Chapter 2 continues with Paul’s argument against Gnosticism, warning us not to be taken captive by hollow and deceptive philosophies, and showing us how God turned what Satan thought would be his greatest victory into his ultimate defeat.
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All right, now just a couple of more things, and then we’re ready to begin. I want you to turn to 2 Corinthians 11 and I’ll show you some of these things that Paul has written to help us understand this so-called Gnostic Error. By the way, John’s epistles, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John also deal with the Gnostic Error and so you see it was quite an issue there. But we’re going to be in 2 Corinthians 11 and the first four verses, I think it is.
Okay, 2 Corinthians 11:
I hope you will put up with me in a little foolishness. Yes, please put up with me!
He was right in the middle of a letter to them. [laughs]
I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.
So he’s telling the people in Corinth that they’re susceptible to these kinds of things as well. All through the history of the Church you find susceptibility to new stuff, stuff that has nothing to do with the Scriptures, has nothing to do with the Bible and it, as we’ll see here in a minute, Paul predicts that as we get closer and closer to the end of the age this will get worse and worse until you have religious movements, so-called religious movements within the Church that, you look at them and say, “This doesn’t have anything to do with the Church.”
You know, you’ve got these so-called seeker-sensitive congregations now. Remember that term, seeker-sensitive? Well, you know they’re so sensitive to people who are seeking that they’re afraid that the name of Jesus might turn somebody away, so you won’t hear that name. They’re afraid that reading the Bible might turn somebody away so you won’t see them read the Bible. They’re afraid public prayer might turn somebody away, so they don’t care much about prayer and you don’t do any praying. What they are is, they are incredible staged entertainment events that are supposed to make people feel good and hopefully, get them thinking about whatever is behind the movement. But you don’t ever hear them talk about what’s behind the movement. So, some of the biggest congregations in the country are this seeker-sensitive type. Lots of people, generate big bucks, see them on TV. They can do lots of things because of all the influence they have but they don’t say much about the Gospel, they don’t say much about God, they don’t talk about getting saved and stuff like that.
Now, Paul predicted that that would take place as we got closer to the end of the age, so let’s turn to Timothy, a letter that he wrote to Timothy and I want to show you a couple of them here. In 2 Timothy 3:16, I think it is and then also 2 Timothy 4:3. So we’ll look at two passages right there.
2 Timothy 3:1:
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—
So right away you think, gee, this guy must be talking about unbelievers. But then he says:
having a form of godliness but denying its power.
So he’s not talking about pagans here, he’s not talking about unbelievers—he’s talking about the Church. And I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that in the middle of all these, what we’d call terrible qualities, he puts “disobedient to their parents”. I love to read that to my kids that he ranks that right up there with slander and abuse and all that other stuff—disobedient to their parents. Interesting. Okay so that’s 2 Timothy 3:1-7 right?
And then we get to 4:3:
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to mythology.
Your translation might say “myths” there, but the word in the Greek is mythology. Do you see any mythology rearing its ugly head in the world these days? And can you see some of these more liberal congregations adhering or following the way of this Scripture:
Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
“Don’t tell us anything we don’t want to know, don’t give us any bad news, don’t challenge us with anything, don’t make us think about something. Don’t make us confront ourselves, for God’s sake. Keep us entertained, keep us happy, and we’ll come back, and we’ll give you money. You just keep it light and easy.” Fascinating, isn’t it?
Okay, those are a couple of things I wanted you to look at. Now this began almost as soon as the Church began, and it didn’t take long for it to take root in the Church. There were several forms of it and they’re all going to be addressed here directly and indirectly in the letter to the Colossians.
Here are the kinds of Gnosticism that Colossians is going to deal with:
First is ceremonialism. This view held to strict rules about the kinds of permissible food and drink and religious festivals and circumcision.
Then we had asceticism. Asceticism focused on the things you weren’t supposed to do, the things you weren’t supposed to taste, and the things you weren’t supposed to touch. This was a denial of the comforts of the world.
And then the third is angel worship, where it was thought that man is not good enough to approach God directly; that He has to have intercessors. And this is where this angel worship came from, these intercessors became almost the gods themselves.
The deprecation of Christ which is denial of His deity. One of the three main tests that you can use to determine whether you are involved with a cult or not is how do they feel about the deity of Christ. That’s one of the three big ones. The other two are, what do they think about the existence of Heaven and Hell, and what do they think about the doctrine of salvation by grace. Those three things, if you don’t get all those three things you might be in a cult. You know, you’ve heard that joke, “You might be a redneck”? Well if you don’t get all these things, well, you might be in a cult.
If they deny the deity of Christ, if they deny the existence of Heaven (and especially the existence of Hell) and if they deny the doctrine of salvation by grace alone, then you’ve got a problem. And these are the primary—a lot of people when they hear the word “cult” they automatically put the word “satanic” in front of it. And they say, “Well, we don’t worship Satan, we aren’t a cult.” Well, you can be a cult without worshipping Satan, directly. And all you’ve got to do is deny the deity of Christ, deny the existence of Hell, deny the doctrine of salvation by grace. And that will get you into the book of cults, and Paul is going to nail those all.
