25 Sep Quarter Three Lesson Eight
The Gospel and False Teaching
We pray that the recent lessons on Romans chapters 7 and 8 were enlightening and helpful to your growth and maturity in the Lord. In this lesson, we will move on to a new but related study of Colossians chapters 2, and then in the next lessons, chapter 3. What we will learn here will help to protect us as we grow and mature in the Lord.
Much as we might fertilize and stake a young sapling to ensure its healthy growth into maturity, God has Himself provided spiritual protection for His children as we grow. In our study today, we will gain a greater understanding of God’s provision for and protection of us. Specifically Christ and the gospel nourish our souls and protect us from wrong teaching, whether that wrong teaching is philosophical or religious.
In Colossians chapter 2, what we find is that having a knowledgeable relationship with Jesus Christ, a thorough and growing understanding of the gospel, and an ongoing walk with Jesus, is not only nourishing to our spiritual lives, but it is also a protection against false teaching.
False teaching, if believed, hinders our spiritual growth (Ephesians 4:14) and keeps us as “children” or “mere infants” (1 Corinthians 3:1). So it becomes very important that we be able to identify false teaching and reject it when we see it or hear it. Conversely, we are to embrace Jesus fully and wholeheartedly believe in the sufficiency and power of gospel, so that we might continue to grow and mature in the Lord.
Let us begin our study with the first three verses of Colossians 2:
For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:1-3 (ESV)
Question 1. These first three verses are one very long sentence, but they have a point. What one main point is Paul (the writer of Colossians) making in these verses?
In the first three verses, we see that Paul wants the Colossians to have their hearts encouraged and joined together in love for a very important reason: that they would have the wealth of knowledge that is centered in Jesus.
True Bible knowledge and true Bible teaching are centered in Jesus. In Jesus are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, so we can go on “treasure hunts” to discover this wisdom and knowledge by studying Jesus. Jesus is “God’s mystery”, which simply means that Jesus was concealed in the Old Testament but revealed in the New Testament. We can see the mystery unveiled as we study the Bible looking for Christ on every page.
But why is it so important that our Bible study be centered in Jesus? Paul has a very important reason for wanting us to understand this. He gives it in verse 4:
I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. Colossians 2:4 (ESV)
Question 2. So according to Colossians 2:4, what should the study of Jesus Christ, and the embracing of the mystery of the gospel, do for us as believers?
This becomes very easy to understand when we consider how banks train their staff how to spot false currency. The tellers go through intense training studying the markers of true currency. They handle authentic currency so much and so often that sometimes by touch alone they can identify counterfeit money. The bank staff become so familiar with the real that the fake just doesn’t feel or look right which allows them to reject it outright.
This is exactly what Paul is telling the Colossians: “I want you to find riches and treasure in Jesus, I want you to see the unveiling of the gospel so much and so often that it grips your heart. Because if you do then you’ll be able to spot when someone is trying to deceive you. Be so familiar with the gospel that any other teaching will be readily apparent to you as being wrong.”
Even if the deceptive teaching seems somewhat plausible, logical and coherent, if it is not centered in Jesus, if it doesn’t unveil the mystery of the gospel, it is to be understood as false teaching and rejected.
This point is so important to our well-being that it is restated in different words:
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. Colossians 2:6-7 (ESV)
Question 3. What is Paul instructing us to do in Colossians 2:6-7? Please put it in your own words:
We are to be rooted in Him, meaning the “roots” of our faith are to go down deep into Jesus. The picture is of a tree sending its roots down deep into the nourishing soil and receiving the nutrients necessary to grow and produce fruit. Just like that, we are to continue to receive from Jesus, to learn from Him, letting our “roots” go deeply into Him.
And we are to be “built up” in Him. Again this is the picture of a tree growing once it has sent its roots deep into the nourishing soil. The tree grows and is built up and becomes fruitful once it takes what it needs from the soil. Even so we are to have our hearts secured to Christ and the roots of our faith rooted deeply in Jesus so that we might grow, become mature, and produce fruit (see Galatians 5:22-23 and Ephesians 5:9).
We must be tightly bound with Christ and entrenched in Him for a reason; read it in Colossians 2:8:
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. Colossians 2:8 (ESV)
We hope you are seeing the pattern here. We are to find riches and treasure in Jesus, and discover the mystery of the gospel, so that we won’t be deceived by plausible sounding arguments. We are to walk with Christ and be rooted and built up in Him so that we won’t become captivated and deceived by philosophical arguments. Friend, deceitful arguments are never based on Jesus, and they especially do not reveal the gospel. That’s how we know they are “empty” and deceptive, they don’t have the gospel of Jesus at the center.
This is not to say that we will never discuss and teach subjects other than the gospel specifically. Indeed, the Bible is filled with hundreds of different topics of interest, all given for our growth and maturity. What we should understand, however, is that each topic addressed should flow from the gospel or come back to the gospel.
This is why we taught, in the second quarter, lessons on how to grow in humility, grace, meekness, love, etc., straight from the gospel of Jesus Christ. Indeed, any subject or issue of life that needs addressing can and should be met with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So, we know that true teaching is centered in Christ as our treasure, in the unfolding mystery of the gospel, but what is false teaching? Paul answers this question by showing us that false or wrong teaching can come in basically two forms: philosophical or religious. Let us continue in our study.
Question 4. Please write out Colossians 2:8 from above, and explain it in your own words:
Philosophical teaching can become quite captivating. People can and do become enamored with the writings of Aristotle, Plato, Confucius, or Ayn Rand.
