Friday, September 28, 2012
Paul Prepares Christians for Gnostics
I learned from some searches that Collossia that it's just 10 miles away from Laodicia, which is the seventh church of the seven churches in Revelations. Laodicia and another town is mentioned in Paul's letter to the Collosians as having their own church bodies as well. Scholars believe this church in Collassia was started during Paul's mission to Ephesis which is on the coast of the Medeteranian about 30 miles from Collosia.
I read that this letter was written from prison in Rome in 62 AD, and that he was with Timothy at the time, along with a man named Epaphras.
In verse one, he identifies himself as an apostle of Christ. I got into a bunny trail about the twelfth apostle that may have taken up my time, but I found it quite interesting. Back in Acts, the eleven remaining appotles studied in Psalms the prophesy concerning the twelve chosen by Christ to be called apostles. With the apostasy of Judas (apostasy means the opposite of being an apostle or messenger of Christ--it means departing the teachings of Christ), these eleven felt led to fill that gap in order to prepare for the growth of the church ahead. So whom to chose? Well, at that time, they were still awaiting the descending of the Holy Spirit (remember the tongues of fire?). So since that hadn't happened yet, they could not get the direction of the Holy Spirit yet. So they used the method used often in the Old Testament. They used criteria outlined in the old testament about whom would be month the twelve (must have been chosen by Christ and witnesses the resurrection) and narrowed their choices to Matthias and Barsabus, and then cast lots and let God decide. (Without the Holy Sp;irit for guidance, this was typically done).
But later, and over and over, Paul refers to himself as an apostle of Christ? Where there 13? That doesn't sound biblical? Did he mean to imply that he, not Matthias, was the twelfth?
I don't have the answer for that--just an observation. It could be that Paul considered himself an apostle in the sense that he was a messenger of Christ,a nd had been visited by Christ on the road to Demascus, and perhaps he considers that being his witness to the resurrection.
These verses go deep into reiterating the foundational beliefs of Christianity, and there is a reason for Paul covering this with the Colossians. Colossia was being bombarded with gnostic thinking at the time, and you may wonder just who the gnostics were.
These were the deep thinkers of eastern cultures who considered themselves deeply spiritual. Think Depak Chopra crossed with Oprah Winfrey crossed with Harvard Religion professors. They elevated themselves as super high in knowledge--they were the elite--too smart for anyone to argue with, right? But when Christ came along with a compelling Gospel, many gnostics wanted to jump in on it, but couldn't let go of their status as the enlightened thinkers of the day. So they would hang with the Christians (here the Colosians) and spout off their separate theologies and expect the Colosians to work with them on how to merge the Gospel to include their gnostic ways.
Trouble is, their gnostic ways are wrong!
Betty Eadie wrote a book in the 1980's all about her near death experience and claimed she met Jesus and He said that everyone goes to Heaven. It's classic gnosticism. Whether or not Betty thinks she met Jesus or wethehr or not she made it up or whether or not she was dreaming or had a demonic experience, her "message" from Christ is way off. But because she goes around telling people she's seen God, and she knows, she's rather elitist about it, and now her "knowledge" poisons the purity and simplicity of the Gospel.
The motivations of gnostics can be pride (loving the limelight of being the 'expert') or simply the loathing of the simplicity of the Gospel, their actions in tainting the Gospel drag new believers away from Truth.
Paul spends these verses in Colossians reviewing the foundations of faith to help the Colossians gird themselves against gnostic theology.
One of the words used in verse 5 is "hope". The greek word used in Colossians for "hope" isn't the exact meaning of our americanized 'hope', which allows for a chance of failure. The Greek word really translates as a confident believe in the future result. --"because of the hope laid up for you in heaven".
In verses 7-9 when Paul refers to the world, he's talking about the spreading of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire.