Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Paul Against the Heretics

"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother" (Colossians 1:1).

Because Colossians deals with heresy, we shall constantly take note of how Paul’s statements in this letter strike against heresies that existed in his day, and that still exist in ours. He began by saying that he was an apostle of Christ Jesus. Christ is Greek for “Messiah.” Paul claimed that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah predicted by the Old Testament, and thus contradicts the Jews who denied this.

He stated that he was an apostle, someone sent by God Himself to proclaim Christ Jesus. Many in Paul’s day said, “We like Jesus, but we don’t accept you, Paul.” Many in the liberal churches today say the same thing. Long ago this heresy was answered by the church Fathers. Those who pit Paul against Jesus are really pitting Paul against Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Jesus commissioned, taught, and inspired Paul in the same way He commissioned, taught, and inspired the Gospel writers. They stand or fall together.

In verse 3, Paul says that God is the Father (in a unique sense) of the Master, Jesus the Messiah (the “Lord Jesus Christ”). The Judaizers tended to deny that Jesus was uniquely the Son of God, and in the second century we find the descendants of the Judaizers, called Ebionites, denying the deity of Christ. The second-century Gentile Gnostics followed the same tendency, maintaining that each of us could be just as much the son of God as Jesus was. He was only the pioneer of our own deification, said the Gnostics. What Paul wrote here struck against both the Judaizers (the Jewish proto-Gnostics) and the later Gentile Gnostics.

In verses 4–5, Paul mentioned their faith, hope, and love. He said that love results in good works to the saints, and this strikes against the heretic in this way: The Gnostic-type of heretic is always concerned with himself and his mystical experience. He does not manifest servant love to the brethren.

In verse 5 Paul said that their faith and love sprang out of their hope. In the Bible, hope is not just a wish; rather, it is a sure and certain confidence in God’s promises. The essence of heresies is to deny the Word of God. Paul encouraged the Colossians to cling to the hope found in the Bible, which he had taught them.

Paul did not think it was “unloving” to point out the serious errors of these heretics because he was consumed with the glory of Christ and filled with a protecting love for the church. If you are offended at what some call Paul’s “critical spirit,” think through the matter and ask God to revise your perspective on His truth.