The Colossian Battle: False Teachings


The Battle of Colossians: False Teachings


Christ is our hope of glory (Col 1:27), He is our Mikveh (Hope) (Jer 17:13), He is our Living Water (John 4:10), and we can come to Him and “take the free gift of the water of life” (Rev 22:17).  Christ is the center of all things, he is “before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Col 1:17)  “All things were created by Him and for Him.” (Col 1:16) 

False teachings forget these few things.  False teachings seek to add to Christ (supplement) and seek more in fulfilling us spiritually.  We “have been given fullness in Christ” (Col 2:10), which means we are complete and need nothing else to bring us closer to Christ.  It is Christ in us (Col 1:27) that we must remember when we seek to draw closer.  We don’t need any “add on,” philosophy or worldly set of rules.  It is in Christ that we have been given “all spiritual blessings” (Eph 1:3). 

Some have mentioned that what was going on in Colossae was a mixture of religious and philosophical ideas creating a “mix of two or more religions.” This is known as syncretism. (Moo 57)  I believe this is the best answer to the question of why these false teachings were being propagated.   The mixture of Jews and Gentiles—Judaism, and Greek religion, philosophy with the introduction of Christianity would cause confusion in trying to bring others out of the “old way” and into a “new way”.  How do we draw close to God in light of all we already know?  What else must there be?  Is that all I have to do?

Paul’s main focus is the Supremacy of Christ in meeting every need.  The false teachings in which I am about to go over have been said to be “incipient Gnosticism” (Moo 53) or an early form before the coherent system arose in the second century.  But it is better to say that in the day of Colossians these teachings or thoughts were part of their “intellectual system.” (Moo 53)  If it were purely Gnostic then we would need to explain the Jewish elements in Colossians 2:16-17. 

This is the basic background of Colossians.  Paul is writing to counter the false teachings that were being propagated.  His central focus is on Christ and how Christ is Supreme in every area including spiritual “fullness”. 

What were those false teachings?  Paul addresses the following with the premise of the Supremacy of Christ.  The focus in battling false teachings is “Christological.”  Paul takes Christ, before addressing the issues, and puts Christ at the “head of the body” (Col 2:19), delivering a powerful argument that Christ is sufficient for ever spiritual need.  Ephesians addresses that we have every spiritual blessing in Christ, why not every need (Ephesians 1:3)?

courtesy of Free

courtesy of Free


Paul addresses Christ first because, or to show, there is no need for any alternatives (such as the one listed in Galatians—circumcision).  The following teachings were then unnecessary (see Colossians 2:8-23):

1.       Hollow and deceptive philosophy (Col 2:8)

Philosophy suggests some type of coherent system of beliefs but the area is not addressed except that it is empty and deceiving to the Colossians.

2.       A human tradition (Col 2:8,22)

This is not passed down by Christ, and no specific tradition addressed because this is associated with point # 1 (philosophy).  This seemed to accentuate the human side and not Christ or the Scriptures.  This philosophy was based on “a human tradition”

3.       The principles of this world (Col 2:8)

This philosophy was linked to tradition (human based) which was related to worldly principles.

4.       Not Christ based (Col 2:8)

Not dependant of Christ.  This is the final straw that Paul shows that their false teaching was not based on a Superior Being—Christ

Note: Take special note that these first four (actually 2-4) are all interrelated.  Numbers 2-4 explain how this philosophy was being propogated.

Philosophy was hollow and deceptive because it is based on a human tradition,  carried the principles of the world, and not based off of Christ. 

2Peter 2:1 says:

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them–bringing swift destruction on themselves.

There are those who do these things and today we can see humanistic ways being introduced into our Churches.  We must be aware of how these are supplementing Christ which doubts God’s ability to provide everything we need—physical and spiritual. 

Taking a look at Col 2:9, Paul compares hollow (emptiness) and fullness (verses 8 and 9).  Colossians 2:11-15 then could be pointing out that what we have in Christ is better and different than what the worldly philosophy gives.

Based on the EMPTY and FULL comparison Paul could be pointing us to this:

1.       Circumcision – not by human means – Better SUFFICIENT in Christ

2.       Principles – cancelled written code – No POWER and AUTHORITY other than Christ (BETTER)

We are dependent on something better!  What then is hollow and deceptive is outside of Christ which can never bring fullness!


Continuing on with the false teachings:

5.       Religious observances –eating and drinking (Colossians 2:16)

Did not draw one closer to Christ because Christ basically declared all foods clean in Mark 7-18-19.  We also see this same theme wrapped up on Acts 10:1-16.

Festivals, new moon, Sabbath – Cancelled written Code (Col 2:14; Eph 2:15)

These there typical and Jewish in nature (Col 2:17)

6.       Humility (Colossians 2:18)

This is “false” because they “delighted in” it.  If one takes delight in practicing, it cannot be genuine and becomes pride. (Precept Austin)

Although we are to be humble, it must not be false.  Gaining humility before God was typically related to fasting or linked to it.  This was outward and others could see which gets others to see we are “lowering ourselves before our God.”

To do this is false and besides Christ said that we are not to let others know you are fasting (Matthew 6:16).

7.       Worship of Angels (Colossians 2:18)

As opposed to worshipping the Head – Christ who is Supreme (Colossians 1:15)  (See Revelation 19:10; 22:8)

The worshipping of angels sought to fulfill the area between them and God.  It was their belief that there was an evil barrier that prevented them getting to God and gain spiritual fullness (completeness).  Christ is superior in the fact that He broke every barrier to gain salvation.  John MacArthur writes concerning this same belief: “They worshipped angels, thinking angelic beings could help them attain salvation; Paul wrote that believers are complete in Christ.” (MacArthur 9)

This also accentuated spiritual beings over Christ which gives Paul’s argument even more power.

8.       Visions –they have seen (Colossians 2:18)

These visions may have come as a result of the ascetic practices – self-denial, religious disciplines, plus the worshipping of angels, and false humility

9.       Propagation of Various rules (Colossians 2:20-22)

These were the principles of the world: don’t touch, taste, handle

Worldly things perish based on human commands and teachings as opposed to Christ’s commands and teachings.

Paul compares dying with principles and Alive to heavenly things (Does chapter 3 start these heavenly things?)


Numbers 5 through 9 are interrelated because they lose connection with the Head (Colossians 2:19) whereby all things hold together. 

Practicing these things bring pride—unspiritual mind puffs up (Colossians 2:18).  We feel prideful in what “we are doing” to be complete in Christ.  Paul had to meet them head on to show who does all the work.  Paul’s point in declaring the supremacy of Christ was so “they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ…so that no one may deceive [them]…by fine-sounding arguments.” (Colossians 2:2,4)  These heresies/false teachings, sought to displace Christ from His rightful place as Head. 

Overall these false teachings is a philosophy that was empty and deceitful, it was not based on Christ but on worldly ideas and wisdom in which true wisdom only comes from Christ (1Corinthians 1:20-21; 2:1-16). 

This is why Paul then gives the comparison of empty and full (Colossians 2:8-9)…we have fullness but in worldly ideas/philosophy there is emptiness.

There is also the idea that fullness can only be achieved in adding to Christ.  The best spiritual experience can only be achieved (be complete) when we add these things to our lives.  Christ alone was not enough. 

The Christological center of this book is so focused, that Paul uses it as a counter to all the false teachings to show that when we orient our lives “in Christ” living becomes complete (full) whereas living in worldly philosophy and religiosity can only bring emptiness. 

Proof is in that law is now cancelled (Colossians 2:15—disarmed shows the depth of removal…totally stripped away), no other power and authority is over Christ—He is the Head (Colossians 2:9-10), and Christ is the exact representation of Christ and firstborn (Colossians 2:15-20). 

Final Thoughts:  Any teaching that comes along to doubt Christ’s sufficiency and superiority for salvation, keeping salvation, growth and final salvation falls under the class as a false teaching.  Doubting Christ’s fullness is paramount to what is/was going on to supplement Christ in Colossians, but as Ephesians states that we have every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3; Colossians 1:19 fullness dwell—Deity)

 NOTE: The above list of false teachings are mostly derived directly from Douglas Moo’s commentary, however I have modified and excluded some to change what I believe to be how Paul brings the discussion to the forefront.  For example, I combine numbers 1-4 in Col. 2:8, because it is one sentence in the NIV (1984).  I took Paul to be stating a breakdown of the term “philosophy”.

Works Cited:

MacArthur, Jr., John. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Colossians and Philemon. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1992. Print.

Moo, J., Douglas. The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon: The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Erdmans Publishing Co., 2008. Print.

Austin, Precept. “Colossians 2:18-19.” Colossians 2:18-19 Commentary. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2013.

About Ernest Grogg

First and foremost I am married to Olesya and looking forward to the rest of our lives together. Marriage is a journey and it is interesting and fun. Saved at the age of 25 and while salvation has been a challenge, God has always been faithful.

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