Title: The Pastor’s Plea (Part 2):
Text: Colossians 2.16-23
CPT: Colossians, hold fast to Christ and experience true spiritual growth and maturity. Do not submit any longer to regulations and rituals which only tend to falsely and temporarily puff you up.
CPS: Hey guys, hold fast to Christ and do not hold on to legalistic teachings and rituals, which only puff you up for a little while.
Philosophy should result in Practice. Therefore, a Wrong Philosophy results in a wrong behavior and practice. A Correct philosophy results in correct living and practice.
Introduction: I attended a conference 10 years ago where RC Sproul was one of the guest preachers. He spoke of his educational journey where he watched liberalism infiltrate his seminary (the one he attended as a young man) and then how it impacted the local church: Col 2.6-9; Sproul said he witnessed Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis throughout the years.
- The thesis is an intellectual proposition. – The Gospel; Christ
- The antithesis is simply the negation of the thesis, a reaction to the proposition. – This is what false teachers do with empty and deceitful philosophy.
- The synthesis solves the conflict between the thesis and antithesis by reconciling their common truths, and forming a new proposition. This is Jesus plus.
The fear of syncretism arises when we see these same false teachers combining Christ with worldly philosophies;
Ill.: Tim Keller in his book, The Prodigal God, tells how weird Christianity was in the beginning. They’d meet their neighbor or some stranger and talk religion. Oh, I’m a Christian. Really? Where is your Temple? Well, we don’t have one? Then where do you offer your sacrifices? Well, we don’t really do that either. Christ was our sacrifice.
Transition: So, with spiritual practices moving inward, in a society that understood religion to be outward, there was a tendency toward syncretism or synthesis; Paul warns the Colossians not to synthesize the gospel with anything the world has to offer: not worldly philosophies nor human traditions. We want to spend a few minutes looking at Paul’s concern for the Colossians and then turn our attention to today’s similar situation;
We’re in the midst of a section I’ve entitled, The Pastor’s Plea. Beginning in 2.6,
- Paul pleads with the Colossians to continue to walk in the faith, just as they’d received that faith.
- His plea is seeded out of his concern for those who would lead the Colossians astray
- His plea stems from power of the gospel to transform lives
- And finally, it blossoms into victorious living, because of Christ’s Victory.
Let’s pick up in 2.16 where we continue the Pastor’s Plea with three warnings; Paul’ 1st warning:
I. Do not let anyone judge you (16f)
exp.: rd v 16; in regard to
- Food and drink (clean/unclean)
- Festivals, new moon celebrations and Sabbaths (Jewish Holidays)
exp.: it appears that false teachers have come onto the scene and are trying to incorporate a Jewish mindset into the Gospel; Jesus is good, you need Jesus, but you’re missing some things: add the Law; you must accept Christ as your Lord and savior, and oh yeah, you must observe these other things, too (circumcision; this festival, that festival; you can’t eat or drink this or that); synthesis; I love what Paul says next: rd v 17; these ‘shadows’ or practices had their purpose! They were shadows.
ill.: CS Lewis calls this world the ‘shadowlands’; you see a shadow and you know what it comes from; a tree; a car or truck; a deer; we see this theme of shadows present in the book of Hebrews; The temple, the sacrifices, the work of the priests were but shadows of the real thing, the substance;
app.: here is what I think Paul is saying: there is nothing wrong with someone who abstains from certain foods or certain drinks. And, likewise, there is nothing wrong with those who don’t abstain from certain foods or drinks; There is nothing wrong in celebrating holidays; the Passover, the feast of tabernacles; for us, Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc. The problem is when you insist upon these things being added to Christ in order to attain salvation; when someone says you’re not saved because you don’t do these things, too! Or maybe they understand you’re saved – you’re a Christian – you’re just not as mature as they are.
The two examples I think of are baptism and speaking in tongues. i.e., you’re not saved until you get baptized; you’re not saved until you speak in tongues; you’re not saved because you…
Now, I have some friends who believe these things. I’m sure if they happen to watch this video they’ll be offended – bothered. But we have our own problems within our denomination that is similar to these. We’ll get to those in a minute.
t.s.: he continues in v 18; rd v 18; Paul’s second warning
II. Do not let anyone disqualify you (18f)
exp.: rd v 18; disqualify; appears only here; not in LXX; καταβραβεύω; Κατα means down or against; Βραβεύω means to umpire, to rule. So you get the idea of someone who rules against you, hense disqualify;Melick writes: The word ‘disqualify’ builds on the word which means to umpire or award the prize. The NASB translates this sentence: Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind;
Note: He’s not talking about salvation here; i.e., you lose your salvation, but rather forfeiting the prizes and rewards of the Christian faith that we get each day; Who is he talking about? Specifically, he says ‘those’ who (three participles (pres. act. ptc.)
- Insisting (θέλω: will; their will for you)
- Asceticism (fasting); ‘self-abasement’;
- Worship (religion) of angels
- Acts 26.5; Jas 1.26; 27
- Religion, faith, practice
- Going on in detail about visions (setting foot on)
- Being Puffed up (pres pass ptc) in vain (without reason)
- Ill.: Pastor’s Prayer group with those who speak in tongues;
- Not Holding to Christ; they’re holding on to a shadow; rd v 19; Christ, the only one who can bring true growth to the Body;
Transition: watch out for such people; avoid them; and then he gives them this great warning; rd v 20-22;
III. Do not add anything to Christ (20-23)
exp.: Paul says: you died to the world! Why are you still holding on to some of its regulations, precepts and principles; rd v 21; and then he gives the reason in v 23; they make you appear spiritual, but you’re really not; they make you appear humble, but you’re really not; you’re actually quite proud of your humility;
ill.: it’s like the man the church honored for his humilty; they brought him forward and honored him with a pin; the next week the took it away from him because he wore it!
ill.: Dr. Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY (whom Time calls the ‘reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the US) in his sermon “How does it happen: trajectories toward an adjusted Gospel” he lists 8 identifiable trajectories. I’d like to borrow from him and list them for you so that you might be mindfully aware of what preachers are preaching and teachers are teaching. Some of these you’ll recognize:
- The Modern Trajectory
No, modern man would believe such myths; ill.: I remember eating at a table with some liberal pastors who were speaking in favor of gay marriage and ordaining homosexual men and women to the pastorate; I asked: with all that the Bible teaches against these things, how can you possibly be in favor of them. The answer: The Hebrew people were a pre-scientific people. Modern people have medicine, science and technology. Rudolf Bultmann said: No man who uses an electric razor believes that Jesus actually walked on water!
- The Post-Modern Trajectory
The idea of Pluralism: what’s ok for you is ok for you. Truth is relative; ‘that’s your language’; we’re now supposed to tolerate all other forms of religion;
- The Moral Trajectory – these folks struggle with the morality of the bible or as they would call it “the immorality of the Bible”; Specifically: Hell, divine atonement; human depravity; Wrath of God; penal substitution; sacrifice; and a God who acts in History through Judgment; Washington Gladden (Social Gospel) to teach such a doctrine as this (hell and divine justice) about God is to inflict upon religion a terrible injury and to subvert the very foundations of morality. Thus, we are morally superior to the stories in the Bible; today, a movement throughout the evangelical movement is to question God’s morality in crucifying His own son; people call this divine child abuse; a father would inflict pain upon his own child to forgive sins; ‘a divine monster’; self-aggrandizing in seeking his own glory; Mohler says in his sermon that so much of this movement has injected what he calls the ‘fairness doctrine’ – God has to be fair; Mohler points out that God is perfect and perfect is better than fair;
- The Aesthetic Trajectory – God is beautiful; this is a beautiful story; the good, the beautiful, the true; thus, man being made in the beautiful image of God (imago deo) we’re aesthetic people; we can see these beautiful things for ourselves; These folks avoid Gen 3; clean up the story; the blood of Jesus; that’s gross;
- The Therapeutic Trajectory – everyone has a therapist; some opt for those on TV, Oprah, Dr. Phil; Dr. Mohler refers to an article about “Therapy Envy” where there are those who are signing up for therapy in areas in which they don’t suffer; the idea here is that we are sick and in need of therapy instead of dealing with sin;
Ill.: A big movement today is the condemning and outlawing “Conversion Therapy”; In Britain this last month, Boris Johnson has tried to appease the Evangelical Community by saying that Conversion Therapy will be outlawed, but that there will be exceptions for Parents, Preaching and Prayer. But, the LGBTQ+ community is outraged. They want to take away the parents’ rights, the preaching of sin and even pernicious prayer.
- The Pragmatic Trajectory – we have a problem, so let’s solve it; we organize, we mobilize, we scrutinize the problems and create programs and ideas to move us forward (where the Gospel fails, we jump in and help); Truth and Doctrine have their place, but in order to get results we implement a program! The pragmatic trajectory says we must be practical about ministry, evangelism and church growth; Key: Rd v 19 – grows with a growth that is from God.
- The Emotional Trajectory – we are emotional beings; Jesus wept; emotion and feeling are at the heart of who we are; pastors have been moving toward not preaching the Gospel (Thesis), but rather what they feel or what they feel their people are feeling (antithesis); we call this preaching to felt needs; the danger is when pastor allows his feelings to dictate what he preaches; Mohler asks: How do you feel about original sin? What is your emotional response to hell? Point: it doesn’t matter how I ‘feel’ about the doctrines of the Bible. The preacher’s responsibility is to preach God’s Truth – not what he feels.
- The Materialistic Trajectory – we live in a material world; we see the synthesis of the Gospel and the material trajectory with the health and wealth gospel; the prosperity gospel;
Transition: It amazes me that we keep adding to Christ. The Colossians were struggling with this; we know through church history that it continues for them for years, decades and centuries; And it amazes me that after all this time, we’re still trying to add to what Christ has done!
Conclusion and Application: Let me review for you what I’ve done so far this morning:
- I told you about RC Sproul’s experience over the past 70 years Thesis/Antithesis/Synthesis
- I told you about Christianity’s misunderstood beginnings (no temple, no sacrifice, no festivals)
- We went through the Scripture and showed you how Paul had warned the Colossians of this very thing – don’t let anyone try to make you think you need – a temple, a sacrifice, a festival, etc.
- Then, I listed for you 8 trajectories that we need to be concerned about in our time where the world is trying to get us to add to the Gospel.
So, what are our take-a-ways?
- Theology Matters. As a Christian, you should be concerned with Theology. The movement to liberalism is a slow moving metric. The trajectory is there, but it usually isn’t recognizable until changes have been made. I liken it to the ‘frog in the kettle’ analogy.
- Warning: Listen for anything that might sound like Christ plus. You know the Gospel. Recognize anything that adds to it – or takes away from it.
- Enjoy the celebrations God has set forth, but don’t require them as a standard of salvation or even a level of righteousness or maturity.
- God has blessed us with festive times. We should not mourn during those times. But, they are not required for salvation. And they don’t detract from them either.
- Your salvation is complete in Christ. God has blessed us with so many wonderful things in this life, but none of them: not the people, not the party, and definitely not the particulars are ever needed to be added to Christ to complete our salvation.
Conclusion: Christ is all you need. Do not add anything to Christ! We are Justified by Christ alone, through faith alone. He stands alone! His sacrifice is sufficient, paying the penalty for every sin you’ve ever committed or will ever commit; He himself said, “It is finished!”