8 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. 9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. Colossians 2:6-10
The number of different religious beliefs in the world is truly staggering. Varieties of spiritual expression have existed from the earliest days of human history (witness the Tower of Babel) and have continued down to the present day.
As we consider these various religious movements, Paul warns us in our text today that we need to beware falling prey to these systems – these systems that have the appearance of wisdom in the traditions of men but which truly rob us of wisdom and knowledge when carefully considered. Paul characterizes all non-Christian worldviews as empty deceit or vanity – emptiness. False religions promise various things to lure unsuspecting men and women into their pale – peace with god, peace with your neighbor, enlightenment, reabsorption into the One, freedom from the body, indulgence of bodily lusts. And while these promises frequently look solid they are really empty and hollow. Why? Because all these philosophies are based on the traditions and speculations of men – men like you and me. Men who wet their beds when they’re little and start going senile when they’re old. Men who bow down and worship sticks and stones. Men who get sick and die. Men who have headaches and have a hard time thinking. Men who are prejudiced and make unwarranted assumptions. Men who are anything but omniscient and accurate describers of the world around them. Men who fall under the injunction of Solomon, Vanity of Vanities, all is vanity.
And so what makes Christianity different from all these systems? Aren’t Christians subject to the same limitations? Yes and were we dependent upon our ability to search out and discover the truth we too would be lost. But thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! The Father considered our lost estate and sent His only Son to become flesh and dwell among us that He might seek out and save us – revealing to us His person and paying the penalty for our folly that we might not be left in futility.
And so Paul warns us – beware lest anyone take you captive through such empty deceit – deceit which is based not on God’s revelation of Himself in His Word and in our Lord Jesus Christ but which is based rather on the opinions and traditions of men.
Reminded of our propensity as sinners to turn away from God’s revelation and substitute in its place our own fancies and imaginations, let us kneel before the Triune God and confess our sin to Him.