He’s going to take on—now here’s the kind of combination of stuff that came into Colossae—he’s going to take on directly or indirectly: Hindu mysticism, Zoroastrian dualism (this came out of Persia, the Zoroastrians and you still find some Zoroastrians around, in fact there are some here in Salt Lake) Zoroastrian dualism, Jewish legalism, and Greek philosophy. And Paul’s view is that where philosophy agrees with Scripture, it’s unnecessary and where it disagrees with Scripture, it’s wrong. So it sort of puts philosophy on its own track somewhere else.
Okay, so the Gnostic Error really invaded Colossae and Laodicea in the second and third centuries. So it didn’t go away; these guys fought this for several hundred years there.
Okay, so you get the idea. And you can see a lot of, especially a lot of the new wave, or new direction, that some so-called religious movements are taking, you can see the roots in the new age behind it because it’s very popular, people are attracted to it. It makes people feel good about themselves, it makes them feel like they are real smart and it gives them a superior view of things. So, it’s very popular.
Okay, now I think we’re ready to pop into the letter to the Colossians, Colossians chapter 2.
And as we open up Colossians 2, remember Paul wrote this letter from Rome at the urgent request of his friend Epaphras who had come to Rome to inform Paul that a heresy had come into the Church in Colossae—a heresy that would one day be called the Gnostic Error. And this heresy was replacing the basic tenets of the Gospel with a whole bunch of other stuff. Talking about the acquisition of secret wisdom, and the need to maintain a position in Judaism, and all these kinds of things. Legalism, we talked about all of this last time. We spent quite a bit of time on the aspects of the Gnostic Error but basically it is a combination of Hindu mysticism, Zoroastrian dualism, Jewish legalism, and Greek philosophy. It went through the Church for the first couple of centuries and prompted the development of the various creeds in the third and fourth centuries as an anchor for our faith so that we could retain the basic tenets of the Christian faith.
And so, Paul has written back to them, now. Obviously, he agreed to Epaphras’ request and he’s written them this letter. We went through chapter one last week and we’re ready now to start in on chapter 2. And verse 1 of chapter 2 says:
I want you to know how hard I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea,
Remember, Laodicea was just about ten miles away from there. If you go today as you’re driving down the highway, you’ll come to an intersection and you turn left to go to Laodicea and you turn right to go to Colossae. Both of them are about five miles off the highway and so they’re about ten miles apart.
So, he says “I want you to know how hard I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea.”
The word “struggling” there, the idea that they are trying to portray to us is similar to being in intense agony. I mean, he really, this is not an intellectual thing for him. He is very much spiritually connected and was so to all of his churches, right? And each one he agonized over as if he were a father worrying about a child who is away. Or, more appropriately, a father having to be away worrying about the safety and security of a child who is left behind. And so, this word “struggling” there is much more intense than it might appear in the English.
and for all who have not met me personally.
In other words, he’s going to say here that just because we don’t know each other by sight, don’t think that I’m not connected with you.
He says in verse 2:
My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
And of course here he’s taking a shot again at this Gnostic Error which contended that just being what we call born again was not enough, you had to undertake this period of study to acquire this wisdom and knowledge and it was the acquisition of this knowledge that really brought you into the realm of salvation. Not just the event of being saved, but it was this acquisition of knowledge. And so he’s saying now, all this knowledge comes from God and it’s in Christ, and so you have all this available to you, he’s saying, just on the basis of your position before the Lord. So, in verse 4 he says:
I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.
Now, some for the sake of comparison, some in this verse 2 says, “My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love,” some draw the comparison of David and Jonathan and they see this relationship between David and Jonathan as being a model, if you will, symbolic, or an example, (that’s the word I’m trying to think of) of the way that Christian love for one another ought to be. So let’s just take a quick look at that.
Go back to 1 Samuel 18, I just want to show you some of the things that serve to model this kind of love for us.
In fact, there was a huge controversy in Israel not too long ago when a woman legislator whose name is Yael Dayan. She is the daughter of Moshe Dayan. Do you remember that name, Moshe Dayan? She’s a liberal legislator and they were talking about something having to do with their laws and things in the Knesset, which is equivalent to our Senate, and the subject of homosexuality came up and their opposition to it and all that, and she caused an intense controversy by alluding to the fact that David and Jonathan might have been lovers. Boy did she—they almost carried her body out of there and threw her off a cliff, that was such an uproar. You know they’re emotional people, anyway. She had to apologize publicly to the nation. Don’t you wish our politicians would feel that way sometimes?
But 1 Samuel 18:1:
After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.
This is the verse she used to suggest this:
From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return home to his family. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.
Whatever mission Saul sent him on, David was so successful that Saul gave him a high rank in the army.
And on it goes, but the idea here is that David and Jonathan were like brothers. In fact, they were closer than brothers. You don’t probably understand the meaning behind verse 4 here, “Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow, and his belt.”
This was a ceremony that you went through in striking a covenant with someone. When you took off the robe you were wearing and gave it to him, you’re saying, “Whatever I have belongs to you; anything I have belongs to you.” He says, “Even this sword, this bow and this belt I place to your defense. These are the weapons with which I protect myself, I pledge them now to your protection as well.” And on and on this thing went. If you look at all the verses together, they ate a meal together, a covenant meal. It usually consisted of bread and wine, which of course is the same thing that we’re used to, and they sometimes took part of each other’s names.
You know when God made His covenant with Abram and changed his name to Abraham, you can’t say Abraham’s name anymore without taking a breath. ‘Abraham’. And that breath sound is suggestive of the Ruach (the Holy Spirit) of God. And he was putting His spirit into Abram’s name and called him Abraham. And so this was consistent with the tradition of those days and making those kinds of covenants. The idea was that, from that point forward, these two were as one, they were knit together, they were like brothers.
You’ve heard the phrase “blood is thicker than water” and we use that to indicate that a biological relationship is the strongest. That’s not what it originally meant because one of the things they did in this covenant ceremony was, they each cut themselves in their hands and then they put their hands together and this is where handshakes came from, by the way. And as they put their hands together, the blood from one flowed to the other and so on, symbolically. And the phrase “blood is thicker than water” actually meant the blood of the covenant surpasses the birth water. In other words, a covenant relationship was stronger than a family relationship. And so you had this huge thing going on. And it not only affected them but accrued also to all of their offspring.
In fact, later on you’ll read the story of Mephibosheth. Mephibosheth, do you remember that name? Mephibosheth. And that boy was one of Jonathon’s family. As David and his armies consolidated their strength in Israel and got ready to make him a king, the family of Saul (Jonathan was a son of Saul as you know) the family of Saul, all the offspring, the extended family of Saul, became very afraid for their lives because they thought David surely, when he became king, would wipe them out because that’s what Saul tried to do to David. And so they figured, “If we tried to do that to him, so obviously when he gets the upper hand, he’s going to do that to us.” And so they heard that David’s armies were coming.
And so, Mephibosheth was just a baby and so they ran before the approaching armies of David and the nurse who was carrying Mephibosheth, stumbled and fell on the baby and broke his legs, and so he was crippled. And all of his life he couldn’t go anywhere on his own, he was a crippled boy all of his days. All of the time as he was growing up, his family told him that the person to blame for him being crippled like that was David. It was because David was after him and he was going get him and he’d better watch out.
Well, one day, David asked his, after he was king—and I know we’re getting into a big story here, but it’s instructive. In fact, I was thinking the other day that I haven’t done a study on this in a long, long time and I should do one and get it. Because this is one of the one’s I don’t have on the internet yet so this one is not preserved yet. But the idea was that David asked people in his court, “Is there anyone left of Jonathan’s family to whom I can show favor?” Because he remembered this covenant that he had. And they talked to him about Mephibosheth and he said, “Go get him and bring him here.”
When David’s soldiers started into the area where Mephibosheth was hiding out, they were so afraid. And of course, him being crippled, he couldn’t get away, then he thought he was as good as dead. And the soldiers came and took him and carried him into the palace and brought him before David. And he’s there cowering on the floor, expecting at any moment just to be—his life ended.
And David came in and said, “You know who I am?”
And Mephibosheth said, “What on Earth could you want with a dead dog like me?”
And king David said, “I want to do something for Jonathan. Because of our covenant, which extends to you, I want you from now on to live here, and I want you to eat at my table with my family, and I want you to be my son.”
And it’s a beautiful story of the grace of God. That before you became a believer, you were afraid of God, you were afraid of what He was going to do, especially when you found out what kind of power He has. And He was chasing you and you were scared to death. But once He got you, you realized that the reason He was after you was so that He could express His love to you. It’s a beautiful story. It’s a story both of the strength of a covenant relationship, and it’s also the story of the grace of God.
And so, Mephibosheth, from that point forward lived in the palace with the king, he ate at the king’s table, he became one of the king’s sons. And so it’s an interesting model of the grace of God.
And of course, then you learn that the name, Mephibosheth translates, cast out all shame. It means to cast out all shame. And isn’t that exactly what the Lord did for us when He saved us? He said, “You don’t have to feel guilty for your behavior, you don’t have to be sorry. You confessed it to Me; I have forgiven you, you are free of that now.”
So it’s just an incredible story about this. But the idea here that Paul is conveying to the Colossian church is that same kind of unity, that same kind of love, that same kind of togetherness.
And so, we’ll go back now to Colossians 2 and one of these days I’ll put together the complete story again (I’ve just given you the highlights this time) but we’ll put the complete thing together and we’ll take a look at it from a standpoint of making it into a study that we can put up on the site.
Okay, so that was verse 2:
My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love,
Just the way David and Jonathan were united,
so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
And he says:
I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.
