Last week, Paul told the Colossians that they have Christ in them, the hope of a future glory (1:27). And because of this future glory, Paul is laboring to exhort the Colossians to live a life growing in faithfulness. But he is concerned because their long-term perseverance in the faith seems to be threatened. He hinted at that in the previous chapter (1:23). But now he gets more explicit about his concerns. He has “a great conflict” for them (v. 1). He is concerned about the people that they are talking to, who threaten to deceive them with persuasive word (v. 4) and cheat them through philosophy and empty deceit (v. 8).
The Root of the Problem
Paul unpacked for us in the previous chapter the redemptive work of Christ. Now he identifies the real root of this error as a challenge to the sufficiency of Christ (v. 8). This is the error of “Christ plus something else.” The saints at Colossae have mixed their faith in Christ with
- A fascination with extra-biblical teaching (v. 8 and 22)
- A commitment to the law that was the shadow of Christ rather than the reality of the Christ who has come (v. 11, 14, 16)
- A fixation with a power structure that has passed away (15 and 18)
- An asceticism born of prideful human wisdom rather than humble submission to God (21 and 23)
Paul has two fundamental answers to the erring Colossians.
Complete in Christ
A right understanding of who Christ is should eliminate the need to add anything to Christ. Paul returns to the image of a body with Christ as its head (v. 19), which he actually introduced previously (1:18). Our union with Christ means that we are complete in him (v. 9-10) because we share in all his victorious work (v. 11-15).
So Walk in Him
The difficulty we have is that we forget. We grow cold (Rev. 3:15). We begin in the Spirit and then shift to the flesh (Gal. 3:3). We think that the work of salvation was merely a first step that we can somehow then improve upon with our own accessorizing. But Paul says that we must continue to walk in Christ, in the same way that we began in Christ – through the simplicity of faith in the complete and total sufficiency of the work of Christ (v. 6-7). This is the only foundation on which we can build (1 Cor. 3:11-15). And the clear indicator that Paul has given us to demonstrate whether or not we are building on that foundation is gratitude (v. 7).