Why Colossians is Important for Students
“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.”- Colossians 2:6-7
Any semi-seasoned driver will know the jarring experience of almost veering off the road and having to re-adjust the steering wheel. In these moments, we are woken up by our need to be set back on the right and safe path.
To say that the church at Colossae had veered off course would be an understatement. While we can’t be sure of the exact narrative of the teaching that had invaded the community, it is clear these young Christians had been deluded by a false gospel. Somewhere after their initial exposure to the gospel of grace, an authoritative voice had arisen in Colossae that seemed to promote the idea that these new Christians were not really Christians unless they followed certain religious rituals or regulations. Clearly, this was an attractive message to the Colossians, as Paul tells us it held them “captive”(2:8). The wheel of their faith needed serious readjustment to get back on track.
It can be tempting to hear about the false teaching in Colossae and write it off as ludicrous: “who would be foolish enough to believe what food I do or don’t eat makes me more or less of a Christian?” Colossians shows us, however, that we are just as naive. Our sin hardens our hearts to the truth of the gospel and distracts us with flashy promises of false salvation. We subscribe to the empty promises of self-help books, fad diets, or religious obedience that is void of heart involvement. We too need the Word of God to grab the steering wheel from our feeble hands and direct us back to the good news that “you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands” (2:14). This teaching, Paul reminds us, is the only thing that can change our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Of course our students need this readjustment as well. It seems that every day, there is a new false gospel that demands their allegiance. For some, it’s our current cultural narrative of “you do you.” For others, it’s the idea that their righteousness is based on their performance. Or perhaps you have a student who lives under the false narrative that their sin is too great to be forgiven. Paul’s language of false teaching is appropriately dramatic: he deems it “empty,” “elemental,” “according to human tradition.” It has only an appearance of wisdom but is of no value when it comes to stopping the indulgence of our flesh (2:23).
Colossians offers our students an opportunity to consider the false teachings they find themselves believing, especially the ones that the world deems “wise” yet possess no real footing when held against the Word of God.
Colossians is not only helpful in waking our students up as to how they might have veered off the path of the gospel, it also instructs them in how to faithfully continue down the road of their walk with Christ. Paul reminds the church at Colossae whom they have already been declared to be in Christ: alive in Him and hidden with Him. This identity is not based on any religious performance, but on the work of Christ on their behalf.
From there, He instructs them as to how they are to live out this new identity. Why submit to elemental teaching when they have been filled in Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (2:3)? Paul wants these new Christians, and us, to know the freedom that comes from resting in the Truth of the gospel: a freedom that brings a new life and a new self.
In a world littered with subtle yet destructive distortions of the gospel, our students need a firm grip on the reality of what Jesus has done for them. In “disarming the rulers and authorities, [putting] them to open shame, by triumphing over them,” Jesus has proven Himself to be greater than any self-help doctrine or modern-day spiritual guru this world can offer (2:15). If they are in Christ, they have died to the ways of this world (2:20) and are now encouraged to live out of that Truth.
Colossians calls us and our students out of our destructive tendencies to believe a false gospel and invites us upward as we daily walk in light of the freedom of being dead to the world and alive to Christ. This book reminds us that our old selves no longer suit us like they once did; we are spurred to put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of our Creator (3:10).
As the world seeks to uproot ours and our students’ faith with empty promises of a false gospel, may we use God’s Word in Colossians to encourage us to walk in Christ, rooted and built up, and established in the faith. The road ahead is long, but the Driver of the car is God Himself who has made His people alive together with Him forever.
It is my prayer that the Colossians curriculum on Rooted Reservoir would equip our students to better navigate a world where deceitful teaching often lurks in an attempt to distort the truth of God’s Word. May the Lord use Colossians to encourage us to “continue in their faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that [they] heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation] under heaven” (1:23).