How many people in the world have been deceived by fine sounding arguments? I had one write to me over the last couple of days, really troubled. This young lady says, “I’ve been reading your site,” and she says, “I’ve also been reading this magazine that comes to me. It seems to be a Christian magazine, and yet, there was an article in this month’s issue that denies the existence of the Trinity. It says that only God is God and Jesus is His Son, but the Holy Spirit is not a person. The Holy Spirit is simply God’s power and it was expressed through Jesus. But there’s no such thing. And it says that Paul never mentions the Holy Spirit in all of his writings. He talks about the Father and the Son, but he never talks about the Holy Spirit.”
And on and on this article went, and so she wrote to me and said, “I’m troubled. I believed in the Trinity all my life, but this seems to be a good magazine and what’s the problem here?”
So, I went back to the magazine and I—of course with computers now, you can do these things. You couldn’t used to be able to do that. But you just Google the magazine, you find out who the publisher is, you find out that it’s a group that calls itself XYZ church. I won’t mention any names. And then you go to that church’s website and you read their statement of beliefs and you find out that they’re sort of different. [laughs] Different in the sense that they keep all the Jewish holidays (the holy days) they keep kosher, they call themselves Christian, but they maintain the Jewish system.
And you know the problem the Jewish religion has with anybody other than the Father being God. I mean, that’s essentially, that’s why they executed Jesus because He claimed to be God. That was blasphemy in their minds and guilty of a capital crime. So the real crime that He committed, you know, He committed treason against Rome by proclaiming Himself king of the Jews; but the real thing that got Him in trouble was the fact that He claimed to be God.
Of course, He was right, but that was a capital crime and that’s what really got Him executed.
And so, here’s this group. And now you understand by going back and researching these things, you understand why they had this article in their magazine because that’s what they believe. They believe that only the Father is deity. The Son is the Son and, although He might be very special, He is still just the Son. And, the Holy Spirit is nothing but another expression for the power of God.
My point here: they make a fine sounding argument for their position and they can fool people who don’t know. And so when I wrote back to this gal, I referred her to these things and then I said, “You know, as far as I’m concerned, as far as I’ve been able to learn, your position on the Trinity is not going to affect your salvation. But your position on the deity of Jesus will. And so, there are lots of great magazines and lots of great publications around. I’d suggest you find one that doesn’t leave you all confused, and abandon this one because there are too many good ones around to have to try and explain this.” But, the point is, if we don’t know what we’re doing, if we don’t have an understanding of what our faith is and what we believe, you don’t know what you believe and why, then you can be persuaded or influenced, let’s say, by these “fine sounding” arguments.
An old friend of mine, Tremendous Jones, used to say, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” You get that idea. [laughs] Okay, so, here we are. Know what you believe and why you believe it.
Okay. Now in verse 6:
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
This word “rooted” happens once. You know, a plant is rooted once, right? But then it’s built up on a continual basis, right? That’s where it gets nutrition, that’s where it grows, and blossoms and all these things happen, and it bears fruit. And that’s the concept that he’s portraying to us here. You are rooted once, in Christ, and then you are nourished, and you are strengthened, and you blossom, and you bear fruit. How? By the faith that you were taught.
In other words, it’s the consistent exposure to our beliefs through the study of the Word, through groups like this, through prayer. These are the kinds of things that continually build us up and we need to understand that, and we need to be continually built up. You know, you can’t plant your tomato plant, fertilize it and water it once and go away and then come back a couple of months later and expect tomatoes. No, you’ve got to be there every day and you’ve got to weed and you’ve got to cultivate, and you’ve got to water, and you’ve got to nurture.
Well, that’s what we need too. We can’t just go and walk up front one Sunday morning and be born again and then expect everything else to just change, it doesn’t. We have to maintain our relationship.
Now, it doesn’t mean that we have to do that to hold on to our salvation because our salvation is an event and once it’s done it’s done. But to grow in, as I think it was John says in one of his letters, to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior. To be built up, to be strengthened in our faith requires the same care to be taken as was taken with the tomato plant.
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
And boy, is this a verse that you could use today. You know, the debates about evolution are alive in our schools again. I don’t know if you follow any of this, if you read any of the Christian press, you see some of these things in the press. The ACLU and various school boards have been tangling again over the study of evolution and the fact that there’s no alternative presented to it. Evolution is presented as a fact in our history books, and yet it is not a fact, it has not been proven scientifically. In fact, there exists no scientific evidence of evolution and yet it’s taught as if it’s fact.
And so, a school district in Georgia got permission to put a little sticker on the front of their biology books (I think it was) that just said basically, “What you are going to hear and read in this book is the theory of evolution. It’s not the only alternative to our origins and you should study other things and you should decide for yourself what’s right and you should understand that this is only one theory, among others.” And boy, people had a fit over that. I mean, the guy who wrote the textbook, he’s a college professor in some university, and he’s suing the school board for defaming his book. It’s just all over the place. But the idea here is that evolution fits the category here of a “hollow and deceptive philosophy” in my opinion and it is based on “human tradition, and the basic principles of this world” (rather than on Christ) and yet we teach it as fact.
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,
That’s an interesting statement.
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
Now, this attack he makes then on the Jewish legalism. I want you to turn back with me now to Isaiah 29 and get a little feel for the frustration that the Lord felt over this. Isaiah 29; this is a passage that looks forward to the coming of the Messiah, in verse 13.
