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Philosophy or Christ?

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
April 1, 2022 4:00 am

Philosophy or Christ?

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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John MacArthur

Now, as we look at Colossians, we see a simple contrast.

Let me just give you two points, and we'll just look at them simply. Captured by philosophy as opposed to complete in Christ. And this is the story of every man, because every man is either captured by human philosophy or he is complete in Christ.

That's all. One survey found that there are around 5,000 cults in the United States. They're different in size and belief, but they all have one thing in common. All of them promise a more vivid religious experience than you'll find in historic Christianity. If you do what they say, they claim, you'll truly get close to God. Well, as John MacArthur has been showing you here on Grace to You, in Jesus Christ, you have everything you need for a vibrant spiritual life from the moment of salvation. And as John continues looking at that theme today, he will show you why you and any believer can have a deep, abiding, powerful relationship with God. So here's John now continuing his study titled, Complete in Christ. Colossians chapter 2, verses 8 through 10 in our study. Colossians chapter 2, verses 8 through 10. Really, this is just the first part of a look at verses 8 through 15, which should be taken as a composite. We might title our discussion, Philosophy or Christ, because really that's what Paul is dealing with in this passage. Now as we look at Colossians, we see a simple contrast.

Let me just give you two points and we'll just look at them simply. Captured by philosophy as opposed to complete in Christ. And this is the story of every man. Because every man is either captured by human philosophy or he is complete in Christ. That's all. First of all, notice verse 8, captured by philosophy.

Let's see what happens. 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. Now, Paul is warning them and he's saying this essentially. Beware lest those of you who were rescued out of the domain of darkness and have already been translated into the kingdom of the Son of God's love, should be carried off like captives and enslaved again.

But Paul, it was unthinkable that those who had been ransomed, those who had been redeemed, and those who had been liberated could submit to that old slavery again. People are always coming along and saying, we found the truth. And the truth of the matter is they have forsaken the truth for slavery to human wisdom.

How is it that they're going to lead you off? How is it they're going to capture you, verse 8, continually being aware that they don't carry you off like spoil or booty through philosophy? And then you have an equivalent there, even vain deceit. And philosophy equals vain deceit. The means of capturing people is philosophy, high sounding knowledge and theory, but it's all human.

Incidentally, this is the only use of the word in the New Testament. Philosophy is human wisdom. Human wisdom that sounds like it's divine. Human wisdom that's supposed to be greater than anything else that you've ever heard. That's what the cults always offer.

You don't really know the truth until you know what we know. One writer says, everything that had to do with theories about God and the world and the meaning of human life was called philosophy at that time. Not only in pagan schools, but also in the Jewish schools of the Greek cities. Now that historian, Schlatter is his name, says that the term philosophy was used of every single theory about God and the world, whether Jewish or Greek in that era.

That was the common term. So anybody coming along with any new theory about God or new theory about the world, its origins, its meanings and its destiny, constituted a philosopher with a philosophy. Josephus, the historian of that day, has shown that any elaborate system of thought and he says any moral or disciplinary thought pattern was called a philosophy. Josephus even says, and I quote, there are three forms of philosophies among the Jews, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes. That's a quote from Josephus' Jewish War, number two.

And that helps me to think maybe it was the Essenes who were propagating their philosophy. But whatever it was, it was a lie. And he calls it vain deceit. He links this term with philosophy to describe it. Philosophy is empty deceit.

It doesn't give you what you expect. The word deceit is interesting in the Bible. One of the words that is used in 2 Peter 2 is guile or deceit, and the original meaning of the word is fishhook. And the thing that's interesting about a fishhook is that is not what a fish expects. What you see is not what you get in that circumstance. And he's saying philosophy is the same thing.

It's a baited hook. You think it's going to be wonderful. It turns out to be deceiving. For all of its claims, philosophy is an empty illusion, and that's why Bertrand Russell says after 90 years of it it's a washout. And that's why Hobbes and Hume lie on their deathbed panicky without answers.

It sounds good. It seduces the mind because it plays into the hands of pride. But it deceives. The truth is in the revelation of God spoken finally and clearly in Jesus Christ. There is no value in speculative human philosophy.

I think Herbert Carson has a good warning at this point. He says this, this does not mean that he should come with a blind, unreasoning faith. But it does mean that instead of bringing philosophical presuppositions which will color his study of Scripture and so prejudice his interpretation, a man comes as one conscious of the finiteness of his intellect and aware that his mind also is affected by his sinful nature.

Thus he is willing to be taught by the Holy Spirit and acknowledges that it is the word of God rather than his own reason, which is the final arbiter of truth. Paul says beware of philosophy. Beware of some human mode, some human theory about God, about the world, whatever. Stick with the Bible. Where do human philosophies come from? Well, he gives you two sources in verse 8.

Philosophy in vain deceit after the tradition of men. That's source number one. Source number two, after the rudiments of the world and not after Christ.

Two inadequate sources. Number one, tradition. It's always been the case. People have always believed it.

You know what that does? That just perpetuates inadequate, depraved human thinking patterns. Tradition doesn't mean anything. Just because it's handed down doesn't mean it's true.

If you've got error to start with and hand it down, it doesn't make it any better than what you started with. Here he's saying philosophy comes after the tradition of men. One of the things that's so interesting, and we don't have time to really develop this, when you study philosophy is that almost all philosophers build upon other philosophers. There's an incredible sequence that flows through the history of philosophy. And one guy goes this far and the next guy chops off a little bit of his philosophy and develops it, and the next guy and the next guy. So what you have in philosophy today can go all the way back and almost all philosophy finds its roots in Aristotle and Plato. Because it's all just a changing and a variation in the flow of the tradition of man.

The errors are perpetuated, perpetuated, perpetuated, perpetuated. Look at Judaism. By the time Jesus arrived on the earth, the Jews had built up such a monstrosity of philosophy, such a mess of human wisdom, that they were unable any longer to tell what the traditions of man were and what the Word of God was. Mark 7, 5, the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders?

They had developed a sophisticated system all on the basis of tradition. In verse 8, Jesus said, laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men. Verse 9, full well, you reject the commandment of God that you may keep your own tradition. There's nothing honoring about tradition. There's nothing sacred about tradition. It's just perpetuated human ignorance. And so the Jews had their tradition. The Gentiles had tradition.

Did you know that? They passed their same old philosophies on. 1 Peter, for as much as you know you are not redeemed with corruptible things like silver and gold from your vain manner of life received by tradition from your fathers. We're all victimized by it. We're all victimized by a passing on of error. I see my little child go off to school and come home and say, hey, Dad, we didn't really come from monkeys, did we? I said, no, we didn't come from monkeys. But everybody says we came from monkeys and the book says we came from monkeys. And I asked the teacher why everybody says we came from monkeys. And she said, because that's what scientists have always believed.

And I said, well, that's good proof that no matter how smart you are, without God and His revelation, you never get away from error to truth, do you? So, where does this philosophy come from? It comes from all the philosophies before.

It just perpetuates the same old stuff. Second source, rudiments of the world. You say, what are the rudiments of the world? Well, that's not an easy term to figure out. There are several possibilities.

Let me just give you a general idea of what Paul has in mind. The term in its literal sense refers to the basic elements of learning. Rudiments would be ABCs.

It literally means things in a column or things in a row. The one, two, three, ABC. He says, this just comes from the ABCs of the world. They think it's a graduate work, but it's goo-goo. You know, you go to philosophy and you'll get a doctor of philosophy. And Paul says that's ABC. Rudimentary principles of instruction for childhood not adequate for mature adults.

That's rudiments. The thought then is that to return to philosophy would be to cast away the mature teaching of the Bible for the infantile, poverty-stricken opinions of an immature religion drawing its being, not from God, but from this world. In Galatians chapter 4, find the same phraseology, verse 3, even so we were in bondage when we were children to the elements of the world. The elementary teaching of human religion is what he means. And in Galatians he's talking about the Jews religion and perhaps in Colossians he's combining it with the Gentile religion as well. But what he means here is just the basics of same old human religion. And what is the same old basic in all human religion? Salvation by what?

Works. Same old deal. Same terminology is used also in the fifth chapter of Hebrews. It just means basic human religion. Where does all this stuff come from? It comes out of tradition, perpetuated error. Where else does it come from? It comes from man's own infantile, primer-type religion.

It isn't giving you some advanced, deep, new, profound, spiritual knowledge. You want to know who the really advanced folks are? People who know the Word of God. The word also, interesting thought, Colossians 2 again, the word rudiments of the world has a second possible meaning in the ancient world and I would guess that the one I just gave you is probably the one Paul primarily had in mind, but it's possible that the allusion could be broadened to include this. And that was it referred to elemental spirits, spirit beings. Especially the people of that day were bound up in associating the spirits with the stars and the planets. That's astrology and they were into it heavy. And it's amazing today that people think they've got a whole new thing, astrology. That is not new. That's the same old rudiments of the world. Did you know Julius Caesar was an astrologer, astrology buff I should say, and governed his whole life by what the stars told him?

Did you know Alexander the Great did the same thing? Devout believers, both of them in the influence of the stars. People who believed in this kind of stuff, the elemental spirits connected with the planets, were in the grip of a rigid kind of determinism that was set by the stars and the influence of these spirits through these stars dominated their lives. And they used to say there was only one way of escape. You were absolutely a prisoner of the stars and the spirits in the stars unless you knew the right passwords and the right formula so you could escape the fatalism built into the stars. You had to have, they said, a secret knowledge, a secret teaching. And along come the false teachers and say, We have the secret teaching that can relieve you from the fatalistic determinism of the stars. Jesus Christ can't save you from the spirits and the stars and planets.

We have the secret information for that. And some of the people in the Colossian church had probably been in that kind of system and when they were saved out of it, they still had lingering thoughts about it and the temptation may have been there to say, Well, what if they're right? But Paul warns them and he warns us to be constantly being aware of the false truth that that stuff is just human tradition, it is perpetuated ignorance, it is infantile, inadequate human religion of the past being revived and it's nothing more. We have Christ.

That is enough. And that moves him to his second point, complete in Christ. He says at the end of verse 8, not after Christ, and then he shifts gears. For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily and ye are complete in Him who is the head of all principality and power. You don't need to be captured by philosophy. You can be complete in Christ. You can chuck all that human philosophy. You can throw away all the traditional religions of the world.

You can throw away all the man-made forms and theories. For in Him alone dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily and you are complete in Him. The word dwelleth in verse 9, in Him dwelleth, continuous present tense, still dwells. Jesus Christ is still the fullness of the Godhead, still. The word Godhead, incidentally, is the word for the essence of deity. He is still deity. He is still the fullness of deity, just like He was in chapter 1, verse 19.

It hasn't changed. Please the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell. The whole playroma, the whole fullness of God dwells bodily. I believe that verse 9 may be the greatest statement of the deity of Jesus Christ in any of the epistles. That in Him, modifying Christ in verse 8, continually dwells. It doesn't come and go like the Gnostics taught. All the playroma, the fullness of deity in a body. I don't know how you can deny it. Some harebrained character comes along and says, Christ is not God. What are you going to do with it? And the result of that reality to us? We don't need philosophy.

Why? Because verse 10 says, if He is all there is of God, then ye are complete, where? In Him. The one who is the head of all other spiritual beings. All other angelic beings called principalities and powers. His fullness, beloved, is imparted to us. I don't know if you can understand that.

Let me see if I can help you. Same terms are used. He is the playroma of God and we are the playroma in Him. God literally passes Himself to us through Christ. You are complete in Him.

That's a perfect tense. We have been completed in Him with eternal results. When you think about the fall of man, you think about what happened, it's pretty sad. When man fell, he fell into a sad state of incompleteness. An unsaved man is spiritually incomplete, for he's totally out of fellowship with God. He is morally incomplete because he has no standard of conduct and if he did, he couldn't live up to it.

He is mentally incomplete because he's incapable of knowing the truth. So you have a spiritually, morally, mentally incomplete man. And Jesus Christ enters the scene and Paul simply says, and ye are what? Complete in Him. 2 Peter 1, 4, Peter says, you become partakers of the divine nature.

Think of it. You become a partaker of the divine nature. A man instantly becomes spiritually complete. He has fellowship with God. The life of God is in him. He becomes morally complete, not because he's perfect practically, but because he recognizes the authority of God's will. He has a standard and the energizing Holy Spirit to give him the strength to obey it. And he is mentally complete, not in the sense of knowing everything, but in the sense of having the truth and the resident truth teacher, the Holy Spirit. Christians are partners of divine life. What an incredible truth. When you became a Christian, you received everything you needed. Everything. Peter said, we have all things that pertain to life and godliness.

You don't need any higher knowledge. You don't need anybody because you are complete in him. I don't know about you, but as a Christian, I have a sense of that completeness, don't you? Your truth search is over, is yours? I found it. I can't even conceive of ever needing anything outside of Jesus Christ. Can you?

What would it be? Every man has a choice. He can choose human philosophy, which will capture him and carry him off in incompleteness to a spiritual, moral, and mental sentence of doom. He can follow human wisdom, which seems so high and so lofty and so fancy and is nothing more than the same old hackneyed tradition passed down century after century, the same old ABCs of human religion.

Or he can come to Jesus Christ and be lifted from out of this world to a spiritual, moral, and mental completeness. The song, and I used to love to sing this song, says this, He is all I need. He is all I need. Jesus is all I need. Father, thank you for our time.

We've just kind of scratched, really, the surface of these thoughts. But just for now, it's so exciting to know that we are complete in him, nothing missing. The life of God in us, the Spirit of God in us, the Word of God in us, the power of God in us. All the fruit of the Spirit manifest love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control. All those graces that you've given, faith, and hope, and love.

By the Holy Spirit wisdom and truth, everything that could be conceivable to make life and eternity meaningful. Thank you for the words of Peter. You have all things pertaining to life and godliness. You are partakers of the divine nature. Thank you, Father, for taking us who aren't necessarily the brightest, smartest, who don't have the doctor of philosophy degrees, who maybe never been educated by the brilliant minds and fancy systems of our world.

Thank you that you hid those things from the wise and prudent and revealed them unto us, the babes, because you get glory from simple trust. Father, it's my prayer that somehow you might speak to that struggling heart, that one life that is hanging in the balances between making a decision relative to being captured by philosophy or complete in Christ. I just pray that your Holy Spirit will minister to them, motivate them, convict them, that no one would leave with a commitment to human wisdom.

No one would leave trusting in logic, trusting in education, trusting in the most brilliant of philosophers, but that they would know that only in the word of God is their truth and only in the Christ of God is their completeness. Do your work, Father, in their hearts and in all our hearts. If we already are complete in you, make us thankful and help us to live our lives to the level of that perfection that pleases you. In Jesus' name, amen. This is Grace to You with John MacArthur.

Thanks for being with us. John has titled his current study from the book of Colossians, Complete in Christ. Now, John, this is something we've been talking about for days, but you summed it up perfectly today. You said that we can throw away all human philosophy because in Christ we have everything we need. And that's all true, but sometimes people will say that if they have Jesus and their Bible, they don't need anything else, literally. They don't need to be part of a church or read commentaries or have fellowship with one another. So, is there any sense in which you can take this idea too far?

Well, of course, and there are people who take every idea too far or don't take it far enough. But, look, if you say you have Jesus and your Bible, that's all you need. You ought to open your Bible and go to the book of Hebrews and read forsake, not the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is and much the more as you see the day approaching. You need to be in fellowship. I mean, that's the whole picture of 1 Corinthians where Paul writes about the Lord's table and how you're to come together and you're to come together to love one another and to celebrate the death of Christ. You're to become submissive to elders. You're to honor those who lead you, who rule over you in leadership in the church. You're to submit yourself to the teaching and preaching and reading of the Word of God. If you say you believe the Bible, you must be a part of the local church.

And I would just mention we have a tool to help you maybe get some clear thinking on that. It's a booklet titled Your Local Church and Why It Matters. That's really a very simple but foundational thing for you to understand.

So here's the deal. This booklet, Your Local Church and Why It Matters, is free to anyone who asks. This is an issue today. It's particularly an issue because some people get comfortable watching church on television.

And since COVID, it's even made more people comfortable with staying home and just watching their live-streamed church. We need help with this area. That's why we've put the booklet together, Your Local Church and Why It Matters. You need to get a copy, maybe more than one. We'll send you a copy free of charge if you just ask, and if you want more, they would be available as well. Yes, this booklet is for anyone who wants one. Just go to our website or call us or even send us an email and request your free copy of the booklet, Your Local Church and Why It Matters.

The toll-free number here, 800-554-7223. You can also go to our website,, and our email, letters at Your Local Church and Why It Matters looks at how God designed the church and the role it needs to have in your life. It also answers questions like, what is the mission of the church, and how can I serve my church, and how do I increase my love for the church?

Again, to get a free copy of the booklet, Your Local Church and Why It Matters, call us at 800-555-GRACE or go to our website, And friend, let me encourage you to follow us on social media. There you'll learn about John's newest books, upcoming series, you can get the latest Grace to You news. You will find us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson. Remember to look for Grace to You television this Sunday, check your local listings for Channel and Times, and then be here next week when John explains Christ's amazing power to transform every area of your life. It's another half hour of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Monday's Grace to You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-13 12:03:15 / 2023-05-13 12:13:22 / 10

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