See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception

by Mike Ratliff

8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8 NASB)

When we do word studies in the Greek New Testament it is vital that we pay very close attention to the verb tenses. From these we learn that some statements are commands (imperatives) while others, which some Bible translations render as if they are commands, are actually statements of fact (indicatives or aorists). Confusing these has caused a very large amount of confusion and bad doctrine to pollute the church. For instance, when Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God,” the verb structure here is not imperative (a command to be born again), but aorist tense, subjunctive mood, passive voice. In other words, this is action that is most definitely not a command by our Lord to Nicodemus to be born again, but a statement of fact that if a person is to see the kingdom of God he or she must be born again. The action is passive so it is the result of some other action. So what? Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post. This is an example of an imperative. Let us put it into context. 

4 I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument. 5 For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.
6 Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.
8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. (Colossians 2:4-8 NASB)

4 Τοῦτο λέγω, ἵνα μηδεὶς ὑμᾶς παραλογίζηται ἐν πιθανολογίᾳ. 5 εἰ γὰρ καὶ τῇ σαρκὶ ἄπειμι, ἀλλὰ τῷ πνεύματι σὺν ὑμῖν εἰμι, χαίρων καὶ βλέπων ὑμῶν τὴν τάξιν καὶ τὸ στερέωμα τῆς εἰς Χριστὸν πίστεως ὑμῶν.
6 Ὡς οὖν παρελάβετε τὸν Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν τὸν κύριον, ἐν αὐτῷ περιπατεῖτε, 7 ἐρριζωμένοι καὶ ἐποικοδομούμενοι ἐν αὐτῷ καὶ βεβαιούμενοι τῇ πίστει καθὼς ἐδιδάχθητε, περισσεύοντες ἐν εὐχαριστίᾳ. 8 Βλέπετε μή τις ὑμᾶς ἔσται ὁ συλαγωγῶν διὰ τῆς φιλοσοφίας καὶ κενῆς ἀπάτης κατὰ τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, κατὰ τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου καὶ οὐ κατὰ Χριστόν· (Colossians 2:4-8 NA28)

4 This I say, that no one might delude you with persuasive words. 5 Even though I am absent in the flesh, I am present with you in the spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and solidity of your faith in Christ.
6 As then you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him 7 and being confirmed in the faith just as you were taught, exceeding in thanksgiving. 8 See to it that no one take you captive through philosophy and deception by the tradition of men, by the elements of the world and not by Christ; (Colossians 2:4-8 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Verse 8 is in bold in each example above. “See to it” translates the Greek word βλεπετε the present tense, imperative mood, active voice form of βλέπω or blepō, which the KJV translates here as “beware.” Paul’s intent here is to give the Colossians and us a warning to “take heed” or “be careful” because of the danger of deceptive teaching pervasive in the visible church. The verb structure makes it clear that this is a command for us to “take heed” or “beware” or “see to it” as a way of life. We must check the way we live, how we walk through each day this way. Of what or whom are we to continually be wary? We are to have this guard up against anyone who would attempt to take us captive through their philosophy, empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world. The words “take you captive” translates συλαγωγων a present active participle of συλαγωγέω or sulagōgeō, which means, “to lead away as spoil” or “seduce.” This being a present active participle means that it is relative to the main verb or contemporaneous with it. If we are not careful and are continually wary we could be led astray and captured by the continual attacks by our enemy and his agents in the world.

Notice also that the solution for us to keep us from being taken captive by these deceivers is to be taken captive by Christ. If we are his captives then we will be wary and we will be living for Him and not self. We will then not be vulnerable to these attacks. If we ever allow ourselves to fall into the trap of becoming self-focused then this opens the door to these deceivers. I know that in these days that it is not popular for Christians to view themselves as slaves of our Lord Jesus, but if we are not His slaves then we are not His.

We are born again by the work of God. We are His by His grace through faith not by works or merit (Ephesians 2:8.9). However, those of us in Christ are no longer of the world and that includes the religious people in it who think they are in with God even though they are only religious, but who are not born again. How do we know they are not born again? They are of the world. They profess to be of Christ, but also profess doctrines and beliefs that are in line with the world and its ways. They profess Christ and oppose God’s Word as the Word of God. They hate the Gospel and are continually trying to eradicate or change it. They are all about Law keeping and building the Tower of Babel instead of obeying Christ and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom.

Those who resist these things (and there is much more) and remain captives of Christ no matter the pressure are the ones who prove they are truly Christians. These obey the Great Commission serving God where He puts them doing what he has given them to do for they have been taken captive by their Lord.

Soli Deo Gloria!

5 thoughts on “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception

  1. A little confusion with the second to last paragraph of this post … “However, those of us in Christ are no longer of the world and that includes the religious people in it who think they are in with God even though they are only religious”

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  2. Why? Here is the quote, “However, those of us in Christ are no longer of the world and that includes the religious people in it who think they are in with God even though they are only religious” There are, a large number of professing christians who are simply religious, who think they are in with God, but are not really. Why? They are unregenerate. They are not saved by grace through faith. Instead, they are simply religious. No one comes to Christ through works of religion…

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