Col. 2:8-10 - A Worldview According to Christ PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Tim Black   
Monday, 19 March 2007 14:57

Colossians 2:8-10
A Worldview According to Christ”
Tim Black

  1. Introduction

    1. When you live in a culture for a while you pick up parts of its lifestyle.

      1. Growing up in rural Eastern Washington I learned to wear jeans to all occasions except Sunday morning worship, to which any kind of khakis, slacks, or dress pants were appropriate.

      2. At seminary in Philadelphia I learned that khakis, slacks, and dress pants were the norm all the time, and jeans are looked down on just a little.

      3. And in Uganda I learned that men should never wear shorts, because only little boys wear shorts!

    2. We don’t just pick up our culture’s styles of clothing, but also its assumptions, its deeply-held beliefs and practices that seem to be the only way the world can work. We generally agree with a lot of them, like these:

      1. Of course you need a car to survive.”

      2. Of course you need roads to travel.”

      3. Of course modern science and technology and medicine are good for us.”

    3. It’s pretty easy to agree with those. But how about this one: “Of course abortion and divorce are the norm.” Whoa. Or how about this one: “Of course sex on television is just entertainment.”

    4. We immediately know those last two assumptions are wrong for a Christian to agree to. But when we are faced with a temptation to give in to one of those last two assumptions, our culture is pushing hard for us to make that wrong choice.

    5. Once we’ve picked up the habits of our culture, it’s easy to change the style of our clothes, but it’s sometimes harder to change our mind.

    6. We need to examine our worldview to see if it is constructed according to the pattern of the world, or according to Christ.

  1. Body

    1. Command: Do not be taken captive by a worldview that is according to the world

      1. Worldview

        1. Paul tells us in our passage today that we need a worldview according to Christ. A Christian worldview. Now what is a worldview?

        2. The definition Paul is using here is that your worldview is your beliefs about what is real, how you know, and what you ought to do about it. Your beliefs about metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. He speaks of these 3 issues in v. 8:

          • 2:8See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”

      2. Its Method of Capture: Philosophy and empty deception

        1. The phrases “takes you captive” and “empty deceit” indicates this philosophy has an ethical goal. It gives an answer to the question, “What should I do?”

          • Philosophy. In the Greek and Roman mind, this word “philosophy” referred not merely to an intellectual system of thought, but to a system of thought that led to a way of life. We should understand this “philosophy” to be broad and even all-encompassing in scope. It is a “philosophy-of-life.”

          • Empty. Paul begins by pointing out for us the ethical goal of the world’s philosophy of life. You can see this in the word “empty.” The world’s philosophy of life is “empty” of truth, of life, and of moral goodness. Paul uses this word “empty” in Eph. 5:6 in a similar way:

            • Eph. 5:5-7 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous ( that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not associate with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light

            • The deceiving words of the “sons of disobedience” are “empty” because they seek to lead you to take part in the same “disobedience,” and they cannot bring you God’s blessing, but only His “wrath.” The world sets before you its ethical goals, in order to lead you down the path that leads to destruction.

          • Deceit

            • Not only is the world’s philosophy of life empty, but it is deceiving. It seeks to deceive you about the goal to which it leads you.

              • Christ used this word “deception” when he spoke of the “deceitfulness of riches” that can choke the seed of the gospel in Mark 4:19. Hebrews 3:13 speaks of the “deceitfulness of sin” that can harden your heart against repentance. And Paul exhorts us in Ephesians 4:22to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires.

            • 2 Peter 2 uses this term, and focuses on the ethical depravity of this deception’s teachers. The goal of their words is moral corruption.

              • 13 They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you.

              • 18 For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.

          • Contrast with Christianity. This “empty deceit” is the opposite of what God provides you through Christ, according to the book of Colossians.

            • Deceit. Deceit is opposed to “the word of truth” you heard in 1:5, and the “wisdom and knowledge” which 2:3 says is hidden in Christ.

            • Empty. This deception is “empty;” it is not full like the “glorious riches” of Christ in 1:27, in whom according to 2:3 are hidden all the “treasures” of wisdom and knowledge.

      1. Its Source: Tradition of men

        1. The word “tradition” indicates the epistemology by which this deception is accomplished. It gives a worldly answer to the question, “How do you know?”

        2. The word “tradition” was used by the Greeks, Jews, Gnostics, and the mystery religions to refer to the body of knowledge they considered authoritative and passed down from teacher to student. The word refers to Jewish tradition in Mark 7:8, and to Gentile tradition in 1 Pet. 1:18. It indicates the tradition has a purported “antiquity, dignity, and revelational character.”1 This is how the world knows—by clinging to “human tradition.” Christ warned us of the danger in this—human tradition can lead us to reject the commandments of God.

          • Mark 7:6-9 6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ 8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” 9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!

        3. Today we also are tempted to follow the traditions of men rather than the word of God. We too quickly bow before the supposed expert authority of the scientific establishment, cultural norms, and the mavens of fashion and entertainment. But there is nothing new at the heart of the world’s message—it remains the tradition passed down from the beginning—“Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat?’ You will not surely die; your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God!”

        4. In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn demonstrated how radically fallible our reigning scientific paradigms are by showing how scientists have repeatedly been deeply convinced of one explanation of the world, only to subsequently discard that explanation when a completely different but more persuasive interpretive paradigm comes along.

        5. The current scientific consensus that humanly-generated CO2 is the cause of global warming of recent years may provide an example of this fallibility. Against this consensus, some scientists argue humanly-generated CO2 is not the cause of global warming, and we need not attempt to “fix” the supposed “problem” global warming poses. Whichever side is right, science is fallible, and we must remember that God’s word, and His word alone, is infallible. Do you listen first and foremost to the word of man, or the word of God?

      2. Its Ultimate Basis: Basic principles of the world - “elemental spirits”

        1. The basis of this tradition, this epistemology, this method of knowing things, is a belief about what the world is made of, a metaphysics. The world gives an answer to the question, “What is real?”

        2. In the whole book of Colossians, it is this Greek term stoikeia, translated variously as “basic principles,” “elementary principles,” and “elemental spirits,” that has caused the most debate. To what does stoikeia refer? There are three dominant views—the “basic principles” are either doctrinal, material, or spiritual in nature.

        3. 3 views:

          • Doctrine. Elementary religious teachingslaw and the flesh, drawing on Galatians 4:3-5

            • Galatians 4:3-5 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

          • Material. Basic components or elements of the universe - Greek philosophy

            • Earth, air, fire, and water. 2 Pet. 3:10, 12. This is the common meaning of the Greek term in writers such as Plato and Philo.

          • Spirits. Spiritual beings - personal powers, either angels or demons. The Greeks and Romans believed in gods who each ruled the realm of one particular element—Hephaestus was the god of fire, and Poseidon was the god of the sea.

            • Galatians 4:8-9 8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?

            • Jubilees 2:2 says each of the elements had its own angel to rule over it, and 1 Enoch 60:11, 12 makes reference to the same. Both books date from the second century BC, so they evidence that not only the Greeks, but also the Jews combined the spiritual view with the material view.

        4. Combined view: I’m quite comfortable thinking the Colossians held to a combination of the essentials of these 3 views—they believed a doctrine about the material elements of creation which involved the power of spirits at work in those elements. The goal was to explain the basic components of the world in order to know how the world works, and how best to interact with and control the world.

        5. Ancient & modern worldviews. There should be little doubt that the Colossians shared the general worldview common in ancient Greek culture, and that Paul has this general worldview in the back of his mind. The basic concerns of the history of western thought both ancient and modern have centered around understanding how God relates to man, and how the basic elements of the world fit together.

          • Ancient. The ancient Greeks believed all things are composed of form and matter. For example, they would say the matter from which this pulpit is made is its wood, and that the pulpit’s form is its shape, its design, its characteristics.

            • They ran into continual problems with this view.

              • For Plato, the problem was that there was no connection between his transcendent world of pure forms and the immanent world of pure matter.

              • For Aristotle, the problem was that either form and matter could not remain pure form and pure matter when they were combined to make real objects, because some forms had to be higher forms than other ones, or the one highest and truly pure form, called the “unmoved mover,” could have no connection with pure matter.

          • Modern. Modern Westerners believe in two basic realms: the immanent realm of the observable phenomena around us which follow the laws of science and human reason, which we call the realm of Nature—the natural world, and the transcendent realm of things that cannot be observed and which do not follow the laws of science or reason, yet underlie and even cause the world we see around us. We call this second realm the supernatural realm, and we associate it with Freedom from the constraining order of science, reason, and human control. We live in this world of nature, but long for a freedom to give our lives meaning beyond nature’s constraints. You would not find many popular songs reveling in freedom in the ancient world, but today our songs, our movies, our national anthem, our Declaration of Independence, all say that we’d give our lives to gain freedom from an oppressive, constraining order. Yet we still want order, and use science and technology, politics, and war, to get it. You can see our society’s schizophrenia between constraining order and freedom in our fundamental explanations of how the world works: we say that all parts of creation both follow the humanly-explainable laws of science and reason and are the product of pure, blind, irrational chance. Einstein’s theory of relativity posits absolute order; quantum theory posits absolute chance. Does certainty or probability rule the world? And is every event the result of a natural process, or a miracle? Or both?! Questions like that are enough to drive you mad.

          • In fact, they have driven modern philosophers mad. By definition, Immanuel Kant could not give a rational explanation of how God, the soul, and things in themselves, all which exist in the supernatural realm of Freedom, cause the phenomena we see in the realm of Nature. Because by definition the realm of freedom is not rational. And so modern liberal theologians, following Kant, have claimed that God cannot perform miracles, and that God cannot reveal Himself to us in a way man’s reason can understand. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel tried to weave the two realms together like Aristotle did, but failed because he defined Freedom and Nature so that they excluded the possibility of each other’s existence.

          • Since you live in the modern world, and have unavoidably picked up part of this modern worldview, let me ask you this—if God always works supernaturally, then why doesn’t His supernatural working destroy the natural working of your body, of your reason, and of the world around you? And if His supernatural work does not destroy natural processes, how do you have any evidence that He works supernaturally? Or that He exists? Does Natural order, or Freedom from it, rule the day? If you can’t answer because you find Nature and Freedom irreconcilable with one another, then you are held captive by philosophy and empty deception, according to human tradition, according to the basic principles of the world. You need a worldview that is according to Christ.

    1. Reason: You need a worldview that is according to Christ. What is that worldview? 3 things:

      1. Christian metaphysics:For in Him the fullness of deity dwells bodily

        1. Explanation

          • Fullness” is what dwells in Him

          • Deity” specifies what that fullness is

          • Bodily” specifies the manner in which the fullness dwells in Christ

        2. This is amazing! This should blow your mind.

          • Ancient. Platonism and Aristotelianism could not understand this sentence. For both, the “body” should be in the form of “deity,” not the other way around. But here “deity” is in “bodily” form.

            • If a Platonist or Aristotelian were to interpret the term “bodily” here to refer to an expression of the eternal divine form which is temporary and passing because the body is part of this immanent world of appearances, they would fail to explain the present tense of the verb “dwells,” which indicates that deity dwells even now in Christ’s body—and this no doubt has in mind that Christ will have a body forever on into the future. They would further fail to grasp that this verse means God approves of Christ’s human, physical body in all its humanity as a fully adequate and appropriate place for His divine nature to dwell.

          • Modern. And a modern worldview cannot understand this sentence either. Because it says God supernaturally dwells in a natural human body, without the one destroying the other, but rather, with both God and man in perfect harmony. The supernatural and the natural, though not identical, are integrated with one another. Wow.

          • Orthodoxy. A secular worldview, whether ancient or modern, is sorely tempted to dismiss this verse as incomprehensible foolishness. But here we have the orthodox doctrine of Christ’s two natures in one person in the briefest biblical formula: “in Him”--in the Person--“the fullness of deity”--the complete divine nature--“dwells bodily”--in a complete human nature. Our inability to fully grasp how Christ is fully God and fully man should not lead us to reject Him, but rather to worship Him in His awe-inspiring majesty. After all, it is by virtue of His two natures in one person that we are saved!

            • Equal ultimacy of the two natures. The divine and human natures are so bound together that the one is in the form of the other. The divine nature is in human form. In order to know God, look at what scripture reveals of Jesus the human, because it is in Jesus’ human form that God can be seen. The two natures are exhaustively integrated with one another. The divine nature is fully expressed in the human nature. There is no part of Jesus’ humanity in which His divinity is not present. Even in His human weakness and suffering, he was still fully God. And we need a Savior who was both fully God to conquer death, and fully man to pay the penalty we deserve.

            • Indirect communication of attributes. This would almost make it appear that the divine and human natures are the same thing in Christ. But this is not the case, because of what we call the “indirect communication of attributes.” The human nature does not directly take on divine attributes. The divine nature does not directly take on human attributes.2 Rather, the divine and human natures are joined together indirectly, through the Person of Christ. The divine nature is “in Him,” that is, in the Person of Christ. The divine nature dwells in human form, not because the divine nature becomes a human nature, but because the Person of Christ took on a human nature. The divine nature is expressed in the human nature because in the one Person are two natures. “In Him the fullness of deity dwells bodily.” Apart from the indirect communication of attributes, Christ would either not be fully God, or He would not be fully man.

      1. Christian epistemology and its results:and you have been filled in Him

        1. You don’t need the tradition of men, but you need the Christian tradition, which is Christ. 2:6 – “just as you received Christ Jesus the Lord” - the apostolic tradition was Christ Himself, and our confession of Him. You receive Christ by confessing with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believing in your heart that God raised Him from the dead. By believing on Christ as your Savior and Lord, you receive Him and all His benefits. He then transforms you by filling you with all you need for life and godliness.

        2. You have been filled in Him” uses the same root word as the preceding clause--“fullness of deity.” Are we then filled with the fullness of deity?

        3. With what are we filled? Paul doesn’t explicitly say with what we are filled. In other contexts he gives us a place to start by desiring or praying for us to be filled with “joy and peace” in Rom. 15:13, “the fruit of righteousness” in Philippians 1:11, “every need” in Philippians 4:19, and “the knowledge of His will” in Col. 1:9.

        4. Not incommunicable attributes. We are not filled with the fullness of deity in the way Christ is. Christ was divine, and we are not, so He had divine attributes that we cannot have. We call these God’s “incommunicable” attributes, which we summarize in WSC 4 by saying God is “infinite, eternal, and unchangeable.” We cannot be infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, because we are not God.

        5. But communicable attributes. But in Christ we are filled with God’s communicable attributes.

          • It was because God is good, and righteous, and holy, and because Christ is God, that when Christ took on a human nature He made it good, and righteous, and holy. Christ’s divine goodness, in His Person, made His human nature good. He brought His human nature into accord with the goodness of His divine nature.

          • In the beginning God created man perfect in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness; in the fall man lost these mutable aspects of the image of God; but in Christ God restored fallen human nature to its original righteousness. Eph. 4:24 says the “new man [is] created according to God in true righteousness and holiness.

          • The fact that Christ has thus transformed His own human nature is the guarantee that when He dwells in you by His Holy Spirit, He can do exactly the same thing in you. And I tell you, that is the core of a worldview that accords with Christ. “Christ in you” is your “hope of glory.He can transform your rebellious heart. He can transform your guilty record. He can transform your unholy life. He has already done it in His body.

          • What are these communicable attributes? We’ve already mentioned knowledge, righteousness, and holiness as the mutable aspects of the image of God. But in our doctrine of God we speak of other communicable attributes as well:

            • WSC 4: “...being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.”

              • It is because of God’s

                • being that we have being

                • wisdom that we have wisdom

                • power that we have power

                • ...holiness...

                • ...justice...

                • ...goodness...

                • ...truth...

              • Is your heart full of death, do you know you are wretched on the inside? Because God’s being dwells in you, you can truly be alive.

              • Have you been a fool? Because God dwells in you, you can be wise.

