Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ (Colossians 2:8, NKJV).
Paul’s warning against deceivers who would plunder our spiritual treasures in Christ is not new (2 Cor. 11:3-4, 12-15). Let us give attention to “the basic principles of the world” that are not according to Christ and fuel this deception. The basic principles of the world are not the chemical elements that constitute the physical realm (2 Pet. 3:10, 12). They are the fundamental evil elements that oppose God, His purposes, and His truth. They enslave souls to the service of sin (Gal. 4:3). Consider four basic principles of the world: (1) Unbelief. It plunges souls into darkness, ignorance, and alienation from the true and living God (Eph. 4:17-19). Without faith, we cannot please God (Heb. 11:6). (2) The traditions, commands, and doctrines of men. Human philosophies appeal to the intellect, often seem plausible, yet are “empty deceit” that cannot save us and protect us from sin (Col. 2:8, 20-23). (3) Carnality and its works. The evil world is composed of the lusts of the flesh, of the eyes, and life’s pride. These stimulate all manner of works of the flesh (1 John 2:15-17; Gal. 5:19-21). Carnal-mindedness opposes God and causes spiritual death (Rom. 8:5-8). (4) The will of men instead of the will of God (1 Pet. 4:2-3). Elevating our cravings and will above God is a fundamental element of the world. Be encouraged and beware; Do not let anyone plunder your spiritual treasure in Christ (Col. 2:1-3).
3 And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 19:3–5, NKJV).
Paul asked these disciples of John a simple, probing, and informative question: “Into what then were you baptized?” Their answer (“into John’s baptism”) gave Paul the opening to explain the prerequisite and outcome of John’s baptism and help them become Christ’s disciples. First, repentance was necessary to receive John’s baptism, without which his baptism “for the remission of sins” was useless (Luke 3:3, 7-8; Matt. 3:5-8). Second, John’s preaching and baptism prepared people to believe on the Messiah (whom Paul tells them is Christ Jesus, Acts 19:4; Luke 3:3-6). John’s baptism served its purpose and ran its course. Convinced that Jesus is the Christ (in whom John prepared them to put their faith), John’s disciples became disciples of Jesus by being “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (by His authority, Acts 19:5). They were not disciples of Jesus before and until they were baptized in His name. Christ’s baptism remains how believers become disciples of Jesus. Faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, prepares the sinner to repent and be baptized in His name to be saved and become His disciple (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:36-41; 10:48; Gal. 3:26-27).
34 “Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. 35 For whoever finds me finds life, and obtains favor from the Lord; 36 But he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; All those who hate me love death” (Proverbs 8:34–36, NKJV).
Wisdom cries out, offering her blessings of prudence, knowledge, discretion, counsel, understanding, and strength to those who will listen to her (Prov. 8:1, 12-14). Consider some necessary traits that help us listen to wisdom’s instructions. (1) We must fear God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov. 9:10). Only when we fear God are we willing to listen to wisdom’s guidance. (2) We must receive the word of God. “For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Prov. 2:6). God’s word is the wellspring of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Yet too often, we turn from it to human teachings and counsel (Col. 2:8). By doing so, we sin against our souls, hate wisdom, and love death (Prov. 8:36). (3) We must live as God instructs us. “He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly” (Prov. 2:7). Divine instruction and its wisdom do us no good if we do not apply them. Wisdom calls on us to follow the truth of God. Wisdom says, “My mouth will speak truth,” and “all the worlds of my mouth are with righteousness” (Prov. 8:7). The blessings of wisdom come to those who fear God, receive His word, and obey what He says (James 3:13-18).
5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace (Romans 8:5–6, NKJV).
We live according to where we set our minds. The person who fixes his mind on fleshly things lives for the flesh and produces the “works of the flesh” (Gal. 5:19-21). The apostle of Christ firmly declared, “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:21). Conversely, to live “according to the Spirit,” we must set our minds on “the things of the Spirit.” What are those things? Nothing less than the things the Spirit revealed to the apostles, which they preached to the world (1 Cor. 2:10-13). The things of the Spirit are the words of truth He revealed, confirmed, and inspired. The “fruit of the Spirit” is borne in our lives when we follow the Spirit’s guidance that is in God’s word (Gal. 6:16-18, 22-23). Today’s passage explains we either live “according to the flesh,” or we live “according to the Spirit,” but not both. Spiritual death (separation from God) is the outcome of being carnally minded. Spiritual life and peace with God result from being spiritually minded. Have you set your mind on the things of the Spirit or the flesh? “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:2).
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up (1 Corinthians 13:4, NKJV).
Love is enduringly patient. Instead of being short-fused, love is kind while being “long-spirited” (longsuffering) toward another. Truly, God has displayed love’s longsuffering toward us over and over. Even now, while God commands all to repent, He tarries with “longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9; Acts 17:30). When we grasp the nature of God’s longsuffering love, it moves us to obey His command to repent: “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance (Rom. 2:4)?” We must not deceive ourselves into thinking God’s love is so longsuffering that He does not judge and punish unrepented sin. God does not condone and reward sin; that is not genuine love. God’s love has made provisions for the redemption of sinners in the death of His Son, Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:8-11). The gospel calls sinners to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 3:14-21). What loving-kindness God shows us in Christ; He yearns for our salvation. In longsuffering, God continues to plead with sinners through Christ’s gospel to repent and be saved (Acts 2:37-41). May we show this kind of love to one another (John 13:34-35). Kind, longsuffering love opens doors of opportunity to serve each other, strengthen one another, and help save some.
