See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8 NASB)
Magic, illusion, stage magic, street magic, is a performing art in which audiences are entertained by staged tricks or illusions of seemingly impossible feats using natural means. While it may be entertaining, it is ultimately deception. And yet so many are taken captive by it.
Paul says to “see to it” meaning (take heed, perceive, discern, to turn the thoughts or direct the mind to a thing). This is a present tense verb and is in the imperative meaning that it is a command. It is not a suggestion. It is not something that we will just get to if we feel like it. No, we are to submit ourselves to the Word of God and in the Word of God, we are commanded to take heed and discern.
We are commanded to keep watch, take heed. Why? When we are not on the lookout when we are not looking with spiritual eyes based on God’s truth we are susceptible to being taken captive. This warning and watching out is a specific duty of a Pastor or Under-Shepherd who has the rule or authority in the church but is not limited to just a Pastor. This command is something that all Christians can do.
Christians who follow this command are not doing it out of paranoia. We are not to go around constantly fearful of some new false teaching that may try to penetrate our local body of believers. But it does mean that if we are taking heed and keeping watch we will be ready if something does come knocking at our door.
Every generation of Christians will have their own unique battles for the truth and we are commanded by the apostle Paul by the authority of Jesus Christ to take heed so that we won’t be taken captive.
Captive – means to kidnap or carry off as booty, or a spoil of war.
It should be unthinkable that someone who has been ransomed and redeemed by Christ would be vulnerable to false teaching. And yet we see it happen.
What are they taken captive by? Philosophy, which is characterized as empty deception.
Philosophy – a love and pursuit of wisdom.
A love of and pursuit of God’s wisdom is not only healthy for a Christian but is healthy for a local body of believers as they seek unity in Christ. A love of and pursuit of any supposed wisdom apart from God is empty deception and if you fall prey to it you will be taken captive by it. Satan knows how to dress things up to where they sound really good and really wise but it is nothing more than man’s foolishness and Satanic activity.
The Colossian church was dealing with false teaching trying to infiltrate its church and we today face it as well. There are many false teachings and false gospels out there and we need to be preaching and teaching the truth so Christians can know what is false and empty deception.
The verse goes on to note 2 sources of this empty deception.
1. Traditions of Men
Traditions are those things that are given from one to another. They are passed down from generation to generation and in and of themselves can potentially be harmless but when they take priority over God and His Word they can be very dangerous. Just because someone has believed or continues to believe something does not make it true.
Traditions of men largely perpetuate error because after all the traditions of men are in fact man-centered. They tend to originate in the mind of man and they continue to live on through man. God's wisdom and God's ways are obviously higher than man's ways and man's traditions.
The traditions of men have no concern for the Word of God and certainly would never submit itself to the Word of God even if it is using the Word of God as a basis for its teachings. Traditions of men that seek to utilize the Word of God for its teaching always ends up perverting the Word of God to fit its traditions.
2. Elementary Principles of the World
The elementary principles refers literally to the alphabet or "things in a row." In comparison to God where ultimate truth is found, man's wisdom and the principles of this world are very elementary indeed.
The idea that man as a created being could reason up to or be wiser than the Creator Himself is absurd and elementary thinking but man thinks himself to be wise and progressive and elite in their wisdom because of their departure from such a crutch as thinking there is a God or a Savior called Jesus Christ.
Rather (Or not) according to Christ – Paul says if you don’t take heed and are taken captive it is because you have engaged in and sought after empty deception in the traditions of men and the elementary principles of this world rather than Christ.
Thus, you are either in Christ or you are in the world. You are either living according to Christ and how His Word says we are to live in our lives, in our homes, in our workplace, and in the church or you are living according to how the world says that your life, your home, your workplace, and your church is supposed to look.
If you are in Christ you will take heed and be on the lookout for false teaching. God’s Word has determined what wisdom is and where it can be found. God’s Word is the determiner of what our life should look like, God’s Word if the truth of what our home should look like, and God’s Word is the determiner of what the church is supposed to look like.
How do we take heed? How do we keep watch? By studying all the false religions and teachings out there? No, although there is wisdom in being aware of what is out there.
When teaching people to spot and look for check fraud they don't spend all their time studying and searching for every possible false check out in existence. No, they spend all of their time studying what a real check is. How does it feel? What does it look like? By knowing what a real check is they can easily spot error. How do we study and learn the real thing so that we can spot error?
1. You need to be in the Word daily. (There are many tools and opportunities to help you not only be able to read the Bible and understand it)
2. You need to pray and seek God as the habit of your life. (God is not an after-thought, He is our everything. God owes us nothing. We owe Him everything.
3. You need to actively be making yourself a living sacrifice and submitting yourself to Christ and growing in Christ-likeness.
As we grow in the truth, as we grow in Christ, we won’t have to worry about being taken captive because we will know the truth. We will know Christ and we will know His truth and we will live according to Christ and not according to empty deception in the traditions of men or the elementary principles of this world.