For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; that their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words. For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ. As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving, (vv. 1-7)
Men who know little of the deep convictions that stirred the heart of the apostle Paul will have difficulty in realizing the intensity of his feelings when the truth of God was called in question, and the people of the Lord were in danger of being corrupted by false doctrine and turned aside from the simplicity that is in Christ. He says, “For I would have you know what intense agony I have for you.” He was not one who could play fast and loose with revealed truth. His very soul was tortured when Christ was dishonored by those who professed His name. He was not a self-complacent liberal in theology carelessly tolerant of any teaching, no matter how pernicious, so long as outward unity is maintained. To know that both at Colosse and Laodicea designing men were seeking to seduce the saints from their first love, who was Christ Himself, caused him intense concern. That the enemy was largely successful at Laodicea we know, for John, as the amanuensis of the glorified Son of Man, writing to them later from Patmos, charges them with being neither cold nor hot. Proud of their culture and wealth they were indifferent to Christ. It is from this Paul sought to save them, and it is to be hoped he succeeded at Colosse.
The truth unites. Error divides. He desires “that their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God,… [even] Christ” (v. 2). There is some manuscript diversity in regard to the last part of this sentence. The King James Version reads, “The mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ,” which is admittedly peculiar. One could understand, “The mystery of God, even of the Father, and of Christ,” and it might be so translated. But the reading of some manuscripts, “The mystery of God, even Christ,” seems clearer and is probably correct.
It is the great divine mystery of the new man, as we read in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13: “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” The definite article before “Christ” does not appear in the King James Version, but probably should be there. It is the mystical Christ that is in view, and I take it that we have a similar idea in Colossians 2:2. The mystery of God is that which He has now revealed regarding Christ as Head of the body, and consequently of the entire new creation. As believers enter into the truth of this they are delivered not only from vain speculations but from fleshly strivings, for all perfection is found in Christ. So the apostle would have them understand the wealth of this great mystery as they enjoy the full assurance of understanding in order to its acknowledgment. In Hebrews 6:11 we read of the full assurance of hope, and in 10:22 of the same epistle we get the full assurance of faith. These together establish the soul and set it free from doubt and fear.
In Christ, or if you prefer, in this mystery of God now revealed, are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. It is not necessary to go elsewhere, investigating human systems and philosophies, for an explanation of the mystery of the universe and the relations of the Creator to His creatures. All these are fully told out in Christ. As we learn to know Him better and apprehend the truth concerning Him, every question is answered, every perplexity made clear, and every doubt dissolved. Why turn aside to idle speculations, no matter how pretentious, when God has spoken in His Son and given His Holy Word to lead us by the Spirit into all truth? Paul says all this in order to protect the saints from being led astray by persuasive talk or with enticing words. Advocates of error delight to clothe their evil systems in most attractive phraseology, to entrap the souls of the unwary. Only the truth of God can preserve from such. It is important to remember that no amount of intellectual culture or human learning can take the place of divine revelation. If God has not spoken we may speculate and reason as we please. But if He has given the truth in His Word there is an end to all our theorizings.
In this chapter he shows us how Christ is the antidote for human philosophy, Jewish legality, Oriental mysticism, and carnal asceticism. These have no place in Christianity. Christ supersedes them all. And Paul knew through the testimony of Epaphras what Christ had meant to these Colossian saints from the time of their conversion, and he was very jealous lest they should now be turned aside. Though not with them in the flesh, he was one with them in spirit, and rejoiced in all he had heard of their godly order and their steadfast confidence in Christ. This was how they began; moreover, they had continued in the same paths and he would have them continue so. Having received Christ Jesus the Lord, that is, having trusted Him as Savior and owned Him as Master, he would now have them walk in Him, not turning aside to any new system or perversion of the truth. He desired to see them rooted and built up in Him—rooted like a tree, sending its roots deep down into the soil. He would have all their hidden sources of supply so centered in Christ. Built up like a building founded on a rock and firmly established, he would so have them recognize Christ as their only foundation.