Isaiah 29:13 it says:
The Lord says:
“These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
is based on merely human rules they have been taught.
See, already 750 years before the coming of the Lord He is saying, “This religion has all form and no substance, they are becoming so distracted by the routine that they forget the purpose behind it.” And notice He calls them “these people” Normally in the Old Testament especially, the Lord calls Israel “My people”, but here He’s calling them “these people.” And so, verse 14 then becomes the promise of the coming Messiah:
Therefore once more I will astound these people
with wonder upon wonder;
the wisdom of the wise will perish,
the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.”
And of course, Paul leans on this passage a little bit when in 1 Corinthians 1:18 he says:
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
And that’s from Isaiah 29:14.
1 Corinthians 20-25:
Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
I like that passage. What’s the foolishness of God he’s referring to? That the salvation of the entire world would depend on the willingness of one man, a poor carpenter from Nazareth, to give His life as a ransom for us.
The Jews wanted—what are they always asking Him? “Show us a sign, show us a sign!” Remember? He feeds 5,000 people with five loaves and two little fish and the first thing out of the Pharisees’ mouths is “Show us a sign.” Well, how about the meal here you just ate, fellas? Where do you think that came from?
And the Greeks call it foolishness because their view is that no self-respecting human being would ever allow himself to be put in a position where he is hanging on a cross. I mean, that was a punishment reserved for the lowest and basest of criminals. The Romans would not permit one of their citizens to be executed this way, they thought anyone who is a Roman citizen is above that.
And so while Peter was being pulled out of the prison there in Rome to be taken to be crucified, Paul, who was imprisoned there with him, was pulled out and taken down a different path to be beheaded because Paul, as a Roman citizen was ‘above’ crucifixion. But Peter was a citizen of Judea and so he was fair game.
Now, while we’re in Isaiah, let’s go over to 66, the last chapter of Isaiah and we’ll look at verse 3. You’ll see that the Law is repulsive to God when it’s lacking in the proper motivation. All through the Old Testament there is a big emphasis on keeping the Law. But the reason for keeping the Law is always to express the motivation of your heart. And when you keep the Law as an end in itself without this motivation, you don’t have the right idea and not only is it not fulfilling to you, but it’s not acceptable to God.
Look at Isaiah 66:3:
But whoever sacrifices a bull
is like one who kills a person,
and whoever offers a lamb
is like one who breaks a dog’s neck;
whoever makes a grain offering
is like one who presents pig’s blood,
and whoever burns memorial incense
is like one who worships an idol.
They have chosen their own ways,
and they delight in their abominations;
Here they are, keeping the Law, and He calls it abomination. Why? Because they lack the proper motivation. They lack what Zig Ziglar has called an attitude of gratitude. That’s what God wants from us, He wants an attitude of gratitude.
And so, Paul is telling his readers here, “Don’t be fooled by the external things, by the physical things. It’s the internal things.”
You know, circumcision was a sign of the covenant for the Jews. In the Old Testament it was the sign that you were one of God’s people. But Paul says, “We were circumcised; not the one done with hands of men, but with the one done by Christ, 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.”
Look at Romans 2. He has some more to say about these things, specifically about circumcision. Romans 2:25. He says:
Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. So then, if those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.
A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.
Attitude of gratitude; the physical acts you perform that demonstrate your adherence to God’s Word are of no value at all to you in His sight unless it’s accompanied by proper motive in your heart. In fact, in the absence of that motive, not only is it not complete, it’s not even desirable. He doesn’t desire it. It’s as we just read in Isaiah 66, it’s an abomination to Him.
And so, things that were external and physical in the Old Testament become internal and spiritual in the New. And so, he’s saying, “We as believers are circumcised but it’s not in the flesh done by men; it’s in the heart, done by God.” And that’s the big difference. Then he goes on to explain what he means here. He says in verse 13:
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Now you need to know a little bit about the legal system in those days. When you were arrested and charged and convicted of a crime, you were said literally, to owe a debt to society. We use that phrase now, “a debt to society.” And so that was the way they described the penalty for your crime, you owed society a debt. You sinned against society, you committed a crime against it, and now you owe this debt.
So, what they would do is at the trial where the evidence was presented, and you were convicted they wrote out this kind of bill of particulars. We call it today filing charges, or bringing charges, or entering an indictment. It’s the bill of charges. And when you stand (if you’re ever unfortunate enough to have to stand to do this) when you stand before the judge, they read the charges of which you’ve been accused. When the jury renders its findings and you are judged to be guilty of those charges, then you receive the appropriate sentence.
Well, in those days, what they did was, they had the bill of charges against you. In the King James you’ll see it’s called the handwriting of ordinances. In the NIV it says it’s the written code with its regulations that was against us. What it means is it’s a list of the sins, of the crimes you’ve committed, and below that was the sentence that you received.
Say you’re supposed to serve five years and you serve five years to repay this debt you owe to society. Okay, so they take you to prison. What they did was they’d lock you in your cell and on the door of your cell they posted the bill of charges, this written code with the sentence. Each year as you served a part of your sentence, they’d come by and mark off that portion of it until when it was complete, then they took it and you, brought you to the front office and they wrote across the face of this bill that you had served your time, and that was your proof. You took that with you, you were free to go. If you were ever charged with that crime again, you could hand them the document and say, “Look, here it is. Yes, I did it, but I also served my time. So I paid my debt, you can’t get me again for that.” This was your protection against double jeopardy. And so this was the written code with its regulations that was against us.
By the way, if you escaped from jail, the jailer got to serve the balance of your sentence. And so if four or five people escaped—remember when the Philippian jailer, the whole place, the doors opened up and everybody could have gone and he was ready to commit suicide because he knew he was going to have to serve all of their sentences? And Paul says, “Wait a minute don’t do that! We’re still here, we didn’t go.” But it scared him right into the kingdom, didn’t it? Because he and his whole family got saved that night.
The Greek word, by the way, the legal term which was written across the face of this bill of particulars, this bill of charges, the legal term was the Greek word pronounced tetelestai. Tetelestai, and it was translated, paid in full. And that word was written across your indictment and so you had that written across the front: Tetelestai, paid in full. Same way, when you walk in the store, if you had bought something on credit, when you made your last payment they wrote tetelestai across it. We would stamp, paid in full, right? Well, they would write tetelestai across the front of it saying your bill had been paid in full.
When Jesus was there on the cross, you know what His last words from the cross was? His last word from the cross was tetelestai—paid in full. It is translated in John’s Gospel, it is finished but it’s the very word, the legal word, that they wrote across the bill of charges against the prisoners, tetelestai. He’s saying, “The charges have been paid in full.”
And so when Paul says here:
having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.
He is saying that those were the charges for which He was convicted. All the sins of all mankind, written on this huge, long thing. I mean, just mine took up rows and rows and rows of writing. Can you think of when He put everybody’s up there? But when He died, He said, “It is finished.” And across the front of that was written the word, tetelestai. Paid in full.
Now the priests and Mary and John and the others—you’ve seen the crucifixion scene and you’ve seen them standing around, and you see how each one them was viewing this in the physical realm. But what you didn’t see was, in the spiritual realm there’s Satan and all his people standing around, gloating. “Look at that, we got Him. We got the Son of God. He’s up there on the cross, He’s going to die. We’ve beaten Him.”
And then, all of a sudden, this bill of charges appears and as Jesus cries out, “It is finished!” The hand writes, tetelestai. Satan’s great victory turns into his great defeat. What has Paul said? “He disarmed the powers and authorities.” He’s talking about Satan and his folks. He disarmed the powers and authorities and ‘made a public spectacle of them, right there in front of the whole universe! Their great victory turns into their huge defeat. What is the ABC Sports? “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” Well, they experienced them both in the same instant.
And he said, “He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” Because all those people who would accept this act of sacrifice as payment in full for their sins would henceforth receive a one hundred percent unconditional pardon from God. Not only would they not be tried and convicted; they wouldn’t just be acquitted, they would be rendered innocent by that one act.
So this scene that Paul is painting for us here is such an incredible thing. If you could only see it. You know, The Passion of the Christ was an accurate, if brutal, portrayal of what happened in the physical realm. I would love to have seen also a portrayal of what was happening in the spiritual realm at the time. We saw this figure in black slithering in and out of these scenes watching this and all, but we didn’t get the full impact of what it would have meant had they portrayed these two verses here of those spiritual enemies standing there gloating and suddenly you see the shock on their faces as they realize what’s really happened.
You see this is what Paul meant when—I’m going to try and find this real fast here for you—this is what Paul meant when he said in 1 Corinthians 2, speaking again of the secret wisdom, in verse 7 he says:
No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.
And he says then in verse 8:
None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
If these rulers, these powers and authorities in the spiritual realm, had understood what was going to happen there, they would have done anything possible to prevent the crucifixion because it sealed their fate. It destined, if you will, their defeat. And that was the end of it. There was no way to reverse it, there was no way to refute it. There was no counterattack they could offer, it was done And it was finished in that sense, as well, wasn’t it? Their battle was lost at that moment.
And this makes such a powerful statement, especially to those people who would have seen things like this happen. Because, you know, when a man is crucified, that little plaque they hang above his head, on Jesus’ cross, it said, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” signifying that the Romans were executing him for treason for calling Himself King. So, they would have understood that, and they would have gotten that picture so much more easily than we do. But it’s such an interesting thing to see it.
Verse 18—is it 18 or 16? 16 will work, okay:
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
Now, before we go to verse 18 come over to Hebrews 10 with me for just a minute because this concept of these festivals. When he talks about a religious festival, a New Moon celebration, that’s one of the holy days. Sabbath day, that of course, not only the weekly sabbath, but Sabbath means holy day. He says, ‘These were all shadows. The reason we’re celebrating these things, it’s just a shadow.” It’s just a type, if you will, it’s a facsimile of what’s really coming but it wasn’t the real thing, it was just a hint of what was coming. In Hebrews 10 the writer says:
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered?
Sacrifices, in other words.
For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins.
In other words, if the sacrifices would solve the problem then eventually the problem would get solved, right? It would take a certain number of them and then you’re done. Verse 3:
But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
you were not pleased.
Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
I have come to do your will, my God.’”
Now this happens to be from Psalm 40:6-8. When you go back to the Hebrew looking at Psalm 40 when it says, “I have come to do your will” that Hebrew word that is translated “will” there, the word is ratzon and it means, I have come to do a voluntary favor to repay a debt. So it gives you the whole theology right there of the Lord’s ministry. He came willingly, doing us this favor, this voluntary favor. He didn’t have to do it, He volunteered to do it. And what was the favor He did? He paid our debt.
First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Verse 11 now:
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.
But I want you to learn verses 12 through 14:
But when this priest
Speaking of Jesus,
But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,
He sat down because the work was done.
and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
And there you have the distinction between the single event of salvation and the ongoing process of sanctification. The single event of salvation, by that one sacrifice He has made perfect forever. Single event, happens once, in a moment of time. You accept His death at the cross as payment in full for your sins, and you are saved. That’s done. You’ve been made perfect forever at that moment.
Now, you begin the process of sanctification, a lifelong process you never finish. It’s only complete when the Lord Himself perfects you at the resurrection or the Rapture, whichever comes first for you. But all the rest of your life now, as you follow His guidance, listening to the voice of His Spirit, trying to live out His Word, you are being made holy. You could say, in the legal sense, by one sacrifice He has justified us and now we are in the process of being sanctified. But the two are very different.
Okay, back to Colossians 2:18. By the way, keep your place in Hebrews, we’re going right back.
Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you
For the prize. What’s the prize? To become in fact, that which we already are in faith—that’s the prize. The prize is our perfection, right? To become in fact that which God already sees us as being.
And now we’ll go back to Hebrews. We’ll go to the first couple of verses in the Book of Hebrews and then we’ll see this thing about angel worship. Because that’s one of the tenets of the New Age, the angel worship—I’m sorry, I said, New Age. I meant, Gnostic Error [laughs] because we’re still in the first century here.
And in Hebrews, right at the beginning, verse 1, chapter one:
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
The writer to the Hebrews is writing to people who speak Hebrew. That’s no great revelation, is it? But in the Hebrew, there were two classifications to the phrase b’nai ha Elohim—son of God. And there were sons of God and there was the Son of God.
The angels, the word we translate “angel” comes from the Greek angelos, it means messenger. In the Hebrew in the Old Testament, the word “angel” generally comes from the Hebrew word, b’nai ha Elohim—sons of God, but the writer here is saying, His name, “THE SON OF GOD” (capitals) is way superior to their name “sons of God” (small case).
And then he goes on to say:
For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son;
today I have become your Father”?
“I will be his Father,
and he will be my Son”?
And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says,
“Let all God’s angels worship him.”
In speaking of the angels he says,
“He makes his angels spirits,
and his servants flames of fire.”
But about the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;
Isn’t it interesting, the Father calls the Son, God? If God thinks His Son is God, should we? Seems that way.
a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.”
That’s from Psalm 45, that’s the great Messianic wedding.
Now read on. Hebrews 1:10:
He also says,
“In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You will roll them up like a robe;
like a garment they will be changed.
But you remain the same,
and your years will never end.”
To which of the angels did God ever say,
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet”?
Psalm 110. And then we’ll finish with this verse:
Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?
Now, you see, here’s the angels’ job description, ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation. Who’s that? That’s us, yes.
Okay. And then he says in another place, “So be careful when you’re dealing with strangers. You might be dealing with angels unaware, without knowing about it.” So, it’s another good reason to be kind to the people around you.
And so, the writer to Hebrews is expanding on this concept of angel worship and how it is settling for less because why worship the sons of God (little case) when you have the Son of God (caps)? The idea of course came from the view that, as mortals, we were too sinful to approach God directly. And so, we needed intercessors and that’s what the angels did, they interceded for us. And so we became so focused on them that we began to offer worship to them instead of the worship that was due to God.
Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.
Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules:
Now, here’s another thing he’s after: agnostic asceticism.
why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”?
In other words, the ascetics denied bodily comforts, they denied the physical comforts, they denied themselves. They thought that by denying themselves, they were demonstrating their holiness. It got to be a fetish, it got to be an obsession. Whole orders were developed around this idea of denial—people taking vows of poverty, vows of silence, vows of self-flagellation (beating themselves) to try and purge the sin.
He says, “Why? You already died with Christ to the basic principles of this world. These things that you’re trying to beat out of yourself, you already died to all that.”
why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
They lack any value. Turn to Romans 7, Paul will give you a little of his personal testimony on this. Now you notice he says they have the appearance of wisdom. And, isn’t it good to live a life of moderation? Isn’t it good not to go overboard on stuff? Isn’t it good not to go to excesses? You know, they have the appearance of this. It’s when they start to be obsessive, when they become the means—you see, they shouldn’t become the means to the end, and they are certainly not the end. They might in moderation be evidence of your life, but they shouldn’t take over your life.
