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Have you ever owned a counterfeit? A fake designer watch, imitation brand name handbag, replica headphones, or maybe even a pair of knockoff sneakers that were way too cheap to be true. Whether by mistake or by choice, the satisfaction that a counterfeit brings is usually short-lived, and disappointment ensues once you have the chance to compare it to the real thing.
One can feel the weight of a real Swiss-engineered timepiece.
One can see the elegance of a genuine Italian leather bag.
One can hear the richness of the music through a quality pair of headphones.
And one (esp. a sneaker head like myself) can appreciate the comfort and durability of authentic footwear.
In the book of Colossians, Paul stresses the pre-eminence of Jesus and the completeness of our salvation. He is combating false teachers who were trying to devaluate Christ by elevating spiritual regulations and mysticism. It is interesting to note that God would choose Paul, a Pharisee (member of a sect distinguished by strict observance of traditional law) of all people, to address the early church on legalism. Not only that, this ex-Pharisee got to write most of the New Testament.
Andy Stanley in his book, “Deep and Wide” explains the irony of Jesus coming back after he ascended into heaven, to track down the most educated, politically connected, pedigreed, zealous, won’t-take-no-for-an-answer Pharisee in the country. And if that wasn’t enough, he was a Roman citizen!1
Then Jesus paired Paul up with a doctor (Luke), and together they visited every primary port city along the Mediterranean rim. And in their wake, they left a string of small ekklesias made up of both Gentile and Jewish believers, who became the nucleus of the church.2
It is in this context that Paul penned the following warnings on spiritual counterfeits:
To the church in Galatia:
“I shall ask you one simple question: Did you receive the Spirit of God by trying to keep the Law or by believing the message of the Gospel? Surely you can’t be so idiotic as to think that a man begins his spiritual life in the Spirit and then completes it by reverting to outward observances!” – Galatians 3:2-3
To the church in Ephesus:
“You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” – Ephesians 2:19-20
To the church in Philippi:
“Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” – Philippians 3:20-21
And to the church in Colosse:
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” – Colossians 2:8
Paul knew if we would stay rooted in Christ, we would not be lured into the deception of spiritual counterfeits, but able to stay focused on the real source of our faith. As we journey further into Paul’s letter in Colossians, stay open to discovering more of the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge! (Colossians 2:8)
1 Stanley, Andy. 2012. “Deep and Wide – Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend.” Zondervan
2 A new movie just released by Sony Pictures titled “Paul – Apostle of Christ” offers amazing insights into the interactions between Paul and Luke during this early chapter in the history of the church. www.paulmovie.com