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.
The variety of religious beliefs in the world is staggering. As a result of our rebellion against our Creator in the beginning, we have tried to hide from Him while retaining a vestige of religiosity. From the Tower of Babel to the modern secular state, we have sought out false gods to soothe our guilty conscience and receive our adoration.
Paul warns us in our text today that we need to beware falling prey to these false belief systems – systems that may have the appearance of wisdom in the traditions of men but which in fact rob us of wisdom and knowledge. Paul characterizes all non-Christian worldviews as empty deceit or vanity – emptiness. False religions make alluring promises to ensnare unsuspecting men and women – peace with god, peace with your neighbor, enlightenment, reabsorption into the One, freedom from the body, or even indulgence of bodily lusts. Like a hologram, these promises sometimes look solid; however, 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 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 Solomon’s judgment, Vanity of Vanities, all is vanity.
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! Our Almighty and Eternal 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. The Christian faith finds its origin not in the vain speculations of finite men but in the solid revelation of the infinite God in the face of Jesus Christ.
So Paul warns us – beware lest anyone take you captive through empty deceit – religious speculations which are based on the opinions and traditions of men rather than the revelation of Almighty God.
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. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.