Paul’s letter is written to address the false teaching of a cult attacking the church of Colosse. This cult seemed to be an early form of Gnosticism. The Gnostics were primarily attacking the deity of Christ and the sufficiency of the gospel. They taught that in order for a person to be saved they must have a higher form of knowledge, a higher form of wisdom. The Gnostic name actually comes from the Greek word gnosis which means “to know.”
The Gnostics were very syncretic in that they had many beliefs which originated from various sources. It was infused with Jewish legalism, Greek philosophy and mysticism. Greek philosophical dualism believed that matter was inherently evil and that things of the spirit were good. This affected how they specifically viewed God and the doctrine of creation. Since they believed God was good and could not touch evil, they created a system of emanations or spirits descending from God. Each spirit or “god” was a lesser form of God and a more evil form of God. As these emanations continued finally there was “god” far enough from God and less pure than God who could create the earth. For the Gnostic’s Christ was one of these lesser emanations.
This philosophy greatly distorted the doctrine of Christ. Because Jesus was a human, they believed it was impossible for him to be God. They said that “Christ,” the emanation from God, descended upon Jesus at his baptism and left him before his death. Jesus Christ therefore was not perfect and was not fully God. He simply was a lesser form of God who did not create the earth and was not sufficient for salvation. One needed this higher form of knowledge in order to be saved. This teaching had shaken up the Colossian church and therefore, their pastor, Epaphras, sought out Paul for counsel.
In the book of Colossians Paul writes one of the strongest teachings on Christology as seen in scripture. He teaches that not only is Christ God but he is the creator of all things. All things were creator by him and for him. He is the supreme one of all creation and he is sufficient for salvation. If the book of Ephesians major theme is the mystery of the church and Philippians is joy in suffering then the book of Colossian’s major theme is the supremacy of Christ.
Throughout the letter he exalts Christ and teaches that it is Christ in the church that is “the hope of glory” (1:27). It was through Christ that the believer was redeemed from sin and has victory over Satan. The believer died with Christ, has been raised with Christ and this relationship with Christ should radically change his life. The believer should think on heavenly things. He should take off the clothes of sin and put on righteousness. The believer’s relationship to Christ should affect every other relationship. He speaks to husbands, wives, children, fathers, slaves and masters. He speaks to the church on how to walk wisely around those who are unsaved. In contradiction to what the Gnostics taught, it is Christ in whom all the fullness of God dwells and it through Christ that God is reconciling all things to himself. Surely, it is Christ who should have supremacy!
The teachings in Colossians are very important, as they emphasize the good news of the gospel and the deity and full sufficiency of Christ. It is an apologetic for many of the errant teachings today that declare that Christ is not enough or that he is not God. Aspects of Gnostic theology are still seen in many of the popular teachings today: Mormonism, Jehovah Witnesses, Scientology and even Roman Catholicism. Again, the church must guard and defend the truth that Christ is God and he is sufficient to fully reconcile all things to God. It is not Christ plus anything. It is Christ alone. The book of Colossians is still relevant today, even as Christ is still Lord and God. May its message challenge and encourage us. Amen.