One of the best-known passages from the New Testament book of Hebrews is found in chapter four, verse twelve: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (ESV). Colossians chapter two serves to illustrate the living and active nature of God’s Word with twenty-three verses that are just as applicable today as they were when they were originally written almost twenty centuries ago.
As mentioned earlier in our look at Colossians chapter one, a group of heretical teachers had apparently worked their way into the first-century Colossian church. Today, we collectively refer to these teachers as the Gnostics. Judging from the content of this epistle, we can say that a key component of their teaching included the belief that faith in Christ was important, but insufficient for true spiritual enlightenment.
One scholar offers some additional insight into the Gnostics and their message…
“There were two types of Gnostic false teachers: (1) salvation is through secret knowledge and, therefore, it does not matter how you live (antinomian libertines) and (2) salvation through secret knowledge plus a very restricted lifestyle (legalists).” (1)
So while there were different varieties of Gnostic teachings, each group was united by the common belief that Jesus could not provide everything necessary for salvation and spiritual enlightenment. This was the environment that served as the backdrop for Paul the Apostle’s Epistle to the Colossians. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul sought to refute these heretical ideas with an important warning that will appear later in this chapter…
“Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power” (Colossians 2:8-10).
As we begin our study of Colossians chapter two, it’s crucial to recognize that these teachings (and those like them) did not die out in the New Testament era. On the contrary, these doctrines still exist today in various forms. This illustrates the need to carefully study Colossians chapter two and the remaining chapters of this important Biblical letter in order to identify and guard against the modern-day variants of these first-century false teachings.
(1) Dr. Bob Utley, Free Bible Commentary, Colossians 2 [2:16-23] Copyright © 2014 Bible Lessons International http://www.freebiblecommentary.org/new_testament_studies/VOL08/VOL08A_02.html