The Gospel’s Forgiveness
Paul, realizing that spiritual attacks often follow moments of grace, acknowledges bogus arguments against the faith will come. To continue to grow in Christ, the Colossians must resist and counter false teachings with the truth of His centrality (v. 4). Borrowing from military terms, Paul rejoices that the Colossians’ spiritual camp is in order and their defenses are in place and ready (v. 5). Thus far, false teachers had not breached their defenses, but they must continue to walk in Him (v. 6). “Walk” in Jewish thought relates to ethical conduct. In other words, the Church must not relax and let down its guard; they must continue to live up to the ethical standards of a Christ-follower.
Christians, then, must be “rooted and built up in Him” (v. 7). To be rooted involves sinking roots of faith into the soil of Christian truth. Switching to a construction metaphor, Paul says believers must continue to build or “establish” on the foundation of faith, from which will come a life “abounding” or overflowing with thankfulness (v. 7).
Are we walking in this faith? Are our actions and thoughts reflecting the character of people transformed by God? Are we actively growing in love, passion and an abiding relationship with Jesus? Are our lives overflowing with joy and thankfulness?
Be careful. (8–10)
The Colossian Church was growing in faith but Paul warns them to guard against people taking them “captive” (v. 8), telling them to be careful against deceptive philosophies and false teachings that could lead them away from the true gospel.
Additionally, Paul speaks of “elemental spirits” or “basic principles” that have no power over human destiny (v. 8). Whether Paul is referring to demons or “false gods” or idols matters not for our discussion. Nothing has power over Christ. Only in Jesus Christ is the “fullness of deity” (v. 9). In other words, the fulness of God resides in Jesus in bodily form, and just as Jesus is fully God, so are believers fully complete in Him (v. 10).
With this understanding of who Christ is and who we are in Him, we can see why Paul cautions against turning away from the power of the gospel. Even today, believers must be alert so we do not lose our missiological power in the world. The Church is the presence of God in this world and thereby responsible for spreading His redemptive work.
One way to thwart false teaching is to remember the truth of the gospel. Gentile converts were pressured to embrace circumcision, but that teaching was nonsense to Paul — salvation is by grace through faith, not works. Believers are reminded they have already received the greater circumcision of the heart — Christ does a more excellent work in “putting off” or cutting “the body of flesh” (v. 11).
In connecting circumcision with baptism, Paul is not arguing that water baptism has salvific power. Instead, he clearly is emphasizing the work of the Spirit Who “baptizes” believers in union with Christ. At the moment of salvation, God performs a spiritual circumcision, resulting in believers’ identification with Jesus in His death, burial and resurrection (v. 12). This is possible only by God’s empowering grace. At the same time, Christians are responsible for following the Lord’s example of baptism.
Paul then focuses on the legal system, stating God has forgiven trespasses (v. 13). On the cross of Christ, God “canceled the record of debt” (v. 14), and even more, God nails believers’ debt to the cross (v. 14).
Paul ends on a triumphant note — the Lord disgraced His enemies on the cross, exposing them to public shame (v. 15). Similarly, today, false teachings are creeping into the Church, perverting the true gospel and leading others astray. Embrace the gospel’s forgiveness, be careful as you walk daily for Him, and remember and embrace truth. All false teachers are defeated and powerless through the powerful work of Christ.