In 1945 a discovery was made in Upper Egypt–52 copies of ancient writings called the Gnostic Gospels.
“A few Gnostic scholars have gone so far as to assert that these recently discovered writings are the authentic history of Jesus instead of the New Testament . . .
“Their name comes from the Greek word gnosis, meaning “knowledge.” These people thought they had secret, special knowledge hidden from ordinary people . . .
“As Christianity spread, the Gnostics mixed some doctrines and elements of Christianity into their beliefs, morphing Gnosticism into a counterfeit Christianity” (Y-Jesus, Website).
According to [the 2006 movie],The Da Vinci Code, Jesus was really just a human being, married to Mary Magdalene, and he has a royal bloodline that continues to this day. The Church, in order to hide the true nature of Jesus, destroyed the earlier, Gnostic Gospels that had the evidence of Jesus’ humanity, and declared them heretical in a play for political power.
In Colossians, Paul confronts an early form of Gnosticism threatening the church. He does so, however, only by inference. Instead of tearing into Gnosticism point by point, Paul magnifies Jesus Christ. “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me” (1:28,29).
“I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (2:1-3).
Paul is “struggling”. Greek agown, used of an athletic contest—a foot race or wrestling match. Paul is“struggling with all [Christ’s] energy, which so powerfully works in [him]. He struggles to proclaim Christ, “admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone complete in Christ” (1:28,29).
Proclaiming Christ is a “struggle”, because wherever he goes, opposition rises—“troubles, hardships . . . distresses . . . beatings, imprisonments and riots” (2 Corinthians 6:4,5). He’s writing this letter from Roman imprisonment.
He wants the churches to know how much he is struggling for them. Not for their pity. He wants to be an example of a man fighting for the faith, so they may “be encouraged in heart and united in love”. He wants to be their model. In other words, stand together with courage and love against “hollow and deceptive philosophy” (2:8) that will draw them from Christ.
He wants them assured o f the truth. He wants them “complete in Christ”. As he writes, he wants them to “have the full riches of complete understanding”. Interesting. Complete understanding requires not only that they continue in the faith, but that they continue together. This learning comes through the community of the church, through members practicing what they’re learning among each other.
All this has a yet-higher purpose: “in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”. Paul jabs at the Gnostics. Do they hold a deep knowledge of spiritual things? In “Christ . . . are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”.
Hampton Keathley III (former pastor and Greek teacher at Moody Bible Institute) writes, “Paul meets the heretics on their own ground. He has a secret, too. It also is unknowable, except to the initiated. To understand the secrets of the pagan religions, one must enter the temples. Likewise, the only way to understand the treasures of God’s wisdom and understanding is to enter Christ by faith. They are stored away in Him. He is God’s great secret; leave the mysteries of men and come to Him who is the way, the truth, and the life is the apostle’s conviction.”
“I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is” (2:4,5).
Paul tells them all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ “so that they may not deceive you by fine-sounding arguments”. The church has all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ. Why let smooth-talkers with seemingly plausible arguments lead them elsewhere?
In fact, the churches aren’t being led astray. Precisely what Paul means by “present with you in spirit” is unclear. What is clear is his “delight” at “how orderly . . . and firm your faith in Christ is”. “ . . . orderly” and “firm” are military terms. The New American Standard translation hints at that: “ . . . rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ”.
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (2:6-8).
We’ve reached Paul’s conclusion. His previous paragraphs have led to what he wants them to do now: continue to live in Christ Jesus, just as you received him as Lord. “Lord” (Greek kurios) is a loaded word. Some Roman emperors adopted it–supreme ruler, no one as high. To the Jews it was the title of the God who appeared to Moses in the burning bush–supreme ruler who made outlandish, personal promises to his covenant people.
Paul’s central teaching of the letter, then, is that the Colossians should continue to live their lives in Christ (2:6). Just as they began by “receiving” Christ Jesus, the Lord, so they should continue to live their lives “in him.”
* * *
Here’s one fascinating take away from all this: The treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ.
These days, “wisdom” and “knowledge” aren’t much sought after. Our treasures are bursts of information on our phones that entertain or, better, save us money. But look at this treasure’s worth from this ligonier.org comment . . .
“Knowledge is equivalent to the intellectual content of the faith, and wisdom is the ability to see reality as God does, enabling people to apply knowledge in a life that pleases the Creator and creates godly abundance (Prov. 2; Eccl. 2:26). We are being told in Colossians 2:3 that everything we need to know about the Father and how to properly interpret reality and live to His glory is accessible to all believers in His Son. Matthew Henry comments, ‘The treasures of wisdom are hidden not from us, but for us, in Christ.’”
” . . . wisdom is the ability to see reality as God does”. Reality is “the e state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional (theoretical) idea of them.” The ability to see reality as God does (wisdom) is hidden in Christ. What we see apart from Christ is partial reality–even distorted–like the Gnostics with their secret knowledge.
If true treasures are hidden in Christ, treasures that enable us to see reality and to know God, let’s step into our work boots, put on our gloves and start digging.