by Mike Ratliff
May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:2-4 ESV)
The root of most heresies springs from those who profess Christ as Saviour, but who believe in various ways that what the Christian receives at Salvation is not sufficient. Something else must be added in order for the Christian to enter into a fuller relationship with God or to go deeper into the things of God. Some even go so far as to say that unless certain things are added to salvation then it is not complete and, therefore, void. A good example of this is found in the book of Galatians. Some Judiazers had entered the churches Paul and planted in Galatia. They were teaching that salvation was indeed by Christ, but it was not complete unless the converts also were circumcised and kept the Law of Moses.
This is just one example, but in every one we will look at in this post we will see that the proponents of these heresies will place their emphasis not on the Gospel and Salvation by Faith through grace alone, but on whatever it is that they are insisting must be added to Christ in order to be truly saved or truly seeking the deeper things of God. The answer to all these things is, “No! Christ is sufficient and, in fact, the sufficiency of what is received by the believer in Christ is superabundant!” Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post (2 Peter 1:2-4). What has been granted to all believers? God has granted to believers all things that pertain to life and godliness. These things came to each believer through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence. Notice also that these gifts came via God’s divine power. These gifts consist of the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. God has granted to believers very great promises so that through them they may become partakers of the divine nature. What is the big deal about this knowledge of God?
Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”– these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:6-16 ESV)
Carefully read this passage my brethren. It is very important for us to know the difference between wisdom and knowledge. The knowledge that is imparted to Christians from God is given so that believers will have the mind of Christ. Wisdom comes into play when the believer works with the Holy Spirit in applying the mind of Christ as they walk through each day and deal with circumstances and relationships. This knowledge and wisdom is not born in man. It is not a product of man. It is, in fact, alien to man. It comes only from God and is given only to the regenerate. God has revealed His truth to His children through the Spirit. Therefore, when we have the mind of Christ and are submitted to the Word of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit then we are able to spiritually discern the truth in the face of heretical teachings that those who are not really part of the Kingdom of God love. The natural man says that the ways of God are not right. However, the believer, since he or she has the mind of Christ, understands the ways of God and stands for the truth in the face of false teachers and their heresies. Now let us look at some of the add-ons that some insist are essential to our salvation, but are only attempts by our enemy to dilute the truth and kill our faith.
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8 ESV)
I have been amazed at how many have attacked this ministry from the platform of human philosophy or church tradition. They are incapable of arguing effectively from Sacred Scripture so they use empty deceit and logical fallacies to intimidate and silence those they are seeking to take captive. Their methods seem somewhat predatory to me. Their add-on to Christ is human philosophy. We find this today in all forms of liberalism, post-modernism, neo-evangelicalism, et cetera. They emphasize philosophy over the Gospel they claim to believe. Their efforts are void of the working of the Holy Spirit so they compensate by diluting the Gospel to make it palatable to those who hate ‘church.’ They remove the offense of the cross and the condemnation of sin and turn the Gospel into a form of self-help and self-esteem. No matter how big their churches become or how many churches they have, they are still functioning not according to Christ, but according to the elemental spirits of the world.
Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17 ESV)
In this passage, we see the add-on of legalism. This is what the Judiazers were doing in Galatia. This heresy can be very subtle and many fall into its clutches out of good intentions. In most cases those attempting to burden people with legalism teach that these are the means by which Christians grow and advance spiritually. I have had some ask me privately to comment on a teaching they are being subjected to about this very thing. Our salvation consists wholly in Christ not in ceremonies. It is not in what food we eat or not eat. It is not in keeping rules. Nor is it found in remaining in Christ through self-effort. Works do not save us nor do they hold us in Christ. Our works are evidence of the Grace of God working in us not the means by which we earn it. The Old Covenant pointed to the future reality that was completely fulfilled in Christ.
Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, (Colossians 2:18 ESV)
In this passage, we see two add-ons. The first is asceticism. What is that? This is monkish behavior. This is self-flagellation or withdrawing from people to live in a cave or in the desert. Why? It is on order to draw closer to God. We see the ascetic’s taboos in v21, “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch.” This sort of thing is very appealing to the professing believer who does not have the mind of Christ, but he or she wants to prove to God and to himself or herself that they can be humble through self-abasement.
The second and last add-on Paul addressed in this epistle is mysticism. This is a huge issue even in our time and is encroaching on the visible Church in many forms such as ‘Contemplative Prayer.’ What is the draw for mysticism? Isn’t it to become more in line with God and put oneself on the right track so that the believer can grow spiritually and possess more of God and our Lord and the Holy Spirit? Is this commanded anywhere in Sacred Scripture for us to do this? No, what we are called to do is to become living sacrifices and live out our lives as acts of worship by being transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2). This is not mysticism. No, it is becoming saturated by and immersed in the Word of God and working with God to develop the mind of Christ so that we can live out our faith in God’s Wisdom. When we believed and repented as God regenerated us, He justified us and began the sanctification process that will last the rest of our lives. We received at that moment all of Christ we will ever need.
For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. (Colossians 2:9-10 ESV)
Christ is God. What does it mean that believers have been ‘filled’ in Him? The Greek word used here for ‘filled’ is πληρόω or plēroō. The KJV translates this word as ‘complete.’ This word describes the filling of something to its maximum capacity. It is like filling a cup to the brim or a net with fish to point of breaking it. This is an incredible statement by Paul. All genuine Christians share in Christ’s power and authority. According to the rest of this statement, it means that believers share with Christ in being head over all rule and authority. This is positional and will be fulfilled when our Lord returns in the completion of His Kingdom.
Is there any thing lacking in our salvation that we would have to add the elemental things of this world to in order to line ourselves up with God’s will more than we already are my brethren? Not according to Sacred Scripture and that means that any who insist that these add-ons are essential are proving that they are false teachers and purveyors of heresy. Instead of attempting to draw near to God through works of religiosity, draw near unto Him by coming boldly to the Throne of Grace. Pray about everything and both live in His Word and live it out in every part of your life. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling as God develops the mind of Christ in you so that your character will be just like Christ’s. This is being whom we are in Christ by the power and through the grace of the one who has saved us.
Soli Deo Gloria!