              • weak...power

              • wicked...holy

              • cruel, oppressive, unjust...just

              • evil...good

              • liar...truth

        6. Calvin’s Institutes. Paul’s statement that “you have been filled in Him” lies at the core of John Calvin’s explanation of Christian doctrine in his Institutes of the Christian Religion. In 1.1.1, Calvin writes of God the Father that there are an “infinitude of benefits reposing in God.” This is the point of Book 1 of the Institutes. But unless Christ reconciled us to God, we could not receive those benefits. So to explain the connection between Christ’s work in Book 2, and the Spirit’s work in Book 3, Calvin writes in 3.1.1 that for Christ “to share with us what he has received from the Father, he had to become ours and to dwell with us.” And so in 3.1.1 he writes of the “Spirit, by which we come to enjoy Christ and all his benefits.”

        7. And so in this brief statement, “you have been filled in Him,” Paul teaches us that the root of the blessings of salvation is the attributes of God, that the indirect communication of attributes between the two natures in Christ’s person produced God’s communicable attributes in a man, and Christ’s indwelling us by His Holy Spirit applies these attributes to us.

        8. In summary, we can see that:

          • God’s attributes are the “basic principles” by which you need to live!

          • God’s Mediator, the truth of the gospel of Christ, the communication of God’s attributes to you through Him, is the tradition which you need to know!

          • God’s Holy Spirit is the life-pattern according to which you need to walk.

      2. Christian ethics. Lastly Paul teaches us the heart of a Christian ethics. Speaking of Christ, he says Christ is the one “who is the head of all rule and authority.” In this he indicates that Christian salvation transforms every field of life, bringing it into subjection to Christ. Bringing it into accord with Christ.

        1. Authority and power are what people use to take others captive.

        2. Christ created and sustains powers and authorities.

          • Colossians 1:16-17 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

        3. He is head over them because God has divested them of all authority in His death and resurrection.

          • Colossians 2:15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

        4. All authority structures in the world are under Christ:

          • Angels – basic principles

          • Philosophy!

          • Every field of thought - “we take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ2 Cor. 10:5

          • Social institutions

            • Church – elder/member

            • Family – husband/wife, parent/child

            • School – teacher/student

            • Business – employer/employee

            • Government – civil magistrate/citizen

            • So Abraham Kuyper was right to say, “There is not one square inch of this creation of which Jesus Christ does not claim, ‘It is mine!’”

            • The rest of Colossians. The rest of the book of Colossians works out for you the elements of a Christian worldview, as the following outline demonstrates.

              • 2:8-10 – A Worldview According to Christ

                •     2:11-15 – A Heart Freed by Christ

              •     2:16-19 – A Mind Freed by Christ

              •     2:20-23 – A Life Freed by Christ

              • 3:1-17 – Christian Character

              • 3:18-4:1 – Christian Relationships

              • 4:2-6 – The Christian Witness

            • Particularly in Col. 3:18-4:1 we see the outworking of a Christian worldview in husband-wife, parent-child, and slave-master or employer-employee relationships.

              • Here we see that the gospel of Christ answers the fears of modern thought. When Christ gives you His goodness, His self-sacrificing love for your fellow man, those in authority sacrifice themselves on behalf of those under authority, and those under authority submit to those who are in authority. Husbands love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. Wives submit to their husbands as unto the Lord. Fathers care for their children, children submit to their parents. Employees obey their employers, and employers compensate their employees with what is just and fair.

  1. Conclusion

    1. I exhort you then to have a worldview that is according to Christ. Do not be taken captive by a worldview that is according to the world. Its method of capture is philosophy and empty deception. Its source is the traditions of men. Its ultimate basis is the basic principles of the world. Instead, you need a worldview that is according to Christ. A Christian metaphysics is centered on Christ. A Christian epistemology is filled with Christ. A Christian ethics is ruled by Christ.

    2. Look to Jesus Christ, who is the Way upon which you must walk, the Truth by which alone you may be saved, and the Life by which alone you may receive eternal life. Is your worldview in accord with Jesus Christ?

    3. 2 Peter 1:3-4 3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

1O’Brien, 110, noting Michel, TDNT 9, 186.

2WCF 8.2 says the two natures are joined “without conversion, composition, or confusion.”

Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 March 2007 07:24