September 11 – Colossians 2:1-5

Main focus: Being knit together in love we can find true knowledge and reject false knowledge.

Most of Paul’s letters start with some sort of theology before getting to exhortation or application, and this week in Colossians 2:1-5 we start to see him shift from one to the other. In transitioning from talking about the preeminence of Jesus, he starts to discuss his specific concerns for the church at Colossae: the Colossian heresy.

To be perfectly honest, we don’t know a ton about this heresy or the exact false teachings that were being promulgated at Colossae. From what we can tell in Col 2:8-23, it seems as though this was either a single heresy that was a mix of mystical beliefs (cf. 2:18) and Torah observance (cf. 2:16) or there were multiple false teachers in the area who were spreading different teachings. Either way, these teachers seem to have boasted of having ‘true knowledge’ and the Colossians are being troubled with “arguments that sound reasonable” (2:4). Thus dealing with false sources of knowledge is a big theme in Colossians and Paul is seriously intent on pointing the church back to the true source of knowledge: Jesus.

Now that Paul is starting to deal with this heresy you can see how he’s been building up to it throughout his letter. For example, back in 1:9 we saw how Paul was praying that the Colossians would “be filled with the knowledge of [God’s] will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” But he’s also been building to this in more subtle ways, showing how the message of the gospel is the “word of truth” (1:5) and the true source of hope (1:23) because it’s the proclamation of the preeminent Jesus who is above all things and holds all authority (1:15-20). All of this is leaning its weight onto what he says here: Jesus is the true source of wisdom, so we shouldn’t turn anywhere else.

We’ll get to that in our discussion together, what it means to live knowing that Jesus is the source of all wisdom and observing those false sources of knowledge that we tend to turn to. That first part is a world-changing sort of truth: in Jesus, and nowhere else, are the depths of all wisdom and insight. Meanwhile, that second part is deeply convicting. While we might not be turning to ascetic practices and angel worship like they were in Colossae (cf. 2:18), you and I turn to all manner of sources for insight into the world, ‘true knowledge’ to set our anxious minds at ease, ‘better’ or ‘new’ ways of navigating the difficulties of life. 

To be sure, what Paul isn’t saying is that you can’t get information from any source other than the Bible; note what he says in 2:2-3, that Christ is the source of all wisdom and knowledge. John Calvin famously said, “All truth is God’s.” So wherever we find knowledge and wisdom in the world, whether that’s how to change the oil in your car, ethical investment practices, or good gardening techniques, we know that all truth belongs to God. Really what Paul is after here are messages that conflict with God’s revealed truth in his Word. 

This could be things like the lie that our career or body image or partner determine our value on earth, or the allure of alternative religious practices that help us feel more in control and safe in the world (i.e. smudging, crystals, ‘law of attraction’), or the pressure to avoid condemnation by aligning your beliefs as closely as possible with worldly priorities. This could even be something like the seemingly Christian notion that having the right religious qualifications or Bible knowledge is what makes you acceptable. If we’re honest with ourselves, we all turn at times to these sorts of false sources of knowledge and wisdom, and Jesus would invite us to receive truth from him instead.

But interestingly, in the middle of this argument about the true source of knowledge, Paul talks about love. We’ll touch on this in discussion, why Pual wants us to have our “hearts…encouraged and joined together in love” (2:2). This is a key difference between the false knowledge in the world and true knowledge in Christ; at the root of true knowledge isn’t self-satisfaction, “I told you so,” or emotionless logic. It’s a person, and that person is filled with love for his people, and his love is the kind that mends what is broken and joins together what is separate. So we’ll finish asking ourselves how God himself helps us in the fight against our predilections for false wisdom. Taking into view everything we’ve read thus far in Colossians 1, we’ll see that it’s this preeminent Jesus who reconciles us and unites us to himself, binds us together with one another, and strengthens us to grow in his knowledge.

Now, if that’s the work Jesus does in us, here’s the work Jesus does through us. You’ll notice that Paul talks about this work in the context of his own ministry, which he calls “the stewardship from God,” and for which he suffers often. (For more on his comment about “what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” scroll down to the Deep Dive below the discussion questions.) That word stewardship is an important one; we get our word “economy” from it. It has in mind the running of a household or private business, of simultaneously being a servant and an administrator. For Paul, ministry was a charge given him by God to attend to the proclamation of the gospel and the well-being of the church.

That’s relevant for us because, ultimately, we shouldn’t see Christian faithfulness as anything other than what Paul is describing here. Granted, it might not look like Paul’s specific ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles, sailing around the Mediterranean and starting churches in almost every city he visited. But, with the Great Commission in mind, we know that Jesus has charged each of us to go and make disciples (Matt 28:16-20). You and I have been given a stewardship of this good news in which we hope, and bringing the hope of the gospel to others is the work Jesus intends to do through us on this earth. We’ll finish our discussion on that point, asking ourselves in what ways Jesus intends to do this same sort of ministry in our individual lives.

Questions for Discussion

• Could someone read Colossians 2:1-5 for us?

• What stood out to you from the passage?

• Why do you think Paul wants us to be joined together in love and have our hearts encouraged?

• What do you think it means that in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”?

• What do you think it looks like to live according to that reality?

• What do you think Paul is warning us away from in verse 4?

• What false sources of knowledge and wisdom are you most prone to trusting?

• Based on what we’ve read so far in Colossians, how do you think God helps us receive his wisdom and reject false wisdom?