Col 2:8-9 “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. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.”
As children of the Living God, we need to always be aware of our way of thinking about Him and His works. Considering Paul’s warning here, this is not new. There are many ideas in the world that would lead us away (spoil) from the truth as it is in Christ. Strong defines the word translated as “spoil” to indicate that there are men who would treat us as a possession gotten as the result of war. Beware of men who see religion as a competition to see who can get you to come to “their” church.
Paul is not warning against philosophy as a field of study. The use of this word pointed specifically to “Jewish sophistry” (see Strong’s). Sophistry is the act of basing one’s position on faulty reasoning. If we take a close look at Paul’s letters, he was constantly warning the brethren against the ideology of those Jews who would bring the church of Jesus Christ back under the bondage of the law. Since Jesus is the end of the law for righteousness (Rom 10:4), their demands were based on faulty reasoning.
Just as it was then, there is a lot of faulty reasoning in the world today concerning the grace and truth of Jesus Christ. Men seek to lead God’s people away after the notion that Jesus needs our help in order to complete the work the Father sent Him to do. They do not recognize the simple teaching that Jesus purged us from our sins by himself (Heb 1:3). There are others who will tell us that Jesus is only one of several ways to the Father, ignoring the simple statement of Jesus that “no man comes to the Father but by me (Joh 14:6).”
If the philosophy we are holding to does not give Christ the preeminence in all things, then it is empty delusion. The root of such thinking does not come from God, but from the tradition of men. Traditions of men are generally based on the idea of “How can I get gain for myself.” This was essentially the vanity that set Adam to transgress God’s law in the garden: he expected to become as a god. In his mind, that meant no one could tell him what to do or how to behave any more.
Before someone accuses me of pure conjecture here, stop and think about what motivates most of men’s philosophies today. In one way or another, they all set about to promote man’s idea of self. Even those philosophies that recognize the responsibility to see to the needs of others have at their root some reward for the individual. Only in service to Christ is the root of our motivation removed from self.
All that is Divine resides physically in Christ Jesus. He is the embodiment of justice and mercy, of law and loving kindness, of judgment and deliverance, of the temporal and the eternal. We are complete in Him without any motivation of the idea of self: in obedience to Him alone do we deny self (Mat 16:24, Mar 8:34, Luk 9:23).
May God grant us the grace and faith to abandon worldly principles and have the mind of Christ (1Co 2:16)!