18 March 2010

Colossians studies 8: one more specific error and response

by Dan Phillips

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.
Paul's stress is on what all Christians have in common. God has poured out all His riches for all His people in Christ. He told all the truth to every person with the goal of presenting every Christian mature in Christ. Any teaching that then comes and makes essential divisions among them violates that rich truth.
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.

Sound familiar?

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donsands said...

Would these so-called teachers also teach that a Christian could become a non-Christian, if he didn't fall into line with their doctrine.

makes me think of the Holiness Pentecostal church I was in for one year, until the Lord helped me leave.

Thanks for the post.

Penn Tomassetti said...

"Sound familiar?"

Yes. Actually, it sounds like every false teacher or "church" out there leading people to their doctrine and their leader, rather than to the fountain and Head, which is Christ alone.

Thanks for making it so clear how Paul was battling false teaching in Colossians.

olan strickland said...

Indeed the upshot is exclusivism which is an unbiblical and ungodly isolationism based on false fundamentals rather than on Christ. This shows up in many forms among many groups today. If one doesn't mindlessly mutter; if one doesn't use KJV only; if one doesn't believe his "pope"; and the list could go on, then he is ruled out.

On the other end of the spectrum are those who have an inclusivism that is an unbiblical and ungodly ecumenism.

Both are an usurpation of Christ's headship and both are false ecclesiology.

This pairs well with Phils post on fundamentalism and evangelicalism.

Five stars!

trogdor said...

Reminds me of the intro to 2 Peter, which is addressed to "those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ". Which is a pretty big statement, coming as it does from the pope himself. Or perhaps this letter is just to the magisterium?

DJP said...

Yeah, Trog, you have to have your special Popevision specs on to see it.

Very apposite passage.

olan strickland said...

Is Trogdor an RC apologist?

Nash Equilibrium said...

Popes, poops. Anyway, yes Dan it does sound familiar to anyone who's accidentally tuned into a Benny Hinn seance!

David Kyle said...

I have to agree with the Burninator. The faith we have is a level playing field and there is only one who is exalted... Christ!

I always view that special knowledge stuff as evidence of the fallen and unsaved nature we see rise up in the Garden of Eden.

BTW, I don't agree about that pope stuff... just don't burn my village!

Brad Williams said...


Don't worry about that mistake thingy. If you do that, then you get to make a 2nd edition. Less time, same book, more goodness, cooler cover! It's win, win, win, win!!

Ken Pulliam said...

Is there a particular reason why the comment section on yesterday's post has been closed?

DJP said...

Beyond the one given in the meta itself? No.

Now, back on topic.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Yeah don't feel bad. I had a book published in 2002 and also learned that the pub's editing process cannot be relied upon fully to catch all errors. Fortunately there weren't that many to catch, but still...

John said...

Extra cool points for the graphic of J. Jonas Jamison.

Mr. Fosi said...

I've been following these posts on Colossians and after I read this latest (and last?) one, I was also reflecting on the exchange in the two recent active threads.

The scripture that rose to the top during this reflection was from 1 Corinthians:

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

[i]"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart."[/i]

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

I wonder if this "folly", this "foolishness" is not only what drives people to deride the good news of Christ crucified for us but could it also be why people feel the need to change the Gospel? To somehow remove the folly without losing the salvation?

Perhaps it isn't only their own unregenerate, fallen and prideful nature but also their desire to somehow obtain just a little bit of what Christ does for us without having to repent... Without having to be regenerated.

Then, when they realize can't take a little for themselves, that you must have all the Gospel or nothing, they turn upon the truth and try to make it untrue. Like the child who enters a contest but doesn't win and claims they never wanted to win anyway; that the contest is stupid.

Strong Tower said...


Ten friends and foes, case you wanted to know.

Centrifuge or centripet a few.

Anonymous said...

A related trend I see in postmodern evangelicalism is not just the advancement of these kind of hyper-gnostic leaders, but also the herds of sheep in the flock out there looking for something more. More than just the gospel, more than just Christ, more than just the word, more than just the apostolic teaching, more than...well, you get it. The narcissistic need to belong to something higher and deeper, something exclusive.

How much success would these gospel-plus type of teachers with promises of belong-to-something-exclusive have if there weren't so many Christians dissatisfied with just Christ and the common standing before God all have through His gospel? Not so much, thinks me.

Mike Erich the Mad Theologian said...

I am convinced that one of the reasons for exclusiveness is there are some groups who feel they are the only ones in whom the Holy Spirit works. Scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit works in all who are genuine Christians (2 Corinthians 3:18) though we have a choice whether we listen to Him in any particular case (Galatians 5:16). But when any group claims they have a formula for obtaining a exclusive claim to the Spirit's working in them they end up dividing the body of Christ into "haves" and "have-nots".

DJP said...

Not so mad, Erich. Nobody has said the (to me) most obvious modern manifestation of this baleful error, but you're very close.

Mike Riccardi said...

Spirit baptism?

olan strickland said...

Henry Blackaby? :)

David Rudd said...

it's those rascally young reformed kids, isn't it?

donsands said...

The Pontiff is the Holy See. And I would guess his Cardinals are next in rank, then the Arch-bishops, then bishops, then monsignors, and finally priests. The Roman Catholics in this world, not all, but many, regard the popes and even priests as superior to us in knowledge.

My Mother-in-law wanted me to go with her to see the priest when i began to share my born again experience. I told her that i'd love to go with my Bible.