New King James Version 1. For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh,
The Resultant Version 1. I desire you to understand the deep anxiety I am having on behalf of you, and on behalf of them at Laodicea, and on behalf of as many as have never seen my face in the flesh.
For the first time since the right message about Jesus Christ had truly begun to be proclaimed, there were now believers in Him coming into being who had none of the advantages that the believers of the Acts period had had. They had nothing but the simple word of God to guide them. They had no God-commissioned apostles among them. They had no God-inspired prophets, or God-given teachers. Epaphras had probably been responsible for carrying the now-written gospel in the form of the book of John to Colossae, and he had reported back to Paul regarding its results. Yet Epaphras had not been commissioned by God for his work among them, and he was not able to perform miracles among them, nor give them God-inspired advice. This left Paul deeply anxious about these people.
Paul throughout his ministry always seems to have a deep love and affection for those who are believers in Jesus Christ. He wants to see them succeed in their walks after Christ, and he wants them to have all the knowledge, understanding, and truth that God would want them to have. He knows the disadvantages these new believers have over those he has worked with previously. His anxiety is that these people who have never learned from a God-inspired man might still go on to acquire a knowledge of all the benefits that are theirs in Jesus Christ.
New King James Version 2. that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ,
The Resultant Version 2. I want that your hearts shall be encouraged, and that you should be united in love, and that this should be unto all the riches of the full assurance of understanding, unto a personal knowledge of the secret of God, namely, Christ.
Paul’s desire for the Colossians is that their hearts shall be encouraged. He knows that they are facing a walk with Christ that does not include the miraculous assistance that believers in the Acts period received. He knows that they will have to face the world and its scorn and distractions. He wants them to have the encouragement they need to go on living a Godly lifestyle in the midst of the struggles of this dark world.
He also desires them to be united in love. He knows that one of our best sources of aid in living Godly lives in this world is our relationships with our fellow believers. A true union among believers can be the greatest help to each of them individually walking the worthy walk that each one of us is to walk in Christ.
Another aid is the riches of the full assurance of understanding. What he wants them to understand is revealed in the next phrase. He wants them to have a personal knowledge of the secret of God. This is again the Greek word musterion, which the translators like to transliterate as “mystery,” yet which means “secret.” In this case, the secret of God referred to is Christ Himself. The next verse explains to us how this is so.
New King James Version 3. in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
The Resultant Version. 3. In Whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are concealed.
The Colossians as believers needed the same thing we as believers today need: a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ, the one in Whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are concealed. If we wish to search out those treasures, the precious treasures that Paul speaks of here, then we need to know Jesus Christ, the source of all Godly wisdom and knowledge.
In the book of Proverbs, wisdom is personified, as we can see in Proverbs 1:20. “Wisdom calls aloud outside; She raises her voice in the open squares.” In many ways, the personification of wisdom is not an abstract, as it might appear to be here, but actually exists in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is wisdom. He is knowledge. If one wishes to get to know wisdom and knowledge, one must get to know Him, for in Him these things are concealed.
New King James Version 4. Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words.
The Resultant Version 4. I am saying this in order that none of you would be enticed with persuasive words.
Paul explains that the reason he is saying this to them is in order that none of them would be enticed with persuasive words. How does this follow on from what was being spoken of before? I believe that the point is that some might be trying to entice them to look to other sources for wisdom. We do not know exactly what was going on in Colossae, but it appears that they were the targets for some sort of false teaching. This teaching seems to have been a kind of mystery religion claiming to have secret sources of knowledge that other people did not have. Some have suggested that these false teachers may have been Gnostics, but this seems unlikely, as there is little evidence that there was Gnostic influence among believers this early. More likely, the false teachers belonged to some kind of Jewish mystery sect, of which there were many.
At any rate, the persuasion of these mystery teachers would have been to look to their favorite sources for wisdom and knowledge. Perhaps they claimed some prophet, or some angel, or some other wise teacher as the source of true wisdom and knowledge that everyone should look to. The problem is that bringing forth all these other sources of wisdom and knowledge tended to lead one away from looking to Jesus Christ. Christ’s wisdom is hidden in Him only, and is revealed only in His Word, which is now open to all. No one has any secret source of Godly wisdom that other people do not have. All believers who have Christ and His Word have just as much access to wisdom and knowledge as anyone else. There is no other source for wisdom and knowledge. Others can lead us closer to wisdom and knowledge only as they lead us closer to Him. All other roads one might go down to find truth are just beguilement, enticement, and persuasion away from the truth.
New King James Version 5. For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.
The Resultant Version 5. For even if I am absent in the flesh, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing and beholding your order and the stability of your faith in Christ.
Paul urges them to remember him in maintaining their focus on Christ in their struggles against enticing words. Paul is absent from them at this time in the flesh, this is true. Yet in spirit he is with them, rejoicing as he beholds their order and the stability of their faith in Christ. Of course, if their faith is stable, it will not be overturned by the persuasive words of those who would lead them away from Christ to follow themselves instead. They have believed in Christ, and they should not be led away from that to believe in anything else.
By “in spirit” Paul means in his mind he can see these things. He can see them acting orderly and standing fast against the false teachers. Of course, this vision of his imagination is only Paul’s wish for them, but he is appealing to them to make his imagination a reality, and to be orderly and stable, standing against false teaching that would lead them astray.
New King James Version 6. As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,
The Resultant Version 6. As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so also be walking in Him,
These people had received Christ Jesus the Lord. Notice that it does not say that they had accepted Christ Jesus as Lord, but had received him. We have a tendency in our day to speak of “accepting Christ.” Yet this is not a good use of language, for one “accepts” an inferior and “receives” a superior. One might accept a homeless person into his home, but he would receive the President of the United States if he wished to come into his dwelling. We do not accept Christ, but receive Him, for He is far superior even to any President. He is not, as some theology would make Him out to be, a poor beggar standing at the doors of our hearts and knocking, and we might decide someday to accept the poor Man in out of the goodness of our hearts. It is our privilege that He would deign to come to us, not the other way around. We receive Christ. We do not accept Him.
Paul urges the Colossians that as they had received Christ Jesus the Lord, so also they now should be walking in Him. We were not there when they received Christ, but we can guess that they did so with excitement, with reverence, with awe, and with joy. How great a thing it is for one who has lived life for many years without Christ to come upon the possibility of living life from then on with Him! This had produced a profound effect on the Colossians when they had received Christ by faith. Now, the Lord urges them to be walking in Him in the same way as they had received Him. The same belief and faith, the same joy, the same excitement and reverence that they had when they received Him should now spill over into their walks with Him.
The idea of walking here is a symbol. We realize that everywhere we go in life, we pretty much walk to go there. In our day with automobiles, buses, and planes, we still must walk to get to the car, or the airport, or the bus station. Just about everywhere we go in life and everything we do involves walking. Therefore, walking becomes the symbol for the way one conducts the everyday activities of life, that is, one’s lifestyle. Their lifestyle of walking in Christ should reflect the same attitudes they displayed when they first received Christ Jesus as Lord. They should not be ready to turn away as soon as difficulty or persecution occurs. They should not turn back to the selfish and ungodly way of living they had been used to following before they received Christ. Instead, they should walk now in the same way they had believed.
The idea of a worthy walk or lifestyle is an important theme in both Colossians and its companion book Ephesians. It is in Ephesians 4:1 that Paul declares, “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.” The first three chapters of the book of Ephesians set forth all the wondrous things that are true of the believer “in Christ.” Now, in chapter 4, Paul urges them to live a worthy lifestyle in light of all God has done for them in Christ. In Colossians, Paul urges them to carry over the attitude and actions they displayed when they first received Christ and believed in Him to their worthy walk after believing. Let us all hear his words and strive to walk the worthy walk!
New King James Version 7. rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.
The Resultant Version 7. Being rooted and built up in Him, and making yourselves sure in your faith as you have been taught, super-abounding in that faith, and doing it with thanksgiving.
Paul also urges the Colossians to be rooted in Him. The idea is to be strengthened with roots, that is, to be firmly grounded, fixed, or established. It is only in Christ that our roots can really dig in and find a solid foundation. Many try to be rooted in their churches, their families, their pastors, or their friends. Yet the true and solid foundation for believers is Christ, and we should never forget this.
Next, they are to be built up in Him. The word in Greek is epoikodomeo, which comes from epi, which accelerates a word, and oikodomeo, which means to build or found a thing. Epoikodomeo seems to mean a super building, or a building up, as our translations have it. Thus we are informed as to the urgency both of rooting ourselves in Him and being built up from what we are in Him. His work in our lives both founds and builds a new creation within us that is the work of God.
He also urges them to make themselves sure in their faith as they have been taught. Many pastors and Bible teachers today would like to convince people they should believe only as they have been taught by them, and yet the Colossians had been taught by men who, though not currently inspired, had at least known inspired men and knew their teachings. Therefore, God is confident that what they have been taught they have been taught correctly. We can be assured of no such thing today. The only place we know we can go to certainly find right teaching is the Bible, and even then we generally have to read it in an English translation. We should not take this word, therefore, and apply it unreservedly to ourselves.
Also there is this matter of being sure in the faith. We can best understand this when we realize that in the Greek, the words for “faith” and for “belief” are the same word, pistis. To be sure in the faith, then, is to be sure in what you believe. They could be sure by getting to understand and holding fast to the things that they had been taught. How do we become sure in what we believe today? There is only one way we can do it: through the word of God. As Romans 10:17 says, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” The only way we can check the things we believe to ensure their accuracy, then, is by checking them against the Word of God. We must get to know that Word, get to know its every aspect, to understand every book and to get to know the meaning of every term and expression. To get to know what the Word of God says about an issue, to know every relevant passage and to understand every relevant statement, and then to put these all together to achieve a Biblical viewpoint: this is how we can become sure in the faith today. No other way will suffice than getting to know the sum of what the word of God says on an issue, understanding it, and believing it.
