Devotional # 152. 8/31/15. Colossians 2:4-7.
Intro. Yesterday I gave my final sermon on the book of Romans. I’ve been going through Romans off and on at my church for 4 ½ years. So it was bittersweet to be finishing up with Romans chapter 16. One of the things that stood out to me was that the majority of the chapter is just a list of names. But if God put them in the Bible then they’re there for a reason. And one of the biggest things is that God knew each of these people by name and He desires personal relationships with each and every person. Also in Roman 16 Paul gives us three tests to distinguish false teachers. He does this not just because he’s a good guy but because God truly desires that his followers wouldn’t have anything creating an obstacle between their personal relationship with Him.
vv. 4-5. As I mentioned above, Romans 16 talks about identifying false teachers. You can look at Romans 16:17-19 to see the tests. Each verse has one test: 1. Biblical (v. 17), 2. Christological (v. 18) and 3. Moral (v. 19).
The first test in verse 17, we see that false teachers try and pull us away from the “doctrine which [we] learned” when we first believed. So if someone is trying to teach from anything but the Bible or trying to make the Bible say something it doesn’t say then it’s no good. 2 Timothy 3:14 says something similar, “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them.” The second test is especially applicable to us here because of what Paul says about deceivers using “persuasive words.” Romans 16:18 shows us the difference between Christ and the selfishness of false teachers. Paul says, “by smooth words and flattering speech [they] deceive the hearts of the simple.” So these wolves in sheep’s clothing are very persuasive and great linguists. Remember that Satan was the most beautiful angel but it was his pride in himself that led to his fall. Satan and his disciples aren’t stupid. They know that it will be beautiful words, well executed points, perfectly weaved descriptions followed with a logical conclusion that will deceive “the simple.” But who are the “simple”? The word “simple” here means “immature.” And Paul wouldn’t have mentioned this if it wasn’t a threat that young, gullible Christians might be persuaded by false teachers. So it is our job, if we have matured in the faith, to train and teach the young in the faith* to avoid the false teachers and to cling to the doctrine they first heard. The third test is in verse 19, which is the “moral test” of being “wise in what is good” and “simple concerning evil.”
Last week we talked about how Paul had never met some of the people in Collassae (“have not seen my face in the flesh“, v. 2) and how sometimes it’s hard to trust a person or feel a connection if you’ve never met them. And I promised we would talk more about that this week since here in v. 5 he says, “though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit.” And this is where we see Paul’s heart because his main concern with being away from the believers in Colossae is that he doesn’t want them to fall prey to the wolves in sheep’s clothing. Paul addresses the same thing, again in Romans 16, and it’s worth looking at to help us understand this part here. In Romans 16:25 it says, “Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ…” The word “establish” is sterizo in the Greek and has to do with making sure that mature Christians are strengthening new believers (Source 1). In fact in Acts 14:21; 15:41; 18:23 Luke talks about how after Paul had planted churches he would go back and “revisit” them. It was so crucial to see how they were doing and steer them in the right direction if they were off base. So what do we take away from this? That we Christians are supposed to continue to follow-up (“revisit”) and check the foundation (“establish”) of immature believers. We have a duty to continue to disciple and mentor others in the faith, even if we don’t feel adequate. Believe me I’ve talked to pastors who have been in the ministry for 50 years and they still feel unequipped to have the teaching conversations and make the relationships that God requires of them, but that can’t stop us.
*Young in the Faith: Being immature or “young” in the faith has nothing to do with age. A “young” Christian might be 90 years old and a mature Christian might be 18. Sometimes God will call the 18 year old to disciple the 90 year old.
vv. 6-7. Paul’s next point makes sense, if he’s just told them to not follow false teachers then what should they be following? Jesus. Why? Because He is “the Lord”, our “Master.” So how do we follow Him? Notice the four adjectives we’re given: by 1. “walking in Him”, being 2.“rooted”, 3. “built up” and 4. “established.” All of these have the idea of being very, very close with Jesus. To walk with Him means you can’t be far off otherwise you’re not “with Him.” To be “rooted” has the idea that you are a tree and that Jesus is your root system. To be “built up” has the idea that you are a house and that Jesus is your foundation. To be “established” has the idea of a lot of time passing and Jesus is that recognized and accepted reason for time not destroying you.
Again, Paul reminds us that we will be rock solid as we “have been taught.” This isn’t a new thing! This doesn’t take us by surprise, we’ve known this stuff from the beginning. In fact, this is probably one of the reasons we became a Christian! This is why we fell in love with Jesus! Because we don’t have to do it alone, He’ll take care of us and His sacrifice and love for us overwhelms us. So what is the only proper response to a God who “walks with us” and “establishes us”? “Thanksgiving”! Worship the Lord right now and give Him “thanks” for He is good to us!
Source 1: John R.W. Stott, The Message of Romans, p. 403.