Friday, March 25, 2016

Studies in Colossians #18

Heretical Problems facing the Colossians (2:1-3:4)

B. The Peril of Error and the Sufficiency of Christ (2:4-23)

Paul now turns to problems facing the Colossians. This is a turning point in the epistle from a doctrinal to a polemical focus. There is a Colossian heresy that is described under the broad term “philosophy and empty deceit” (2:8). There is a debate concerning the exact nature or the identification of this philosophy. The only source of its nature is the epistle itself. Paul does not specifically identify the heretical philosophy.  Bruce observes that; “Paul does not give a detailed account of it, because his readers were presumably familiar with it already; he contented himself with pointing out some of its defects and assessing its character in the light of the gospel.[1] There are important clues as to the impact of this philosophy and empty deceit among them:
· The problem they are facing was one that predated their conversion. Colossians 2:8 indicates that they had at one time been subject to these forces. They had not completely separated from the old.
· A major part of the problem is centered around submitting to prohibitions (2:21). They had not fully grasped the sufficiency of Christ.
· There was a mixed Jewish and pagan element to this philosophy, including the worship of angels (2:18) and observance of new moons, and the Sabbath. It should be noted that some of the festivals and new moons were pagan elements as well. 

However, these clues give us only the characteristic of the philosophy, not its exact identification. In setting forth the dangers he exhorts them in the faith, but also as a means of protection. Keathly says; “he warns them regarding the danger of being kidnapped by their empty philosophy.”[2] The warnings are centered upon around the main characteristics of the error or errors. It is clear that these errors were designed by false teachers to undermine the truth of the Gospel which Paul was given. The warnings include a number of emphatic statements or instructions:
·  Do not be deceived (2:4)
·  Do not be trapped (2:8)
·  Do not be judged (2:16)
·  Do not be defrauded (2:18)
·  Do not submit (2:20)

Peril of Persuasive Error (2:4-8a)

Paul opens this section with the words—“This I say” (2:4). This serves as an attention getter, and reinforces the point that is about to be made or aim of what he is about to say. In this section there are three elements:

1. The Warning—“so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument. For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ” (1:4-5). The key word is delude (beguile—KJV) and is the Greek word paralogizomai, meaning to make a false reckoning; to impose on; deceive; or circumvent. It is used only twice (cf. James 1:22) in the NT. Here the word is used of external forces imposed on one to false thinking. In James it is used of internal deception. This external force comes by persuasive speech of false teachers. The Greek word is pithanologia (used only here), meaning persuasive or plausible discourse, rather than demonstrable argument. Johnson points out this is a legal term: “It is a word of the law court and refer’s to the lawyers persuasive speech and its power to influence an audience towards an unjust verdict.”[3] They are arguments that sound good, but may not be so in reality. The may be well-argued, fine-sounding, and well-crafted, but nevertheless false. The essence of the warning is not to be taken in by their deception because of their false reasoning. A modern terminology equivalent may be—not be talked into anything.Many such teachers are simply high-pressure salesmen who succeed in selling a poor product at an exorbitant price” says Baker.[4] The verse indicates two great tactics of the false teachers: (1) They beguile their subjects by deception. (2) The method is to use enticing words. 

For” at the beginning of verse 5 gives us the reason or ground for the urgent warning. Paul now uses the absence-present formula as an expression of concern. These would be powerful words since Paul had never been to Colossae. It would be a touch of empowerment to the readers to read of his confidence in them. He may have never been with them physically, “nevertheless I am with you in spirit” (2:5). This reveals the heart of every Pastor. I think of past churches I ministered to that I am present in spirit with and rejoice with (and hurt with) them as through I was physically present.

In spite of the dangers, they had not surrendered to the false philosophy. Paul commends them for two things:

First, “To see your good discipline” (2:5). The word discipline (taxin) meaning order; or well regulated conduct. It is a military term indicating staying in rank and file. In the Jewish world, it used of the orders of the priest (Heb.5:6; 17:11) to convey dutifully carrying out their responsibilities. Its idea of faithfulness stands behind the word.

