8See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.9For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.In this passage the Apostle Paul starts making his direct attack against the false teachers at Colossian church. He warns the believers against the danger of being taken captive of empty and misleading philosophy.
The Apostle Paul used the word “no one” suggesting that he has a particular person in mind. Perhaps the Apostle Paul was thinking of the leader of the false teachers among the believers in Colossae and perhaps his listener knew very who he was talking about.
Paul’s warning is that no one takes you captive. This phrase is actually one compound word in the original language and it literally means “to kidnap” or “being taken captives as spoils from war.” This means that the false teachers are being are being pictured as those who steal people for slavery. The picture that the Apostle Paul is trying to paint here is that these false teachers are trying to ambush the believers and drag them away into spiritual enslavement.
For Paul, it is unthinkable that those whom God has redeemed and set free through their faith in Christ would become captives just because of ignorance. Ignorance makes them vulnerable and causes them the victory in the war against false teachings.
This is the challenge that is being set before us this morning. We are Christians, we are redeemed. Christ paid dearly for our freedom so that we can enjoy life more abundantly. But it is sad to see that many believers have been deceived by the enemy, live a defeated life and believe the deception of the false teachers and the promise of this world. And it is simply because of our ignorance. Our defense against these attacks by the enemy is to know Christ more and his Words.
The weapon and the tactics that the false teachers are using to capture believers are “through hollow and deceptive philosophy.” It is interesting to note that the word “philosophy” is used only in this verse in the entire New Testament. And using this verse to say that the Bible is against all contemporary philosophical teachings is far-fetched. Clearly, the Apostle is not against good or even Christian philosophy, so to speak. So what kind of philosophy is the Apostle is attacking here?
Philosophy that depends on human traditions
Paul is attacking a philosophy which depends on human traditions. By “tradition” Paul likely means the various practices and ideas that are prevalent during those days which perhaps assimilated within Christianity. Tradition is that which is given from one generation to another. Just because people have believed something and handed it down through the years does not make it true. More often than not, tradition serves to carry on errors.
Here in Mae Sai, I learn that the word “traditional Christians” has different meaning. I heard this mentioned by many Christians here. Traditional Christians are second or third generation Christians who really never have a personal faith in Christ. Their being Christians are actually handed to them by their parents. And because of this, many of those who considered themselves Christians are still captives of the practices and concepts of the world around us and not based on the word of God. If you consider yourself a traditional Christian, it is about time we learn from Jesus and his words.
Philosophy that depends on world’s basic principles
Hollow and deceptive philosophy depends on the basic principles of this world. Basic principles have various meanings. Originally it denoted the letters of the alphabet, its root meanings being “things in a row.” The term then came to be used of the elements of learning such as ABC and of physical elements of the world.
Furthermore, it is also being used as of the basic spirits or supernatural powers believed in ancient times that controls over and direct heavenly bodies (Galatians 4:3). Here in this passage, it is more likely that Paul was speaking about the “spirits who control the stars and the planets.” We know it when Paul refers for example with angel worship in chapter 2 verse 18.
One example of this today is astrology or any teachings similar to this. People who believe in astrology thought that their lives have been predetermined long ago. In Paul’s time people believed that stars and planets influenced lives and controlled people’s destiny. They could only escape from this rigid determinism if they know the secret word by which the false teachers claim they can provide.
This philosophy or teaching claims that this is an advanced in spiritual knowledge but in reality is a step back to spiritual infancy and demonic captivity. We may not believe in things like this, but if we believe more on the wisdom and teachings that depends on the basic principles of this world rather than Jesus’ teachings then surely we will be deceived. This will hinder our growth and weakens our resolve to serve God and live like Jesus.
Accept philosophy that depends on Christ
We should accept philosophy or teaching that depends on Christ. Jesus Christ is the standard by which all teachings is to be measured and any system, whatever it claims, must be rejected if it fails to conform to the revelation God has given to us.
Verse 9 is the most powerful words use in the Scripture that describes the divinity of Christ. It is apparent that the false teachers were teaching that Jesus was not God. And any system or philosophy that teaches that Jesus is not God should be considered as blatantly false. Here, the Apostle Paul proclaims that all the deity dwell in bodily form.
Paul also proclaims that Christ is the head over rule and authority. He is more powerful than the spirits who control the starts and the planets. Angels bow before him whom the Colossian believers are worshipping.
These claims should encourage us to fully trust in Christ. We have the confidence that even though we may not follow the traditions of our ancestors or the system of belief in this region, we are safe in Christ and we are doing the right thing. The spirit of this world can not harm us because we have Christ who is the fullness of God and who is the head over all power and authority.
In Christ we have been made full
This statement is the main point of Paul’s argument. Given that Christ is fully God and really human, we believers are made full in him. This denotes our essential union with the Savior. If we are united in Christ, our every spiritual need is fully met. Possessing him, we possess all. There is no need for us to turn to the philosophy of this world, the ritual of our religions, or the spirit-beings we believed are all around us. All we need is Jesus Christ.
In Christ we are complete. We are spiritually complete because our fellowship with God through Christ. We are complete in good works because we believe and follow Christ teachings and his will. We are complete in our thinking because we know that what concerns us ultimately is God. All believers in Christ are complete in Christ and we do not need to know the teachings of other religions to make us think so.
I should say that every one of us has a choice. We can choose to follow human wisdom and teachings or we can come to Christ and follow his teachings wholeheartedly. To follow human wisdom can make ourselves vulnerable and be kidnapped by the powers of this world. However, to follow Christ is coming to the one who alone can give us completeness.
Our faith, our God, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, is sufficient for our needs. The people around will say that our life is lacking if we do not follow some principles of this world. And we may actually feel that there is a lack. It only means that we need to keep moving, keep walking on the road which God has laid before us. For as we keep walking, Further up and further in, we will experience the fullness of God in our lives.