The little church in Colossae was a congregation beset by those who were trying to lead them away from the truth once given to them through men like Epaphras. Despite all the different kinds of false teachers they faced each had basically the same message for those dear Christians. What you have isn’t enough. What you really need is “Christ and …” Let us loosen you from the shackles of that old thinking, they said. Let us open up your minds to the potential they said. Let us free you to finally enjoy real Christianity – Christianity that makes a difference.
And some began to doubt the Truth of the Gospel and were listening to the reasonable sounding words, and logical arguments of these men. And so it is that at the heart of Paul’s letter to the Colossians is the emphatic proclamation that the Truth – the Gospel is sufficient. Jesus and his bodily sacrifice is sufficient. Christ is everything that you need and anything else is actually a form of slavery and no true freedom at all.
(8) See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
There are always those ready to debate the philosophical merits of Faith. Those willing to twist words to win an argument or prove a point. There are those who will not change simply because that’s what we’ve always done. Those who insist that there is the right way, the wrong way, and then there’s OUR way. There are always those ready to listen to the beckoning call of the spirit of the times, the spirits of this world, the father of lies. Not everything that’s a “spirit” is good and not everything “spiritual” is helpful.
The church in Colossae faced them all. (16-19) Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind and not holding fast to the Head.
The Jews were not strangers to occasionally worshiping angels. The Colossians were well know for their angel worship. Colossae, history said, had been saved from a destructive flood by the Archangel Michael. The Judaizers insisted that the only right way to be a Christian was first to be a practicing Jew devoutly following every Old Testament ordinance. Early gnostics pointed to secret knowledge and divine revelations no one had.
Jesus AND angels. Jesus AND ceremonial righteousness. Jesus AND direct revelation. Each promised a greater freedom, than Jesus alone. But these Paul warned can only enslave someone who was already free in Christ. For each demands. Each places burdens, and none give back.
Yet how many today still fall into the same trap binding their consciences to Christ AND’s? How many enslave people to doubts and fears by insisting on Jesus AND my guardian angel? Or Jesus AND my deceased grandmother the watchful angel? Or Jesus AND my lucky angel pendant? How many still enslave others to a never-ending cycle by insisting that it is Jesus AND your decision? Jesus AND your commitment? Jesus AND your enthusiastic Worship, Prayer, Witness etc? How many still shackle people with the demand for special revelations, personal visions, the voice of God that speaks to the individual in a way He has not to anyone else.
And how many, having fallen victim to the Jesus AND’s have fallen away from the Truth, the Hope that is in Christ Alone? How can you know if angels are enough, are protecting you from every threat? How can you always be committed or enthusiastic enough? What if God has never spoken to you directly? What if you don’t think right, live right, or have the right protectors? What a terrible burden for anyone to be shackled to! Who can live under these chains? But don’t you see dear friends … no one has to!
(9-10) For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. Christ is all sufficient – sufficient in the fullness of His deity. Sufficient in the bodily sacrifice He willingly made on the cross to pay for all sin. Sufficient in His glorious and victorious authority, seated at the right hand of the Father! All you need is Christ – no If’s, But’s or And’s about it! In Jesus there is no mere shadow of promise, Christ – and He alone – is the true substance of our freedom.
And that freedom in Christ is freely given us by Christ: (11-13) In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,
Freedom in Christ is granted through Holy Baptism. When God met you at the Baptismal font He cast off your sinful fetters and filled you with Christ. All His sufficiency, His life, His work, His sacrifice all became your freedom. In Baptism you died to the sins that once held you captive. In Baptism the dead become alive for their debt has been paid in the cross, the ledger balanced, the columns tallied AND there is nothing else to be added!
Forgiveness has been won … salvation paid out in full! (14-15) by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.,
Like a mighty general that has fully vanquished a dangerous opponent and is leading him along bound in fetters, so God made the Cross, the symbol of shame and sorrow, into the sign of victory and final triumph over all His enemies. A freedom march. A victory parade. This entire victory, with all its blessings, is ours through the gift of God, by faith. We are victors over the kingdom of darkness, we are set free from false teachers and captivating lies, we are finally and truly free both here in time, and hereafter in one glorious hymn of triumph in all eternity.
(6-7, 19) Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving … [He is] the Head … from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
In Christ we are truly free. Free in Truth. Free in the Flesh. But do not be confused about your freedom. Freedom “From” is not freedom “To” In Christ we are free from sin, death and devil … but only that we might be willing slaves to Christ, walking in Him, abounding in thanksgiving to Him. Like a tree we are free, not to become a pumpkin, but to truly be a tree – growing and producing pleasing fruit. Like a building we are free, not to lay like a puddle, but to rise up, free to stand firm in the truth of Christ and the faith He has given us in Baptism. Like a body we are free to grow and work in all its varied parts under the direction of the head, Jesus Christ. If the Son sets you free you are free indeed! AND that is the truth … Christ is Our Hope – In Freedom!