Second, is “the stability of your faith in Christ” (2:5). The concept of firmness and stability is connected by the conjunction “and” (kai) which indicates an interrelationship between the two. Stability is the Greek word stauroo (used only here), meaning that which is solid, firm, steadfast, or constancy. Related forms are found in connection with strengthening (Acts 16:5), and firmness (2 Tim. 2:16).  Stability is modified by their faith. Their establishment is in their faith in Christ. It also carries the idea of strength and being united against the enemy.  

Paul is reiterating that the safeguard of the Christian life is the incorporation of believers in Christ—in whom we are to remain firm or strong and stable or united.      

To be continued

[1] F.F. Bruce, “Colossian Problems: Part 3: The Colossian Heresy,” BIBLOTHECA SACRA, July 1984, 196.
[2]  J. Hampton Keathly III, PAUL’S LETTER TO THE COLOSSIANS: AN EXEGETICAL AND DEVOTIONAL COMMENTARY, [Biblical Studies Press, www., 2001], 106.
[3] S. Lewis Johnson, Studies in the Epistle to the Colossians, VI. Beware of Philosphy”, (BIBLIOTHECA SACRA, October, 1962), 304. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


  1. Not praying enough. I was once told in making a sermon, pray it in; work it out.
  2. Not studying enough—this includes not simply the text, but includes the audience and the circumstances of life.
  3. Preaching to long.
  4. Preaching AT the people instead of TO the people. One thing that helps is to direct the sermon to yourself and let them listen.
  5. Giving a commentary rather than a sermon.
  6. Not enough Bible and too much application or too much Bible and not enough application.

Balance is the Key to a good sermon.  

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Studies in Colossians #17

Heretical Problems facing the Colossians (2:1-3:4)

A. Paul’s Concern for the Colossians (2:1-3)

This is a transition section. The word for (gar) relates these verses to the  one, and prepares one for what is to come. He turns from the sufficiency of Christ to problems that confronts and compromise this truth. He expresses his concerns for them—“For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea” (2:1). “I want you to know” highlights what was is to follow. The word struggle is related to his labor and striving of verses 28-29. The word struggle (agona) reaches back to the word striving (agonizomenos). Both refer to the competing struggle of an athletic contest, usually track, but also wrestling. It is the source of the English word agony or agonizing and speaks of an agonizing struggle one is participating in. Two views are possible here: First, is the agonizing service of preaching the truth for their benefit. Second, Paul is referring to agonizing in prayer on their behalf. In light of the phrase in Colossians 4:12, it is likely that Paul is referring to prayer. Dunn says the object of this prayer is for community well-being.[1]

Paul’s labor is not limited to those he knew; it extended beyond to those he had never met. This is the clear indication of the phrase—“all those who have not personally seen my face.” Paul was not personally acquainted with these believers. He knew them only by their testimony. His knowledge of them was second hand. He never evangelized or preached in the Lycus Valley.  

Paul goes on to convey the purpose of this struggle. The word that (hina) indicates purpose. There are two purpose statements followed an expansion or explanation of that purpose.[2] I diagram this as follows:
            “That their hearts may be encouraged
                        | as they are united in love
            And [attaining] all the wealth
                        | that comes from the full assurance of understanding
                                    | in a true knowledge of God’s mystery
                        | that is Christ himself
| in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge

Purpose 1—“That their hearts may be encouraged...” (2:2). The phrase marks the main purpose clause of the paragraph. There are two key words—hearts and encouraged. The word heart (kardiai) is not the organ that pumps blood to the body. Rather it stands for the mind in Paul’s writings. Paul says it is the heart that understands (Rom. 1:21), able to believe (Rom. 10:9-10) and can be deceived (Rom. 16:18). It is the place of the will, intellect and emotion. Moo points out that,
References to the ‘heart’ in the Bible require English speakers to ‘distance’ themselves from their own culture. For the strong tendency in modern English is to use it here with reference to emotions, whereas in Scripture ‘heart’ designates the center of the personality, the source of will and thinking in addition to feeling.[3]

