Concern, Commendation, and Challenge

Bible Book: Colossians  2 : 4-15
Subject: Faithfulness; Bible Truth; Christian Progress; Christ, Presence of

Colossians 2:4-15

In today’s passage we have both words of warning and words of encouragement—and
we today, like the Colossians of the first century, need both in order to stay on the track
of God’s will.

The mention of “warning” reminds of something I heard just last week. At Prayer
Meeting my wife Connie and I were sitting at the table with a young woman who
teaches second grade in the public school system. This young woman said that recently
one of her second-graders, a little girl, was being aggravated by one of her classmates.
Finally she got really tired of it and said to her classmate, “If you don’t quit I’m going to
call the IRS!” Later the teacher asked her if she knew what the IRS was, and the little
girl didn’t have a clue, but from the way she had heard her parents and other grownups
speak of it, she assumed it must be something fierce!

Well, Paul wasn’t threatening to call the IRS, but he had words of warning nonetheless,
as we shall see in today’s Scripture.

The first thing we see in today’s passage is Paul’s…


Vs 4 “And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.”

There were then, and there are now, purveyors of false religions who use carefully
rehearsed presentations to try persuade people to embrace their ideas and to join their
group. Two such false religious groups who come to mind are the Jehovah’s Witnesses
and the Mormans. Both of these groups use Bible words and phrases, but they use
them in a perverted way, not intended by the inspired writers of Scripture.

Obviously, those specific groups did not exist in Paul’s day, but there were promoters of
equally perverse false doctrines. Paul was concerned that his Christian friends at
Colosse would be confronted by these false teachings, and he is writing to encourage
them to be on the alert and not be persuaded by their seductive arguments.
These groups especially prey upon gullible people who are not well grounded in Biblical
doctrine and thus are easily led astray by their seemingly plausible spiels, by their
smooth, slick talking.

The Secret Service is the federal agency responsible for apprehending counterfeiters. I
am told that they learn to detect counterfeit currency primarily by studying the real thing.
These agents study the feel, the color, and the minute details in the print on real
currency, and thus are able to detect that which is false.

There is a lesson there for you and me. The best way to equip ourselves to detect false
teachings is to study the Word of God regularly and systematically, so that when we
confront false doctrine we will immediately recognize it as contrary to what the Bible
actually says.


Vs 5 “For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying
and beholding your order, and the stedfastness [Greek, “firmness”] of your faith in

Paul nearly always found something to commend in any group to whom he was writing,
and he did so here. He was joyful as he took note of their “order”—a military term
meaning that they were ready and prepared for enemy attacks.

Furthermore, their faith was firm and strong; they knew what they believed, and why
they believed it, and it was founded on God’s Word—in their case, primarily on the Old
Testament, but also on the few New Testament books to which they had access.
In this verse is another lesson for you and me. When you and I are attempting to lead
someone to Christ, or to help a struggling believer, we should always commend things
in that person’s life that are positive—before attempting to point out that which is wrong.
In fact, that is a good principle to put into practice in all relationships—children,
grandchildren, fellow workers, neighbors, fellow church members.


But then, having commended them, Paul goes on to challenge them. First of all, he
challenges them to…

A. Continue vss 6-7

He challenges them not to take for granted their commendable spiritual progress, or to
let up, but to continue moving forward in their spiritual growth. Look at verses 6-7:
Vss 6-7 “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him
[GW translation of verse 6: “You received Christ Jesus the Lord, so continue to live as
Christ’s people]: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have
been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.”

Paul says, “You have been well grounded in your faith, you have been properly taught,
now as you continue to put into practice those truths that have been handed down to
you—let your hearts “abound” [overflow] with thanksgiving.”

Again, a great lesson there for you and me. We should thank God every day for our
blessings—and especially when times are rough, because counting our blessings will help us keep things in perspective and keep us from letting our trials and tribulations defeat us.

The song writer was so “on target” when he wrote:

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Robert E. Bruce tells of walking down a busy street one day and hearing someone
singing. It was a male voice, and the singing sounded joyful. Even above the noise of
the traffic he could hear it, and he began looking for the source. When he located him,
he saw that the man had no legs and was pushing himself along in a wheelchair. Robert
Bruce caught up with him and said to him, "I want you to know, friend, that to hear
singing from a person in your condition gives everyone else a lift." With a grateful smile,
the man said, "When I stopped looking at what I had lost and began concentrating on all
I had left, I found much for which I could rejoice and praise God for.”

Next, Paul speaks a word of…

B. Caution vs 8

Vs 8 “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after
the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”

Even though Paul found them to be well grounded and making spiritual progress, at the
same time he knew that they were not invincible, so he cautions them to keep their
guard up against false teaching based on human philosophy and worldly standards. His
caution here remind us of what he said in 1 Corinthians 10:12: “Wherefore let him
that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”

If you let Satan catch you spiritually napping, he can tear down in a few minutes’ time
what it has taken you years to build up—so always watch and pray.

The next thing Paul addresses is the issue of…

C. Completeness vss 9-10

Vss 9-10 “For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are
complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.”

The implication seems to be that the false teachers he was warning them against were
trying to persuade the Colossian Christians that Jesus was less than divine. But Paul
was emphatically pointing out how wrong those false teachers were. The Greek word
for “Godhead” means “deity.” Paul said, “For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the
Godhead bodily.” Paul was reminding his friends in Colosse, and he was reminding
people of all generations, that Jesus was, and is, fully God.

In the first chapter of John’s gospel Jesus is referred to as “the Word.” John 1:1 says,
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was
God.” In John 14:8-9 we read, “Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father,
and it sufficieth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and
yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the
Father….” In John 10:30 Jesus said, “I and my Father are one.” When Thomas, who
had previously doubted, saw the resurrected Jesus, John 20:28 tells us that “Thomas
answered and said into him, My Lord and my God,” and Jesus said in verse 29:
“Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that
have not seen, and yet have believed.”

When Paul went on to say in verse 10, “And ye are complete in him, which is the
head of all principality and power,” he was saying that because Jesus is fully God
and is the Sovereign of the universe, we who have trusted him as Lord and Savior are
spiritually complete in that Christ alone is the answer to all of our needs. Speaking to
Christians, John 1:16 says that “of his fullness have all we received.”

When I read Paul’s statement, “ye are complete in him,” I think of a visit that Connie
and I had many years ago with Jim Jeffreys, a former standout football player at Baylor
University. Jeffreys was active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and was a much
sought after motivational speaker. He was also a successful business man. When
Connie and I were serving at Hannibal-LaGrange College in Hannibal, Missouri, we
visited Jeffreys in his Kansas City office. He had learned that he had terminal cancer. I
will never forget a statement he made. I don’t whether or not he initiated it, for I have
heard it from others since then—but whether he came up with it or not, it was obvious
that he meant it from the depth of his heart. In telling us about his cancer diagnosis, he
said, “Now that Jesus is all I’ve got, I realize that Jesus is all I need.”

Then Paul challenges his Colossian friends to reflect upon their…

D. Conversion vss11-14

Paul proceeded to remind the Colossians of the miraculous conversion they had
experienced when they placed their faith in Jesus—and he uses several figurative
expressions in making his point.

Vs 11 “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without
hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of

Paul says that unlike the physical procedure of circumcision, Christ performs a spiritual
circumcision, in that he takes away our sins—meaning that he forgives us, removes our
guilt, and gives us a new nature. Psalm 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the
west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.”

Vs 12 “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through
the faith of the operation of God [ESV “through faith in the powerful working of God”],
who hath raised him from the dead."

The context leaves no question but that Paul is speaking figuratively here. He said that
just like in baptism we are buried in the water and then raised out of it, when we place
our faith in Jesus we are “buried” to the old life and “raised to newness of life”—and
that happens by the power of our Lord who was literally buried and then literally raised
from the dead—just as one day we who are Christians will also be physically raised,
unless he comes again while we are still alive, in which case we will be caught up to
meet him in the air.

Vs 13 “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh,
hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;”
Paul says that at one time we were spiritually dead, and had not experienced that
spiritual circumcision referred to in verse 11, meaning the removal of our sins; but now,
through faith in Christ, we have now been made spiritually alive, and our sins have been

One of the grandest words in all the Bible is “forgiven.” Ephesians 1:7 says, “In
whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according
to the riches of his grace.” Psalm 130:3-4: “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark
iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou
mayest be feared.”

Vs 14 “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was
contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.”

Another reference to “blotting” is found in Acts 3:19: “Repent ye therefore, and be
converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall
come from the presence of the Lord;”

Paul Powell tells the following:

The word “blot” means “to erase.” Its meaning goes back to the days when ink
had no acid in it, so it didn’t bite into the paper. It just lay on the page and dried.
In those days, paper was rare and expensive. When you had used it once, you
didn’t throw it away. You used it again and again. To erase the ink and make the
paper usable again, one needed only to take a damp sponge and wipe across the
page. It would moisten and loosen the ink and remove every trace of it from the
paper. The word “blotted” describes that process of erasing. And, that’s what God
promises to do with our sins.

What most people need today is not to turn over a new leaf in life. They need to
have the old leaves wiped clean. God can do that. He has a big eraser and his eraser leaves no smudges. If you thirst for forgiveness and cleansing, I’ve got good news about your sin. Came came to rub it out, not to rub it in. (Paul W. Powell, If the Dead Could Speak, p. 27)

In all likelihood, the “ordinances” refer to the ten commandments, which had been
“handwritten” by God himself on Mt. Sinai; these ordinances were “contrary to us” in
that we were not able to keep them perfectly, and thus we were condemned—but on the
cross Jesus removed that condemnation and set us free.

William MacDonald says: “Paul’s language here very likely refers to an ancient practice
of nailing the written evidence of a cancelled debt in a public place as a notice to all that
the creditor had no more claim on the debtor.” (Believer’s Bible Commentary, William
MacDonald, p. 2004)

Finally, Paul speaks of our Lord’s…

E. Conquest vs 15

Vs 15 “And having spoiled [literally, “stripped”] principalities and powers [having
conquered and disarmed evil forces], he made a shew of them openly, triumphing
over them in it.

The language here suggests a conquering military leader stripping captive enemies of
all their armaments, and leading a public parade through the streets, dramatically
demonstrating his victory. By his death and resurrection, Jesus conquered and totally
disarmed Satan, and won the victory over sin and death.

Because he was victorious, we who trust him can also be victorious, whatever our
circumstances might be at any given time, if we call on him daily for grace and strength.
1 Corinthians 15:57: “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through
our Lord Jesus Christ.”

If you are a Southern Gospel fan, you owe a debt of gratitude to Eugene M. Bartlett, Sr.,
who was one of the founding fathers of Southern Gospel Music. He was born in 1885 in
Missour. Saved at an early age, he devoted his life to spreading the gospel through
music. He traveled all over the Southern part of the United States holding music
schools, each school running for about a week. Bartlett founded the Hartford Music
Company in 1918, and within the first year of business he sold 15,000 copies of his
hymnbook—which was impressive for that day and time, when they didn’t have the
means of distribution that we have today. Numerous musicians were given their first
opportunity by Eugene Bartlett. Not only was he an outstanding music teacher, but he
also edited a music magazine, and composed many hymns and gospel songs.

Fairly late in his career, during a music school in Nashville, he said to his students one
morning, “I have just begun writing a new hymn, and I have completed the first verse. I
would like us to sing it”—and the class sang the first verse of “Victory in Jesus.” That was the very first time it was ever sung by anyone. He told them he was still working on the remaining verses, and that he wanted the song to contain the complete gospel—and I believe he achieved that goal. The next day he introduced the second verse, and the class sang it. One verse at a time he introduced it to the students in that music school, until finally it was completed.

In 1939 he suffered a stroke, which left him partially paralyzed and unable to perform or
travel. He spent the last two years of his life bedridden, and died in 1941 at the age of
56. In 1973 he was posthumously inducted into the Gospel Music Association’s Hall of
Fame in Nashville. It is said that during those bleak two years he never wavered, and
that he continued to exhibit in his life that same spirit that can be sensed in the words of
“Victory in Jesus.” That great hymn is sung, year after year, by millions in worship services and has been recorded by some of the biggest names in gospel music.

Bartlett wrote numerous songs, but “Victory in Jesus” has become his legacy—and the
victory of which he speaks in that song can be experienced by anyone who is anchored
trustfully and obediently to the Christ.

Acts 16:31: “…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved….”

Acts 20:21, “…repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” Luke 13:3: “…except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”

Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Galatians 5:16: “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”

I heard an old, old story,
how a Savior came from glory,
How He gave His life on Calvary,
to save a wretch like me;
I heard about His groaning,
of His precious blood's atoning,
Then I repented of my sins
and won the victory.
Oh victory in Jesus, my Savior, forever!
He sought me and bought me
with His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him,
and all my love is due Him-
He plunged me to victory
beneath the cleansing flood.
I heard about His healing,
of His cleansing pow'r revealing,
How He made the lame
to walk again and caused the blind to see;
And then I cried, "Dear Jesus,
come and heal my broken spirit"

And somehow Jesus came

and brought to me the victory.
Oh victory in Jesus, my Savior, forever!
He sought me and bought me
with His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him,
and all my love is due Him-
He plunged me to victory
beneath the cleansing flood.
I heard about a mansion
He has built for me in glory,
And I heard about the streets of gold
beyond the crystal sea;
About the angels singing
and the old redemption story-
And some sweet day  I'll sing up there
the song of victory.
Oh victory in Jesus, my Savior, forever!
He sought me and bought me
with His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him,
and all my love is due Him-
He plunged me to victory
beneath the cleansing flood.