Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hidden Treasures of Wisdom and Knowledge

For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and* of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:1-3)

Paul had an intense concern for the Jesus believers at Colosse and Laodicea and the entire region. They had been targeted by Gnostic teachers who promoted a “secret” wisdom and knowledge to which only a few attained. Paul was determined to protect them from this error. Not that he did not want them to have wisdom and knowledge — he very much desired that they should experience the “mystery” of God it in all its fullness. But the Gnostics taught that God was a distant deity whose fullness was too pure for the material realm and was separated from us by a hierarchy of angelic beings.

“As many as have not seen my face in the flesh.” It almost seems like Paul says this as a dig against this false teaching. For the Gnostics, only the spiritual realm was good; the material world was not merely corrupt but was inherently evil. So Paul gets in their face, so to speak, with reference to material things: his face and his flesh. Ha!

Paul wanted the believers at Colosse to “know” (Greek, eido, to “see” or “perceive”) what “conflict” (Greek, agon, from which we get “agony”) he was going through on their behalf. This was a serious matter and he was engaged in a magnificent purpose. Let me share with you how various translations have put it:
In order that their hearts may be cheered, they themselves being welded together in love and enjoying all the advantages of a reasonable certainty, till at last they attain the full knowledge of God’s truth, which is Christ Himself. (Weymouth New Testament)

How I long that you may be encouraged, and find out more and more how strong are the bonds of Christian love. How I long for you to grow more certain in your knowledge and more sure in your grasp of God himself. May your spiritual experience become richer as you see more and more fully God’s great secret, Christ himself! (The New Testament in Modern English, J. B. Phillips)

Know that I’m on your side, right alongside you. You’re not in this alone. I want you woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God. Then you will have minds confident and at rest, focused on Christ, God’s Great mystery. (The Message)
There is one purpose here but with three facets:
  • That they may be encouraged, comforted, cheered.
  • That they may be knit together, woven together, bonded together, even welded together in love.
  • That they may have a full, rich “knowledge” (Greek, epignosis) of God, that is, to know Him not just in theory but in experience.
This full, rich, experiential knowledge of the Father comes to us in Jesus the Messiah. He is the “mystery” of God. For the Gnostics, divine mystery was a secret knowledge revealed only to a few, but for Paul, the mystery of God was something that was once hidden but is now revealed to everyone — it is the “good news” of the gospel.

Paul’s emphasis is ever and always on Jesus. It is in Him — not in the esoteric teachings and angelic hierarchies of the Gnostics, but in Jesus alone — that we find all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge and come to experience, with confident assurance, the fullness of knowing God.

* The NKJV adds “both of the Father and,” but there is no basis for this in the earliest Greek manuscripts of the New Testament.

The Focus of Our Faith
The Focus of Our Faith
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Colosse
Bite-Size Studies Through Colossians
by Jeff Doles

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Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

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