Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com. This week I take a look at hearts united in love in the second chapter of Colossians. The Colossians and Laodiceans received Jesus by faith. Without the extra help of secret knowledge or divination of stars or Gnostic belief systems. Faith in Jesus Christ is enough for our salvation. Sometimes things really are just that simple. For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Faith in Jesus Christ is enough for our salvation. When Paul writes to the Colossians he is essentially repeating the message of John 3:16. He lets the Colossians know how much he cares for them, he encourages them to be united in love, and then he tells them to unite in love. It really is that simple. Faith in Jesus is enough for our salvation. Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms:
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The focus of this week’s lesson is hearts united in love. This letter to the church at Colossae was “intended to be read by the church at Laodicea as well. Colossae was on the coast of the Lycus River in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey)” (New Interpreters Study Bible). This letter is likely written in the late 50’s or early 60’s AD. “An earthquake devastated the area in 60 CE, about the time of Paul’s death, and there was probably little left of the city” (NISB).
Colossians is one of Paul’s prison letters. He writes these words while imprisoned probably in Rome. The prison letters also include
Its central theme is to show the supremacy or completeness of Jesus Christ. And that the Christian believer does not need anything in addition to Jesus. In Christ is the fullness of God.
Paul writes this letter because at some point he heard reports that the Colossians were at least “acknowledging if not worshiping heavenly powers associated with the stars” (NISB). This, in addition to the belief that “food or drink or observing festivals, new moons, or Sabbaths (Col 2:16)” was necessary for salvation all presented a problem that Paul needed to address. Paul knew there was nothing needed in addition to Jesus Christ.
This second chapter of Colossians “warns against a particular human tradition about the elemental spirits of the universe, an aspect of astrology that teaches that angels associated with stars controlled human destiny” (NISB).
Some important words to consider from this text include:
Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week
Last week Hebrews 9:11 described Jesus Christ as a High Priest of the good things that have come. I noted that those good things are salvation, restoration, and redemption provided through Jesus Christ. We have these good things now because of the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary’s cross.
I also noted that verse twelve described Jesus as entering once into the Holy Place. The New Interpreter’s Study Bible noted that “this place is ideal and not an actual place, but pointing to the ultimate reality of Christ’s atoning work”. In other words, Jesus symbolically entered into the Holy Place with his own blood. This Holy Place is what we have to look forward to.
Verses thirteen and fourteen explained that the blood of goats and calves and ashes only sanctifies the outward flesh. It is Christ’s blood that purifies the conscience or inner person from the dead works of the Old Testament animal sacrifice system.
In verses sixteen and seventeen we noted terminology dealing with the ideas of wills, testaments, and covenants. The Greek word for covenant is interchangeable with testament. It is the same term for which we get the phrase “last will and testament”.
I noted in verse eighteen that the author makes his point; “not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood”. A sacrifice had to be made for the new covenant to become effective. It had to be the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Last week compared the Old Testament sacrifice to the complete and fulfilled sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Last week’s lesson connects to this week’s lesson by showing that the new covenant is fulfilled in Jesus Christ and nothing else is required. Jesus fulfills the new covenant and in him is the fullness of God. Townsend, Boyd’s, and Standard Lesson Commentary all title this week’s lesson Hearts United In Love. The scripture text comes from Colossians 2:1-15.
What Takes Place in This Passage
The text begins with Paul telling the Colossians and Laodiceans that he is struggling or contending for them. He wants them to know how much he cares for them. You might have heard the saying that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Even though Paul has never visited the Colossians, he wants them to know that he is concerned and that he cares.
In verse two he mentions four things he desires for the Colossians. His desire for the Colossians is
For their hearts to be encouraged
United in love
Full richness and complete understanding
To know the mystery of God in Christ.
Keep in mind that one of the reasons Paul writes this letter is because he has heard reports that they have some involvement with spiritual teachings other than Jesus Christ. “For Gnostics, knowledge of secret lore was the key to salvation. For Paul, the only knowledge necessary for salvation was knowing Christ” (NISB).
Verse three continues the same thought mentioning that in Christ are hid the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Paul writes this to tell the Colossians that there is no salvation in wisdom and knowledge. But if you desire wisdom and knowledge you can find it in Jesus Christ. In other words, get to know Christ and you’ll get to know wisdom.
