Colossians 2:5-8 Firmly rooted or strangely deluded?

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Bible Studies in Colossians

Colossians 2:5-8 Firmly rooted or strangely deluded?

by I Gordon

The previous study looked at the 'Divine Treasure Hunt' and summed up the theme of the book of Colossians. Paul wrote the letter to do his best to explain our standing, our security, our assurance, our hope... in Christ Jesus! Why was he doing this? Well, because firstly there is no better or greater theme in the entire Bible. And secondly, and this leads on to this study's message, the enemy was using others to try and lure the believers at Colossae away from this Christ centered theme through deception and delusion.

So that's why this study is called ' Firmly rooted or strangely deluded?' We will read 5 verses & comment on 4. Let's read.

Col 2:4-8 'I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument. (5) For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ. (6) Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, (7) having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. (8) See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.

This passage starts and ends with warnings about deception. It starts with 'I say this so that no one will delude (or deceive) you' and closes with 'see to it that no one takes you captive through empty deception'. And yet sandwiched in between is the antidote for such deception. The good thing about the Bible writers and Paul in particular, is that they always tell you what to watch out for as well as what to hold onto. Unfortunately, many in the Church today see the former as 'too negative' and only talk about what they want to talk about. This is scary for both the shepherds and the sheep because deception, both then and now, is rampant. From the start of the Biblical record (Gen 3) until the end (Rev 20) the enemy has worked tirelessly to deceive the object of God's focus - mankind. Yet one period of time is specifically set apart in the Bible as being unlike all others in terms of deception and that is the days leading up to the return of Jesus Christ. So if we believe we are in the last days, and both Bible prophecy and current events around the globe would point to that being true I believe, then we can expect the winds of deception to be progressively wound up to gale force. Jesus Himself, when talking about the signs leading up to His return, spoke about deception 3 times more than any other sign. So let's look at the first verse.

Beware the 'smooooth' talkers!

Col 2:4  I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument. 

So what did Paul say so that no one may delude us? He said this as mentioned in the last study -  'We should have a full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God's mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.' 

If all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Christ, as we saw in the divine treasure hunt last time, then the enemy will do all he can to get our eyes of Jesus and onto other things. That is why Paul wrote to the Corinthians and said '  But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. (2 Cor. 11:3)'  

'Persuasive arguments' or "Fine-sounding arguments" as other translations say are the problem. There are lots of traps even within 'Christendom' and the problem is that so often things sound good. All sorts of people are saying all sorts of contradictory things and yet they can all present it in a way that sounds like the truth. This was Paul's concern for this church. It is a major problem for all Christians. The word translated 'delude' (or 'deceive' in the NIV) is interesting. The Greek word is 'paralog’zomai' - 'para' meaning aside, 'logizomai' meaning reasoning. So it literally means to 'reason along side'. So if truth is the target, Paul was scared of those who come pointing to something to the side of it and subtly led you away. The scary thing though is that those that are deceived think they are right! Truth and error can look very much alike to the untrained eye, but one is a worthless forgery, a counterfeit.  [1]  It looks close to the real thing, it sounds close to the real thing, it can be reasoned and persuasive - but the end goal always leads you further and further away. So Paul was concerned.  [2] 

The first wall of defence: Fellowship (I get by with a little help from my friends) 

(5) For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.

Paul, though he feared the influence of the false teachers and Gnostics that had come to the Church at Colossae, was still able to rejoice that all in all they were standing firm. He rejoiced in their discipline (or 'order' as in other translations) and stability of their faith. While it doesn't come out in the English translation, the two terms used here translated discipline and orderly are both military terms  [3]  . This is a lot clearer in the Amplified Bible which states:

 Col 2:5 For though I am away from you in body, yet I am with you in spirit, delighted at the sight of your [standing shoulder to shoulder in such] orderly array and the firmness and the solid front and steadfastness of your faith in Christ [that [5] leaning of the entire human personality on Him in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness]. 

So Paul was pleased to see that they were standing firm against the attacks, but also, and most importantly, they weren't standing alone. There was a solid front, with each believer standing shoulder to shoulder that together formed an unbroken line that couldn't be breached. It is a great picture. Unfortunately the opposite is also true. For believers who aren't fellowshipping and standing alongside other believers, it is easier for them to be picked off.  [4]  Can you remember what was spoken in the Old Testament about Amalek, Israel's enemy? If so it gives a good picture of the enemy's ways today:

 Deu 25:17-18 Remember what Amalek did to you on the way when you had come forth from Egypt, (18) How he did not fear God, but when you were faint and weary he attacked you along the way and cut off all the stragglers at your rear. 

So Amalek tried to pick off those that were getting tired and were starting to be separated at the rear of the group. So it is today. Hence the great need to stand 'shoulder to shoulder' with other believers! That's the first antidote to deception.

The second wall of defence: Dependence and Christ Focus 

(6) Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him

This verse contains a wonderfully simple yet important principle for Christian living. As you received the Lord Jesus, keep walking and living in Him. So how did you receive the Jesus Christ into your life? First you saw your need. I was deeply convicted of my need of salvation before becoming a Christian. You knew there wasn't anything you could do to save yourself - but you had heard the message that salvation is a gift of God by grace, received through faith. But you also were aware that Jesus was coming to be your Lord, to call the shots and that you were consenting to walk in His way, even if that means walking the narrow road. So as you received Him, keep going! Keep your eyes on Him not man. Keep looking to His grace by faith, not your own strength or will power. Keep walking as you began  [5]  . It is hard to divert to delude a man that is dependant and focused on the Lord Jesus. It is hard to turn him aside to other paths.

The third wall of defence: Firm roots 

(7) having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed...

Paul uses two different metaphors in this verse. One is from the world of agriculture, the second from the construction site. He speaks of being 'firmly rooted' and then 'build up'. Both are important but the second depends on the first. The building up of our lives depends on a proper foundation or, in the analogy of a tree, having well established roots. To avoid deception we want to be 'firmly rooted' in the truth of God's word and also established in the reality of His love. The Greek word for 'rooted' used here is 'Rhizo' and is only used on one other place in the New Testament. Can anyone think of any other place where it says we should be rooted in something? Answer in the small print!  [6]  For roots to be established however, there needs to be an element of difficulty so that we, like a fruitful tree, will send our roots out deep.  [7]  The winds will come both in the natural and the spiritual. Scripture tells not to be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine and the deceitful scheming and trickery of men (Eph 4:14). It speaks also of the winds in terms of trials that come to batter the house. But if you have built on the right foundation, that is Christ Himself, you will stand.

The fourth and final wall of defence: Thankfulness 

(7) and overflowing with gratitude (or thankfulness)

Plenty could be said here but I'll keep it brief. It is easy for the enemy to work with an embittered or grumbling soul. It is easy for him to deceive further, casting doubt on the goodness of God with such people. But it isn't easy for the enemy to get far with a person whose heart is thankful and overflowing with gratitude! Learn and follow the example of Matthew Henry, the Bible commentator. He was robbed for the first time in his latter life. He wrote about it in his journal. What would you write in such circumstances? Would you be miffed or bitter? Would you be annoyed that God didn't protect you from losing your money and experiencing that? Henry wrote the following :  'I thank thee first because I was never robbed before. Second, because although they took my purse, they did not take my life. Third, because although they took my all, it was not much. And fourth because it was I who was robbed and not I who robbed.' 


Deception is only going to increase. I'm not trying to be optimistic or pessimistic. Just realistic. Jesus and the Bible make it quite clear that things will go that way as we approach the return of Jesus Christ. It's just the way it has to go as the enemy and man put forth their final rebellion against God in the last days. We need roots that go down deep into His word, do we not? We need roots that can go down to draw from His strength and life all that we need for these difficult days.

And we need each other. When we stand shoulder to shoulder with other believers, when we present that united front and keep walking in the same faith that saved us, we will stand fast in any storm. We don't just want to start this race well. We want to run well in the middle and also have a strong finish! Here is the way:

 Jer 17:7-8 But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. (8) He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." 

[1] ↩ Cults work like this. They often use the same terminology but subtly change the meanings of the words. I remember years ago a friend telling me that some Mormons came a-knocking and as he got talking to them they were saying all the right things, talking about being saved by grace etc. When he said something, they agreed with him. Yet underneath it all is a very different message. Well... two weeks ago, on Saturday morning, as I was thinking about this message, I too heard the knock on my door. As I opened it there were two finely dressed gentlemen, Jehovah witnesses, probably late 40's or 50's who said 'Good morning, as part of our ministry we are talking to people in your area about peace. There seems to be a lot of things happening in the world at the moment, a lot of conflict and trouble, and we can't seem to find that peace that we all need. Do you have any thoughts on how man can find peace?' 

Do I have any thoughts on how man can find peace? Now, there are 101 questions that they could have asked me that I wouldn't be of much help for. If they had knocked and said our car has just broken down across the street - the electrics are all good but it just won't start. Do you know anything about that that could help? Um... no. Wait... uh yeah, no. 101 questions that I would be completely useless with. But, it's not every day that someone knocks on your door and asks if you have any thoughts on how man can find peace! So I said 'Yes'. 'Yes I do.' And he said 'would you like to share them?' To which I replied 'yes... yes I would.' And so I gave my testimony and we actually had a very useful and interesting discussion. But here's the thing - they try to use the same language and make it sound as if they believe the same as you. They tried to assure me that they too believe that Jesus is the Son of God, so I said, 'good, in what way is He the Son of God?' And then we entered into a prolonged period where I looked at them, they looked at me, but nobody said anything. After a period of awkwardness I tried to rephrase saying 'what do you think it means that Jesus is the Son of God?' Again, they said nothing. I said to my mother afterwards I felt like I'd asked them the square root of 37,543. The fact is, as we got into it a little more, they believe that Jesus is a god with a little 'g' and was the first created being by Jehovah (and official JW doctrine says that Jesus is also Michael the Archangel). So I stressed quite a few times with them what Jesus said 'Unless you believe that I AM, you will die in your sins!' I actually felt sorry for them. They were nice men. They seemed genuine... but genuinely deceived. One had left the Roman Catholic Church and joined the JW's. I can understand why someone would leave the Roman Catholic Church but then joining the JW's is jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire!

[2] ↩ I know this looks long but it's worth the read. It is an example from the book Pilgrims Progress about deception and two roads looking like the straight and narrow way.
'So they went on and Ignorance followed behind. They continued until they came to a place where another path joined in with the straight way. Now this new alternative way seemed as straight as the road to which they had become accustomed. Because of this the pilgrims were undecided as to which way they should take, for each seemed as straight as the other. So they stood still and pondered. And as they were wondering which way to take, a black man, dressed in a light coloured robe, approached them; he then asked the pilgrims why they were standing there. They explained that they were going to the Celestial City, but did not know which of the two ways to now take. 'Follow me,' said the man, 'for it is the way in which I am now going.' So they followed him along the new way that had joined the old way, though this new path gradually veered away from the Celestial City so that they came to be facing the opposite direction. Now as time passed by, before they awakened to their guide's deception, he led both pilgrims into a net that completely closed itself around them. As a result they became so thoroughly entangled that they did not know what to do. Then the white robe fell off the black man's back so that the captives began to understand what had happened. Therefore they lay crying for some time because they did not know how to escape. CHRISTIAN: 'Now I understand that I have been caught in an error. Did not the Shepherds exhort us to beware of the flatterers? Today we have found to be true that which the wise man has declared, 'A man that flatters his neighbour also spreads a net for his feet.' HOPEFUL: 'They also gave us written instructions showing directions along the way so as to ensure our safe arrival; but we have forgotten to study them, and so have not kept ourselves from the paths of the destroyer.' At this point David was much wiser than we for he said, 'Concerning the deeds of men, by the word of your lips I have kept myself from the paths of the destroyer.' So they continued to bemoan themselves while lying enmeshed in the net. At last they noticed a Shining One coming toward them with a small whip made of thin cord in his hand. When he had drawn near to the place where they were ensnared, he asked them from where they had come. They told him that they were poor pilgrims going to Mount Zion, but had been led out of their way by a black man clothed in white. 'He advised us,' they said, 'to follow him since he professed to be going to Mount Zion as well.' Then the Shining One with the whip responded, 'This person was the Flatterer, a false apostle, who has transformed himself into an angel of light.' So he tore open the net and let the men out. Then he ordered them, 'Follow me so that I may redirect you back to the way again.' So he led them back to the old straight way which they had left to follow the Flatterer. Then he asked them, 'Where did you stay last night?' They replied, 'With the Shepherds on the Delectable Mountains.' Then he asked them. 'Did they give you written instructions that included a map for the way ahead?' They replied, 'Yes.' But the Shining One pressed further, 'When you came to a halt here, did you refer to the map for guidance?' They answered, 'No.' So he asked them, 'Why?' They replied, 'We forgot.' Then he asked, 'Did the Shepherds exhort you to beware of the Flatterer?' They answered, 'Yes, but we did not imagine that this fine-spoken man could possibly be he.' Then I saw in my dream that the Shining One commanded the pilgrims to lie down; having done this, he severely chastised them so as to teach them the good way in which they should walk; and while he was whipping them he declared, 'As many as I love, these I also rebuke and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.' Having done this, he directed them to be on their way and pay particular attention to the other directions of the Shepherds. So thanking him for all of his kindness, they very softly proceeded along the right way, while singing:

Come hither, you that walk along the way; See how the pilgrims fare, that go astray!
They are caught in an entangling net, 'Cause they good counsel lightly did forget;
'tis true, they rescued were, but yet you see, they're scourged as well; let this your caution be.'

[3] ↩ Robertson's Word Pictures states:
Your order
(tēn taxin). The military line (from tassō), unbroken, intact. A few stragglers had gone over to the Gnostics, but there had been no panic, no breach in the line. Steadfastness (stereōma). From stereoō (from stereos ) to make steady, and probably the same military metaphor as in taxin just before. The solid part of the line which can and does stand the attack of the Gnostics.

[4] ↩ As an example, I heard last week about a friend from a few years back, a solid Christian, who moved to a different town and hadn't been fellowshipping at a Church but starting just getting his teaching off the internet. He got interested in some of the 'Emerging Church' teachers who often question things like the reality of Hell, salvation in Jesus alone and some promote Universalism - that everyone is saved in the end. They usually do it all subtly though, without making any concrete statements, so that they can't be nailed down. But everything seems designed to get you to question what the Bible actually says and in it you can hear the voice of the enemy still saying, as he did with Eve in the beginning, 'did God really say...?' So I had heard that this guy had been on this road for a few years. Then last week I heard a report that he isn't sure about Jesus anymore and is getting into the teachings of Buddha. These things don't happen all of a sudden. It is a gradual turning normally.

What happened to Christian when he was on the road to the Celestial City from footnote 2? He came to a fork where two roads separated and both looked like the straightway. Having been tricked by a man of dark countenance, though dressed in white apparel, he looked not at the map he was given but listened to the so-called friendly words of this man and followed him. But this road that had looked straight, turned, by degrees... slowly, but surely, until they were no longer walking in the right direction towards the Celestial City. This is what has happened to my friend that I speak of here. This is what can happen to any of us because traps and deception abound and none of us are so great and mighty that we should think it can't happen to us. But there are antidotes, there are defences. We've seen in this verse that Paul was pleased because the believers were standing shoulder to shoulder in a supportive and united line that couldn't be breached!

[5] ↩ Ray Stedman writes on verses 5-6: 'I would urge you to memorize those verses. Here is a guide to an exciting, zestful life: "Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him." Obey him, follow him, converse with him, draw upon his grace, lean on him, look to him for comfort. That is how to "continue to live in him."

[6] ↩ Eph 3:16-21 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, (17) so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, (18) may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, (19) and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (20) Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, (21) to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. 

[7] ↩ Last year I planted a persimmon tree at my house. This year, only last month, I reaped the benefits of my labour with an abundant harvest. My little tree produced an impressive... one persimmon. I think I have mentioned before the advice I was given when I bought the tree... I was told that I shouldn't plant it in full compost or potting mix only for its roots will grow to the edge of the rich composted soil and no further. I was also told not to over-water it. In other words, if it can get what it needs easily, in comfort, and without putting in much effort, that's what it will do and it will go no further. I remember thinking when the man told me this that 'my little tree is much like me.' Shallow roots are all very well while the sun is out and the birds are chirping but what about when the winds come? The tree may look great above the soil sitting in its compost rich soil and the abundant supply of all that it needs, but when the winds come, and they will come, they will expose that lazy tree for its lack below the surface.