“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority” (Colossians 2:8-10). 

False teaching and heresy had infiltrated the church at Colossae just like it has the contemporary Western “Church”. For the Colossian church this deception seems to have been some form of Gnosticism, Jewish legalism, or asceticism – or maybe a combination of all three. No matter what this heresy was, like all false teaching, it was inherently man-centered; man-made in its origin and man-exalting in its application. 

Such is the case with the current “Word of Faith” or “Prosperity Gospel” theologies. These false teachings really have little to do with the Word, self-denying faith, cross-bearing obedience, or spiritual prosperity (the only form of prosperity spoken of in the New Testament). And these teachings are not the true Gospel! It takes little discernment to see that such doctrines are created by man, for man, and glorify man (read 2 Peter 2 to see how clearly and powerfully Peter exposes those who distort God’s Word for their own selfish purposes). Like the church at Colossae (and the Pharisaical religion of Jesus’ day) we see the focus shifted away from God to personalities, power, programs, and possessions. I cringe nearly every time I turn on “Christian” TV and see the exaltation of men and the attempted manipulation of God to get what man wants or “deserves”. We have made God our servant and us and our wants our god. 

Interestingly, Paul did not enter into a debate or go into a lengthy apologetic to combat these deceptions. He did not spend his efforts and energy with a detailed refutation of the false, human, worldly philosophies and deceits that endangered these believers. So what is Paul’s antidote to such deception? He points them to Jesus; the person, presence, and power of Jesus! Essentially he says these views are not of Christ or about Christ, therefore they are false. Instead of debunking these myths with a point-by-point analysis of their flaws, Paul implicitly directs us to look at Jesus in all of His glory, truth, and authority. What was Paul’s argument against the worldly deceptions that make us vulnerable to moving away from the truth in Christ? Christ Himself! He pointed to and extolled the matchless virtues of Jesus!   

Paul is not warning against all philosophy. What He is saying is to flee from anything that undermines, supplements, or distracts us from Jesus,  His work, and His truth. Why? Because Jesus is truly enough and all we need. The NASB sheds light on this by translating the first part of verse 10 as “in Him you have been made complete.” Now we get to the heart of the Colossian deception (and often the deception in the contemporary church) – there is something else, a replacement of or an addition to Jesus, that will make us and our spiritual journey complete. And this is the fundamental basis for all false teaching  – it takes the focus off of Christ. Paul says, ‘stick to Jesus and Him alone to find true fullness and completeness.’ ‘This thought points us back to the 3rd verse of this same chapter where he describes Christ as: “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” 

To further emphasize just how Christ completes us, let’s see some other New Testament occurrences of this same Greek word that is often translated “filled”.  This word describes followers of Jesus as: 

  • Filled with the Holy Spirit – Ephesians 5:18
  • Filled with joy and peace – Romans 15:13
  • Filled with goodness and knowledge – Romans 15:14
  • Filled with the fruit of righteousness – Philippians 1:11

So let us be vigilant in guarding ourselves against deceptive, man-made philosophies; that is, anything that undermines the supremacy of Christ and draws us away from our utter dependence on Him, His grace, and our completeness in Him. Let us be vocal about any idea or view that suppresses our absolute subjection to and adoration of Jesus . Let us identify false teaching, denounce it (see 1 Timothy 1:3-7), and deliver those trapped in its evil clutches. While always pointing people to majesty of Jesus and the true completeness found only in Him.