I just searched for the words “new age” on Google and 777,000,000 results popped up. As often occurs, Wikipedia is the top result for searches. Here’s what Wikipedia says about “new age.”
“The New Age movement is a non-religious Western spiritual movement that developed in the latter half of the 20th century … According to author Nevill Drury, the origins of the movement can be found in the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly through the works of the esotericists Emanuel Swedenborg, Franz Mesmer, Helena Blavatsky and George Gurdjieff, who laid some of the basic philosophical principles that would later influence the movement. It would gain further momentum in the 1960s, taking influence from metaphysics, self-help psychology, and the various Indian gurus who visited the West during that decade.” Wikipedia
The “new age movement” is anything but new. In fact, it’s thousands of years old. It has a strong religious history that had its birth in Eastern culture. It began with an ancient lie that has been repeated trillions of times since – “Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5) We learn the secret to Satan’s power and influence in this one lie – and all the secrets of the so-called “new age movement.”
- “You will not surely die”
- “your eyes will be opened”
- “you will be like God”
- “knowing good and evil”
People may believe they will experience hundreds of lifetimes in their effort to improve the standing of their soul. They may believe they are enlightened and have the spark of god within. They may claim to have the secret knowledge of the gods and be among the spiritual select. However, what they’re doing is simply repeating a lie Satan told their most ancient ancestors.
The Apostle Paul and the young Church of the 1st Century were surrounded by “new age” thinking. Most of the Gentile believers of the early Church came out of the “new age movement” of their time. Whether it was the worship of Roman or Greek gods, the cult of imperial worship, the mystery religions, estrucan mythology, or gnosticism, the early Church was surrounded by it. The challenge Church leaders faced was that “new age” thinking did not dominate the minds and hearts of believers.
Gnosticism (from gnosis, the Greek word for knowledge) was part of Satan’s lie – “your eyes will be opened, you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Gnostics believed they had “secret” knowledge and were the only ones able to impart that secret teaching to their followers. Gnosticism became a huge problem in the life of the Church in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th centuries, but the philosophy was already well established around the Church in the 1st century. The news Epaphras brought the Apostle Paul about what was happening in the Colossian Church greatly concerned Paul, so he wrote a letter to the saints at Colossae that addressed their spiritual need, and in doing so, gave the Church God’s Counsel on dealing with gnostic thought for generations to come.
Paul summed up the gnostic threat powerfully in the second chapter of his letter.
“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.” Colossians 2:8
The word “cheat” in the Greek is sulagogeo and means “to carry off as spoil, to rob, to take captive.” Paul knew that the “mind tricks” Satan was playing through gnosticism was extremely dangerous and could carry away Christians as his “spoil.” How did Satan do it? Through “philosophy” (philosophias), empty deceit (kenes apates), according to the tradition of men (paradosin ton anthropon), according to the basic principles of the world (stoicheia tou kosmou), and not according to Christ. An important phrase Paul used three times in this sentence is “according to” (kata). The word kata means “down, down from, down upon, down against” and carries the idea of something being over, pushing down and holding down something else. Domination is a key to understanding Satan’s tricks and the power of gnosticism in the early Church and its power today. Satan wants to dominate people. He does it easily, until a person becomes a Christian. Then Satan has to work harder to regain his former domination of the person’s mind, will, desires, emotions, and beliefs.
Gnostics placed a great value on their experiences of gnosis in life – what they learned from their teachers, from angels and other mediating beings, from their study of the stars, and ancient alchemy. They believed that angels were involved with the Demiurge in creating the lower heavens and the earth. Paul addressed a similar issue in his letter to the Galatians, where they were facing opposition from gnostics and judaizers. Notice the emphasis on how angels from heaven might “pervert the gospel of Christ.”
“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:6-9
In Colossae, as in thousands of other cities around the world, Satan dominates through worldly philosophy (the love and pursuit of wisdom) and empty deceit (that which gives a false impression through deception), the traditions of men (teachings and beliefs handed down through generations by men) that are dominated by the basic principles of the world (living by the rules and orders of the world system), “and not according to Christ.” The Apostle Paul has just given us our secret to fighting back against Satan – “according to Christ.” The power of Christian thought is having our mind, will, desires, emotions, and beliefs covered and dominated by the Mind of Christ.
Let’s pick up with our study where we left off last week. We’ve seen that Jesus Christ is the Logos of God – the Eternal Word of God – and that we’ve been delivered from the “power of darkness” and conveyed to the “kingdom of the Son of His love.” It is through Jesus that “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” We also saw that Jesus is the “image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.”
In the verses that follow, Paul made a full frontal assault on the dualistic beliefs of the gnostics. They believed they had secret knowledge about the nature of the universe and the origin and destiny of the human race. Gnostics claimed that the Supreme Being was remote and could not be known and that a powerful and evil and imperfect supernatural being called the Demiurge had created the world and was its dominant force. This idea was put forth by Plato in the 4th Century B.C., so it had developed into a strong belief system by the time of the founding of the Colossian Church.
Gnostics believed that a select group of individuals – including themselves and their chosen followers – had a divine spark within their material body and that through gnosis the spark could grow into a flame that would liberate them from the evil world created by Demiurge (knowledge of evil) and unite them with the Supreme Being (knowledge of good). Do you see Satan’s original lie here? “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The gnostics taught that only they had the secrets of the knowledge of good and that anyone who did not know their secrets only had knowledge of evil. That was the same thing Satan told Eve when he tempted her to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Satan told her that if she ate of it, she would be “like God.” That was the same message of the gnostics in the first few centuries of the Church. If people wanted to have the secret knowledge of good and evil, they would have to learn it from them.
The gnosticsm that developed within the Church during the first few centuries taught that Jesus was a messenger from God who brought gnosis to believers on earth. They also taught that Jesus inhabited a human body only temporarily and denied His Death on the Cross and Resurrection from the grave. Gnostics also taught that Christians were divided into groups – spiritual and carnal. The spiritual believers were in the select group that had the divine spark within them that allowed them to be redeemed. Gnostics taught that only those with this special gnosis would be saved.
Paul took on the most important issue first – the Identity of Jesus Christ. If Jesus was who the gnostics said He was, then He did not die for the sins of the world, did not rise from the dead, and had no power to save souls and give them eternal life. Paul addressed that issue first because everything else was of little importance in comparison to whether Jesus Christ is Who He and His followers claimed Him to be.
“For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.” Colossians 1:16-20
“For” should be “because.” “By him” is more correctly translated “in him” because it is locative of sphere rather than instrumental. Dr. Marvin Vincent in Word Studies in the New Testament wrote: “In Him, within the sphere of His personality, resides the Creative will and the Creative energy, and in that sphere the creative acts takes place. Thus creation is dependent on Him.”
Things that “are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible.” Paul is taking all of creation here: physical and spiritual, everywhere. Look back at Genesis Chapter 1 and you see God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit Creating the heavens and the earth. “Whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.” Paul aims these words at the gnostic heresy. Dr. Vincent wrote: “The passage is aimed at the angel worship of the Colossians; showing that while they have been discussing the various grades of angels which fill the space between God and men, and depending on them as media of communion with God, they have degraded Christ who is above them all, and is the sole mediator.”
Dr. Earl Ellis wrote: “Whatever cosmic powers there may be, they have nothing to offer or deny a Christian; in Christ he has all things.” Jesus Created everything and everything was Created for Him. “All things were created through Him and for Him.” Look around at what we call “nature” and you see everything Christ Created.
Christ is “before” all things. He is in front of, prior to, superior to all things. The gnostic heresy made Jesus lower or at the most only equal with other mediating powers. That teaching should seem ridiculous and absurd to Christians, but it was a teaching that divided the early Church for centuries.
“… and in Him all things consist.” This means they “stand or are compacted together” in Him. Jesus is the Cosmic Glue Who holds everything together! Bishop Lightfoot wrote: “He is the principle of cohesion in the universe. He impresses upon creation that unity and solidarity which makes it a cosmos (an ordered system) instead of a chaos (an unformed mass). Thus (to take one instance) the action of gravitation, which keeps in their places things fixed and regulates the motions of things moving, is an expression of His mind.”
How beautiful and powerful that truth is to a believer! Jesus Christ is not just one of many mediating beings who have access to God and can speak on our behalf – Jesus is the ONLY MEDIATOR between God and men. He is the One Who holds all things together.
“And” connects the many truths about Christ that Paul is presenting to the Colossians. Just as Jesus is Lord and Soverign of the physical creation, so He is Lord and Sovereign of the new spiritual creation, the Church – His Body – of which Christ is the Head. Jesus is also the “beginning” – the chief, the origin. He is “the firstborn from the dead.” That refers to His resurrection from the dead. He is first in the physical creation which began at the beginning. He is also first in the spiritual creation which began at the resurrection. In all things Christ is first!
“that” speaks of purpose
“in all things” speaks of sphere
“He may have the preeminence” speaks of position (preeminence is “first in rank and influence”)
Jesus is first in everything and should be acknowledged as such. He is Supreme!
“For” is “because” God was pleased to have all His Fullness dwell in Christ. God thought well of having His completeness housed permanently in Christ.
The heretical teachers of Colossae used the term “fullness” in a technical sense to express the sum total of the divine powers and attributes. They believed that mediatorial beings had some of God’s powers, but in diluted form. They were only partial and blurred images. They ranked Christ with these inferior images of the divine. However, Paul wrote that Christ is the likeness of God and that all the divine powers and attributes were housed permanently in Him. “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” (Colossians 2:9)
“reconcile” means “to change completely” … “having made peace” means “binding together, harmonizing.” How was this peace made? “through the blood of His cross.”
The false teachers at Colossae aimed at affecting a partial reconciliation between God and man through the interposition of angelic mediators. The Apostle Paul spoke of an absolute and complete reconciliation of universal nature to God, effected through the mediation of the Incarnate Word. Jesus shed Divine Blood on the Cross and that brought peace to God and His relationship with sinful man (Hebrews chapters 9 & 10 have great insights into how the Blood of Christ made peace with God.)
Paul wrote the same thing to the Ephesian believers.
“Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands— that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Ephesians 2:11-13
We can apply Colossians 1:15-20 to our lives and practice in many ways:
- Jesus Christ is the Only Way to God – trust Him alone for all Truth
- Rejoice in the Power of Christ as the Creator and Sustainer of all things
- Worship Christ alone – have no other gods before Him – He alone is worthy of our praise
- Test all spiritual teaching with God’s Word first. If it is false, put it away from you.
- If you are in a position of leadership in your church, stand against any false teaching
- In light of Who Jesus is, obey His every command
- Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength!
Christians around the world are surrounded by false teaching and heresy today. Thousands of religious groups place Christ Jesus into a realm that is inferior to Who He really is. Paul’s warning to Christians of the 1st Century A.D. is still true today in the 21st Century A.D. We must be wise and on our guard at all times.
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”