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God’s Word for You

Colossians 2:4-5 false, fine-sounding arguments

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, December 26, 2018

4 I tell you this so that no one may lead you astray with false, fine-sounding arguments.

Paul uses two similar words as warnings here. The verb paralogizomai (παραλογίζoμαι) is to lead someone astray. Its noun form, parology (παραλογία), is an argument that is “beside the truth,” based on hearsay or a lie. It is a deception (James 1:22). The other word is pithanologia (πιθανολογία) which we would call a pithanology, or an argument which is persuasive but not based on evidence or facts. This is the only time this word is used in the Bible. It means a fine-sounding argument which nevertheless is false. A famous example of this is Nathanael’s “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46). People attack Christians with pithanologies today all the time.

This warning is the point of Paul’s letter. Epaphras has told Paul about a rising problem there along the Lycus River which may have penetrated Laodicea and Hierapolis as well as Colosse. The trouble was a false doctrine which is difficult to name because it doesn’t seem to have lasted. It was similar to Gnosticism but turned up before Gnosticism, yet with similar ideas. It claimed a higher wisdom than that of Christianity and a deeper knowledge—the reason, perhaps, for Paul’s words in verse 3. It seems to have involved a kind of asceticism, which is a life of turning away from comforts in order to achieve a place in heaven, a “false humility” (Colossians 2:18). It featured angel worship (Colossians 2:18), and separated its religion from Christ altogether (Colossians 2:19). Perhaps these Colossian heretics also judged Christians about their holidays, the Sabbath, and even their calendar (Colossians 2:16). At the same time, this group allowed themselves to fully embrace all the pleasures of the flesh, trying to separate the flesh from the spirit and its communion with God. They wanted to have the best of everything: unlimited license to enjoy human pleasures and a superior attitude over all religions.

Today we can apply Paul’s warning to those who make fun of Christians and of Christ. Remember that almost all false doctrines come from misunderstanding one of two things: (1) Who God is, or (2) What God has done for us to atone for sin. Almost all other religions and even the various Christian denominations differ on one or both of these two points.

5 For I am absent from you in body, but I am with you in spirit. I delight to see how orderly you are and the firmness of your faith in Christ.

Here Paul falls to a couple of military terms to praise the Colossians, and I think that with this language he is calling the false doctrine that was there an attack. Despite attacks from the Colossian (proto-gnostic?) heretics, the Christians were “orderly.” This is a word used for an unbroken line of battle. Perhaps one or two Colossians had fallen prey to the heresy, but the congregation had not fallen apart; they stayed in their ranks. They were “firm in faith,” another military reference for standing steadfast, ready for another assault on their faith. “Firm” means any kind of firmness: physical, moral, spiritual, and theological. It’s also the word used in Greek for the ‘firmament’ in Genesis 1:6 and the confirmation of a true statement in Esther 9:29.

We need to continue to persevere in the custom of confirming our young people in their faith so that they will be armed and armored with the right defense against attacks on their faith. This means teaching them (not just expecting that the pastor will do all the teaching) the stories of the Bible, since so many of our applications for teens are based on what they learned as children. Sunday School teachers need to be cautioned not to teach applications yet, since children need to begin with the basics, learning the stories of Genesis, Exodus, Samuel, Kings and prophets like Daniel and Jonah, and especially the Gospels. Our teens need to learn the parts of the Catechism: the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed, Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the forgiveness of sins (the Ministry of the Keys). And we as families need to remind one another of the basics of our faith. Arm yourself with those basics, and use them. Remember your Savior and trust in his word.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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