September 18 – Colossians 2:6-15
Main focus: Jesus has triumphed so we can place our full trust (be rooted) in Him.
Be sure to notice the shift of thought that Paul makes in verse 8 here. Verses 6-7 look backwards at 1:1-2:5 while 8-15 begin a whole new line of thought about the Colossian heresy (which we looked at briefly last week). Paul is looking back at the preeminence of Jesus and beginning to turn the corner on his big argument: because Jesus is the Preeminent One, and because the Colossian Christians are in Christ, they should never submit to another spiritual authority (cf. Gal 5:1).
Paul begins by giving the key to successfully resisting other spiritual authorities: walking in Jesus and being rooted in him. Really and truly the key is Jesus himself, and you can see this in your discussion with just how many “in him” and “with him” phrases are in the passage. As we saw in Col 1:24-29, this is the theologically rich concept of union with Christ. We’re built up in him, filled in him, spiritually circumcised in him (more on that in a moment), buried with him, raised with him, and made alive together with him.
The secret to staying faithful to Jesus isn’t more discipline, trying harder, getting the right knowledge, or even praying more and reading your Bible more. The strength and resolve you need isn’t native to you; Jesus is the faithful one, willing to follow God’s desires all the way to death on a cross, and just like you need Jesus’ faithfulness for your salvation you also need his faithfulness, his strength and discipline, in order to stay faithful to him.
However, this faithfulness through and in Christ is one that has to be lived. Verse 6 neatly captures this dynamic: “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.” We passively receive Christ as an unearned gift but then, in faith, actively walk in him. This is a partnership in which we walk and Christ strengthens us to keep walking, we dig deep into him and he nourishes us, we turn to him alone for insight and authority and he builds us up in himself.
So as Paul directs his readers to resist false teaching he does so with the encouragement that Jesus’ strength and faithfulness provides. If we look only at ourselves then it’s clear we’re no match for worldly wisdom; we’re incapable of dismantling it and we’ll inevitably succumb to it. But if we look to the Preeminent Jesus then we have every assurance that he can silence lying voices and pull the teeth out of deceitful teaching. Paul turns our attention to two aspects of Jesus’ accomplishments that help us see that: through Jesus’ death and resurrection (and our union with him in those accomplishments) he has saved us, and through his work of redemption he has put the “rulers and authorities” to open shame.
First, we can cast off false teachings through Jesus’ death and resurrection for us. Again, we see here our union with Christ—we are so united with Jesus, through salvation, when he died so did we, and having died to sin we can now walk in righteousness (cf. Rom 6:1-11). Paul uses the graphic imagery of circumcision to describe how the “body of flesh,” meaning our inborn sinful nature, has been cut off of us. Thus the power that sin holds over us, false teachings included, has been broken. This gives us incredible courage to face down false teaching in our own lives by knowing that, though we once were dead in our sin, we’ve now been made alive with Christ and are able to walk in faithfulness to Jesus (2:13).
Second, we can cast off false teachings because Jesus has already shamed the authorities of this world through his victorious death and resurrection. Paul links human philosophy, deceit, and earthly tradition with what he calls here “elemental spirits.” There’s some debate about what he means precisely by that, and some translations render it “elementary principles,” “elements of the world,” or “elementary spiritual forces.” However we translate it, Paul connects these false sources of spiritual authority with the “rulers and authorities” of verse 15, which are Satan and his demonic forces (cf. Eph 6:12). Satan was incapable of tempting Jesus (Matt 4:1-11), sin incapable of corrupting him, and the grave incapable of keeping him. This gives us incredible courage to face down false teaching in the world around us, rather than shying away and secretly fearing their strength, because Jesus has already bested them and his victory is already our victory.
• Could someone read Colossians 2:6-15 for us?
• What stood out to you from the passage?
• How does this passage describe Jesus and his accomplishments?
• Look for all the “in him” and “with him” phrases in this passage – what do you think those can tell us about following Jesus?
• How does this passage describe a life lived in Jesus and with Jesus?
• Look at verse 7; in what ways do you want to grow in being “rooted and built up in him”?
• How can this passage give us courage and hope as we “walk in him”?