Explore the Bible Study: The Gospel's Forgiveness

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What Scripture do you base that belief upon? This is a question I heard asked to someone recently while on a tour of a church in Greece. The individual had just finished explaining why her faith placed Mary, the mother of Jesus, in such a saintly and almost deified position in their belief system. Her response was that they based this on the apocryphal writings. The belief was based on non-canonical writings; yet they have been treated as equal to the inerrant Word of God, leading to an entire misunderstanding of the humanity of Mary. In this week's Explore the Bible Study: The Gospel's Forgiveness, Paul warns us of the deception of teachings that might derail or undermine the work of Christ and the gospel, and could eventually lead one into captivity by the ideas of man.

The Colossian believers had reliable sources for understanding the gospel. It was taught to them by Epaphras. However, false teachers were trying to deceive the Colossians by misrepresenting the gospel. Paul knew people were spreading false information, and he recognized the associated dangers: False information about the gospel could lead people away from Christ (Colossians 2:8). These false teachers were deceiving people by promoting teaching founded on human traditions and not on Christ. In verses 4-15, Paul counters the false teaching by helping the believers realize what they received in Christ, who Christ is, and what He did for them to bring about their salvation. His words to the Colossians should be remembered by all believers today because of all the unreliable messages we hear in our culture regarding Christ, salvation, eternal life, and godly living.

Paul begins by reminding them, in Colossians 2:4-8, why they should continue to hold fast to the gospel.

In verses 1-3 Paul has indicated his concern for them. In verse 4 Paul begins to explain why he was concerned—false teachers were trying to deceive them. Then, in verse 8 Paul warns them that they could be taken captive by the false teachings.

The single Greek word translated takes you captive conveys the image of someone being dragged from truth into the slavery of error. We know that young or immature believers might be drawn toward false teachings for various reasons. No believer is immune to the struggles and doubts that might cause one to explore other teachings to explain one’s faith. However, we must learn from Paul’s instruction that false teachings are deceptive and, when embraced, lead one into captivity.

Note: The Downloadable Teaching helps provides examples of beliefs today that could deceive believers and lead them into captivity. Be sure to check those out and see if there are things you have been led to believe that aren't accurate.

We know that young or immature believers might be drawn toward false teachings for various reasons. These struggles and doubts might come, but when we continue to walk with Christ as Paul outlines, we can avoid being taken captive by the false teachings. 

Paul makes a powerful statement in verse 6 that is foundational to all the instruction he is about to give. He says:

just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to walk in Him.

Numerous Scriptures such as Ephesians 2:1-8 and Titus 3:5 describe how one receives Christ. It is an act of faith and that faith is a gift of God. Salvation is all God’s work, not man’s. Those who believe in Christ as Lord are saved apart from any effort of their own. Paul knew that, as these young Colossian believers heard so many other views and philosophies regarding salvation, they would be tempted to quit acting through faith and turn to what they could see, touch, feel, and explain. Yet we are reminded in Hebrews 11:1, faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.

Paul was telling them to continue in the same manner by which they received Christ – through faith! We don’t abandon or forget faith after we are saved. We walk in faith so that we can continue to understand the gospel.

How did Paul encourage the Colossians to continue to walk in Him? They were to:
  • Sink their roots deeply into Jesus Christ – This is an agricultural metaphor.
  • Build their lives on the foundation of the Lord Jesus Christ—This is an architectural metaphor.
  • Establish their faith—This is a legal metaphor meaning “confirmed by testimony,” “validated,” or “guaranteed.”

Once one has received Christ through faith, he or she should continue to walk in Christ so that false teachers can’t pull their faith up by the roots, shake their faith to the very foundation, or bring into question their testimony of faith through ungodly actions. If we continue in this manner we will overflow with gratitude for our salvation and for Jesus Christ.

Next Paul reminds them of who Christ is, in Colossians 2:9-10.

Jesus Christ is both fully human and fully divine. He is the One who is head over every ruler and authority. And He is the One who has personally filled you with His salvation and a new relationship. 

How can understanding this give you strength when facing so many different messages regarding Christ, Christianity, and your faith?

Christ is all we need; we are completely filled by Him and our identity is complete in Him. We have the authority of Christ to stand up to lies, false teachers, and demonic forces.

Finally, Paul reminds them of what Christ did in Colossians 2:11-15.

Paul used circumcision to describe the believer’s conversion and water baptism as the way that believers participate in Christ with His burial and resurrection. The circumcision was not physical but spiritual.  It was accomplished by putting off the body of flesh. In Christ, our sinful nature has been stripped away. Finally, it was done in the circumcision of Christ. The circumcision to which Paul referred was that performed by Christ Himself. 

Baptism is a believer’s outward confession that an inner change has taken place as he or she has been buried and raised with Christ.

God took those who were spiritually dead and made them alive together with Christ through His sacrificial death on the cross. Paul reminded the Colossian congregation that this new life in Christ also resulted in forgiveness of all their sins. Nothing needed to be added to or taken away from all Christ did to redeem them.

WRAP UP

God, through Paul’s writings to the believers in Colossae, desires for us to remember what we have received in Christ, who Christ is, and what He did to bring about our salvation. This is vital when facing all the philosophies and false teachings we encounter as we walk with Christ.

If you are struggling with any of these beliefs:

  • Dive deeper into God’s Word so that you can seek more understanding.
  • Seek out reputable and reliable sources for further help.
  • Avoid teachings that might sound nice but are deceptive, realizing these will lead you into captivity.
  • Don’t dismiss something you don’t understand in God’s Word, but accept it by faith, just as you did your salvation.

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. Be sure to use this as a supplement to your study of the Explore the Bible Study resources provided by LifeWay.

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