by Wayne BarberThe Purpose of the Church-Part 4
The Purpose of the Church-Part 4
We have looked at the People, the Place, and the Problem that Paul addressed in his epistle to the Colossians. In this segment we want to take it a step further and apply what we have already seen. The Colossians were being assaulted with a weird brand of Gnostism. It was a perversion of what God's Word teaches. The solution was-as it is now-to allow Scripture to say what it says and to totally allow it to affect our lives. It is in this that we will see the Purpose of the church begin to emerge clearly.
In Colossians 2:8 Paul says, "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ." The phrase "takes you captive" is in the present tense. We have seen that error was everywhere in the churches of Colosse, Laodicea, and Heiropolis. This was Paul's reason for writing the epistle.
In verse 8, the phrase "See to it" is the word blépo. It means "be on guard!" It means to be aware at all times! You see, in this Paul shows us the means which these false teachers used in seeking to take the people's minds captive. First of all, we see the false teachers using philosophy as a means to lead the people's minds away from Christ: "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy." "Philosophy" comes from philos, a cherished love, and sophía, wisdom. Now there is nothing wrong in cherishing wisdom. The problem was that the wisdom that they so cherished was not of God. It was according to the "elementary principles" of the world. It was formed in the thinking of the world. It was man's best shot at figuring out salvation. It was handed down from man to man.
Verse 8 also tells us that the false teachers used "empty deception" to captivate the minds of the Colossian believers. You see, all that man has ever been able to come up with concerning spiritual life and salvation is nothing more than empty deception. The word "empty" is kenós. "Deception" is apáte. It is an old expression that meant "to trick." What they said appeared to have substance but was in fact empty. Man's philosophy comes across as seeming so intelligent, but in fact it is simply trickery. All that man comes up with concerning salvation is pitiful compared to what we have in Jesus Christ. But oh, how they infused this false philosophy and empty deception into the people-and it is no different today.
Thirdly, the false teachers used "persuasive argument," (found in 2:4: "I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument." These false teachers were very good with convincing arguments! Do you say, "I would never listen to anything that wasn't of God"? Is that right? When Paul saw that the Galatian church was buying into deception, he said to them: "I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another" (1:6). He wasn't amazed at the error or at the false teachers. He was amazed at how quickly they listened to it. Oh, the task the church has in equipping believers to live in this world that is full of empty deceptive teaching.
The only way to combat false teaching is to stand firm on the truth! What we see Paul do as he writes to the Colossians begins to help us frame up what the Purpose of the church is. Every heresy is an attack on the deity and the sufficiency of Christ. Paul, therefore, instead of attacking the error, simply preached Christ…Christ and Him crucified.
We don't have to go around and correct every wrong doctrine. The thing I love about Paul is that he didn't spend much time identifying and refuting the false teaching point by point. Instead, he so exalted Christ and what we have in Him that only the obstinate would be stupid enough to listen to these deceivers. Paul knew that there is an outward battle, but he also knew the inward answer is Christ and our surrender to Him.
What is the Purpose of the church as it stands today in the midst of error? The church exists to equip saints and prepare them for the battle of the mind! It is in that equipping that we guide people to Christ and the answer we have in Him. To the least of the churches, Paul writes the most profound of messages about our Savior and helps us begin to understand our Purpose as His church.
Wayne Barber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.toliveischrist.org.