Explain the nature of the “Colossian heresy” as inferred from Paul’s correctives.
The Colossian heresy, as it is called by many, involved many false teachings at the church of Colossae. It was a mix of Jewish legalism, Greek philosophic speculation, and Oriental mysticism. It has been speculated that the location of Colossae played an important part in the mixed character of the false teachings in the church. This may be true since most of the beliefs and features appear later in Gnostic philosophy and in Greek and Oriental mystery religions. Paul uses the epistle of Colossians to combat this heresy and to set the church on the right track.
One can conclude from the counter-emphasis of Paul that the Colossian heresy involved first the diminishing of the person of Christ. Paul countered this false teaching by stressing the preeminence and realness of Christ the person. In Colossians 1:15, Paul says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” (HCSB).
The next issue of the Colossian heresy involves the emphasis on human philosophy. Paul fought the human philosophy which taught that human speculation was divorced from divine revelation. Paul boldly and with accurate precision counteracted these human philosophies with Colossians 2:8, which says, “Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on elemental forces of the world and not based on Christ” (HCSB).
Paul also used Colossians to counteract elements of Judaism. These elements included circumcision, rabbinic traditions, dietary regulations, and Sabbath and festival observations. Paul addressed these problems by enlightening the Colossians on spiritual circumcision and spiritual liberty.
Next Paul addresses problems of false humility and the worship of angels. Those who taught this false humility and angelic worship assumed that the angels were intermediaries between them and God. Paul commands against such a belief in a visionary realm and states that such a person does not “hold on to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and tendons, develops with growth from God” (Colossians 2:19 HSCB).
Finally, Paul counteracts the idea that Christianity is exclusive or secret. Some of the Colossians flaunted an air or secrecy and of superiority. Paul emphasizes the all inclusiveness of Jesus and the gospel by stressing that Christ is all and in all.
Although the problems Paul addressed in Colossians were different, Paul provided one solution; Jesus Christ. We would do well to have the same philosophy!! Paul exalts Christ in His person and work and the believer’s oneness with Him as the solution to the heresies and false beliefs that were arising in the Colossians’ church. This great truth is just as fitting as the solution for the false teaching and philosophies of today, for Jesus Christ and His word are the same yesterday, today, and forever, and thus the solution is the same.