Encouraged is the Greek word (parakaleo)  a common word in the NT, used over 100 times, and has a number of meanings—from asking or requesting (Acts 28:20); to exhorting or urging (Luke 3:18, Eph. 4:1); to encourage or comfort (2 Cor. 1:4, 6). When used “absolutely, as here, the verb usually has a sense of comfort or encourage.”[4] O’Brien argues for the meaning of strengthen in this context, but has not been well accepted.[5] Paul wants to encourage the heart of believers.

This purpose is supported by the participial clause, which modifies the act of encouragement—“having been knit together in love[6] (2:2). This modifier gives the element need for comfort. It is a participial clause “best taken as modifying the act of comforting.”[7] The Greek word here is participial form of symbibazo, which has the meaning to cause to come together; to unite, or knit together. There is no question that the word denotes being united. While some hold that the word has to do with and translate it being taught,[8] which is possible. It certainly is translated that way in the OT, and certain text of the NT (cf. 1 Cor. 2:16). However, in light of the rest of this epistle, united is preferred (cf. Col. 2:19; Eph. 4:16). The appeal is that of harmony which brings comfort or encouragement. The prepositional phrase in love can be instrument (united by love) or locative (united in love).[9] Love is the implement of harmony. Paul stresses that in his epistles—Romans 14:15; 1 Cor. 16:14; Phil. 2:1-2; 1 Thess. 3:12, 5:13.

Purpose 2—“And [attaining][10]all the wealth” (2:2). The word and (kai) connects this with the first purpose.[11] It is parallel to it. It is a continuation of the purpose, by adding another purpose. In the first purpose, Paul wants the believers to be encouraged or comforted, now he wants them to be edified. The verse should read—“unto all riches (or wealth).” The Greek word eis, is found over 1700 times in the NT, and has a wide range of meaning. However, it denotes motion to an object, thus the primary of “unto” something with the intent of reaching it.  The object is all wealth or riches. The Greek word is ploutos meaning wealth, abundance, or riches; it implies great value. 

The source of this wealth for the believer: “that comes from the full assurance of understanding” (2:2). The word plerophoria is used 4 times in the NT and carries the meaning of full conviction, persuasion, or assurance (here; 1 Thess. 1:5; Hebrews 6:11; 10:22). It is used of understanding, faith, and hope. There are two ways these two prepositional phrases can be understood:[12] First, to see it as a genitive of source (of full assurance) and as an objective genitive (of understanding). Second, as a genitive of content (of full assurance), and a genitive of source (of understanding). Either is possible in the Greek.[13] I prefer the second view where understanding is the source of assurance. This is more in line with Colossians 1:9. The mind that has understanding is confident in the truth.

Content of understanding is “[resulting] in a true knowledge of God’s mystery” (2:2). The first thing to notice is that the word resulting is not in the Greek text and was added by the translators. The sentence begins with the Greek preposition eis which can indication result, but is commonly used in the sense of into, in, toward. Here it defines understanding as the knowledge of the mystery of God. This and the previous phrase begin with the same preposition, and this phrase “parallels the previous phrase, but in terms of function this phrase further explains the content of the understanding.[14] Their understanding is to be based on the knowledge of this mystery. It elaborates the word understanding.  The mystery of God identifies what we are to understand. In this light we must notice the following facts about the mystery of God:
·  It centers upon Christ (Col. 2:2) Christ is in apposition to the mystery of God. The mystery must be related and centered on Christ. The mystery of God centers in Christ as Head over the Body, the Church (Eph. 1:22).
·  The mystery concept centers upon revealed wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of truths that were at one time hidden (Eph. 3:4-5). This concept is at the very soul of progressive revelation (cf. Dan. 2:19-21; Proverbs 2:3-6).
·  The truth of the dispensation of the mystery as revealed by Paul must be grasped (Eph. 1:2, 9).
·  It entails oneness of two estranged people (Jew and Gentile), for now there is only one body of Christ, the church.  (Eph. 3:6).

