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Colossians 2:2-4 by Robert Dean
What treasure are you seeking? Scripture tells us that spiritual assets and riches already exist in the believer's life. But how can we know that is true? How can we have that assurance?

In this lesson we learn these riches are activated as we learn God's Word, creating confidence and the ability to apply the Word to real life situations. We acquire wisdom, a skillful execution of the knowledge we have. We learn the true meaning of Paul's reference to "mystery" and how it is related to the new entity - the body of Christ. We learn that all (not some) treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ and are ours. Here's the formula for our growth process: understanding = knowledge = wisdom.

So what is bringing the most meaning and significance to your own personal life?
Series:Colossians (2011)
Duration:1 hr 8 mins 17 secs

What Treasure are You Seeking? Colossians 2:2-4

Worship is an interesting word. When we study it in both of the original worship it has the idea of submission to authority, bowing down before a king, and so worship is a focus upon submitting to the authority of God. The ultimate form of worship is to study God's Word, and then to learn it and apply it under the teaching ministry of God the Holy Spirit to our lives so that we can then think and live according to God's Word. But worship has different aspects. There are aspects of praise, aspects of thanksgiving, aspects of giving; all of these are part of worship where we honor God because He is the one, first of all who created us, and secondly, He is the one who had a perfect plan of redemption whereby we could be saved by simply trusting in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation. In Scripture in each dispensation there are clear guidelines as to the regulations for worship. In the New Testament Jesus said that we are to worship by means of the Spirit and by means of the truth. 'By means of the Spirit' means that we should be in fellowship. We walk by means of the Spirit. When we yield to the sin nature we are walking according to the flesh in the sin nature and the way of recovery is to simply confess our sins to God, and He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. So we always begin our worship service with a few moments of silent prayer to give the opportunity to make sure that we are in fellowship and ready to study the Word.   

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In life we are all seeking treasure. Some of us are seeking treasure in success, some are seeking treasure in accomplishment, and some seek treasure in knowledge and academic advancement. Others seek treasure in family and friends, in some sort of social life, others in money, and in some sense everybody seems to be pursuing some form of security or significance as their treasure. And many today just live for pleasure, comfort and for entertainment.

Jesus addressed the issue of treasure in Matthew 6:19-21 NASB "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." That is an important principle, because whatever we think of that will bring meaning and value to our lives is what we will pursue. What we are pursuing, how we spend our time says a lot about what is meaningful, what is significant in our live, what brings meaning in our lives. Scripture teaches that there are earthly treasures and there is not problem accumulating these, but that should not be the priority. There is something that goes beyond that and that relates to spiritual treasures. That is the focal point in the next couple of verses in Colossians chapter two.

It is first expressed in 2:2 as Paul expresses his purpose of his teaching ministry—which is also the focal point of any teaching ministry of any pastor-teacher. We are to attain to all riches "that come from the full assurance of understanding, {resulting} in a true knowledge of God's mystery, {that is,} Christ {Himself,}." That term "riches" is often used in Scripture in reference to all that we have been given in Jesus Christ. These are not things that we are accumulating spiritually but what we have already in Christ. Ephesians 1:3 NASB "Blessed {be} the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly {places} in Christ." We need to learn to live in light of those riches and learn what those riches are, what that portfolio of assets consists of, and learn how to exploit that.

The next word "full assurance" talks about certainty, conviction that something is true, a full assurance. But how do we get that certainty, that assurance? Scripture here indicates how we know it is true. It is a "full assurance" and it is followed by another genitive noun sunesis which relates to that aspect of our thinking that focuses on comprehension, perception, understanding, intelligence, etc. It focuses on the content of our understanding, that as we come to truly comprehend the content of Scripture, what the Scripture teaches, and we internalize that as part of our own thinking, then a result of that is that we have confidence in God's Word. Our confidence is strengthened in God's Word because of our understanding of God. It goes on to say that this full assurance comes from our understanding but it moves us toward a goal expressed by the Greek noun epignosis [e)pignwsij]. The basic core noun if gnosis for knowledge, and it is preceded by a prefix epi which indicates full experiential knowledge, a more intimate expression of the knowledge of something.