Verse four is important. Paul is getting to the point. He knows there is no salvation in secret knowledge or watching the stars or any of the Gnostic beliefs. He warns them not to be deceived by fine sounding arguments. That holds true today, we ought not be deceived just because it sounds good. You should know what you believe and why you believe it.
Verse five is a restatement that he cares for them. Even though he isn’t physically present he is with them in spirit. He also offers another word of encouragement. He tells them of his joy that they are disciplined and firm in their faith in Christ.
Verse six is the central point in this passage and seven underpins it. Paul is telling them in the same way you received Jesus, just continue that way. In other words, you don’t need to add anything to what you already have. You don’t need to add secret knowledge or anything else. In verse seven he is telling them your foundation was in Christ by faith. So just stick with faith in Christ Jesus.
Verse eight is a warning against three things rather than complete trust in Christ. He warns against:
Hollow and deceptive philosophy
The tradition of men
Spiritual forces of this world
Townsend Commentary notes that “Paul warned the church against believing in human philosophies that were based on empty human traditions instead of the true and divine revelation of Christ”.
Verses nine and ten says in plain language what all the previous verses were building up to. In Christ Jesus is the fullness of God. If you have Christ, you have God, if you have Christ, you don’t need secret knowledge. If you have Christ, you don’t need to consult the stars for advice. If you have Christ, you don’t need to Gnostic teaching, beliefs, or anything else. You are complete in Christ Jesus. There is no power or authority greater than Jesus.
Verses eleven through thirteen uses symbolism that Paul is familiar with. Here he talks about:
Baptism / buried and risen
Dead in sins / risen in Christ
Paul is not talking about a physical circumcision. It’s a spiritual circumcision where the sins of the flesh or unrighteousness is cut away. When he speaks of being buried with Christ in baptism he uses the symbolism of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. In the same way, our sinful attitudes, behaviors, and unrighteousness is put to death and buried and we arise to a new life of righteousness with our sins forgiven.
The lesson closes with verses fourteen and fifteen dealing with the legalism of charges against us that has now been replaced by the grace of Jesus on Calvary.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him. The Colossians and Laodiceans received Jesus by faith. Without the extra help of secret knowledge or divination of stars or Gnostic belief systems. Faith in Jesus Christ is enough for our salvation. Sometimes things really are just that simple. For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Faith in Jesus Christ is enough for our salvation. Paul is essentially repeating the message of John 3:16. He lets the Colossians know how much he cares for them, he encourages them to be united in love, and then he tells them to unite in love. It really is that simple. Faith in Jesus is enough for our salvation.
Key Characters in the text
Jesus Christ – Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah and according to the Christian church the incarnate second Person of the Trinity. He was crucified on a cross and was raised from the dead by the power of God.
Paul – A leading persecutor of Christians in the first years of the new faith. He became a believer in Jesus and one of the most influential voices in the Christian New Testament.
Godhead – The nature or essence of God as Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Philosophy – Love of wisdom. The study of ultimate reality by the use of human reason, logic, ethics, etc., to answer such questions as: What is real? How do we know? What are we to do?
Gnosticism – An amorphous movement during the early church period which featured complex views that focused on the quest for secret knowledge transmitted only to the “enlightened” and marked by the view that matter is evil. Gnostics denied the humanity of Jesus.
Unity – Used theologically to describe the oneness between the members of the Godhead, the relationship between God and believers through Jesus Crist, and the relationship of believers in Christ with one another. Also, a religious movement stressing positive thought and prayer.
Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas
1. Jesus is enough
2. False teaching faces a real Savior.
1. This letter warns the Colossians against false philosophies based on secret knowledge and Gnostics beliefs. No one would believe something that is completely ludicrous. How do we guard against good sounding arguments that are false?
2. Unity sounds like a great goal to achieve. When should unity be rejected?
This week’s study is titled hearts united in love. I can think of no example where this isn’t a great and admirable goal. The key here is “in love”. You can never go wrong operating in love. However, you can go wrong simply operating in unity. We should always be united in righteousness and love. Going along to get along is not a unity that we should strive for. Unity at the expense of doing what is righteous is also something we should not strive for. If your unity results in the unrighteous subjection or oppression of others it’s a unity that isn’t based in love.
Preview of Next Week’s Lesson
Next week we move to the Gospel according to Matthew. I will explore how Jesus teaches about right attitudes as we study the beatitudes. We are now focused on the heartfelt covenant of Jesus Christ.