Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Snatching Defeat out of the hands of Victory
It is known simply as ?The Play?. The year was 1982. The Stanford Cardinal playing the Cal Bears. Stanford had the game sewn up. Victory was at hand. So sure were Stanford fans that the game was over that the band started to take the field as Cal received the final kickoff of the game. It was supposed to be over, you know, just take the kick, knee it down and accept defeat. But Cal just wouldn?t quit. After handing off or lateraling the ball five times, the Bears ran through the Stanford defense and through members of the Stanford marching band to end up in the end zone with the winning touchdown.
For Stanford it was snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and it happens not only on the football field, but in the lives of Christians as well.
We start off well by putting our trust and reliance on the substitutional sacrifice of Jesus Christ on our behalf. Victory is ours over sin. Believing that the game is over we take the field to celebrate, only to realize that the opposing team still has some trick plays up their sleeve?and we find ourselves staring at defeat as we try to mature in Christ and we wonder what happened.
What happened is that people we trusted introduced subtle and deceitful lies into our minds. We let poison into our thinking and it pulled us away from simple faith in Jesus. That?s what happened to the Colossians and that?s what is happening this very day in our world.
Today we begin to unpack the Colossian heresy. Heresy is a belief that runs contrary to the gospel. How can we know something is true to the gospel? We first need to find it clearly in God?s Word. If something was prophesied in the Old Testament, spoken of by Jesus, and confirmed by the apostles, then you can be pretty sure it?s the real deal. But when you start to believe what people say or what they write?and it doesn?t square with Scripture?look out!
So as we begin, Paul lets the Colossians know that this is no light matter.
The key word in this verse is ?struggle?. It comes from a Greek word for a gathering place where the games and contests such as the Olympic games occurred. The idea here is that Paul recognizes it is a struggle?a contest?over the minds of the Colossians. It?s not an easy or light task to affirm truth and combat falsehood.
He?s also concerned greatly about the minds of those in the church at Laodicea?a nearby town. It?s a real struggle with real consequences. A little under thirty years later the Laodiceans are named in Christ?s letters to the churches as the lukewarm church?thinking they are rich and don?t need God when in fact they were poor, wretched, and pitiful. They?d been deceived. In the letter, which is really Jesus? letter, He asks that they pray for ?ointment to spread on your eyes that you may see.? (Rev 3:18). That?s what the Colossians need as well for they were deceived.
Paul worried that because he hadn?t come to Laodicea and Colossae himself, and that somehow the presence of people with bad doctrine would trump the truth Paul brought, though not personally. It?s true that it is easier to believe someone standing in front of you. But it doesn?t make what they say true.
Paul struggles because, as he said in the last verse of Chapter 1, he knows everyone can be mature?but the path the Colossians are on leads to weakness, not strength; sickness, not wholeness.
Does Paul always have to be right? Is that what?s going on here? No. His focus is on them.
2 ? 3
In their present circumstance there was likely a lot of discouragement and division going on in the church as some had one idea of the truth, and others a different view. Paul wants their ?hearts? (kardia) to be 1) encouraged (parakaleo: ?come alongside to help?) and 2) knit together (Greek: to become one). In clearing up the doctrinal problems, Paul will also solve the relational problems. To be sure, when bad doctrine starts to circulate in a body, it breaks relationships just as it divides whole fellowships.
This will come about by an ?assured understanding? of the mystery of Christ. Mystery here doesn?t mean something hidden, but something that must be dug for, like buried treasure?as he alludes to in verse 3. We can?t just put our Christian faith on cruise control or autopilot. We need to dig and listen to the apostles until we agree together on the gospel. This will both encourage us and knit us together in agape?God?s love.
Notice in verse 3: ?ALL the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him.? If the doctrine someone is sharing with you does not lead back to Jesus, it is not sound doctrine. And the garbage that was being taught in Colossae did not lead back to Jesus, as we?ll see.
4 ? 5
The doctrine being foisted on the church in Colossae was not openly in rebellion against the Lord Jesus. That?s how this stuff works: it?s very subtle and insidious. So when Paul says the Colossians were ?deceived? it comes from a Greek word that means ?it doesn?t add up.? You take the parts of what they are saying, and if it doesn?t add up to Jesus, then it?s not right. But you have to do the math, and that?s what often happens: we don?t take the time to break the doctrine down to its parts and then see where each part leads.
