I know, I know, this is sorta shameful; but the favorite family movie for our boys at our house over the years was Dumb and Dumber. If you don’t understand that, well, it’s a guy thing I guess. There is a scene where Harry and Lloyd are driving across the country and getting near the Rockies. But one evening after a gas stop, Lloyd goes to drive back onto the Interstate and makes a wrong turn at a fork in the road, heading east rather than west. Many hours later when Harry wakes up and sees nothing but prairie around him, he says, “I expected the Rocky Mountains to be a little rockier than this.”
Taking the wrong fork in the road can make a big difference … in driving, or in theology. The Colossian church was being led by false teachers onto an errant fork in the road, and Paul determined he needed to address it in a letter.
The wayward teaching was an embryonic form of something that would later be known as Gnosticism. It was an odd mix of Jewish legalism, philosophically deep knowledge, exclusivism and elitism, and an emphasis upon angels as mediators between God and man. When it came to understanding who exactly Jesus was, this teaching saw him as some sort of phantom-like intermediary angelic thingamajig, certainly not the perfect son of God.
Of course, this is a problem … or another word we could use is “heresy.” For Jesus to be the substitutionary sacrifice for sin, he must be human. And for him to be perfect, he must be divine. This is why the doctrine of the virgin birth is so significant. Jesus is the unique union of a 100% sinless human, while also being 100% God. This is called the “hypostatic union” … the joining two hypostases, which in Greek is the word for the substance or nature of something.
If you lose either the humanity or the deity of Christ, you lose everything. It is a fork in the road that takes you in the opposite direction of truth. This is the problem at the front door of varied cult groups as well as much of theological liberalism.
Paul, during this time of his two-year confinement in Rome, writes to the Colossians primarily to confront this errant teaching by affirming and detailing the truth. The result is some of the best writing in Scripture that defines the person of Christ.
Colossians 1:15 – The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
What a great paragraph! It essentially says, “When you see Jesus, you see God because he is the exact image of him. He was not created; he was the creator who has existed always both before and above all things, even holding everything together. Risen from the dead, he is supreme over everything as head of the church. And everything that was and is the essence of God is seen dwelling in Jesus in bodily form.”
Add to this chapter 2, verse 8 – For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. Boom!
In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians he spoke of the many difficulties and challenges he had to endure in the course of his life. And then he said, “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” (11:28) This concern we will note much in our final studies about Paul, how even while imprisoned he had the regular worry about how the various churches were faring that he and others had established. And so he writes to them on different occasions to deal with issues and questions in these early years of seeing the Christian faith established.
These writings serve the purpose for us of not only learning about church history, but of also defining the central doctrines and teaching about our faith. This is incredibly valuable, and to not understand something that is as important as this is to be dumb (and dumber).