Trying to understand the various philosophies and cults existing during Paul’s time brings an interesting discovery: They weren’t any different from those we have today. We are battling the same things Paul did.
One issue Paul spoke against in Colossians is a boasting of higher knowledge, a know-it-all attitude that says a certain philosophy is needed in order to be saved. Paul characterized a person with this attitude as one who “goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions” (Colossians 2:18).
Another issue Paul addressed is the tendency of some to separate the physical and the spiritual to such a degree that two extremes result: asceticism, which is a warped view of holiness; and sensual indulgence based on the belief that if matter and spirit are separate it makes no difference what we get involved in physically, since our separate spiritual side will not be affected.
Paul gave little credence to the thoughts and behaviors of men who wanted to play God. He found them weaponized for one target: To take our eyes off Jesus.
Paul’s approach in teaching about both of these issues was to focus on the deity of Christ.
Many of us have talked with people who say Jesus Christ is not God. But the Scriptures insist that Jesus Christ was not merely a good man, or one of many prophets, or an angel, but God. Paul said in Colossians, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (1:15).
Imagine yourself as Peter or James or John, walking with Christ somewhere north of the Sea of Galilee. You follow him up a mountain, and when you reach the top you are astonished as Jesus, your friend and teacher, is transfigured before you. His face shines so brightly you can’t look at him, and his clothes are whiter than the brightest white you’ve ever seen. At his side appear Moses and Elijah, talking with him. You drop to your knees, and face down you hear a voice from heaven: “This is my Son; listen to him!”
Jesus Christ is God. Regardless of how much men deny it, he is God.
“By him all things were created,” Paul said, “things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him” (1:16). Scientists have had and will continue to have many theories about the origin of the universe. We can get too wrapped up in wondering where everything really came from, and what it was like before. But the Bible tells us all we need to know. Jesus Christ, the Word of God created all things. In Genesis 1, God spoke, and it happened. “By faith,” the writer to the Hebrews said, “we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Hebrews 11:3). This is all we need to know, even for those on earth whom God has given the most intelligence. God said, and it was so. Paul said all things were created by Christ and for Christ. That includes you. And he made no mistake in the way you are made. “We are God’s workmanship” (Ephesians 2:10). Since you were him, are you now living for him?
In Colossians 1:17, Paul said Christ “is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Why does gravity work? What makes atoms stay together instead of flying apart? The concise answer is Jesus Christ. He holds the universe together.
It appears that one day, in God’s perfect timing, he will let go. “The day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare” (2 Peter 3:10).