In Christ Alone
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosphy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
The message is clear: be wary of anything that is not rooted in Christ.
How wary should we be? To what degree? To the point that we are not taken captive.
To be taken captive means to be helpless before our captors. In this case, the captors are worldly arguments: philosophy, empty deceit, human tradition, elemental spirits of the world, and anything that is not according to Christ.
Let's break each down.
Philosophers love to think. The etymology of the word philosophy comes from the Greek roots phil and soph, respectively meaning love and knowledge. Guess what? The New Testament of the Bible was written in Greek. That means this translation is as direct as it can get.
Philosophers spend ages thinking about the state of the world, the state of life, and an endless list of many other things. There are many topics that don't involve Christ.
We should be careful not to fall into the trap of philosophical debates, and we should certainly be aware of philosophers who actively question the truthfulness and accuracy of Christ.
I believe empty deceit is refers to trickery. Here are some examples:
- "If God is all-powerful and all-knowing and all-good, why does He let bad things happen to good people?"
- "Can God make a rock so heavy that He himself cannot lift?"
- "If God is sovereign and we have free will, isn't that contradictory?"
I confess that some some of these fall into the philosophy section, but that's because I tend to like thinking about those sorts of things.
Everyone has a certain background, whether that's cultural, ethnic, religious, professional, etc. Any such background is considered tradition. This includes anything that you've been told to do since childhood without a specific reason.
For example, we might be taught to respect our elders or to clean up after ourselves.
While some such human traditions are good, others are less universal. Paul told the Colossians to not let anyone pass judgment regarding food and drink or certain festivals. If we focus on something as trivial as what we are allowed and not allowed to eat, that takes away our focus from Christ, and we become captive to our human tradition.
Elemental Spirits of the World
This refers to religion and mysticism. This world has many schools of religion that all have their own interpretation of the world and why things are the way they are.
These also distract us from Christ, and we should be wary of them too.
Anything Not According to Christ
Ultimately, anything that is not according to Christ can distract us. This phrase is more of a "including but not limited to" statement to cover everything else that Paul didn't mention. Paul did give us some examples to start with, but he didn't list out everything. If he did, that itself would be a pile of books as tall as mountains.
Therefore, it is up to us to discern what is and is not according to Christ. We can start with these immediate examples Paul gave us. We can look for others in the Bible. We gradually learn others through our life as we follow Christ.
Every weekend I write about some thoughts, life lessons, and interesting things I came by for the week. I'd love for you to join.