He uses the same double figure in Ephesians 3:17, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love.” God is love, and God has been revealed in Christ. So to be rooted and established in love is to be rooted in and founded upon God, and it is God revealed in Christ. Why then should any go after speculative theories that cannot give the soul peace and which make light of Christ the Head? As thus walking in Him the man would be established in the faith, in accordance with the instruction already received, “abounding therein with thanksgiving.” Nothing so causes the soul to overflow with worship and gratitude to God as a deep knowledge of Christ. It is noteworthy that true joy is only found in acquaintance with Him.
It is hardly necessary to make the application to present-day systems. Each one who really knows Christ will readily do that for himself or herself. An illustration may help to make clear what I believe the apostle is here indicating. A follower of Mrs. Eddy, the now-deceased head of the so-called Christian Science cult, labored long to unfold the professed benefits and beauties of that system to a simple Christian woman who, after listening for several hours, found herself utterly unable to follow the specious sophistries and vapid theorizings of her visitor. Finally she exclaimed, “I do not understand what you are getting at. Can you not put it all in simpler terms so that I may know what it is you want me to believe?” “Well,” replied the other, “in the first place you must get hold of this: God is principle not a person. You see, my dear, we worship a principle—” “Enough!” exclaimed the other with a relieved expression on her countenance. “That would never do for me! I worship a personal God revealed in Christ, my blessed, adorable Savior.” And at once her soul was delivered from the net spread before her by the soft-voiced emissary of Satan who had been endeavoring to ensnare her. And this is ever the test. Every system that makes light of Christ or His atoning blood is from the pit and to be shunned as a viper by all who know Him.
John Newton has well written:
“What think ye of Christ?” is the test,
To try both your state and your scheme;
You cannot be right in the rest,
Unless you think rightly of Him:
As Jesus appears in your view—
As He is beloved or not,
So God is disposed to you,
And mercy or wrath is your lot.
Some take Him a creature to be—
A man, or an angel at most;
But they have not feelings like me,
Nor know themselves wretched and lost.
So guilty, so helpless am I,
I durst not confide in His blood,
Nor on His protection rely,
Unless I were sure He is God.
Some call Him a Saviour, in word,
But mix their own works with His plan;
And hope He His help will afford,
When they have done all that they can:
If doings prove rather too light
(A little they own they may fail),
They purpose to make up full weight,
By casting His name in the scale.
Some style Him “the Pearl of great price,”
And say, He’s the fountain of joys;
Yet feed upon folly and vice,
And cleave to the world and its toys.
Like Judas, the Saviour they kiss,
And while they salute Him, betray:
Oh! what will profession like this
Avail in His terrible day?
If asked what of Jesus I think,
Though still my best thoughts are but poor,
I say, He’s my meat and my drink,
My life, and my strength, and my store;
My Shepherd, my trust, and my Friend,
My Saviour from sin and from thrall;
My Hope from beginning to end,
My Portion, my Lord and my All.
The natural man cannot understand why Christians should insist upon a clear-cut confession of the truth as to Christ. What matters it, he will ask, whether Jesus be a mere man, spiritual beyond most, or be in very deed the Divine Eternal Son become flesh? If a man only, He is still the great Exemplar and the Master-Teacher. If more than man He is but the manifestation of the Father, and by His life of love and purity has shown us God’s attitude toward all mankind and so leads us into a better understanding of God and our relationship to Him.
But this is not the truth of Holy Scripture concerning Him. His holy life— whether He be only human or divinely human—can never put away our sins or fit us to stand uncondemned before the eternal throne. He had to be both God and Man in order that He might make atonement for sin, meeting as Man—yet Man in all perfection—every claim that the throne of outraged Deity had against man. Touch the Person of Christ and you touch His work. If that work was not divinely perfect there remains no other sacrifice for sins and so we are left without a Savior.
But, blessed be God, He who came forth from the Father has glorified Him on the earth, and having finished the work given Him to do has gone back to that glory that He had with the Father before the world was. There He sits, the exalted Man who made purification for sins, on the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens, ever living to make intercession for those His grace has saved. Happy in this knowledge we may well sing, with chastened joy,
Head of the church! Thou sittest there,
Thy members all the blessings share—
Thy blessing, Lord, is ours:
Our life Thou art—Thy grace sustains,
Thy strength in us each vict’ry gains
O’er sin and Satan’s pow’rs.
May we prove our loyalty to Him, not only by confessing a true Christ with our lips, but by giving Him the supreme place in our lives!