And Paul in Romans 7:14 says:
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
Now, it’s too bad that chapter 7 ends right there. And you know, these chapter breaks didn’t come in until 1400. Because this ends a chapter right in the middle of a thought [laughs]. And a lot of people miss because they stop the chapter there and they say, “Okay. We’ll take up the rest of it next week,” and they come back next week, and they forget the context. But we’re not going to do that. We’re going to read the first few verses of chapter 8.
Because there it says:
Now, what’s the rule? What’s that “therefore”? It’s always there for the purpose of guiding you back to the previous statements.
What’s the previous statement? Paul says, “I can’t do it, I can’t be good enough to satisfy the Law. And the harder I try, the worse I seem to get. I can give the outward appearance of being obedient, but my mind still betrays me. Who on Earth is going to save me from this?”
Now, Paul was a man given to emotion. I see him as a little red-headed guy. I think that’s what he really was. He was a short, red-headed guy so I think he had short man syndrome and I think the red hair was indicative of a short temper as well, and I think he was hardest on himself. And he was just beside himself.
I’ve read biographies of him that talk about the fact that he was so at war with himself because he was raised in the Pharisaical tradition, the strict observance of the Law, but then when he begins to understand what’s really going on, he sees the duplicity of his mind, he sees the contradiction between his intent and his actions, he sees how much good he wants to do, and then he has to observe himself failing to live up to even his own standards.
The main thing you can say about him is he was more introspective than most of us because most of us don’t see that in ourselves, but he saw it clearly in him and it drove him nuts until the Lord appeared to him and said, “Paul, let’s look at it this way.” And He explained to him the doctrine of grace. And that’s what Paul speaks about in the opening verse of chapter 8.
“Therefore, to help me get rid of this contradiction that’s driving me crazy,”
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
So that’s the remedy; the more you know about the Law and the more you understand about yourself, the more you see the terrible jam you’re in. Ignorance is bliss in this regard as well as in many others.
When you don’t know what the speed limit is you don’t know you’re speeding, but as soon as you know, you’ve got a problem; and the problem is, staying within the Law. Now, of course, we can slow down, we can put on the brakes, we can command the car to obey the speed limit. That’s the beauty of cruise control, if I don’t want to have to worry about getting stopped for speeding, I just set the cruise control. Because I know that I will; my right foot will progressively get heavier and heavier the longer I drive and I’ll forget, I won’t be paying attention.
It happened to me today; I’m coming down the canyon this afternoon. I come down, I get right to where Lamb’s Canyon cuts off there, and I’m coming around that turn where the bridge is there and I realize that I’m going 75 miles per hour! And of course, I’m not going any faster than anybody else, but I’m in the inside lane here and right up there ahead of me is a police car standing there and he’s looking right at me with this little gun he’s got. And I yank on the brakes and I try to get over there and get my seatbelt fastened because I only wear those when the police are watching and so (I shouldn’t record that, probably) but I’m over there trying to get everything done and I’m weaving all over the road and thankfully I come up beside two great big tractor trailers in the middle lane and I duck into the right lane beside them and there’s the exit over to East Canyon and I duck down that exit and I run over there and I hide under the bridge, while the policeman goes past, probably looking for me. When I think it’s safe [laughing] he was looking right at me and I was going 75! When I thought it was safe, I ease my way back up on the onramp, up on the freeway, and I set the cruise control for 65 and I relaxed all the rest of the way down the canyon.
But see, I don’t have a cruise control for my behavior. If I do, it doesn’t work. I’ve got this will power, but like Paul says, the harder I try the worse I get! Because the more aware of the Law I become, the more conscious I am of my failures.
Earlier in chapter 7 he says, “Once I was alive and then the Law came, and I died.” In other words, I reached the age of accountability. He’s saying, “Before I was accountable for my behavior, I didn’t have to worry about stuff like this, but once I became accountable for it, sin reared its ugly head, and I was dead.” He doesn’t’ tell us how many minutes after he became twelve years old that this realization hit him, but if he was as smart as a child as he appeared to be as an adult, I’ll bet you he knew the Law pretty well, and I’ll betcha the minute he stepped out of his bar mitzvah, he realized he’d broken a whole bunch of commandments. And he says, “The Law came; sin reared its ugly head and I died.”
And he says, “From that point on, I’ve been trying and trying and trying to keep the Law and the harder I try the worse it gets. Who is going to rescue me?”
Thanks be to God, He’s done it.
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)
Isn’t that a beautiful thought? And of course, most of the rest of the world just lives in blissful ignorance of all this.
As soon as you’re awakened to this you begin to realize the extent of your problem, and so he says, “These guys go around beating themselves with their starvation diets, with their vows of poverty and silence, trying to make themselves as miserable as they can.” And he says, “Such regulations have an appearance of wisdom with their self imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”
They are worse than worthless because they trick the person into thinking he is doing okay, and that’s what creates this false humility. You’ve seen this, right? Sometimes today we call it spiritual pride, that’s really the same as the false humility.