Studies in Colossians and Thessalonians
3. Colossians 2:1-5 - All Wisdom and Knowledge
In Colossians 1, Paul prays for the readers’ wisdom, understanding, and Christian life (1:9-14). He reminds them of how great Christ is, and that they have been reconciled to God through Christ. Paul is working hard to teach everyone about Christ. At the end of Colossians 1, Paul explains that he struggles to teach believers so they can be complete in Christ (1:28). Our goal is in Christ, and is not found in any other message. Paul continues this theme in chapter 2 and explains the power behind our salvation and transformation.
Source of all truth
Paul moves from general principles to mention his readers: “I want you to know how much I am struggling for you, and for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not seen me face to face” (2:1, NRSV in this chapter). Colosse and Laodicea were 11 miles apart, and Paul wanted this letter to be read in Laodicea, too (4:16). As Paul’s missionary co-workers spread the gospel in this area, Paul wanted to help the new Christians be well grounded in their beliefs so they would not fall for some counterfeit message.
“I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself” (2:2).
Greek “mystery religions” were popular in the first century, offering special rituals and passwords to advance to different levels in the spiritual world. Apparently the Colossian Christians wanted to understand mysteries, to have wisdom and knowledge — but they were so eager to have special teachings that they were listening to false teachings.
Paul uses the terminology of “mystery” but reverses it, because the “mystery” of Christ had been fully revealed. Paul gives the complete message — there is no second or third level. When we are united with Christ, we are united with the highest possible level. We are already in the palace and do not need to buy a ticket to a train station that is only halfway there.
Paul’s sufferings and labors (2:1) were evidence that he was teaching not for his own benefit, but to benefit others. He is the one who had the true wisdom and the true understanding of the mysteries of Christ.
In Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (2:3). Other religions might have part of the truth, but Christ has it all. We don’t need speculations about intermediate levels of spiritual power — what we need is a better understanding of Christ. Paul wants to focus his readers on Christ.
“I am saying this so that no one may deceive you with plausible arguments” (2:4). The religious competition might sound sophisticated or well-educated, but Paul wants his readers to remain faithful to Christ — and he is confident that they will: “For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, and I rejoice to see your morale and the firmness of your faith in Christ” (2:5).
Something to think about
- How much do we need to know about Christ in order to be saved? (v. 3)
Author: Michael Morrison, PhD