Christ is described as “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (2:3). In whom is a relative pronoun referring to Christ. Some seem to relate and connect this to the phrase in Him in 1:16, 19. It does not seem to be connected; rather it is an addition of Christ’s status as the source of the things hidden. Moo observes: “Christ is the one in whom is to be found all that one needs in order to understand spiritual reality and to lead a life pleasing to God.[15]

The word hidden anticipates revelation. It certainly is the heart of what happened in Christ. The word hidden indicates the manner of existence, it resides in Him. Hidden does not indicate that it is “kept concealed...but that they exist being ‘deposited’ or ‘stored up’ in Christ.[16] In Him part of which was hidden is “now” made known or unconcealed (cf. 1:26). However we must be careful as not to make the mystery the only hidden wisdom and knowledge stored up in Christ. However in this context it is the major item that is revealed. The background is the hidden/manifest language of Col. 1:26. 

Christ is the storehouse of “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (2:3). The word treasure is rare in Paul. It means that which is stored up. It denotes that which is laid up, stored, valuable and precious. It is vital we grasp that this valuable truth for the church today is stored in Christ. Wisdom and knowledge in Paul is specific, and has a dispensational as well as a spiritual meaning. In Romans 11:33 it is used in the context of God’s working of mercy and His unfathomable ways. Paul communicates God’s wisdom of the mystery which God predestined before the ages for our (the church, the body of Christ) glory (1 Cor. 2:6-7). Paul’s aim is the edification in the mystery of God that centers in Christ as Head over the body of Christ, the church.

[2] Many commentaries speak of these as being four purposes, however, that is not clear to me. I see only two main action words (encouraged/attained), the other phrases refer back to one of these words. For the four purpose view I refer you to Campbell, COLOSSIANS & PHILEMON, 82f; Harris, EGGNT: COLOSSIANS & PHILEMON, 72f.
[4]  Ibid, 165.
[6]  While the NIV has the word “and” at the beginning of this phrase, it is not in the Greek. In my opinion it should not be used in connection with this phrase.
[10]  Not in the text, added by translators to clarify, but I think rather it confuses.
[11]  Contra Eadie, COLOSSIANS, 111.
[13]  Moo is correct that the choice is not easy. Commentaries and translations vary as to which is best; [PNTC: COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 167)
[16]  O’Brien, WBC: COLOSSIANS, PHILEMON, 95. 

Friday, March 4, 2016

John 1:12-13

John 1:12-13 Equivalents

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to be the children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but of God” (1:12-13). Most did not receive Him, some did. This is primarily talking about Israel and the Jewish remnant (cf. Deut. 32:18). There is a rejection/acceptance contrast. Acceptance is a decision of faith. Kostenberger remarks that could be “the climactic statement of the entire prologue.”[1] It clearly sets these over and against those who rejected—there are some who did respond by faith. One needs to observe that in these verses there are two important equivalents:


To “receive Him” is parallel to “believe in His name,” they are equivalents. The word receive has the idea of being welcomed into a intimate relationship.[2] To me this puts to rest the idea that I have heard expressed among some dispensationalist, which say we do not have to receive Christ to be saved. I disagree. Paul contradicts this in Colossians 2:6 were he maintains that believers “have received the Christ Jesus our Lord.” A phrase used by Paul as a description of the transmission and reception of the gospel of grace. The Greek word lambano (receive) has the root meaning of to take or to take in hand, thus to receive. Interestingly, the same word is used of Joseph in taking Mary as his wife (Matt. 1:24). Laney points out that such an action implies trust and commitment.[3] The equivalent is to “believe in His name.”[4] This phrase explains what it is, or the means to receive him.[5] In the ancient world one’s name is bound up with the character of the person. It reveals who the person was.  The word “believe” is a present participle which could denote continual belief.[6] Receiving Him entails believing or having faith in Him. There are three elements to believing/faith: knowledge, approval, and trust. Faith does not only believe facts; it is personal trust in Christ. 

