As you read the book of Colossians, Paul repeatedly holds up the supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus in all things and over all things. This would be true for any of the churches he sent a letter (Epistle), but it was especially necessary at Colossae. There were those at Colossae undermining Christ’s sufficiency. They did this–as far as we know–not by rejecting Jesus, denying his humanity or divinity, or denying the claims of Jesus. Instead, it was more subtle. This false teaching conveyed the idea that Jesus is a great start, but to really arrive, grow, be happy, or experience the highest levels of knowledge and religious experience, other things needed added to Jesus or sought alongside of Jesus. It’s a “Jesus plus” or “Jesus and” theology rather than a “Jesus alone” theology.
It’s not that much different from the Church today. Jesus is great, but the Church (broadly speaking) in America is always looking for something else, the next great Christian book or teacher, seven steps to solve my problems, a politician or party to save us, the next practice or movement, or that elusive essential oil that fixes everything. Now many of these things on their own might be fine (such as trying to find ways to grow), but they can also indicate a boredom with Jesus or a lack of truly believing in his sufficiency, and therefore, a desire or need to drift from him or add to him.
But Paul’s argument throughout the book is that Jesus is sufficient for everything we need, so don’t add to him or drift from him. A step away from Jesus is a step backwards in spiritual growth. Paul warns against this and rebukes those taking away from Jesus’ supremacy and sufficiency by subtly adding new rules, practices, teachings, or hidden knowledge as key steps to climbing a ladder of spiritual elitism.
Below are a few potential examples throughout Colossians where we see areas the false teaching undercuts Christ’s sufficiency, and how Paul fights back by pointing out the fullness we have in Jesus. My hope is this is a challenge and caution to us today, both reminding us Jesus really is sufficient for anything we’re facing or any need we have, but also that the things we might be tempted to turn to or trust in will never be able to provide what Jesus alone can.
DRIFTING FROM CHRIST
|WISDOM: “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (2:3; cf. 1:9-10)||“that no one may delude you with plausible arguments [not according to Christ]” (2:4)|
|FULLNESS: “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him.” (2:9-10)||“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” (2:8)|
|JUSTIFICATION: “God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (2:13-14)||“Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head.” (2:16-19)|
|GROWTH: “the Head [Jesus], from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.” (2:19)
“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him.” (2:6-7)
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (3:1-3)
|“why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” (2:20-23)|
|SACRIFICE: “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (1:19-20)||17 These [festivals and holy days] are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” (2:17)|
|AUTHORITY: “[Jesus] who is the head of all rule and authority.” (2:10)
“He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” (2:15)
|“If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations.” (2:20)|