In his warning and counsel to the Colossians, Paul makes several important points. He wrote, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:8, 9). First, he states that our natural tendency is to be mentally swept away. This is the cause of his warning to “beware.” The implication is that unless there is an intentional effort on our part to beware, we will surely become captive victims of fraud because our human condition is susceptible to believing that which is vainly and emptily deceitful.
Another important point Paul establishes is that the deceitful traditions of men or the basic principles of the world are antagonistic to Christ. Furthermore, this philosophy is deceitful in that it appears to be fulfilling, while it is, in fact, deficient in its ability to do anything meaningful for a person’s mind or soul. In other words, the traditions of men and the basic principles of the world appear to open our eyes and make us as gods, and know good and evil, when it is in Christ alone in whom “dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.”
The Colossian church struggled with the same temptation many have today: holding to the perspective that even a small amount of humanistic philosophy can be helpful on a quest to be like Jesus. Christ’s goal in our lives is to rid us of everything that is worldly, because the source of worldliness is human effort; and human effort is powerless to transform us into the likeness of Christ—He alone must save.
Sinlessness in Sinfulness
The problem the Colossian church had—accepting deception instead of the truth—is the same we have today. It was the cause of Adam and Eve’s fall. Paul gave the solution to the warped worldview in his letter to the Philippians: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:5–8).
Today, by faith, we can reverse Satan’s deception by allowing the mind of Christ to be in us (Phil. 2:5). When Christ died on the cross for our sin, He provided Himself the right to give us His mind by faith so that we could continue the journey of education even in a fallen world, understanding that a knowledge of Him is always greater than a knowledge of anything else.