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Gospel Imposters: Philosophers

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 9/30/2018

In Colossians 2:6-7, Apostle Paul writes, “So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and being built up in him and being established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude. These verses are a perfect summary of everything Paul’s been teaching about Christ Jesus. Paul never wastes a word, a phrase, or sentence.
First, he reminds the Colossians they’ve “received” something sacred. (Say “received.” Underline this word in your study guide.) The only reason the Colossians heard the message of truth, came to appreciate God’s grace, and received such a great hope was because this faithful, dearly loved servant, named Epaphras, stopped at Colossae, and preached the gospel to them.

Maybe it’s a simple point, but people don’t just “figure out” hope. Remember the questions Paul asks in Romans 10:13-15? “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how can people call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it’s written ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who announces the gospel of good things!”

We wouldn’t know hope unless it was passed unto us by someone else. Epaphras knew the gospel because of the Apostle Paul. Paul preached despite great suffering. He preached despite persecution, imprisonment and personal peril. He believed that the only thing incomplete about the gospel, was its proclamation to the ends of the earth. Christ suffered, was afflicted, was crucified, was buried, was raised, ascended to the right hand of the Father.

But now, in Paul’s mind, the only thing lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions is our affliction! It’s our turn to endure hardship, to willing pay whatever prices is needed, so that every creature under heaven hears the mystery that is Christ and begins growing in maturity. Paul’s become the gospel’s servant/it’s slave. He’s become its administrator, its steward, its manager. He’s subjected himself to hard labor to share Jesus. He’s endured even past the point of exhaustion, relying on God’s strength, to sustain his life/ministry.

You have hope, because someone else was faithful with the gospel. There are people who won’t know hope unless you and I speak up. Paul says in 1:25, “God has given the administration of this gospel to me for you.” He goes on… It was kept hidden for generations, but now it’s been revealed to His saints. God wanted to make known among the Gentiles the glorious wealth of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim him, warn people, teach people… Paul didn’t ever sit on his hands. And this begs a question… what are you doing with the gospel? Who are you sharing it with… and at what personal cost?

Second Paul reminds the Colossians they’ve received Jesus as “Lord.” (Say “Lord.” Underline this word in your study guide). This is so important to underscore. There isn’t any other way to receive Jesus than to receive him as Lord. We don’t get to receive Jesus on our terms, but on His. Think of how “self-centered” we tend to be.

But what has Paul been telling us about Jesus? He is the image, the exact representation, the fullness of the invisible God. Jesus stands supreme over all creation. Everything was created by Jesus, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Jesus and for Jesus. Jesus stands before all things. He is the power that holds all things together in the universe. Jesus is the eternal sustainer of all things!

This same Jesus is also the head of the Church. We are his physical and spiritual body on earth. Jesus is the beginning and firstborn from among the dead. Jesus is the beginning, the first of many, to be resurrected from the dead. It was God’s great pleasure to reconcile all things to himself (things on earth, things in heaven) by making peace through the blood of Jesus on the cross. Once you were alienated and were hostile to the things of God—as shown by your behavior. But now God has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through his death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before him.

Jesus is the God of the Universe… our Creator and Sustainer. The Head of the Church. The firstborn from among the dead. Our Savior. Our redeemer. Jesus has made a way, by virtue of his own righteousness, for all of us to stand before God holy, faultless, and blameless. The only way to receive Christ Jesus is by bowing down to the God of the Universe and humbly praying, “Yes Lord, give me knowledge, help me know your will, give me wisdom, grant me understanding, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth, in my life, as it is heaven…” Just who should be consulting who? Should God be consulting us, or should we be consulting God?

Third Paul reminds the Colossians to now “live” in Jesus. (Say “Live.” Underline this word in your study guide). When you accepted Christ as Lord, you invited the God of the Universe to take up residence in your body. You became the temple of the Holy Spirit. You died. Your life is now hidden with Christ in God. You hope rests in the fact the “Christ is in you.” But not only is “Christ in you” but Jesus is now your very life, he is living through you, to bring glory to the Father.

In rapid fire succession Paul paints a picture of what it means to live in Jesus. He uses three images. The first image is agricultural. He says to live in Christ is to be “rooted in Jesus.” (Say “Rooted,” Underline Rooted!) You may recall Jesus instruction to his disciple when he told them, “Abide in me… abide in my love… abide in my words… I am the vine, you are the branches. If you abide you will bear much fruit for my glory”

It’s hard not to think of God’s promise to Jeremiah, in Jeremiah 17:7-8: “The man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence indeed is the Lord, is blessed. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” We’re not rooting ourselves… God is rooting us!

The second image Paul uses is architectural. He says to live in Christ is to be “built up in Jesus.” (Say “Built up”, underline “Built Up!”) Christ Jesus is the chief cornerstone of the house, and all of us our living stones. God isn’t building a “physical temple” in which to dwell, but a spiritual building in whom he will dwell by his Holy Spirit. This is the true Church. The True Church isn’t a building, or sanctuary in which God dwells. The true Church is a people in which God dwells! We’re not building selves… God is building.

The third image Paul uses is legal/contractual. He says to live in Christ is to be “established in Him.” (Say “Established”, underline “Established.”) Think of God writing out his will. Paul says in Colossians 1:5 that God has “reserved a hope for us in heaven.” He has guaranteed a hope. In Colossians 1:12 Paul says, “give thanks to God the Father, [because] he has enabled you to share in the saint’s inheritance in the light.” Formerly we had no inheritance rights, but now we have the inheritance rights of son/daughters! Colossians 1:13 says give thanks to God [because] “he rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of the Son he loves… we have redemption the forgiveness of sins, in Him!”

Remember Philippians 3:18-21? Paul says, “For I have often told you, and now say again with tears, that many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is in their shame. They are focused on earthly things, but our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly wait for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of his glorious body, by the power that enables him to subject everything to himself.” We don’t establish ourselves… God does the establishing!

Do you see how overwhelming all of this is? You received the gospel. You embraced Jesus as Lord. Christ is now your life. You are being rooted in Jesus, for life. You are being built into a person in whom the Living God dwells by his Spirit. You are being established, guaranteed, by virtue of Christ’s shed blood on the cross, to receive full inheritance rights as a son/daughter, to be established with full citizen rights in Christ, in God, in Heaven… entitled to receive not just justification, but sanctification; and not just sanctification but also resurrection and glorification.

And all of this should culminate with “overflowing gratitude.” (Say “overflowing gratitude,” underline “overflowing gratitude”). God does the rooting… the building… the establishing. But we do the overflowing with gratitude.

Paul makes an amazing statement in Colossians 2:9-10: “For the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily in Christ, and you have been filled by Him, who is the head over every ruler and authority.” We of all people ought to be the most thankful, the most grateful, the most fully alive, the most fully content, the most hopeful, of all people! God hasn’t withheld anything from us! We’re being filled to overflowing!

I want to come full circle to where we started. We “received” this hope. We didn’t sit around and figure things out. Not only have we received this gospel from others (Like Paul, like Timothy, like Epaphras) … most importantly we’ve received this gospel from God. Colossians 1:27, “God wanted to make known the glorious wealth of this mystery, which is Christ in you the hope of glory.” Who wanted to make it known?? You can say it! It’s okay! GOD WANTED TO!

We shouldn’t be naïve about the fact that the gospel isn’t the only thing people are receiving. In Colossians 2:8 Paul says, “Be careful that no one takes you captive through hollow philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elementary forces of the world, and not based on Christ.”

Remember how Jesus told his disciples, “I will make you fishers/catchers of men?” There are other types of fishers/catchers of men. There are those who preach the gospel of hope, there are also those who preach hollow, deceptive, humanistic, highly speculative philosophies of life.

Consider a simple diagram. On the left, is God’s revelation. On the right is man’s philosophy. So far this morning we’ve been talking about God’s revelation. The Apostle Peter says it best in 2 Peter 1:16-21, “For we did not follow cleverly contrived myths when we made know to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; instead we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, a voice came down to Him from the Majestic Glory: ‘This is my beloved Son. I take delight in Him!’ And we heard this voice when it came from heaven while we were with Him on the holy mountain. So, we have the prophetic word strongly confirmed. You will do well do pay attention to it, as a lamp shining in a dismal place, until the day dawns and the morning start rises in your hearts. First of all, you should know this: No prophecy of Scripture comes from one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, men spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” **Not in a million years could you speculate, nor invent, the truths found in Christ, found in the gospel, the message of truth!

The gospel is given to us in Scripture in a way that appeals to rationale man. Jesus is the Image of God, Firstborn, Creator, Sustainer, the Resurrected One, and the Resurrection and Life. The Head of the Church. The Fullness of God in bodily form. Redeemer. The physical sacrifice that atones for man’s sin. Jesus is Lord.

Colossians 1:9. Paul prays that God “would fill you with knowledge of his Will, with all spiritual wisdom, and spiritual understanding.” It is your duty to pray for God to fill you with right knowledge. In Colossians 3:2 Paul says, “Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth.” You mind is so distractible. It is your duty to focus your thoughts on God, through his Word. In Colossians 3:10 Paul says, “Put on the new self. You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator.” Who is the image? Its Christ! It’s you duty to worship Jesus, and to let knowledge of Jesus renew you from the inside-out. Read Colossians, Ephesians, Philippians, Galatians. Read the Gospels. This Message of Truth is the most hopeful, true, beautiful, good satisfying, complete, powerful, transformative, thing your mind could ever contemplate!

But notice Paul’s caution in Colossians 2:8. There are other philosophies that rival, and distort, and can easily deceive you. There are people out there every bit at persistent, every bit at confident, as a Paul. There are people every bit as eloquent as an Apollos, every bit as confident as a Peter. There are people infinitely more credentialed (in science, in academia, in life) than most any guy standing in a pulpit. Just like God designed revelation to appeal to your rational mind, so men have word-smithed countless philosophies to appear to your rational mind. At any given moment we’re swimming in rival ideas, rival narratives, rival gospels, rival faiths that set themselves against a knowledge of the gospel. Everyone who vies for your soul appeals to your rationality, your logic, your emotions/feelings, your moral sensibilities. Everyone who views for your soul appeals to some sort of authority, some sort of tradition and history, some sort of intellectual foundation.

What Paul says in Colossians 1:25 though, is that in the message of Truth, God has made the gospel “fully known.” What he says in Colossians 1:9 is that we have the “riches of complete understanding.” In Colossians 2:2, we have an “assured understanding and knowledge of God’s mystery—Christ. All treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Him.” Revelation gives us a different starting point for knowledge than does Philosophy. Revelation gives us an infinitely more satisfactory, and hopeful narrative for our life than does worldly Philosophy. And Revelation gives us an infinitely more satisfying life than does Philosophy—a life not of despair but hope; a life not of cruelty but of love; a life not of fear but for faith. Whereas the Philosophers have nothing but speculation, we have assurance and confidence—and such assurance renews us, and bears itself out in fruitful transformation, strengthens, overflows w/joy.

Let me say one more thing about Revelation. The Bible doesn’t give us a “complete encyclopedic knowledge of everything were curious about.” It does however, give us “substantial” “satisfying” “justifying” “sanctifying” “reasonable/logical” knowledge. Through such knowledge God is rooting us, building us, establishing… giving us fullness in Christ. We’d do well as Peter suggests, to pay attention to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place.

Scripture Verses

Colossians 2:6-8

Worship Playlist

  • The Lion and The Lamb - Bethel
  • Great Are You Lord - All Sons and Daughters
  • Build My Life - Housefires
  • Glorious Day - Passion
  • Lakeside Worship Playlist

Study Questions

  1. Read Colossians 2:6-8. What do you think Paul meant when he told the Colossians to be "rooted and built up in him"? How can we be rooted and built up in Christ? What happens if we are not grounded in Christ? (See Matthew 7:24-27.)
  2. How do verses 6-7 describe the spiritual formation process? Note the verb tenses. (Also see Colossians 1:28.)
  3. Why should we be "overflowing with thankfulness"? (2:7)
  4. Colossians 2:8 gives us warning. What was Paul warning about and why was his warning so strong?
  5. What philosophies and attitudes today diminish Christ's supremacy and sufficiency in our lives? What are some specific principles or truths these philosophies claim to be true?
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