Then once they are sure in the faith they are to super-abound in that faith. The idea is to exceed, to have excess, or to have more than enough. The word is used of the twelve baskets of bread that were left over after the feeding of the five thousand. In other words, we are to have faith and to spare. There are many ways we could look at this, but I think the goal is clear. One way I would suggest is not just to have one passage to support an important Biblical truth, but many. If someone asks me to prove that Jesus Christ is God, I should be able to bring forth abundantly passage after passage that shows this important truth. I should have belief and to spare regarding this. A negative example might be those who claim not to want to get into the deep things of the Bible, but say they just want to cling to the simple gospel. It is true that the simple gospel is very important, and in some ways is very worthy of study and is far from simple. Yet at the same time, such people are more or less saying that they have no intention of super-abounding in their belief. They have found one precious truth, and wish to cling to it and seek no others. They have no desire to search out every precious truth of God they can find. They show a positive resistance to super-abounding in belief. As important as the gospel is, this kind of attitude is not right.
Finally, as they super-abound in the faith, they are to do it with thanksgiving. It would be difficult to overemphasize how important God expresses thankfulness and gratitude to be in the Scriptures. It is the very foundation upon which our worthy walk is to be built today. Our love for God flowing from our appreciation for all He has done for us is to be our primary motivation in serving Him in the righteous way He intends to be served. It is not that we are to be so greedy that our only reason for loving God is because of what He has done for us, but it is that all that God has done for us, far beyond what we deserve or ever could deserve, shows us just how loving and how gracious God is, and helps us to love and appreciate Him for such surpassing love and kindness. Without a proper sense of thanksgiving, we are likely to labor under the delusion that perhaps we somewhat deserved the things that God has done for us, and can lift our heads in pride, looking down on other, less privileged men. A true heart of thankfulness, however, quenches pride and puts down superiority. It leads us to emulate God and display a humility and to a similar, gracious attitude towards men who are relatively no worse than we are, though they may yet still need to experience God’s grace. Thanksgiving, therefore, is crucial to the believer, and should be present in all we do or attempt to do for God.
New King James Version 8. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
The Resultant Version 8. Beware that no one shall make a spoil of you through philosophy and empty seduction, in accord with human tradition, in accord with the elements of the world, and not in accord with Christ;
Now Paul urges these believers to beware or to watch out that no one shall make a spoil of them. The idea of spoil here is to be led away as spoil or as a captive. The idea is not animals caught to be killed for meat, but animals caught to be put in a zoo and in a cage. They are not killed, but they are made captive, and their freedom is then forfeit. So God is urging us to beware that no one is able to similarly take away the freedom we have in Christ to make captives of us.
The way He warns they might do this is first of all through philosophy and empty seduction. It is amazing to think of how many people are really taken captive by ideas. Ideas are powerful things, and they can dictate one’s life more severely than a master can control a slave. Many are the people who have lived in miserable conditions because an idea has gotten ahold of them and convinced them that what they are doing is right or necessary. Such ideas are cruel masters that know no pity. The freedom that Christ offers can easily be stolen away by such philosophies. How many people believe things about God that could never be found in the Bible, and yet which dictate much of how they believe and act? These are the ones this verse is speaking of who have been taken captive. Others give in to empty seduction to sinful behavior. This behavior is thought very religious and right in many circles, but not in the word of God. Those who lead people to follow them in these things are spoiling them.
These philosophies and empty seductions, which are often so affective in captivating even believers in Christ, are all in accord with human tradition. Often they can be traced back hundreds or thousands of years, and bear a host of reputable names and organizations of the past and present which support them. Yet ultimately they are traps, leading men away from the truth of Christ.
These things are also in accord with the elements of this world. The elements are the stoikeion, the elementary or first principles. The world is the Greek kosmos: the order, system, or arrangement in which we live. The fact is that in the very beginning, our first parents Adam and Eve rejected God and chose Satan instead. Since that time, he has been the god of this flow of things, and this world system, down to many of its very elemental principles, is set up according to his works and ways. This means that many of the first principles, many of the common sense, elementary things that we know and believe about the world, are actually facts in line with Satan’s order of things, and would lead us into captivity, not into the freedom of Christ. We cannot always trust the common sense knowledge of this world, but must subject every thought to the light of God’s truth, lest we too be captivated by the world and its elementary principles.
For the believer, everything should instead be in accord with Christ. He is the standard against which we must measure everything. God’s truth in the written Word must be the light we shine upon this dark world to expose the fallacies of even its elementary principles, and to reveal the truth of God’s way of doing things. Only then will we understand what truly is in accordance with Christ and how to live free from the traps of this world.