Today, you can get lost down the “rabbit hole” of the Internet, spending all your life studying the philosophy of different people, learning their views on any conceivable subject; and, in the end, be no better for it and likely worse.
The philosophers of this world are simply attempting to understand their world and make sense of it, but most do so apart from the Creator God and the Redeemer Jesus Christ. Their writings might contain good common sense and be plausible, rational, intelligent, and logical, but ultimately, what they teach is entirely futile, or “empty” as it leaves us not knowing God or having eternal life.
We could picture these philosophers sitting and thinking, contemplating weighty subjects, with mere empty air bubbles arising from them. The absence of Christ informs our hearts and minds that philosophical teachings are without eternal substance and therefore unable to foster our spiritual growth.
There is not only philosophical deception in the world today but also religious deception, and Paul has told us how to recognize and reject it.
Question 5. From what we learned at the beginning of this lesson, what is the one way to know whether religious teaching is true or false?
True biblical teaching has the gospel at the core of it, but religious teaching has a foundation as well. Religious teaching that is false is going to be moral or rules based. Paul mentions the following:
“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. Colossians 2:21-23 (ESV)
Question 6. What do these “human precepts and teachings” all have in common?
Most false religious teachings have a moral “prohibitive” component to them. These tell us to stop doing certain things or to avoid doing certain things. Often the prohibitions themselves are not inherently wrong, but they cannot be an end in themselves and be true biblical teaching.
Question 7. According to Colossians 2:23, what can moral “prohibitive” teaching not accomplish?
This is the real key to understanding the futility of religion. Simply telling someone not to do something has absolutely no value when it comes to actually stopping him from doing it. Our hearts crave wrong things by nature, and Satan makes wrong things look appealing, and together these two forces will likely overcome any law or prohibitive statements.
In other words, don’t think you’ll overcome over-drinking by listening to regulations that prohibit you from drinking too much. Don’t think you’ll overcome gluttony and laziness by reading about a diet that tells you not to eat certain things. Don’t think you’ll overcome impurity by hearing statistics on the effects of impurity and being told that we should not be involved in it. Don’t believe for a moment that you will be able to restrain your anger just because you know it is not good for your health. We instinctively know these things are wrong, yet knowing we shouldn’t do them does not stop us from indulging our flesh in them.
So we’ve seen that both philosophical teaching and moral religious teaching are unable to help us grow and mature. They are unable to help us overcome our own wrong desires (our “flesh”) and keep us from self-indulgence.
Clearly, philosophy and rules based religions are traps and unprofitable despite their appeal. We must reject them in preference for the true and authentic way of knowing God and understanding our world.
For 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. 11 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Colossians 2:9-15 (NIV)
Question 8. This entire passage in Colossians 2:9-15 is an explanation of what happened at the cross of Jesus Christ, when He died for us. Please list all that happened there, as much as you can find:
Let us list what happened at the cross of Jesus that we might rejoice with thanksgiving:
1. We were given fullness in Christ (verses 9-10). Jesus emptied Himself on the cross, that you might be filled with all the fullness of God as the Holy Spirit comes to live in you.
2. We were circumcised (verse 11). Jesus was cut off on the cross (Isaiah 53:8) that your old self might be cut off and discarded.
Circumcision is simply the cutting off of the flesh, and Paul explains that to mean “putting off the body of flesh.” This means that our old self was “cut off” at the cross, discarded and buried. You see, it is not enough to put away, or stop doing one particular sin, the whole man must be crucified. This is what happened at the cross.
3. We were buried with Christ in baptism (verse 12).
Jesus Christ died and was buried, and our old self was crucified with Him and buried. It was like a baptism, where a person is put under the water in a symbolic burial; even so our old self (the “body of sin”) was buried with Jesus in baptism.
4. We were raised with Jesus to a new life.
It is a historically verifiable truth that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. And we who were previously “dead in sin” rose with Him. In Him we have new life.
Christians are not those who want to live in and defend their sin, trying to show how God “accepts me as I am” and “loves me unconditionally.” We are not those who say “I’m just this way, always have been, always will be.” No, Christians are those whose old sinful life has perished on a cross, and who have been raised with Christ to a new identity and a new life. Christ loves us unconditionally, so much so that He will change us, rather than leave us to die in our sin.
5. We were forgiven through the canceling of the Law (verse 14).
Notice the words in verse 14 “cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us”. This is a reference to the Old Covenant Law. This law was “taken away” and “nailed to the cross” therefore there is no more evidence against you, nothing that can condemn you.
6.. We are made victorious over Satan and all spiritual wickedness and darkness (verse 15).
Jesus Christ was seemingly defeated on the cross, that you might be victorious over sin and Satan. “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” Hebrews 2:14-15 (NIV)
Question 9. According to Hebrews 2:14-15, what happened when Jesus died on the cross? How does this benefit you?
Dear friend, this is what has value in restraining our flesh: seeing the glory of Jesus Christ and all that He accomplished for us on the cross! These truths are what withers our wrong desires and crucifies our sinful passions.
From this lesson we learn that true Bible teaching is centered in Jesus and expounds the blessings of the gospel. As we study the mystery of the gospel, we become rooted and built up in Jesus, and this is how we grow and mature into “young men and women who overcome the evil one” (1 John 2:12-14).
This subject of “the mystery of the gospel” will be our study in the next lesson.
Question 10. Please summarize what you have learned from this lesson. Also please share any changes that are happening as you study the gospel and apply it to your life: