Do you long for more in your Christian life? Paul did, Phil 3:10-14 –‘Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.’ So, evidently, did the Colossians.
1. You don’t need Christ ‘plus’
False teaching in Colosse. Its general description, v8 – ‘hollow and deceptive philosophy’, ‘human traditions’. In particular:-
(a) Christ plus ritual, v16, ‘religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day’. Magnificent buildings, gorgeous clothing, elaborate liturgy – throwback to OT. (v17 shadow, not reality.)
(b) Christ plus angels, v18 ‘false humility and worship of angels’. It is false humility to suppose that we need intermediaries, be they angels, saints, or priests. (Sensual, not spiritual)
(c) Christ plus asceticism, the idea that the key to spiritual enlightenment is an extremely strict and severe lifestyle, v21, ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’ Whitefield: ‘When I was sixteen years of age I began to fast twice a week for thirty-six hours together, prayed many times a day, received the Sacrament every Lord’s Day, fasting myself almost to death all the days of Lent.’ (Transient, not abiding, v22, ‘these things are all destined to perish with use’. How can something as perishable as food and drink contribute anything of eternal value?).
The key problem – they have become disconnected from Christ, v19 – whom they received as Lord, v6; in whom all the fulness of the Deity lives in bodily form, v9; the Head over every power and authority, v10.
2. You need Christ alone
(a) In him your sinful nature has been dealt with, v11, ‘the putting off of the sinful nature’. These other things only deal with external appearances; Christ deals with inner realities: ‘new start’ vs ‘new heart’; ‘new leaf’ vs ‘new life’.
(b) In him you have been raised to new life, v12, ‘raised with him’. Easter message not primarily that Jesus has gone to heaven and one day we will too, but that resurrection life has begun here and now.
(c) In him all your sins have been forgiven, v13, ‘he forgave us all our sins’. Also 1:13f; 3:12f. A message here for Philemon?
(d) In him all the demands of God’s law have been satisfied, v14, he ‘canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross’. ‘Titulus’
(e) In him all the spiritual powers arrayed against you have been disarmed, v15, ‘having disarmed (‘stripped’) the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross’. They stripped Jesus, held him up to public contempt, and celebrated their victory over him. But the reality was precisely the reverse.
(a) don’t let anyone judge you or disqualify you, v16, 18. Communion: ‘we welcome to the Lord’s table all who have been baptised and have faith in Jesus Christ’.
(b) don’t live as if you still belonged to this world, vv20-23. Ch 3 will turn to the positive side of this.
(c) rejoice! v7, ‘overflowing with thankfulness’. Christian belief can be summed up in the word ‘grace’ and Christian behaviour can be summed up in the word ‘gratitude’.
You don’t need more than Christ. You don’t even need more of Christ, for you have already been given fulness in him, v22. Christ needs more of you.