What Paul says here is that the goal of the apostolic ministry, the goal of the pastoral ministry, is to equip the saints through teaching and instruction. That involves knowledge and learning. So the most important thing we can focus on as believers is coming to know God's Word because that is how He has revealed Himself to us. It is the only way that He has revealed Himself to us in terms of precise knowledge. There is a general knowledge that is revealed through creation (general revelation) but in terms of special revelation that is restricted to the sixty-six books of the Bible. And once the canon closed and the last apostle died there were no longer individuals who were gifted by God to receive, transmit, and record divine revelation. Not only that, in the New Testament it was the apostolic authority that provided the ultimate protection against the addition of false teaching or the addition of false writings that claimed to be Scripture but which were not. In other words, the guardians of truth in revelation were the apostles. Once they passed off the scene there is no longer a basis in the Scripture for protecting or determining what is and what is not divine revelation. So we have a set of revelation that we are to study and we have to study it to understand who God is and what He has provided for us.  

The riches that we have in Christ come and are activated in our life only as we come to a full comprehension and understanding of God's Word. That gives us a confidence in Him as we go through the growth and maturation process, so that then we can come and grow in unity in the body of Christ.

There are some key words that are used in this passage—understanding, knowledge, mystery (the disclosure of revelation). The Greek words don't get their meaning from the Greek culture, they derive their meaning from the Hebrew Old Testament. The writers of the New Testament were originally schooled in the Hebrews Scriptures and Hebrew and Aramaic as their background language. So when they are thinking in terms of doctrinal or theological categories they are thinking in terms of Hebrew vocabulary as their frame of reference, not Greek culture. "Understanding" in the Hebrew was the word bina which often had to do with not just learning information, not just comprehension, but it took it a little bit further to putting things together in order to think critically and to evaluate things that were going on in our lives. So it was more of a practical application sense to understanding, not just an abstract understanding and comprehension of something but the ability to take that and apply it to real life situations.

Knowledge, then, comes as a result of taking that framework that comes from understanding and adding to it more information to build a full-orbed divine viewpoint framework for everything in life. Wisdom takes it another step further and has to do with the skilful application of that knowledge in our lives. This knowledge is said in the last part of Colossians 2:2 is said to be related to "God's mystery." The NKJV translates it "both of the Father and of Christ." There are two problems at this point. The first is a problem related to the text. There are a variety of different readings at this point which makes it a little confusing. The predominant ones, though, would read "the mystery of God" and then just the word "Christ," christou [xristou] in the genitive, following that. So that would be translated "the mystery of God, of Christ." But that genitive could be translated different ways. So first we have to decide what the text actually says; the second thing is, what does it mean and how do we translate it? The second way is the phrase "mystery of God" followed by kai christou [kai Xristou], "and Christ." But should that kai be translated "and Christ" or "even Christ." Then there is another reading: "mystery of God (nothing else) Christ." It could be translated "and of the Father and of Christ." Often when there are two "ands" in Greek it can be translated "both and."

So what is the reading? There is such a variety. With the reading in the KJV and the majority of MSS some would say that is the longest reading so it isn't that, because there is a trend towards the idea that if there is a short reading it is not clear and later scribes might try to add a word or two just to clarify the meaning. That is how these alternate readings are picked up. By looking at the context here, even if we can't identify with precision the specific words that are here and solve this textual problem we think we can be sure of what the meaning is. The context really helps us to clarify it.

The first thing we have to understand is the meaning of the word "mystery." This isn't like some sort of secretive esoteric knowledge that only certain people have access to. Maybe one of the reasons Paul uses this word here is because the word musterion [musthrion] as it was used in the Gnostic religions of Greece at the time had that idea, that there was a special knowledge, a special insight that God would give, that if you got into the right kind of service and had gone through the initiatory rites and got into the right sort of ecstatic mindset, that God would speak through you. This was their idea of God entering the worshipper and giving him special insight into God and into the meaning of life. That had a lot of attraction in the first century in the Greek culture. We don't have mystery religions quite like that today but we do have our counterparts and derivatives. For example, free masonry has the same kind of idea where you go through the various stages, learn different things and take different oaths, and when you reach a certain level then you are given the secret knowledge, the mystery. A lot of those ideas were picked up by Joseph Smith when he funded and invented Mormonism.

