Paul and Philosophy

Yeah, that ol’ apostle loved Jesus, the churches (among many others) at Colossae and Laodicea. He even loved the church at Corinth… now that’s a deep lovin’ dive… but that’s for another time and post.

As I sometimes do, waking up for a bit at night means checking world and national news as well as The Bible prior to getting back to sleep.

On a recent night I began thinking a great deal about Paul’s letter to the church (Colossians) and what it contains is a truly deep, profound explanation of WHO God is, His amazing attributes and specifically regarding Messiah Jesus Christ.

Yet what leapt out at me that night was the following. It’s a longer portion and says much more in context but I wish to zero in on a few things so am only quoting the NRSV. For a deeper dive I suggest reading the passage in the wider context in other English translations and doing a bit of research via an interlinear Bible via a site such as BibleHub.Com

Paul wrote in Col. chapter 2:

“1. For I want you to know how much I am struggling for you, and for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not seen me face to face. 2. I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself, 3. in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4. I am saying this so that no one may deceive you with plausible arguments. 5. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, and I rejoice to see your morale and the firmness of your faith in Christ. 6. As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives (Greek: “to walk in him”) 7. rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, (Or “the rudiments of the world”) and not according to Christ. 9. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10. and you have come to fullness in him…”

Throughout -all- human history including that of the Jewish people and the churches to the present there have been those who have struggled and plenty who’ve left the faith in Jesus -rather choosing their faith in the thoughts and traditions of those who do not follow Him. That’s obvious.

Jesus told His “parable of the sower” where He taught His followers “the seed” is “the Word of God“. After moving past the first two situations Jesus spoke of there are two left, that of fruit coming out of a genuine response to God’s Word being “choked” out of a person’s life who had been following the Lord and lastly those who “out of a good heart” patiently endured the trails and pains of a faith-walk, consistency in relationship -to honoring God in fruitfulness.

Though there are plenty of scholars one can find detailing the church at Laodicea (appx. some 17k from Colossae) you may recall that John quotes the risen Jesus in the Book of Revelation chapter 3 telling the church there to repent of lukewarmness. Relationship to Jesus wasn’t their focus. Among other things, it is the only one of the six churches John is told to write to with nothing to commend it. The Lord calls them out of His love for them to “repent”. Studying Laodicea in the night offered much. They were one of the most wealthy areas of the world at that time -and spiritually apathetic. When a massive earthquake destroyed the place Rome offered to pay for rebuilding the city. They were so rich they declined and paid for it by themselves.

So look at what Paul is saying to their neighbor about his love and concern for the Laodicean church…

“…encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself, 3. in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4. I am saying this so that no one may deceive you with plausible arguments.” Hmmm.

I have long been convinced the weakness of the old man/old nature/flesh among believers, the deep desires for personal fulfillment (in the case of the Laodiceans, what we in the West may call “the good life” or in the U.S. “the American dream”) along with human philosophies that agree with such pursuits. These are so often a path to shutting God clean out of our life.

I’ve seen, heard, read and known longtime seemingly sincere followers of Jesus move further away from the Lord in relationship to Him, human relationships and everyday practice for decades. Frankly but sadly I’ve long not been surprised by it.

I suggest we, like those Paul is writing to and about in these churches heed his warning. I do not believe we can rightly ignore or blow off Paul or John’s words as mere “narrative” or “opinion”.

Who God Himself is, what He thinks and what He has said and says is far beyond narrative or simply a matter of opinion.

When our chosen culture (and we ALL have at least one of ’em…) is so much our desire, focus and default it supercedes, replaces the only true Lord and Savior we’re playing a foolish and losing game.

How convenient it is to ignore, reject and eventually backslide as those in Laodicea (part of present day Türkiye) did. Paul was warning the Christ-followers in Colossae as Jesus via John regarding Laodicea also did:

(found in Matthew 13.1-23, Mark 4.1-20, Luke 8.4-15)

From Matthew quoting Jesus: 13.22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

I submit to you dear reader, that when my/your/our words are more important to us than His, we are in -real- trouble.

Rev. 3.14-22 is a passage we all need to both hear -and respond to the Lord about. He knocks. Are we opening the door to Him?

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn


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