act, that is, the Cross, in order that He might become sin for us thereby setting us free from the penalty of sin and death (Romans 8:2; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:4; 1 John 3:5).
That thought serves to take us back to a declaration I made concerning our standing before God as true Believers. As Christ took our place and died in our stead on the Cross, we now stand before God the Father in Christ, not in ourselves, but in His beloved Son. That’s a glorious treasure and one of the reasons why Paul said, “Let no man spoil (rob) you…” of appreciating and appropriating this great truth. For God no longer sees each Believer as they were, a destitute sinner unable to save themselves, but as a new creature, perfect in Christ Jesus or the very same way He beholds His Son. The Colossians were being told something else entirely (See 2:13-23).
Take note of the fact that all is Christ He alone is preeminent regarding “all things.”
Nowhere in the Bible does it mention Baptist, Catholic, Luther, Methodist, Presbyterian, etcetera put your trust in these. To you God asks the most important question of your life in saying, “What have you done with my Son? Have you trusted in Him alone as your Savior?” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) If that’s not the case, if you’re trying to approach God in any other way, then please know you are outside of God’s expressed will:
“To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according the riches of his grace; Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:” (Ephesians 2:6-9).
(To be continued)
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