See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8)
A major theme in Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae was the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ. I believe this issue is so relevant today. What we believe about Jesus affects everything. If He alone has provided salvation, why are we so quickly drawn away to other things? Why do we seek after “more” when He is enough?
Paul warns us to beware. We are at risk of being taken captive and turning away from relying solely on Christ to meet all of our spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, and ultimately our eternal needs.
The word “captive” is [sylagogeo]; it means to carry off, as booty, or as a captured slave. It also means “to seduce,” indicating that we are drawn away towards captivity. Paul says, “see to it that no one takes you captive.” This tells me that God will provide us with the power, wisdom, and ability to avoid capture if we so desire! It also tells me that I am not immune to captivity, and I should be on the alert, examining my own life on a consistent basis to root out anything that would captivate my heart or mind.
Paul mentions four things that can capture or captivate us and draw us away from Christ.
#1 – Philosophy [philosophia] – Denotes “the love and pursuit of wisdom; the investigation of truth and nature.” According to the dictionary, it is a search for a general understanding of values and reality by chiefly speculative rather than observational means.
We love to talk about ideas, don’t we? This is one area where I can completely relate. I love to read articles and listen to interviews about what people are thinking, especially in today’s current circumstances. The pursuit of wisdom is not the problem; it is what we do with that wisdom and where we find its source. A firm grasp on the supremacy of wisdom in Christ will keep us grounded as we pursue understanding. The wisdom of Christ is not speculation; it is biblical truth that comes from the Creator. Don’t be drawn away by any philosophy that is not rooted in Jesus.
#2 – Deception [apate] – “deceit or deceitfulness” (akin to apatao, “to cheat, deceive, beguile”), that which gives a false impression, whether by appearance, statement or influence.
Satan is the father of lies and deception and will use anything he can to deceive human beings. He hates God. He hates Jesus. And if he can’t get you to hate Him, he will deceive you into denying Him. I found five specific things scripture says will deceive us and draw us away from Christ:
* Riches are deceptive (Matthew 13:22; Mark 4:19). The love of money is the root of all evil. Possessions, power, and wealth will appear to offer satisfaction, but will keep us from depending on Christ, and leave us empty in the end.
* Lust is deceptive (Ephesians 4:22). Satisfying our physical desires (most often incited by what we see) promises fulfillment, but we all have experienced that this is a lie. Lust does not lead to a joyous, productive life; lust leads to sin (James 1:15).
* Sin is deceptive (Hebrews 3:13). Sin is a part of our fallen nature and it tempts us to deny and disobey Christ, making promises it cannot keep. Sin leads to death (James 1:15).
* The Antichrist will be deceptive (2 Thessalonians 2:8-12). When he is revealed, many will be deceived. To those who “did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved” God will “send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false.”
* False prophets are deceptive (2 Peter 2:13). False prophets abound today. How can you recognize them? What do they say about Jesus? (1 John 4:2-3) Any religious teacher or system of belief that denies the deity of Christ is false.
#3 – Traditions (of men) [paradosis] – “a handing down or on” (akin to paradidomi, “to hand over, deliver”), denotes “a tradition.” A giving over which is done by word of mouth or in writing, i.e. tradition by instruction, narrative, precept, etc.
I believe Paul is addressing the Jewish believers who had a heritage of oral traditions, handed down through generations. These traditions were elevated to be as authoritative as the commands of God. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for this (Matthew 15:3-6), and even in Isaiah’s day, God warned those who adhered to traditions, but whose hearts were far from Him (Isaiah 29:13). But even as 21st-century Gentile believers, we have a tendency to elevate traditions and allow them to draw our hearts away from Christ. How many churches do you know that split over preferences? How many people have been turned off or away from Christ when confronted with traditions that may be good, but not necessary for salvation? How many times do we judge one another based on our traditions, rather than simply letting God’s Word define what sin is? Traditions are great and can help us honor our elders and celebrate things we want to remember. But they can also draw us away from the simplicity of the gospel if we are not on guard, and do not allow God’s Word to be the final authority.
#4 – Principles (of the world) [stoicheion] – any first thing, from which the others belonging to some series or composite whole take their rise, an element, first principal. From stoichos, “a row, rank, series” (KJV: rudiments).
When I think of “principles of the world” I think “worldview.” What is the lens through which we view life? If we approach life from the world’s perspective, we will most certainly have the wrong values. This word is very insightful because it shows us that our principles are built upon one another. If we start with the wrong foundation, everything else will be wrong. One example is the debate between creation and evolution. If we begin with evolution, our view of life is focused on self (self-preservation, self-exaltation, self-progress, self-satisfaction). This is significantly different than when we understand and believe in a Creator who designed our world for His glory.
Which of these four things is seeking to capture your heart and mind and draw you away from Christ?
Are you pursuing a philosophy that is based on speculation and makes the pursuit of wisdom the end goal, rather than God’s wisdom that leads to the practical application of truth?
Are you being deceived by your own lusts and sin, the pursuit of riches, or false teaching that denies Christ?
Do the traditions of men guide your decisions and take precedence over God’s Word?
Do you have a worldview built on faulty principles?
Don’t think you can play around in the enemy’s camp and not be captured. Christ has come to set us free.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3-6)
So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32)
The Lord’s bondservant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:24-26)