Collect of the Week (Proper 12-C)
O Lord, let Your merciful ears be attentive to the prayers of Your servants, and by Your Word and Spirit teach us how to pray that our petitions may be pleasing before You; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Colossians 2:8-10 (From the Epistle Reading for Proper 12-C)
8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits1 of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.
In the name of T Jesus.
Even in the first century after Jesus’ earthly ministry, Christians were being led astray. False teachers, who would teach according to human tradition and the elemental spirits (principles) of this fallen, broken world, were leading followers of Jesus to reject the teaching and Word of—and about—Jesus. And since Paul was the apostle who had started the church at Colossae, he had a duty to oversee their spiritual welfare, which any false teaching of philosophy and empty deceit would surely put in jeopardy.
False teaching in the name of the LORD misuses the name of the LORD, and is a breaking of the Second Commandment. To attach the LORD’s name and authority to something He never said, or to a teaching He has not revealed, is to misrepresent the LORD, and the deadly affect is that people who fall prey to the false teaching put their faith in something false—a false god.
This is not unlike Jesus’ own famous rebuke of Peter (Matt. 16:13ff). Peter has just confessed—correctly—that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Immediately, Jesus began to unpack that confession, and to reveal that for Him to be the Christ, he must go to Jerusalem and “suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” But since Peter had in mind the things of man, rather than the things of God, he rejected the death and resurrection of the Christ: “Far bit from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”
Jesus doesn’t allow Peter to hold on to his false teaching. He rebukes it: “Get behind me, Satan! Paul does the same, albeit in a bit more gentle way (if you want to see Paul get angry, read Galatians!), and tells the Colossians that they must keep watch for false teachers, seeing that no human teaching would lead them to a false belief that would reject the right teaching regarding the person and work of Jesus.
And why is this so important to Jesus, to Paul, and for you? Because the right teaching of Jesus is the true revelation of Jesus. It’s how you know Him, and it’s also how you know the Father and the Holy Spirit. A right teaching of Jesus reveals the true Gospel. It’s the very means by which the Holy Spirit brings you to faith and gives you life. It’s the means by which he strengthens and sustains in the one true Church on earth. And it’s the means by which he brings to life everlasting and the resurrection of the dead.
Today, we’re not used to this sort of sudden rebuke. And maybe that’s why there are so many false teachings that hover in and around the Church—false teachings that threaten to destroy the faith once delivered to the saints (Jud 1:3). But false teachings are no less dangerous today, than they were in the day of Paul, or Peter. False teachings still do what false teachings do. They reveal a false god, and lead people away from the light of Christ and into the darkness of confusion, or even unbelief.
So look for those who teach the Word of Christ. Look for those who teach it in its truth and purity. Look for those who see Jesus on every page of Scripture, and whose confession reveals the Jesus in whom the whole deity dwells bodily, the Jesus who fills you with Himself by His Word and Spirit, and who is your head. Look for those who hang everything on Jesus’ death and resurrection for your forgiveness, and who point you to font and the rail. For when you’re looking for those who are teaching what Jesus has given to be taught, then you’ll see, and believe, rightly, and His teaching—the Gospel—will bring you life. In the name of T Jesus. Amen.
In Thee all fullness dwelleth, All grace and pow’r divine;
The glory that excelleth, O Son of God, is Thine.
We worship Thee, we bless Thee, To Thee, O Christ, we sing;
We praise Thee and confess Thee, Our glorious Lord and King (LSB, #527).