Children of God/Born of God

The second parallel equivalent is found in the phrases: “He gave the right to become children of God” (1:12), and “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (1:13). The equitant is found in the words “give the right” and “born” sense both speak of the action that makes those who receive him, the children of God. Both are action verbs.

The first phrase has three key words or concepts:[7]

First are the words “He gave.” The verb gave (didomi) means to give, bestow, or present. It is a bridge word that connects both to the word receive and the word right. Because they receive the Son He (God) gave them a right. Borchert captures the overall tone when he says, “To be a child of God comes by way of God’s gift through human receiving.[8]

Second are the words “the right.” The word right (exousia) is used 102 times in the New Testament, and has the basic meaning of power, ability, authority, or prerogative. Beasley-Murray says the word can mean “give permission.”[9]  The word in this context is less on ability, and more on the authority of a change of status.[10] They have the authority to be called the sons of God. This refers to a new status or authorization to become the child of God. It speaks of the granting to the status of children. 

Third, is the phrase “to become children of God.” This is their new status; they are no longer the children of Satan, but of God. John never refers to believers as “sons” of God. To him that title belongs only to one—the Lord Jesus Christ. By these titles, John is careful to distinguish believers from the unique Son of God.

This right or authorization is equivalent to birth—“who were born,” (1:13) which explains the method used to give the new status. It was birth that gave them the right. The children of God are those who are born with God. The birth motif is common in John’s writings (cf. 3:3, 5-6; 1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1, 4, 18). Here John emphasizes what the new birth is not by using three negative phrases—not of blood, will of the flesh, will of man. These phrases may well note three attempts by men to gain spiritual life—our heritage, achievement, and determination.[11] This likely is an allusion to Jewish pride in their ancestry and race. None of these can cause us to be born of God. The phrases are given to accentuate that the new birth is spiritual and not physical. MacLeod correctly observes:
In these three negations John was emphasizing the inability of humans to bring about spiritual birth. Many people resent this fact because it seems to detract from human effort. But that is exactly the point. The biblical doctrine of the new birth takes all the glory away from individuals and gives it completely to God.[12]

One phrase is positive—“but of God.” The word but indicates contrast. In contrast to the physical birth, the new birth is the work of God. He is the source and the means of the action. It is noteworthy that the preposition of is the Greek word ek, meaning out from. It marks the immediate source. It could be translated “born by or from God.” 

[1]  Kostenberger, BECNT: JOHN, 38.
[2]  MacLeod, “The Reaction of the World to the Word,” 404. Morris, NICNT: JOHN, 86.
[3]  Laney, MGC: JOHN, 42.
[4]   It should be pointed out that the word “even” in verse 12 was added by translators and is not in the Greek text.
[4]  Wallace, BEYOND THE BASICS, 621.
[5] Godet, JOHN, 265.
[6]  Wallace, BEYOND THE BASICS, 621.
[7]  Morris, NICNT: JOHN, 98
[8]  Gerald L. Borchert, NAC: JOHN 1-11, [Nashville TN, B&H, 1996], 115.
[9]  Beasley-Murray, WBC: JOHN, 13.
[10]  Morris, NICNT: JOHN, 98. Kostenberger, BECNT: JOHN, 39.
[11]  Borchert, JOHN 1-11, 118.
[12]   MacLeod, “The Reaction of the World to the Word: John 1:10-13,” 412.