Monday, November 05, 2012

Perversions in the Church


Reading: Colossians 2

The Church in Colossae was probably founded during Paul’s  Third Missionary Journey; probably by one of Paul’s Students at the Tyrannus Bible Institute – Paul was in the home of Tyrannus  (Acts 19:9-10). Epaphras graduated from the Institute and founded the Church in Colossae. The Church had mostly Gentile members (Colossians 2:13) and was meeting in the home of Philemon (4:9). After its founding, the Church was infected by a very deadly disease called Judaistic Gnosticism. It was a very bad disease in that it attacked the thought life of its victims. What did this virus have?

(a) Salvation could be obtained only through knowledge. This meant that only those with superior intellect could hope to be saved.

(b) Faith-belief without materialistic proof was silly and useless

(c) Matter itself was evil. This teaches also that the world was created by a series of angelic emanations. In other words God created an angel who in turn created another who created yet a third etc. Finally, the last of these angels created the world as you know it today. While this philosophy admitted that God is above everything, since He created the original angel, it denied that God is also in everything. This view also immediately ruled out the Incarnation of Christ; divine creation, prayer, faith, miracles, the Second Coming and even the accuracy of the Bible.

(d) If these views hold, then the goal of man was either avoiding all joys of life i.e. abusing the body for the spirit’s sake or unrestrained licentiousness i.e. if it feels good, do it! The first was known as Stoicism, and the second is Epicureanism.

Scofield once wrote: 
"Pure Christianity lives between two dangers ever present: the danger that it will evaporate into a philosophy … and the danger that it will freeze into a form"
J. V. McGee commenting also said: 
“Jesus said He is the water of life. He did not say He was the ice of life: He did not say, He was the steam of life”
This disease that entered the Colossi Church included dietary laws (what to eat and what not to eat), Sabbath observation, circumcision rites, worship of angels, and the practice of avoiding all joys of life-Asceticism.

Epaphras could not cope with these problems; he therefore travelled over 1000 miles to Rome to meet Paul for advice. Upon reaching Rome, he was arrested and imprisoned (Philemon 23). In his absence, Archippus became the Pastor of the Church. 

The Epistle to the Colossians therefore was written to tackle some of these problems in the Church. Chapter two can safely be divided into two parts based on what the verses say. Today we shall look at one part: The Nature of the Perversion

The Nature of the Perversion

1. Enticing Words (Verse 4)

This corresponds to what we see in many of our Churches today - Liberalism!  Man is constantly looking for an excuse to continue what he is doing. So where he finds a support, he feels comfortable.  A number of Churches are built on this today. “If you feel good doing it, go ahead you are right!” So we find a number of Churches today that promise much but produce little. – Enticing words but empty in achievement. 

2. Love of knowledge (Verse 4)

Somebody has defined philosophy as “a blind man looking in a very dark room for a black cat that is not there!” It can also be described as that science of learning more and more about less and less until finally you know everything about nothing! Yes, in some of our Churches today, the Bible is treated as an ancient Hebrew history. New books containing modern philosophy are being substituted. In some pulpits, no message comes from the Bible but from man’s philosophy. Paul warns us “Beware!”

3. Traditions of men and not of Christ (Verse 8)

Not all traditions are bad but some are really bad. You have heard of the calls to return to what was originally African – worship of idols, human sacrifice, rejection of twins. Let us beware. Christ warned very seriously about the obnoxious tradition of the Pharisees (Matthew 15:1-9)

4. Legalism (Verses 16-17)

Somebody has defined legalism as an attempt to mend the veil in the temple. It is like a child admiring the photograph of his father hanging on the wall but ignoring his father’s actual presence. When Christ Himself came, all shadows of His coming should disappear. Again, legalism is very present in our Churches today. Do not eat; do not touch; do not wear! Christianity is not a set of do’s and don’ts but a relationship with Christ during which we allow Him to live His life in us. Do not let any man put you back into the pre-crucifixion Judaistic religion.

5. Mysticism – a religion of emotion or feeling (Verse 18)

It stresses the inner light and ignores the true light. It confuses the truth with personal experience. There is no way we can replace the truth with our personal experiences. I once attended a Black Church in Los Angeles which described itself as an emotional Church. Many of such Churches abound in this land. “Let no man beguile you”

6. Idolatry – worshipping of Angels (Verse 18)

God did not create angels to be worshipped. In fact the first Commandment roundly forbids this. We know of Churches today in this country that worship angels. It is idolatry and we must beware.

7. Asceticism – Everything is evil (Verses 20 - 21)

 “Touch not; taste not; handle not.” This is false separation. It also teaches that by torturing the body you rise in spiritual level. The Bible teaches that we have been saved from the penalty of sin but not from the presence of sin. But does this make all creation evil? Jesus reminded Peter; “What God has created do not call unclean!” Today we find Churches that shun everything as evil. It is evil to mix with people who do not belong to their congregation. It is evil to watch television. It is evil to read newspapers. It is evil to go to the Stadium and watch a football match etc. 

These were the problems in the Church at Colossae; the problems are still with us today. We are warned to beware lest somebody beguiles us and robs us of our joy of salvation.

All these seven fold perversions are in our Churches today; but what is the answer? There are four suggested answers and The Epistle to the Colossians therefore was written to tackle some of these problems in the Church. 

We shall look at these answers in out next post - Answers to these perversions.

 God bless you all.

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