I. Paul’s Struggle for the Faith. FOR I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God the Father, which is Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words. 5 For yough I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.
“conflict”: Paul’s use of this word is a sign of their danger in face of heresy. This is where we get our word for “agony” or “agonize”. It is a reference to the intensity of his prayer for the believers in Colossae. This word is also used in 4:12 of Epaphras praying for them as well.
Laodicea: This was a neighboring city to Colossae. This letter was intended as a circular letter to be sent on to Laodicea, because they were facing the same dangers as Colossae.
”full assurance of understanding” means the inner confidence that comes from discerning the truth from falsehood (Farley)
“the knowledge of the mystery of God” - Knowledge once again is “epignosis” meaning knowledge by experience. The mystery as was mentioned earlier is Christ and His Body. Knowledge of this mystery is not the result of secret teachings that are relegated to a few. Also it is not mental understanding of a theological truth. It is experiential or relational knowledge that comes when incorporated into the Body of Christ.
Within Christ is all the “treasures of wisdom and knowledge”, this is counter to the Gnostic secret mystery that were revealed in secret rituals and hidden language.
A mature faith will be able to withstand the “persuasive words” of the heretics. vs. 5 “order” and “steadfastness” are military words. Order suggests men arrayed in ranks and “steadfastness” is the immovable defenses in battle. Paul was hopeful that their faith was mature enough to stand firm in the face of heresy.
II. Principles in Defense of the Faith.
A. Trust in the Faith you received. 6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it* with thanksgiving. 8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.
Vs. 6-7 “received” This is a receiving a tradition that has been delivered. The Colossians are to hold onto what has been passed on to them. This is not to be held onto as dry dogma but a way of life. Paul exhorts them to “walk in Him” in order to hold to the faith. The Christian life must not be held only dogmatically but lived. Christianity is ultimately a way of life not just a set of theological truths.
The life must be lived in thanksgiving. This is a possible reference to the Eucharist and a lifestyle of thanksgiving. We are able to transform and redeem our world through thanksgiving. As priest of Creation we offer up to the Father the cosmos through acts of thanksgiving.
Vs. 8-10 "be alert/beware" This is a constant refrain in Ascetical literature. The heart and life must be always alert to avoid deception from self and the evil one.
To be "cheated" is to be captured, kidnaped, or plundered away from Christ. The Colossians are not to abandon Christ for the Gnostic counterfeits.
Christ must be held to tightly, because he is ”the fullness”. Christ contains what the Gnostics are looking for in their secret knowledge. Paul's use of the word ”bodily” is important in reaction against the Gnostics. The Gnostics often viewed the body as evil or at least less than the Spirit. There is no way God would have sullied Himself with this dirty flesh. Yet Christ was a real man who shared our nature; and we are able to experience God as a result of the Incarnation. We are ”complete in Him” and need no extra emanations to find God.