What is the vain deceit of Colossians 2:8?


By BibleAsk Team

Vain Deceit – Colossians 2:8 

In his letter to the church at Colossi, Paul wrote: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8 KJV).  

Here, the apostle was talking about the philosophy which constitutes empty deceit. He is not judging philosophy as such, nor is he bashing philosophers. What he was speaking against was philosophy such as that of the false teachers at Colossae, who were preaching vanity motivated by lies. 

The context of the chapter suggested that this philosophy had to do with ceremonial rituals, human beliefs, traditions, and man-made habits and beliefs, all of which stole away from the gospel of Christ. Traditions may be good (2 Thessalonians 2:15; 3:6) or bad (Galatians 1:14). Here, Paul talked about the bad traditions. 

These false teachings that pretended to be Christian consisted of vain theorizing on silly questions and misleading arguments without facts. This kind of philosophies tended to deceive the worshiper and opposed the work of God. The focus of these philosophies was the glorification of man, while God was fully ignored.  

In addition, Paul warned against accepting the “rudiments of the world,” (Gr. stoicheia), which meant elemental matter. It seemed that there was a stoicheia cult in Colossae, which through its publicity was infiltrating the Christian community there. The exact extent of its promotion is not known. In sounding his warning, Paul used the terminology of the cult. Mythologically, the elements were represented by different spirits, so that stoicheia also came to refer to the spirits themselves. In non-Biblical writings, stoicheia referred also to evil spirits, to stars, and to stellar deities.  

To be delivered from all vain deceit, Paul stressed that every theory and idea must be compared and tested by the doctrines of the Savior (Isaiah 8:20), who has true knowledge. For within Christ dwells the sum total of truth (John 14:6). All the fullness of God is revealed in Him (Colossians 2:9). In Christ, the believer not only has power to accomplish God’s will, but he can also reach the goal of total victory over sin (Philippians 4:13; 1 Corinthians 15:57).  

As believers accept God’s wisdom, they become wise. This can be accomplished through daily study of the Scriptures and prayer so that the likeness of the Divine becomes a reality within the human soul (2 Corinthians 3:18). There is nothing for this life or for eternity that man cannot receive through spiritual union with Christ (John 15:4). Man can become complete in Him. 

In His Service, 

BibleAsk Team 

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