In our last post in this series about street epistemologists, we looked at the Second Step in Faith Defense. We introduced the idea of a ‘complete’ model of biblical preaching which includes ‘warning’ and ‘teaching’ every man ‘in all wisdom.’ The purpose of this complete model of biblical preaching is that we ‘may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.’
“Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” Colossians 1:28
The word ‘warning’ is a translation of the Greek word noutheteo, which means ‘to put in mind, warn, admonish, exhort.’ The word ‘teaching’ is a translation of the Greek word didaskontes, which means ‘teach, direct, give instruction, admonish.’ The word ‘perfect’ is a translation of the Greek word teleion, which means ‘mature, having reached its end, finished, complete in all its parts, full grown, of full age.’
Let’s expand our view of Paul’s warning to the Colossian Christians to see how it can help parents and church leaders deal with the many challenges our children face today.
Step 2 – Beware (expanded)
“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. 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.” Colossians 2:6-8
The second step in Faith Defense is to ‘beware.’ The word beware is a translation of the Greek word blepo, which means ‘to see, to look at, to perceive, to discern, to take heed against, to watch, to be careful, to consider, to be on guard against.’ Greeks used the word in a similar sense to our yelling to a friend to ‘look out!’ because we see something bad is about to happen to them. We warn a friend because we care about them physically. We should also warn people because we care about them spiritually.
One of the reasons I’ve been drawn toward the ministry of ‘apologetics’ since I was saved is that God used apologists to reach me with the Gospel. Many other Christians preached ‘at me,’ but none could ‘reach’ me until men skilled in Christian apologetics answered my many questions with evidence and patience. Another reason I’m drawn to apologetics is that it is a ‘complete’ method of preaching the Gospel. Apologists both ‘warn’ and ‘teach’ Christians and non-Christians. If the ‘warning’ aspect is removed from apologetics, it is no longer biblical. If the ‘warning’ aspect is removed from preaching, it is no longer biblical. If the ‘warning’ aspect is removed from teaching, it is no longer biblical. Preaching must include ‘warning’ along with ‘teaching every man in all wisdom.’
Beware of Cheaters
Christians in the city of Colossae faced the challenge of ‘cheaters.’ They were non-Christians who attempted to ‘cheat’ the Colossians through ‘philosophy and empty deceit’ that came from ‘the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.’
As we will soon see, this method of cheating Christians has not changed in the more than 1,950 years since Paul wrote his Colossian letter.
‘cheat’ – sulagogon = ‘robbing, plunder, to carry off as spoil, to make spoil of, lead captive, make a slave, make victim by fraud, seduce’
Paul did not use the word ‘cheat’ in the sense of a school boy looking over the shoulder of another student and ‘cheating’ by copying their answers. This word was used for robbing someone by plundering what they had and taking them captive through seduction. [Read more about ‘cheaters’ in this GraceLife blog post from earlier this year.]
Paul ‘warned’ that these ‘cheaters’ carried out this plundering of Christians through the seduction of ‘philosophy and empty deceit.’
‘philosophy’ – philosophias = love and pursuit of wisdom, friend of wisdom
On the surface, that doesn’t sound bad – ‘love and pursuit of wisdom.’ Who wouldn’t want to be known as a ‘friend of wisdom?’ It has a nice ring to it. However, Paul’s warning has to be connected to ‘according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.’ The danger lies there.
’empty deceit’ – kenes hapates = trick, guile, like riches. The idea here is of something that is devoid of truth. Empty deceit is futile and fruitless.
‘tradition’ – paradosis = that which is handed down … traditions ‘of men’ are dangerous because they look to the changing ideas and interpretations of men rather than the unchanging doctrine (teaching) of Jesus Christ.
‘basic principles’ – stoicheia = rudimentary teachings, elementary rule, elemental spirits
‘world’ – kosmos = ‘belonging to the sphere of material and external things, worldly affairs, earthly adornments’
I’m reminded of the Scriptures that warn us about the great deceiver, Satan, the ‘god of this world.’
“But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:3
“And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” 1 Timothy 2:14
“So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” Revelation 12:9
“He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished.” Revelation 20:2-4
“The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” Revelation 20:10
Satan is the ‘power’ behind the deception the Colossians faced and the deception our children face today. These ‘deceivers’ deceive young people with ‘words’ that are empty and persuasive.
“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” Ephesians 5:6
“For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words. For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.” Colossians 2:1-5
“But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” 2 Timothy 3:13
“For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.” 2 John 1:7
Paul’s Response to the Deception of Philosophy
Both of these, philosophias and kenes hapates, were descriptive of the philosophical systems of the ancient world. Colossae was part of the Roman Empire and would have been impacted by the many different philosophies at work in the empire at that time. While some scholars believe the primary philosophical deception in Colossae was Gnosticism, other scholars believe it came from the Epicureans. Neo-Platonic and Jewish philosophies have also been presented as problems for the Colossians.
Three of the most important schools of philosophy active in the Roman Empire during Paul’s time were the Stoics, Skeptics, and Epicureans.
The philosophical deception at work in Colossae was a great concern for Epaphras and for Paul. Watch carefully at what Paul told the Colossian Christians. We would do well to follow Paul’s pattern when helping our children and the children in our churches deal with the philosophies of the world.
First, Paul told the Colossians how he prayed for them:
- you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding
- you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God
- strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy
- giving thanks to the Father
Second, Paul reminded the Colossians about what God had done for them:
- who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light
- He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love
- in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins
Third, Paul reminded the Colossians about the true Nature of Jesus Christ, their Savior and Lord:
- He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation
- by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him
- He is before all things, and in Him all things consist
- He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence
- in Him all the fullness should dwell
- by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross
Fourth, Paul reminded the Colossians who they were before God reconciled them to Himself through Christ, what the sacrifice of Christ meant to them, and the importance of continuing to do what God had called them to do.
- who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works
- yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death
- to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight
- if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard
Paul compared both Greek philosophy and Jewish legalism with the purity of freedom in Christ .. and philosophy and legalism failed. As Paul wrote in Colossians 2, ‘all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ are hidden in Christ. It is vital to our children’s spiritual future that they have a ‘high view’ of Christ. That is contrary to the ‘low view’ of Christ preached in thousands of churches today, but the view of the New Testament is of the Supremacy of Christ. Any view lower than ‘Supreme’ is dangerously wrong.
As for legalism and the process of deserving or earning salvation, Paul reminded the Colossians that God nailed all of our sins and failures to the Cross, disarming Satan and his dark powers, making a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them. Salvation is ‘by grace through faith and that not of ourselves.’ Grace is getting what we don’t deserve and ‘not’ getting what we do deserve.
Our Deception Today?
The philosophies facing our young people today are many and varied. This is a short list of some philosophies popular during the last several generations:
- Analytic Philosophy
- Cultural Relativism
- Eastern Mysticism
- Logical Atomism
- Logical Positivism
- Moral Dualism
- Moral Relativism
- Moral Skepticism
- New Age
Even though I was taught monotheism (Christianity) as a child and youth at home and church, it had little impact on what I believed about reality. Writers like Bertrand Russell, David Hume, Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Thomas Huxley, René Descartes, Robert Ingersoll, Charles Darwin, Confucius, Lao Tzu, Zhuang Zhou, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau influenced my thinking as a teenager in profound ways. I wandered through Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and Agnosticism, and finally to Atheism.
Do you know what books your children are reading? What they like to watch on TV? What they read on the Internet? What music they enjoy? Do you know what your children’s friends believe? As we engage with our children and know what they are thinking, feeling and believing, we can help address worldview concerns early in their lives.
What’s a Child to Do?
So, what do we tell our children to do when friends and teachers come at them with the world’s philosophies?
- Don’t let anyone judge you
- Don’t let anyone cheat you of your reward
- Don’t let anyone subject you to their rules and regulations – they may have the ‘appearance’ of wisdom, but they are of no eternal value
- Do hold fast to Jesus Christ – He will nourish you, protect you, build you up and give you a great reward
What’s a Parent or Church Leader to Do?
Look for ‘signs’ that your children or the children in your church are ‘wandering’ through philosophies (ways of thinking and knowing) that are contrary to the ‘teaching of Christ.’ Ask children and teens questions appropriate to their age and experience and help them understand the true meaning of what they’re reading, watching, and hearing. Our children need to hear the ‘truth’ from us because they may not hear it from anyone else.
In the next part of our study, we’ll look at Step 3 of Faith Defense – Be Prepared.
[More great insights into true wisdom in the Book of Proverbs, Book of Job, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, and the Psalms. Reading to your children and grandchildren from those Wisdom writings will help counter the ‘philosophy and empty deceit’ of this world.]
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.