By R.B. Shiflet
One of the strongest appeals that the Apostle Paul makes to believers is that found in Colossians 2:4-23, in which he warns us against letting Satan capture our minds. This section of the epistle is bounded on either side by the word “hid,” and its key message is the fulness of Christ as the only answer to the emptiness of human reasoning. Note how in verse 3 he refers to Christ, “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” and in chapter 3, verse 3, he says to us as believers, “ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” Between these passages that tell us that all true wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ and that our own lives are also hidden in Him, he calls attention to (1) The Purpose of our Enemy, (2) The Plan of our Enemy, and (3) The Protection Against our Enemy.
The Purpose of Our Enemy
The aim of our foe is stated in Colossians 2:8: “Beware lest any man spoil you.” The term “spoil” means to “rob,” or to “make a prey” of, or to take one captive. It is obvious that a loose hold on the truth of our fulness in Christ will make one an easy victim to this method of deception. Just as surely as the truth makes free, error genders to bondage. One who fails to see the truth of our completeness in Christ and His fulness does not have a balanced view of truth and can be easily led astray.
It is interesting to note the bait that Satan uses to reason aside the weak brother that he takes into captivity. For the carnal believer, such as those at Corinth, he uses the coarse appeals of the flesh with all of its lusts. But for the “spiritual” Christian who still has an unbalanced view of truth, he may use a “spiritual” bait—as is suggested in Colossians 2:18. This may come in the form of “visions,” superior claims to holy living, or any effort to attain spiritual progress through fleshly efforts or wisdom.
The Plan of Our Enemy
The enemy usually lures us aside through an emphasis on an empty, deceitful kind of wisdom. He bases this, according to our chapter in Colossians, on three things:
First, he uses man-made teachings, or the traditions of men. Bible teachers tell us that the word “tradition” as used here is found thirteen times in the New Testament, and it is usually used in a bad sense. Note, for example, where the Pharisees were charged with making the Word of God of none effect through their traditions (Mark 7:2-7). How much of the church programs of today are nothing more than traditions of men, with no Scriptural basis!
Second, Satan would lead us astray by keeping us in the elements, or rudiments of the world. The term “rudiments” means “first steps.” The Hebrews were told that these rudiments or elements belonged to childhood, and the mature believer was charged to leave them and go on (Hebrews 5:12-6:3). The Galatians were told that these rudiments would only gender bondage (Galatians 4:3). In Colossians 2:20, the believer is told that he is dead with Christ to these rudiments, and that he therefore should not be subject to carnal ordinances. By way of contrast, he is told to set his affections on things above, not on things on the earth.
Believers who live in the shadow days of external ordinances miss the joy of the reality, who is Christ; those who feel that they can worship only with these worldly elements fail to see that we are citizens of heaven and in the sight of God are “seated with Christ” in heavenly places even now.
Third, if Satan cannot lure us through traditions of men and rudimentary ordinances, he will make the intellectual appeal. He will reason us aside through wisdom of words, making the cross of Christ ineffective (1 Cor. 1:17); he will try to get us so involved in the wisdom of this world that we will fail to see that it is only foolishness to God (1 Cor. 3:19); he will lead us into fleshly wisdom, frustrating the grace of God (2 Cor. 1:12); and he will make the wisdom from beneath so, attractive that we neglect the wisdom which is from above (James 3:15-17).
The Protection Against Our Enemy
The entire Colossian epistle is written to give us the protection we need against these tactics of our enemy. It may be summarized in one or two verses: “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and ye are COMPLETE IN HIM, which is the head of all principality and power” (Colossians 2:9-10). This completeness in Christ is the exact opposite of the empty, vain life that Satan has to offer. Are we really aware of what we have? YE ARE COMPLETE IN HIM! If I am complete in Christ, then nothing a preacher or a church can do for me in the way of ritual or religion is needed. As a matter of fact, we can add nothing to completeness. We are Complete in HIM. If we believe this, may we act upon it and make Christ the center and circumference of our lives. May we rejoice in Him, glory in Him, do all that we say or do in HIS name, giving no occasion to the flesh, but doing all for His honor and glory. Only then will the purpose and plan of our enemy be foiled and our protection against him be sure.