That is not what mystery means when it is used in the New Testament, and where it has the idea of previously unrevealed information. We do recognize that in one sense God is unknowable: Isaiah 55:8, 9 NASB "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. "For {as} the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts." It is true that God is infinite in every aspect of His being, and we cannot comprehend that. We cannot know God completely and exhaustively. But we can know God in a limited manner and in that limited manner we can know Him truly because He has revealed Himself to us, and even thought we are not able to comprehend God as He is we can understand and comprehend what God has said to us about Himself, so that we can be confident that what we do know about Him from His revelation is true and we can have confidence in that.

One time in which the Scriptures use the word "mystery" in this way is in Colossians 1:27 NASB "to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." Making known informs us that a mystery is something that is made known. In the church age in the first century God was disclosing information about Himself, about Jesus Christ, about the spiritual life of the church age and all that God was providing for the church age believers, and He was giving this information which had never before been revealed. It didn't change or contradict anything that had been revealed before but it took things to a new level. Colossians 1:17 informs us that part of this new mystery doctrine, this previously unrevealed doctrine, is related to the Gentiles. In the Old Testament the Gentiles were sort of also-rans in terms of divine revelation. Part of this mystery is that in the church age God has created a new people that has no emphasis on the ethnic distinction between Jew and Gentile. We are one in Christ, the Scripture teaches. The mystery is clearly related to this new entity, the body of Christ and the spiritual wealth that God has given everyone who is in Christ.

Ephesians 3:8-11 NASB "To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration [fellowship] of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly {places.} {This was} in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord." This helps to elucidate the meaning of Colossians 2:2, 3. Notice the similar terminology. "…the manifold wisdom of God." As we look at Colossians chapter two we learn (v. 3) that "in whom [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." So there is a learning process to get to that. The phrase "and the authorities in the heavenly {places}" relates to the angelic realm, and this describes the fact that we as believers grow and learn about our spiritual assets in Christ, the wealth that we have in Christ, and we activate that in our lives through application this then becomes a visible testimony not only to the human race around us but also before the angels in heaven. Our spiritual life is vital in terms of a greater conflict than that which is on the earth, i.e. the angelic conflict in the heavens.

Colossians 2:3 NASB "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." "In whom" is a masculine relative pronoun in the Greek and it refers back to Christ. The mystery of God defined in context is something we can be sure that is related to Christ. It is related to who and what we are in Christ. The word "hidden" is the Greek apokrupto [a)pokruptw]—krupto is the root verb from which we have the English word "cryptic" or "crypt," a hidden place in the early churches where they would bury people. Now we think of a crypt as a burial place, but that was not the original meaning. Here it is hidden in Christ. The next word is "all" the treasures. He has given us everything and the only way we are going to learn about it is to go to the Word, to study the Word, to drive deep into the Word; not just hitting things on the surface. We have to learn what these treasures are related to wisdom and knowledge.

"Understanding" is the Hebrew word bina, which also has to do with discernment. It is related to the Greek word sunesis which emphasizes the critical thinking skill in the mind. That means we have the ability on the basis of doctrine to evaluate what is taught, what is claimed, what is heard, and not get sucked into false doctrine. So we have to develop an understanding and we have to develop critical thinking skills.

In Greek there are two words for knowledge, gnosis and epignosis. Many times they are used interchangeably, but there are times when the writer uses the word to emphasize a slight distinction. In those case gnosis focuses more on an apprehension of the basic facts and epignosis emphasizes something that is of a more intimate direct knowledge. In this passage we have the word epignosis—"to the knowledge [epignosis] of the mystery of God." That indicates a growth process, starting from basic knowledge to full experiential knowledge. This is the growth process in the spiritual life, and as we grow under the ministry of God the Holy Spirit and as we walk by means of the Holy Spirit then that knowledge of God's Word gets transformed into application skill, which is wisdom.

