LINK: Colossians 2
Here Paul addresses some of the issues that were threatening the young church. There were false teachings that were confusing some of them about their salvation.
First, Paul clarifies that the true gospel message on which their faith rests is centered completely on Jesus. He reminds them that their salvation is based on faith in Jesus and that He is the one who has made them complete. Jesus is the ultimate authority, not these other teachers.
Next, Paul addresses the specific teachings that threatened to lead them astray.
- LEGALISM (Judiazers) - vs 11-17 - There were some who were teaching that salvation required keeping of the Jewish Law. Believers were pressured by Judaizers to be circumcise, keep the feasts, and keep the dietary laws of Judaism. Paul told them not to give in to that pressure and that when Jesus died on the cross, He removed our guilt from not keeping the Law. There is no reason to keep the Law when it was a picture foretelling the coming of Christ, and now Christ had come and fulfilled the Law.
- MYSTICISM - vs 18-19 - Some were teaching false humility, in the form of self-abasement, and the worship of angels. Their teachings were based on visions they had seen and served to inflate their own egos. Paul counters their teaching with the reminder that Christ is the true head, not any human teachers.
- ASCETICISM - vs 20-23 - Asceticism is the practice of rigorous self-denial or even self-mortification in order to become more spiritual. This makes one appear to be wise or religious, but in reality does nothing about the problem of sin. Paul counters this false teaching with the reminder that they already died to the world in Christ. There is no point in mistreating the body; it accomplishes nothing to make a person more spiritual. Paul just flat-out tells them not to submit to such decrees.
The beauty of the reconciliation offered through the blood of Jesus is that it's a totally free gift. There is nothing we can do to earn it or improve upon it. Yet there's a human tendency to try to do something to improve our standing before God. In reality, the standing of a believer before God is completely cleared, and he need do nothing more to secure it. Our attempts to do so are an offense to God because they infer that what Jesus did was not enough.
Legalism, mysticism, and asceticism are attempts to improve on the salvation offered through Jesus, and these teachings continue to lead people astray to this day. Examine your own life, looking for signs of these false teachings. As Paul says in verse eight, "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according the the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ." Put aside these practices and "as you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him" (vs 6). Stick to faith in Jesus, and don't add all these other things to it.
Lord, all we need for holiness is found in Jesus. You have reconciled us, redeemed us, purified us, and accomplished all that is necessary for our salvation. Don't let us allow others to take away the prize of our salvation by adding other requirements to it. Let us keep our focus on Jesus alone and continue to grow in Him. In His name and for Your glory, amen.