The false teachers of their day and ours use ?persuasive arguments?. The Greek means ?speech designed to persuade?. These false teachers were not just talking off the cuff, but their arguments were meant to pull the Colossians off of sound doctrine and to believe their heresy?in a very deceptive manner so you don?t know instantly that you are turning from the gospel. Being persuasive does not make you right. Keep that in mind. You might run into someone or listen to a teaching that sounds very logical and really tickles the ear. If you don?t break it down then add it back up to see if it points to Jesus as the King and the Savior?then it?s not right and should be rejected.
Paul says that just because he isn?t present with them physically, does not mean he cannot hold sway over them. He?s paying attention, and as Christ?s apostle, it is his duty to do so, and their obligation to listen to him?present or not. In the same way we need to listen to the apostle?s doctrine as if Paul himself was standing in our midst.
The final part of verse 5 has military overtones. Despite the doctrinal problems going on, Paul is encouraged that God?s army at Colossae is arrayed in battle formation, ready to fight against the enemy with faith, trust and reliance on Jesus. He is like a general whispering to his troops from afar, urging them on and not to be distracted.
6 ? 7
Verses 6 & 7 begin the next big section of the letter?and serve as an outline of what is to come.
These two verses are jam-packed with meaning and metaphor, all of which are important for the rest of the letter.
I call this section: ?Dance with the one who brung ya?.
?As you have received? doesn?t just mean accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior at the time of conversion. ?Receive? here has to do with passing teaching from one generation to the next. There is this chain of custody of the truth of God?from Jesus, to His apostles, to us through what the apostles wrote down. The Jesus of the apostles is the Jesus we need to stick with.
Next, Paul uses 5 metaphors to show us the effect of sticking to the truthful teaching about Jesus.
This verb is in the present tense?suggesting an ongoing action. To ?walk? was the Jewish way of saying to act out in your behavior what you believe in your mind. We are to let our life actions reflect the truth about Jesus.
This verb is in the past tense?suggesting a once accomplished act. How can we be rooted in place like a tree and yet walk at the same time? We put our trust firmly in Jesus, rooted in the truth that He is God in the flesh, come to save mankind singlehandedly. But we work that out in how we behave each day, as we begin to mirror that character. But we have to keep strong roots holding firmly to the truth about Jesus.
- 3.Built up
Paul uses the metaphor of a house, built strongly on a good foundation. The foundation is the apostle?s doctrine of Jesus. If you start using bad building materials your house will not stand, just as trying to patch bad doctrine on the truth of Jesus will not work out for strength and maturity.
Established means settled?like a legal settlement. What Christ did on our behalf was a legal transaction. We owed a debt to God for our sins. Jesus canceled that debt by paying it and redeeming us. We need to hold fast to that fact (this becomes important later).
Overflowing here is like a jug of wine. The response to being rooted in Christ, mirroring His character, being built up in the truth from the basis of a confirmed legal transaction on your behalf is wonderful thanksgiving and gratitude?not going off into some false doctrines that leads you to give thanks to your own efforts, not God?s.
The signs of a dysfunctional church can be found in the opposites to these. If you are rooted in your ability to please God, you are not rooted in the salvation of Christ. If you aren?t trying to act like Jesus you are not walking in Him. If you build your character on false ideas you are not going to be strong. If you rely on your own strength, or some angelic beings to bring you to God, you aren?t going to be settled. And if you find your life is not filled with gratitude and worship to God for all He has done?and instead want more and more to satisfy fleshly desires?you are not reflecting truth in your life
- Are you aware of the struggle going on for your mind? (verse 1)
- Are you willing to dig for the buried treasure that it?s all about Jesus? (verses 2 & 3)
- Do you ?do the math? when it comes to accepting or rejecting ?truth? about Christ? (verses 4 & 5)
- Are you well rooted in the apostle?s doctrine? Are you seeking to be transformed in the character of Jesus, even if it hurts your pride? What building materials in your mind are you using to form your attitudes and values?what values are you listening to? Do you recognize that Jesus did it all and you can?t do any of it to earn God?s favor? And is your life typified by thanksgiving and worship? If you answer ?no? to any of these?I challenge you to dig deeper into the Word, good teaching, and into your own values and ask the Lord to search you, then respond to what He reveals!
Next time we get into more detail about the ?what? of the false doctrine, the ?how? it was being introduced, and the ?why? the victory of Christ means all that garbage is totally unneeded.