Wisdom is emphasized many times in Scripture. In the Old Testament in Solomon's prayer he prays, "God give me wisdom and knowledge that I may go out and come in before this people, for who can judge this great people of yours?" And God said to Solomon, "Because this was in your heart … but have asked wisdom and knowledge for yourself that you may judge my people … wisdom and knowledge are granted to you…" Wisdom and knowledge always go together. You have to have knowledge before you can have wisdom. There has to be understanding then knowledge and then wisdom; it is a growth process.

Isaiah 33:6 NASB "And He will be the stability of your times, A wealth of salvation, wisdom and knowledge; The fear of the LORD is his treasure." In Christ, remember, are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. If we want stability in our life then we have to learn what the riches are in Jesus Christ. Nothing else will give us stability.

Isaiah 47:10 NASB "You felt secure in your wickedness and said, 'No one sees me,' Your wisdom and your knowledge, they have deluded you; For you have said in your heart, 'I am, and there is no one besides me.'" There wisdom and knowledge is used to refer to human viewpoint wisdom and knowledge.

Romans 11:33 NASB "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!" What he says here is that the depths are so great we can't measure it. What Paul tells us in Colossians 2:3 is that in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. But we have to learn that, it doesn't just happen.

Then he says, Colossians 2:4 NASB "I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument." Part of the job of a pastor-teacher is to not only teach the positive truth of God's Word but to teach the sheep the errors of the day, because Satan is a master counterfeiter. There may be a five per cent difference between truth and error and too many people don't have enough understanding, discernment, to pick out the five per cent that is different and they get sucked right into error. This is happening in most evangelical churches because they don't get enough teaching. The word here for "delude" is a word that we don't find a lot in the Greek New Testament. It is the word paralogizomai [paralogizomai], a compound word. It is prefixed by the preposition para and it means to cheat or deceive or to delude someone. The most dominant word we have in the New Testament for deception is the word planao [planaw] which has the literal meaning of leading something off-track. It was used by the Gnostics and the mystery cults as a technical term for man's entanglement in the world from which he needed to be released. Plato used it to express a digression of thought and it only had a non-moral sense of being off-track in terms of thinking. Paul didn't use this word. Another word that is used is apatao [a)pataw] which has the idea of trickery, deceit, and it is related to ignorance. But Paul doesn't use that here either, he uses paralogizomai because the root meaning has the idea of thought, and paralogizomai has the idea of deception based on false reasoning.

What they are hearing in Colosse is a very convincing case for their lives. So Paul says, "so that no one will delude you" through this kind of rhetorical slight of hand "with persuasive argument"—pithanologia [piqanologia]. This is the only time this word is used in the New Testament. It has to do with persuasive speech, being able to craft an argument. It is a debater's technique. It is using everything at their disposal but it is not true. Paul says that the role of the apostles and the pastor is to be able to prepare the sheep so that they don't get sucked into this. Paul warned the leaders of the church in Ephesus in Acts 20:29-31 NASB "I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears." So part of the pastoral ministry is to expose error.

1 Timothy 2:7 NASB "For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth."

Prior to this Paul had encouraged Timothy to work hard in the ministry. His three examples: a soldier, an athlete and a farmer. The next thing he said was, "Consider what I say"—the Greek word noeo [noew] which has the idea of thought. In other words, Think a lot about what I say. That is how a believer grows. He doesn't grow just by reading through five verses in a devotional every morning. He doesn't get it just by sitting in church or Bible class and taking notes. He gets it by going back and thinking through what he has been taught, reflecting on it under the ministry of God the Holy Spirit. And in that proc ess of time we grow and come to better and more clear understandings of the truth so that we can apply it. So the issue: Where is your treasure? What are you digging for? Are you willing to dig into the Word to get the treasure that will never rust and will never be destroyed?    

     

 

 

Col 2:2 that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and {attaining} to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, {resulting} in a true knowledge of God's mystery, {that is,} Christ {Himself,}

Col 2:3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Col 2:4 I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument.