I have this nightmare that when my first book is about to go to press, and is out of my hands, uneditable, final version, goodbye, about to be seen by however-many friends and foes...
...and suddenly I realize some massive gaffe! Either a reference I meant to double-check, or a statement I meant to clarify or qualify ("Idiot! It was Van Leeuwen! Not vanGemeren!"), or what have you. But — and here we have the saddest two words in the English language — TOOOOOO LAAAAAAAATE.
Well, thank God it's not that way with blogging. And so, HSAT, I have one more late-inclusion I should have listed in the false teacher's teaching. This, however, is not so much a specific teaching as it is the upshot, the cumulative effect, of his teaching.
That effect: exclusivism.
This would have shown itself as an “us-them” mentality vis-a-vis other Christians. For instance, recall the issue of being judged and ruled out in chapter 2:16, 18 —
Therefore, stop letting someone judge you in eating and in drinking, and in respect to a festival or new moon or sabbath day.... Stop letting anyone rule you out, delighting in humiliation and worship of the angels, going into detail about things he has experienced, being inflated without cause by the mind of his flesh....You see, this false doctrine created a sub-class (or perhaps I should say "hyper-class") of Christians. With that teaching, you have (A) the plain old, garden-variety, just-saved Christians, who just have Jesus and the Gospel and the word of Christ through His apostles; and then, above them, you have (B) this elite group of The Arrived. They have special knowledge, and live by special rules. They have access to special information granted through the special experiences that their leader had brought them exclusively, hot-off-the-presses from Heaven.
With that in mind, look afresh at 1:5-6 —
...of which you heard before in the word of the truth, the good news, which has come to you, just as also in all the world it is bearing fruit of itself and growing just as also among you, from the day in which you heard it and came to know fully the grace of God in truth.Do the truths Paul subtly yet insistently emphasizes stand out now? Paul asserted boldly that the Colossians had already heard and believed the one and only saving Gospel. This was the same Gospel that had gone unaltered throughout the civilized world with equal saving and lifegiving effect. They had real, accurate knowledge of God's grace in that Gospel. There was neither place nor need for an update or improvement.
Another way Paul responded to this exclusivism was in his repeated use of the word translated "all" and "every":
- 1:4 having heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and the love which you have for all the holy ones,
- 1:28 whom we are proclaiming by confronting every man, and by teaching every man in all wisdom, in order that we might present every man mature in Christ;
- 2:9-10 because in Him is permanently dwelling all the fullness of Deity bodily, and you stand filled full in Him, who is the Head over all rule and authority,
- 2:19 and not holding fast the Head, from whom all the body being supported and knit together through the joints and ligaments is growing with the growth given by God.
Now, note: I say essential. By that I refer to basic vital equipment as Christians, not differing roles or ministries, such as distinguish man from woman, husband from wife, child from parent and so on. Nor do I have in mind varying stages of maturity or knowledge. To be as plain as I can, I am talking about teaching that creates "haves" and "have-nots" among people who are saved in Christ. Paul has no such vision. In common with all the apostles, all Christians without exception are the "haves," and all unbelievers are the "have-nots" (cf. John 3:36; 1 John 5:12).
Another way Paul combats this is by stressing the unity of the body in Christ, a unity vitiated by the exclusivism of the false teacher.
And on top of all these things put on love, which is the unifying bond that leads to maturity. And let the peace of Christ keep ruling in your hearts, unto which also you were called in one body; and become thankful people (Colossians 3:14-15)The tendency of the Gospel is centripetal, that of this false teaching is centrifugal. Actually, though, it also would be centripetal... except that the center would be the false teacher, not Christ. After all, it was his thoughts, his revelations, his experiences, his rules, his special knowledge that they were being made to depend on.