These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you (1 John 2:26, NKJV).
The possibility of being deceived about spiritual matters is just as real today as when the apostle John wrote to the children of God. As then, many are still against Christ yet pose as if they are for Christ; Hence, the warning against being deceived (1 John 2:18-19). John emphatically directs us, “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). How? By using the truth with which Christ has endowed (anointed) us: “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth” (1 John 2:20-21). The truth Jesus Christ gave us through His apostles (1) Identifies the deceptions of false teachings (1 John 4:6), and (2) Assures our fellowship with the Father and the Son (John 14:21-24), and (3) Leads us to His promise of eternal life (1 Pet. 1:3-9). John says these are among the reasons we let His word abide in us (1 John 2:24-27; John 8:31-32). Use God’s word to verify your faith. Rejoice in your fellowship with God and be comforted in Christ’s promise of eternal life. Rest assured, God’s word of truth will not deceive you.
In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise (Proverbs 10:19, NKJV).
Unrestrained words lead to foolishness, sin, and sorrow. The wisdom of restraining our tongues is reiterated by James, “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20). Consider some of the sins that arise when one is captured by “the multitude of words.” (1) The sin of pride in one’s eloquence. Although we are confident the apostle Paul had command of rhetoric and eloquence, he made it a point not to parade such abilities when preaching the gospel (1 Cor. 2:1-5). Likewise, while eloquent, Apollos drew attention to the Scriptures and not himself (Acts 18:24-25). His humility prepared him to learn the way of God more accurately (Acts 18:26). Pride enters in when we try to impress others with many words. (2) The sin of misguided prayers. Jesus said, “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words” (Matt. 6:7). God’s attention is not gained by many words but by a contrite heart (Luke 18:13-14). God is not impressed by the multitude of words. After all, He made man’s mouth (Exod. 4:11). (3) The sin of foolishness. Wisdom advances righteousness and avoids evil by knowing when to speak and when to be silent (Eccl. 3:7). Fools spread slanderous insinuations, rushing headlong to their destruction, but “wisdom is found on the lips of him who has understanding” (Prov. 10:18, 14, 13).
3 Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me; Let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your tabernacle. 4 Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; And on the harp I will praise You, O God, my God. 5 Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God (Psalm 43:3–5, NKJV).
The psalmist longed for God’s vindication against an ungodly nation, unjust men, and his enemy’s oppression (Ps. 43:1-2). He regarded God’s truth as a beam of light that would lead him to God’s presence, where he would joyfully worship (Ps. 43:3-4). His hope in God removed the distress of his soul, confident in the Lord’s help (Ps. 43:5). Notably, the light of God’s truth is still the way God leads souls to Himself and His Son, Jesus the Christ. “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me” (John 6:44-45). God the Father draws sinners to Christ by hearing and learning “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68; Col. 1:4-5). Open your heart to the word of God. Let His light lead you to His presence where you will find salvation from sin, fellowship with Him, hope that calms every distress, and praise for God’s constant help (Matt. 11:28-30; Acts 16:13-15).
Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him (John 6:27, NKJV).
Some people followed Jesus because they expected Him to work a miracle and feed them. Jesus rebuked this shallow, selfish, faithless view of Him (John 6:26). Jesus contrasted their misguided motive for seeking Him with working for the food that produces everlasting life. He was by no means saying do not work for your daily food (“If anyone will not work, neither let him eat,” 2 Thess. 3:10). Jesus said to be concerned primarily with working for the food that leads to everlasting life. The work God gives us to achieve that result is to “believe in Him who He sent” (John 6:29). Jesus is the “bread of life” in whom we must believe to eat “the living bread which came down from heaven” (John 6:35, 51, 58). By faith, we do so when we receive and obey His words (John 6:63-68). Unbelievers do not trust and follow Jesus; believers do. When we accept and obey His word, we have not earned everlasting life; we have only done a servant’s duty (Luke 17:10). The gospel call is, “You who have no money, come, buy and eat” (Isa. 55:1-3). The question to ponder is, “Why are you seeking Jesus?” To gain some temporary, physical advantage, or to labor “for the food which endures to everlasting life?”
And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith” (Luke 17:5, NKJV).
Like the apostles, Christians want our faith to grow. Instead of working a miracle to put greater faith into their hearts, Jesus taught them how their faith could grow. His disciples have a responsibility to live in such a way that gives increase to their faith. (1) Faith is increased by trusting the power of faith (Luke 17:6). Faith is a force that activates us to live in harmony with God’s will. It is the fuel that feeds the engine of our lives (2 Cor. 5:7; see Hebrews 11 where people acted “by faith”). We can accomplish whatever God says to do when we trust faith’s power. (2) Faith is increased by offering the service of faith (Luke 17:7-8). Faith in the Lord requires us to serve Him, not ourselves. Our faith will not grow until we humble ourselves before the Lord and trust and serve Him first. (3) Faith is increased by obeying the duty of faith (Luke 17:9-10). Just as a servant has duties to perform, disciples of Christ are to do all we are commanded (v. 10). We have nothing in which to boast when we obey Christ in faith. We have earned nothing. We have only done our duty. Obeying Christ fulfills our duties to Him. Faith is dead without obedience (James 2:20). To increase your faith, diligently “add to your faith virtue…knowledge…self-control…perseverance…godliness…brotherly kindness…love” (2 Pet. 1:5-7). Trust faith’s power, offer faith’s service, obey faith’s duty, and the Lord will increase your faith (Phil. 2:12-13).