The Colossian Heresy

Posted in: 2005
By Tom L. Ballinger
Feb 29, 2008 - 7:01:40 PM

September 21, 2005


Part I

Many times, as we read certain epistles written by the Apostle Paul, we fail to ask ourselves; why did he say thus and such? What prompted Paul to write what he did? We simply just read and get a blessing from what he wrote. We may rejoice in certain truths, especially those that relate to the revelation of the Mystery, but overlook the “whys” of him saying what he said.

As I have studied The Epistle to the Colossians, I was impressed with much of the content in which Paul issued warnings and corrections. These warnings and corrections make it clear that his adversaries were no longer the Judaizers of the Circumcision as was the case during The Acts of the Apostles (especially, as seen in Galatians). We discover a new set of antagonists; false teachers teaching heretical doctrine to the Church Which is His Body. The Apostle’s language is decisive on this point:

“Lest any man beguile you with enticing words … Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world …And having spoiled principalities and powers …Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days …Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind …and not holding the Head …why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh” (Col. 2:4, 8-23).

We detect, here, a slight presence of Judaism which the Apostle combats. The observance of Sabbaths and new moons, and meats, and spiritual circumcision had the element of Judaism. On the other hand, a closer examination of Paul’s language indicates a strong element of theosophic speculation which is foreign to the spirit of Judaism, proper. What is detected is a shadowy mysticism which is focused on the contemplation of the unseen world.

We see that the pure message of Paul’s revelation of the secret, which had been revealed to him after the Acts period, is being overlaid with false doctrine, such as: intermediate beings, between God and man, as the instruments of communication and objects of worship (Col. 2:4, 8,18, 23).

While Paul was in prison in Rome, Epaphras came to him from Colossae and informed him of a strange form of heresy being taught to the Colossian believers. Paul recognized it, immediately, as Gnosticism. This distressed Paul, greatly, because this heretical teaching could cause the Colossians to abandon the simplicity of their earlier faith (Col. 2:6).

Paul immediately fired off a letter to the Colossians whom he loved, having never seen them (Col. 2:1), but had heard of their faith and love for all of the saints (Col. 1:4). This development so disturbed the Apostle that he sent two other epistles along with the one to the Colossians; Ephesians (mentioned in Col. 4:16 as to the church at Laodicea) and Philemon. Tychicus and Onesimus accompanied, or carried the three Epistles back to the believers in the province of Lycus at Heirapolis, Laodicea, and Colossae (Col. 4:7-9).


In order to answer the rhetorical question, I asked, “What prompted Paul to write what he did?” A brief over-view of Gnosticism is required. Several centuries before Christ, a loose, intellectual, and speculative movement arose, replacing the idea of the pagan gods of the Greek and Roman myths. Its name came from the Greek word for “knowledge;” gnosis. It is interesting and informative to learn that the “hot-beds” of Gnosticism were in Tarsus, the tri-cities previously mentioned, Ephesus, and Corinth. Tarsus was Paul’s hometown, Corinth was where he labored abundantly, and Ephesus was where he spent more time than any other place. Therefore, he undoubtedly knew the insidious doctrines of the Gnostics.

Paul knew the menacing dogma of the Gnostics. Gnosticism implies the possession of a superior wisdom and knowledge which was hidden from others. It makes a distinction between the select few, who have the higher gift, and the common many who are without it. This entails an intellectual exclusiveness within the Gnostic didactics. Thus, it recognized a separation of the intellectual “caste” in the religion. In order to attain the “higher ground” of Gnosticism, a process of initiation was required. It was animated by an exclusive aristocratic spirit which distinguished between those who possessed the higher gnosis and those who were not so gifted.

The ones with the higher gnosis claimed to have been initiated into a special knowledge of truth; thereby, regarding this special knowledge as superior to faith.

A Mystery Religion

The mysteries of Gnosticism were supposedly revealed to some but were concealed, or hidden from the majority. It was a form of mysticism. They applied the Greek word, musterion, to describe the mysteries of Gnosticism.

“Musterion,” which comes from the word, “mustus,” means; “one initiated into the mysteries.” Modern-day use of the word, “mystery,” implies something in itself is obscure, or incomprehensible, difficult to understand. This doesn’t convey the exact sense of the Greek word, musterion, which means a secret imparted only to the initiated. The history of the word, “Mystery,” played an important role in pagan religions.

The Spirit of God directed Paul to adopt some of the language of the Gnostics in order to “blow them away.” The concept of the “Mystery,” in his Prison Epistles, is a case in point. As this study proceeds, more will be brought out on this.

Belief in a Demiurge

The Gnostics did not believe in an Almighty Creator. They adhered to the idea that a demiurge, a subordinate deity, was the one who created the material world. In other words, there was an inferior agent who created all that could be seen; whereas, there were a series of emanations that were responsible for the creation of the unseen (invisible, or spiritual) world.

The Infinite and the Finite

The Gnostics were full of questions, such as; “How can the Infinite communicate with the Finite?” Their speculations were not homogenous on this matter, but, by and large, they believed that God must express Himself in some manner. Gnostics taught that the material world was evil; therefore, a God who was perfect, absolute, and incomprehensible would not communicate directly with the creation. So, He set in motion a series of emanations. These were, as the Gnostics taught, angels ever devolving into an even lower and lower scale. The farther down the line of devolution, the more feeble were the angelic emanations. Those who were at the bottom of the “pyramid,” that is to say, those who were farther removed from the “source” (i.e. the head), could have contact with the evil material world.

These were the speculations and the imaginations of the Gnostics who were privileged as the ones who had been enlightened and initiated into the mysteries.

Emanations Named and Worshipped

The emanations were, in the Gnostic sense, angelic beings who mediated between men and God. Each series of emanations produced another, but a less noble generation of beings. The Gnostics imagined, or reasoned that these unseen beings had genealogies which, if known, would aid them in going to higher sources of power and influence. The genealogies of the myriads of angelic beings were endless speculations. They imagined that they would become a god if they, spiritually, climbed the ladder ever upward.

They named the first generation of emanations which were produced from the Source (i.e. the head). The names were descriptive as far as the Gnostics were concerned. Those who were closest to the Source were named Principalities, Powers, Thrones, Mights, and Dominions. These secondary sources generated a third generation, the third a fourth, the fourth a fifth, and so on, until the last rung was reached. The lowest level was the least intelligent, the least influential, the least beneficial, and the least powerful.

Based on my understanding of their speculations and contemplations, the genealogies of these beings would resemble a chart of a gargantuan, Multi-Level Marketing, down-line organization.

The Pleroma

In the teaching of Gnosticism, all of the unseen and innumerable angelic generations have a portion of the Sources (i.e. the head’s) attributes, such as gifts, power, understanding, intelligence, ruling authority, creativity, and mediatorial clout. These attributes diminished the farther away, from the Source, they were on the ladder.

These generations related to and influenced the visible and invisible world. The Gnostics used a Greek word, Pleroma, to describe all of these emanations from the Source. The word, in English, is translated as “fullness.” They, that is, the Pleroma, were the Source’s “fullness,” his “completeness,” his “plentitude.” The Pleroma made up the full complement, the aggregate of all of the Source’s attributes, virtues, and energies. Every angel had a little bit of his attributes. All of the Source’s attributes were divided, unequally, among all of the angels. When all of these were added together, the sum total was, as Gnostics considered, the Pleroma. The totality of all of the emanations made up the Pleroma (the Fullness) of the Source. In the Gnostic’s doctrine, these myriads of angels were the “body,” or the “substance,” or the “reality” of the Source; that is, the Head.


Gnostics taught that through the practice of asceticism, they could win favor with the Pleroma; thereby, leading to a communion with the higher levels of the “chain.” Since they believed that the material world was inherently evil, which included the human flesh, then, they must inflict pain and mortification upon it. This indifference to the flesh led to licentiousness.

In Closing

The exact sense of the Greek word, MUSTERION, is “a secret imparted only to the initiated.” This word comes from MUSTES which means, “one initiated into the mysteries.” And, this comes from the word, MUEO, “to initiate.”

The Apostle Paul, under inspiration, adopts the Gnostic’s word for “mystery” and uses it against the Gnostic’s teaching within the Church Which is His Body, the fullness of Him, as we shall see in the following studies on the Colossian heresy.

Tom L. Ballinger

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Part II

During the early years of writing Plainer Words, I carefully avoided making references to words used in the Greek and Hebrew languages. As a writer, I found that even the English language was difficult to master. In fact, I’ve never mastered it. So, how could I think I could get some assistance from two languages that I didn’t “know doodle de squat about.” Over the course of time, however, I discovered that a number of the spiritual roads I was traveling in my pursuit of the truth seemed to be closed. I could only go so far. I knew, intuitively, there were things I was missing.

The more I searched I began to realize much of the Old Testament used Hebrew idioms and when translated into English, really made no sense even though the poetic King’s English was beautiful. Then, as I considered the New Testament, I began to notice that in the margins of the King James Version, it would list an alternate translation. The first to really catch my eye was found in 1 Corinthians 4:3; “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.” Next to “judgment” was the superscript 2. The margin read; “Gr. day.” This made more sense to me. It was a reference to “man’s day,” in contrast to “Christ’s Day,” or the “Lord’s Day.” I began to see more such instances. That’s when it dawned on me that I might be missing a lot of truth or, at least, missing a better understanding of what the Spirit was imparting.

I have the greatest respect for the translators. I can only marvel at their work. However, they were just men; I don’t doubt they did the very best they could for the glory of our Great God.

Forgive me for this diversion, but, hopefully, you get the point. I’ve said all of this to say that, in these studies, you will see how some understanding of Greek words adds a great deal to what Paul means when he says certain things.

The Gnostic heresy which concerned Paul, greatly, was the fact that it was being taught by those who were “in the church.” The way to overthrow the faith of believers is to have one of their own teach perverse doctrines. Paul warned the elders of the church at Ephesus about this.

“For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30).

It was true during the latter part of the Acts period, it was true during the early days of Paul’s revelation of the Mystery, and it is true today.

Gnosticism’s use of the word “mystery,” musterion, referred to the secrets which were hidden from the average Christian. Only those who were initiated into the mysteries possessed the “true knowledge. “ This created a religious oligarchy within the community of believers who had embraced Paul’s testimony as the prisoner of Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 1:8). Gnosticism, which was being taught to believers was alienating Christians from the true gospel of Paul, the prisoner. They were disseminating their speculations which led to the worship of angels instead of Christ. This esoteric exclusiveness vigorously denied the truth Paul set forth after Israel was set aside: that being that present truth was for all men to see (Eph. 3:9).

The Holy Spirit led the Apostle Paul to adopt Gnosticism’s own word, musterion, and use it against them. The Gnostic interpretation of musterion was that it was only learned by a special initiation of the few, which was the product of intellectual research.

Paul takes the word “musterion,” or “mystery,” and associates it with revelation. It should be noted how closely “mystery” is associated with “revelation” (apokalupsis), as well as, with similar words: “to make known” (Eph. 1:9; 3:3-5, 10; 6:19).

Paul takes his stance with the Spirit’s interpretation of the word, “mystery,” and strongly asserts that the doctrine of the Mystery of the Church, which is His Body, is freely communicated to all men. His insertion of the word “Mystery,” into our Christian vocabulary simply means—a truth which was once hidden but now is revealed; a truth which, without special revelation, would have been unknown.

“How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Eph. 3:3-5).

It was as if Paul was saying, ‘Pay no attention the false claims being presented to you concerning the mysteries learned through ritual and initiation. Don’t be deluded by persuasive arguments that true knowledge comes by way of vain imaginations. We have revealed to us the Mystery that really counts—the one that has been hidden from ages and generations; it is NOW MADE MANIFEST. It is now disclosed to you, to whom God has chosen to make known the riches of this MYSTERY among the Gentiles; which is Christ among you, the hope of glory (Col. 1:26-27). Don’t give these false teachers a platform. Their speculations are empty. Rather, Beloved, be rooted and built up in our Lord Jesus Christ and established in the faith. You are to hold fast to the Head; the false teachers have lost their connection. They do not receive any nourishment from our Source and are no longer knit together, increasing as God causes the Body to grow.’

Tom L. Ballinger

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


Part III

My research of the doctrines of Gnosticism, which I felt required to do, led to a better understanding of the Apostle Paul’s counter attack against this heresy being disseminated among believers. It has been concluded that he adopted a number of the Gnostics’ own phraseologies and terms to use as weapons in his spiritual warfare against the false teaching of Gnosticism.

Paul’s background was one of being a true intellectual. He had a sympathetic and receptive mind and was by, no means, closed to the influences from the Greek-Roman thought of his day. He used illustrations drawn from athletic games (1 Cor. 9:26-27), and the Greek theater (1 Cor. 4:9), and the Roman camp. He must have been exposed to the corruption of the mystic societies. His home, Tarsus, was a seat of the Mithra religion, and the chief centers of his activities: Corinth, Antioch, and Ephesus were the headquarters of Gnostic cults. We shouldn’t be surprised that he borrowed from the vocabulary of the Mysteries; not only the word, “musterion,” but, “memuemai,” which means; “I learned the secret,” literally, “I have been initiated” (Phil. 4:12). Another word is “sphraizesthai” which is “to be sealed” (Eph. 1:13. 4:30). Then, he employed the word “teleios,” translated as “perfect” (Col. 1:28, etc.). There are a number of others which we will not mention at this time.

Gnosticism was made up of secret cult societies. They took ordinary Greek words and gave them meanings understood only by the initiated. In other words, the words and phrases of the Gnostics became argot. That is to say, it became a vocabulary of a secret language. An argot is a vocabulary used by a particular class, or group; such as, criminals, spies, mystics, or secret fraternities and lodges so that others cannot understand. These were good sounding words and were used in their persuasive arguments, but the underlying connotations of them were not of the Lord.

Before we go forward in this endeavor, let’s see the definition given of GNOSTIC in Webster’s Dictionary which was published in 1828:

“GNOSTIC from the Greek ‘to know.’ The Gnostics were a sect of philosophers that arose in the first ages of Christianity, who pretended they were the only men who had a true knowledge of the Christian religion. They formed for themselves a system of theology, agreeable to the philosophy of Pythagoras and Plato, to which they accommodated their interpretations of scripture. They held that all nature, intelligible, intellectual and material, are derived by successive emanations from the infinite fountain of deity. These emanations they called aeons. These doctrines were derived from oriental philosophy.”

Did you notice that the aeons were emanations from the “infinite fountain of deity?” We pointed out in the previous studies on “The Fullness of Him,” Parts I, II and III, that Paul used the word “HEAD” of the Church with the connotation being the Church’s Source, or Fountainhead, or Supplier. The fourth dictionary definition of the word “head” is: “beginning, source, or origin.” It is from the Gnostics’ idea of the “original source” that Paul adapted his use of the word, kephale (i.e. head), to portray Christ as the Original Source of supply to the Church which is His Body in Ephesians and Colossians.

Evidence of Gnosticism in I Corinthians

Before we consider the Gnostic influence which Paul warned about in his Prison Epistles, we will point out some of the internal evidence found in his Acts period epistles. We should not be surprised to find Paul contending against Gnosticism in his Corinthian Epistles since Corinth was a major seat of this theosophy. We’ll just examine a sampling; leaving the rest for our readers to identify.

In 1 Corinthians 2:1-8, the Gnostic error is being addressed. However, Paul never mentioned Gnosticism which he didn’t have to because it was understood. “Knowledge” being the Gnostics’ key tenant, and the “knowledge” they claimed to have acquired, Paul called it “man’s wisdom.”

“And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God” (2:1).

Here, Paul indicated that some teachers, or preachers, came to them with eloquence and imagined superior wisdom. Whereas, he said; ‘I did not come to you with eloquence of speech or superior wisdom as I proclaimed the testimony of God.’

“And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:” (2:4).

The “enticing words” meant persuasive language, or persuasive arguments, which was the style of the Gnostic teachers who relied upon their intellect to persuade others of their secret, or hidden, knowledge. Paul simply referred to their false claim of knowledge as “man’s wisdom.” He didn’t rely on persuasive arguments but on the clear demonstration of the Spirit’s power.

“That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (2:5).

The warning, here, was that the believers’ faith should be rooted; not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

“Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:” (2:6).

This verse is interesting and very revealing as it relates to the Gnostics’ use of the word, “perfect,” which is the Greek word “teleious.” According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, the word, “teleious,” when used by the Gnostics meant: to be fully instructed [that is, initiated], into the Mysteries of Gnosticism. Whereas, the uninitiated were not teleious (perfect). These false teachers were attempting to insert a religious aristocracy into the Church which is His Body, based upon their secret knowledge. Those who were teleious (perfect) were the select few. These teachers of false doctrines were probably nominal Christians of some form or, at least, professed to be. If they declared they were Gnostics, they wouldn’t have a forum to peddle their intellectual speculations. Whatever mask they wore, it was for the purpose to deceive.

Here, in verse 6, Paul takes their use of the word, “teleious,” and applies it to the saints in Corinth as them being the ones who were truly, fully instructed in the mystery of Jesus Christ. This was in contrast to the elitists among them—the pseudo-teachers. Paul took their own argot vocabulary and “pulled the rug out from under them.”

Strong’s Number 5046 is TELEIOUS, and he gives the KJV’s translations as being; “of full age, man, perfect.” However, when 1 Corinthians 2:6 is considered in six other translations, they don’t follow Strong. Five of them translate teleious as “mature,” and one is “fullgrown.” None of the six versions translated “teleious” as “perfect.” When it is considered what Paul was confronting, I would suggest that the Gnostics’ argot would be the proper translation; “to be fully instructed.” As we have pointed out, the Apostle was using their own meaning of teleious against them, and in so doing, ripped their ideas to shreds.

However, in the other passages where teleious is used and the King James Version’s translations are followed, they are properly used. But, in order to receive the full force of teleious when the Apostle Paul used it in the context of Gnosticism, it needs to be understood as “fully instructed,” or “fully initiated.”

“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:” (2:7)

It seems that Paul was denigrating the teaching of Gnosticism’s fabricated claims of possessing superior knowledge which was wisdom hidden from the uninitiated rank-and- file Christian. He compared their “wisdom;” which was exclusively theirs, to the “wisdom of God” which was available for all saints. Paul’s use of the word, “mystery,” is always associated with it having been revealed. We can see that he made shambles of their pseudo-wisdom by comparing it with the wisdom of God which he imparted to believers. Notice the RSV’s translation:

“But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification” (1 Cor. 2:7).

The Gnostics could beat their own drum, but their drumbeat paled miserably in comparison to the clear, clarion call of the trumpet which revealed the wisdom of God.

“Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (2:8).

Had the princes of this world known the hidden wisdom of God, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. Paul moves away from the Gnostics when he said the “princes of this world” and made a reference to the rulers (the princes) in Jerusalem who were responsible for the Crucifixion.

“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (2:9).

“But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (2:10).

Paul associates the “mystery” and the “hidden wisdom of God” with the fact that it had been revealed and was no longer a mystery, or hidden wisdom. That was the distinction between his “mystery” and that of the Gnostics—the mysteries they embraced were only known by those who were fully instructed in the mysteries of Gnosticism.

Notice how Paul connects the “mystery” with the revelation of it:

“Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation (apokalupsis) of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began” (Rom. 16:25).

“Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself” (Eph. 1:9).

“How that by revelation (apokalupsis) he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words” (Eph. 3:3).

“Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed (apokalupto) unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Eph. 3:5).

More traces of Gnostic influence can be found in the Church Epistles. However, in our next issues, we will concentrate on Paul’s defense against Gnosticism in Colossians, and to a degree, in Ephesians.

Tom L. Ballinger

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Part IV

As it was pointed out in Part I, the Gnostics’ name came from the Greek word, “gnosis,” which was the Greek for our word, “knowledge.” But, that’s not the whole story. Consider the following:

“Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth” (1 Cor. 8:1).

“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13).

In these two verses, the word “knowledge,” occurs three times. The first two occurrences do not convey a very praiseworthy trait for having knowledge. Can it be said that to come to the “knowledge of the Son of God” is not a praiseworthy attainment? No, the twice mentioned “knowledge” in 1 Corinthians 1:8 is not praiseworthy. But, the one in Ephesians 4:13 most definitely is a praiseworthy attainment. How can we tell which is and which isn’t? Well, some might say; “by the context.” That is true in this instance, but what about occurrences where the context doesn’t give a clear meaning in how to differentiate which is and which isn’t?


There are two Greek words translated as “knowledge.” Knowing the two Greek words sweeps-away any uncertainties.

The first word for “knowledge” is Strong’s Number 1108; GNOSIS. This is knowledge that is acquired by learning. Gnosis was the word the Gnostics used as they gloried in their initiation into a special knowledge they had acquired.

The second word for “knowledge” is Strong’s Number 1922; EPIGNOSIS. The prefix EPI- gives an altogether different meaning to GNOSIS. EPI makes it “precise, further, or correct” knowledge.

Just the other day, I read a statement by the Editor-In-Chief of WORLD Magazine, Professor Marvin Olasky of Texas University, who wrote; “The ancient Greeks differentiated gnosis, theoretical knowledge gained at a distance, from epignosis, knowledge gained through intimate personal experience.”

EPIGNOSIS is used twenty-one times in the New Testament. The only two to use the word were the Apostle Paul and the Apostle Peter. Paul used it seventeen times, and Peter, four times. It is clear that in their uses of epignosis that this more precise knowledge comes by revelation. The “intimate personal experience” which Professor Olasky mentioned can refer to “the intimate personal experience” of Divine revelation.

Before we look at Paul’s first use of epignosis in Colossians, we should note how he leads into its’ usage. You will notice he mentioned they learned God’s grace in all of its’ truth from their faithful minister, Epaphras (Col.1:7). Epaphras was in Rome to tell Paul of the heretical teaching occurring at Colossea, Hierapolis, and Laodicea.

From what Epaphras had told Paul, the prisoner, he was aware that the Colossians knew “the grace of God in truth” (Col.1:6). However, Paul was fearful that they could possibly be “moved away from the hope of the gospel” if they didn’t continue in the faith being rooted and grounded (Col.1:23).

The “why” Paul wrote in Colossians 1:9-10 was to ensure them that the knowledge imparted to them by Paul’s apostle, Epaphras, was not the GNOSIS of the pseudo-knowledgeable but, rather, the EPIGNOSIS which was the result of divine revelation. This was knowledge (epignosis) of God’s will (Col. 1:9). It does not cause one to be “puffed up.” Instead, it humbles the saints. This knowledge (epignosis) of God increased as they walked worthy (Col. 1:10).

“For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge (epignosis) of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;” (Col. 1:9).

This assurance, as their shield of faith, should quench the fiery darts hurled at them by the agents of the wicked one—the false teachers. Keep in mind that many times, false teachers were, and are, Christians who have been ensnared by the devil and are taken captive by him (2 Tim 2:26). Those who were caught-up in teaching elements of the Gnostic heresy, regarding a “higher gnosis” which they thought they possessed, must have been dumb-founded when they read Paul’s letter. They knew very well what Paul meant when he wrote that he desired that they might be filled with the EPIGNOSIS of God’s will.

Not only that, but Paul associated with this imparted knowledge (epignosis) of His will with—wisdom and spiritual understanding. Paul wrote “in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” which was not the case with the knowledge (gnosis) of the intellect. The word wisdom is “sofia.” The word, “sofia,” can mean wisdom of a higher order, or lower order. The higher order would be spiritual wisdom, while the lower order would be worldly wisdom. The context determines the order. In the context, the wisdom given along with the superior knowledge clearly indicates that the wisdom and understanding was of a higher order—spiritual, not worldly. As this Colossian letter was read to the saints, I can well how imagine the false teachers got red in the face and squirmed in their seats. They knew this was addressed to them, and about them. Paul didn’t have to call names which I’m sure Epaphras had given to him. What I am trying to say is that Paul was very restrained in his methodology of correcting the wayward. But he was unrestrained in his warning and caution. He could have written something to the effect as he did in Romans 16:17:

“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.”

But, if his restraint didn’t phase the wayward, it was certainly pointed out to the others who should be marked and shunned.

“That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge (epignosis) of God;” (Col. 1:10).

Walking worthy of the Lord and bearing fruit, through good works, would cause the saints to grow, or increase, in the EPIGNOSIS of God, not in the gnosis of the Gnostics.

EPIGNOSIS is the precise, or correct knowledge, given by revelation from God.

Paul said he preached Christ, warning and teaching every man in all spiritual wisdom (sofia) that he may present every man perfect (teleious, i.e. fully instructed) in Christ Jesus (Col. 1:28). This was why he labored; striving according to Christ’s mighty power working in him (Col. 1:29).

He wanted those at Colossae to know what great concern he had for them and those at Laodicea, as well as, all others who had not met him face-to-face (Col. 2:1). Why was he so concerned about them? He knew they were being exposed to the false assertions that some believers were in possession of superior wisdom and knowledge which was hidden from others. He confronts this fabricated notion with:

“that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge (epignosis) of God's mystery, that is, Christ Himself,” (Col. 2:2). NAS.

“in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (gnosis) ” (Col. 2:3) NAS.

There is a sense that in making Colossians 2:2-3 two verses breaks up the continuity of the critical point about Christ, and that is; the Mystery here is not ‘Christ,’ but as ‘Christ’ containing in Himself all the treasures of wisdom. Here is Colossians 2:2-3 without the break in the verses:

“that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge (epignosis) of God's mystery, that is, Christ Himself in Whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:2-3) NAS.

The New American Standard version lets the English reader know there is a “true knowledge” as compared to a false knowledge which was being taught by the wayward. The true knowledge of God’s Mystery was Christ Himself. The NAS gets this by translating EPIGNOSIS as “true knowledge.” However, the NAS doesn’t translate epignosis as “true knowledge” in Colossians 1:9-10 which they should have if they were to be consistent.

Those who were the charges of Epaphras at Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis could take comfort in the fact that they had the “true knowledge” (epignosos) of God’s Mystery—that being, Christ containing in Himself all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

So, if they knew Christ, then they all had access to the hidden spiritual wisdom and knowledge. Why on earth would they be beguiled and fall for the “enticing words” of any man? (Col.2:4).

In Gnosticism, a great deal of stress was laid upon privilege, intelligence, penetration by intellect, and by gnosis. This fact led Paul to tear down the barrier erected in the Gnostic teaching between the select few and the “underclass” believers. He did this through the doctrine of “putting on the new man.” Seeing that they had put off the old man with his deeds;

“And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge (epignosis) after the image of him that created him:” (Col. 3:10).

Only the regenerate man can possess the revealed EPIGNOSIS (knowledge) to live on a spiritual plain, as a new man created after the image of His Creator, where full privileges of the Gospel of Christ are offered to barbarians, and even barbarians of a lowest type.

“Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:11).

Paul “shoots down” a tenant of Gnosticism; that being, religious privilege and superiority. In Christ, the “new man” knows no distinctions of believers, because “Christ is all, and in all.”

As members of the Church, which is His body, we possess and have access to a far superior knowledge (epignosis) which comes to us by means of revelation and is discerned spiritually. Paul emphasized wisdom and knowledge that comes from Christ Jesus and does not concern itself with idle speculations and fables.

Tom L. Ballinger

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Part V

In Part IV of this series, we looked at the four occurrences in which the Apostle Paul used the word, Epignosis, in his letter to the Colossians. The heretical teaching of Gnosticism laid great emphasis on Gnosis; that is to say, the knowledge acquired by those “Christians” who believed they had become “perfect” (teleious) by the initiation into the secrets of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The ones teaching a form of “Christian Gnosticism” in Colossae, Laodicea, and Hieraoplis (and elsewhere) stressed that their knowledge (gnosis) was acquired by being extremely humble and by worshiping the unseen angels, who, in their totality, possessed the “fullness” (i.e.the pleroma) of God. The Pleroma, which was all of the emanations from their “God,” who initiated them into the special knowledge they claimed to possess which “the run-of-the-mill” believers were not privy to. They, in their own eyes, were the privileged aristocracy of the Church, which is His body. This completely contradicted the revealed truth of the Mystery—there was no hierarchy in the Church of the Mystery—neither are there any today.

The “Christian Gnostics” took pleasure in their humility and that they “knew, by name, many of the angels they worshipped.” Or, so they imagined. Paul wielded the “Sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17) against this false doctrine, and cut it asunder:

“Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind” (Col. 2:18).

The NIV states; “Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions” (Col. 2:18).

Now, notice, in Colossians 2:19 how the Apostle took careful aim and placed these teachers of false doctrine in his “cross-hairs” and pulled the trigger:

“He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow” NIV.

Here, Paul gave the false teachers recognition of being Christians, but they had lost connection with the Head. He used their word “Head” (kephale); meaning their so-called Source. However, Paul’s use of the word, Head, means Jesus Christ Who is the Source, or Supplier of the Body which is the Church. (I have used the words “wayward Christian teachers,” previously because of Colossians 2:19).

With this having been said, we will now look to Ephesians for Paul’s use of the Greek word, EPIGNOSIS. This is the true knowledge available to members of the Body and it is found in Christ, Who is the Source of all wisdom and spiritual understanding.

Knowledge (Epignosis) in Ephesians

It has been pointed out that the Ephesians letter was written along with Paul’s letter to the Colossians, as well as, the one to Philemon. The Apostle laid down some very “heavy” truth in the first fifteen verses of Ephesians. He knew the Ephesians, as well as the faithful elsewhere, were in danger of the infectious doctrine of the Gnostic influence concerning the elitist’s knowledge (gnosis) that came by way of initiation.

He set out to demolish the “waywards’” claim of their “insider” gnosis. After he said that he ceaselessly gave thanks for them in his prayers and making mention of them in his prayers (v. 16), he continued on, writing:

“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge (epignosis) of him:” (v. 17).

Paul’s prayer was that God would give them the epignosis (knowledge) that came by way of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.

The knowledge of the Gnosticiers, by contrast, was based upon speculation and vain imaginations. The precise, or correct knowledge, of Jesus Christ came from God by means of revelation.

The Gnostics’ God was aloof, far-off, and non-communicative with his creatures. He was only understood as the “aeons” (i.e. the emanations or angels) chose to “reveal” him through the rites of initiations.

The contrast was startling!

“The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints” (v.18).

The Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge (epignosis) of Christ is given to all believers in order that they may spiritually see what is the hope of Christ’s calling and what are the riches of His inheritance in the saints.

The following few paragraphs are parenthetic:

Many of us who embrace the calling of the Church, over which Christ Jesus is the Head, have wondered why other Christians don’t see this truth of right division. Some of us go back to Ephesians 1:4 and simply say: “Well, evidently they, that is to say, those who don’t see the Truth of the Mystery, were not chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.” In times past, out of frustration, I have said the same thing in trying to rationalize why others cannot “see” this truth when it is “clearly seen” by many.

Over time, I began to wince when I said or thought this. This reeks to high heaven of a haughty spirit. It gives off a savor of rot, of narcissism, of elitism, or a “Gnostic” form of arrogance.

With this said, let’s ask; “Why does the truth of the Mystery seem to be revealed to some believers while it would appear to be concealed from others?” It is clear that the Truth of the Dispensation of the Mystery is said to be freely, and unreservedly, communicated to all believers, and it is for “all men to see” (Eph. 3:9). But, not all believers see it. Just like it is the will of Jesus Christ for all men to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4), but all will not be saved. Paul preached Christ, warning and teaching every believer in all wisdom; that he “might present every believer perfect (teleious) in Christ Jesus” (Col. 1:28). But, every believer will not be. We who see the Mystery must not be moved away from the hope of the gospel. It is a possibility; otherwise, Paul wouldn’t have reminded the Colossians “to continue on in the faith;” being rooted and grounded (Col. 1:23).

The explanation is that the communication of the Mystery is limited, not by any secrecy in the message of the Mystery itself, but by the receptive capacity of the hearer, or reader. The carnally-minded, or the worldly, or the morally corrupted probably causes them to be blind to the light which shines on them. Then, there is the case of the “babes in Christ” who cannot bear the strong meat of the Word. Theirs’ is probably the case of being content with what little truth they know. They prefer the soothing effect of the “milk of the Word.” Other believers may not be pedagogically ready to move on to perfection (teleious). If time permits, they may empty their full glass, making room for a re-supply from the Holy Spirit—advancing from the ABCs on to the MNOs, or on to the PQRs.

Continuing on in Ephesians One:

“And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,” (Eph. 1:19-20).

All of this is contingent upon all WHO BELIEVE! To believe is to have faith in what we have heard or learned from God. Dear friends, without faith, it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6).

We pointed this out earlier but didn’t develop the topic. The Gnostics taught that they were privy to the names of the highest ranking angelic beings (the aeons) that made up the fullness (Pleroma) of their Source. The names they ascribed to these “high authorities” are the ones the Apostle Paul exclusively used. No other writer of Sacred Text used these names.

These titles, fashioned by the Gnostics, were: principalities, powers, mights, dominions, and thrones. These were the highest ranking order of all the angelic hosts. These titles of nobility were based upon empty and vain speculations as they intruded into the invisible realm.

Now, Paul took-on the pet theosophy of Gnosticism concerning the so-called ranking of spiritual authorities. He did not waste time denouncing the made-up titles of nobility. It was as if he said, “Okay, then if your highest authorities in the invisible world are principalities, powers, dominions, mights, and thrones, then we have news for you! Christ was raised from the dead and took the place of authority at God’s right hand …

“Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:” (Eph. 1:21).

In plainer words, Paul simply said; the Lord Jesus Christ ranked far above them. That should have caused them to “suck wind.” I’m sure it did. Whatever name the Gnostics named, whether in this age, or the age to come, Christ is “far above all.”

In this respect, I would think that Epaphras thought, when he read Paul’s Epistles before Paul sent them forward; “You wayward brethren, does this pop your balloon, does that clean your plow, or what?” (a little 21st Century lingo).

“(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” (2 Cor. 10:4-5).

Paul certainly utilized the spiritual weapons in his warfare against Gnosticism and concluded with verses twenty-two and twenty-three of Ephesians One.

“And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”

Paul used “epignosis” in the Ephesian Epistle twice. The first occurrence we looked at was Ephesians 1:17. The second use of the word is found in Ephesians 4:13.

“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge (epignosis) of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ”

The “knowledge of the Son of God” that Paul wanted them to attain, was not “head-knowledge” (gnosis), but the true, correct, and precise knowledge (epignosis) which is freely imparted to all believers—that is, to all who will receive it.

In one of Paul’s prayers in Ephesians, he prayed that Christ would grant them, according to the riches of His glory, that they would be strengthened by the might of the Spirit in the inner man (Eph. 3:16), in order that Christ may dwell in their hearts by faith (Eph. 3:17). Thereby, being able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height (Eph. 3:18): And to know the love of Christ, which “passeth” knowledge (Eph. 3:19).

While I understood what Ephesians 3:19 said, I found it hard get a “real handle on” its’ meaning until I considered the usage of Gnosis and Epignosis.

“And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge (gnosis), that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God”

The key, here, is to know the love of Christ which “passeth” (i.e., goes beyond, or surpasses) gnosis (knowledge). Epignosis is certainly knowledge that goes beyond or surpasses intellectual-head knowledge of Gnosticism. That which goes beyond, or surpasses gnosis is epignosis. Those who relied upon their “head-knowledge” (i.e., gnosis) would never be able to comprehend with all the saints “the love of Christ.” Why? Because they were not holding fast to the true and correct Head, the Lord Jesus Christ (Col. 2:19). The influence of Gnosticism caused them to be moved away from their hope, by worshipping angels, instead of Christ, the true Head, Who was the One and Only Mediator between God and men (1 Tim. 2:5). They were looking to the principalities, powers, mights, and dominions as their mediators.

It is apparent that the “wayward” had given heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils (1 Tim. 4:1).

Tom L. Ballinger

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Part VI

It has been pointed out that the nomenclature conjured up by Gnostics to describe the different names, and grades, and offices of angelic mediators were “thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers.” This is not to say that there is not an order of the heavenly hosts arranged by God. It is to say, however, these names, grades, and offices are not found in the Word of God as such. Yes, the Apostle Paul used this nomenclature to refute the false-teachers’ claim of being privy to secrets of the unseen world. He didn’t spend time refuting their false speculations of knowing the hierarchy by name and grade. Instead, he simply applied these titles and emphatically stated that Jesus Christ was far superior to Gnosticism’s imagined emanations.

The first time I ran across this idea was in 1973. It was in a book written by Bishop J. B. Lightfoot and published in 1879 by MacMillian and Company—Saint Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon. Much of what he wrote was beyond my comprehension at the time, and I knew it. As I have done in most of my 42 years of Bible study, I would set an idea aside, believing that the Lord would give light to understand it whenever He thought I was ready. Over time, I would revisit the idea, and in time, He shed light on the subject, and I saw the light.

Upon my first reading of Lightfoot’s book, I did take away an understanding of the Gnostics teachings of “the emanations “ flowing out from God and Paul’s use of his warning to Timothy of “fables” and “endless genealogies” in 1 Timothy 1:4.”

“Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.”

The “fables” referred to the fairy tales of Gnostics’ false doctrines. The “endless genealogies” was their vain attempt to identify, by name and rank, the emanations from their God. These gendered questions and speculations rather than godly edification.

Very little is known by the believer concerning the unseen, invisible world. We do know that Michael, the Archangel, is named and is the prince representing Israel before God (see: Daniel 10:17, 21. 12:1. Jude 9. Revelation 12:7). He is also identified in 1 Thessalonians 4:16).

Gabriel is identified in Daniel 8:16 and 9:21, as well as, in Luke 1:26. Other angelic “princes” are mentioned as they stand as representatives in the counsels of heaven. Daniel 10:13 mentioned the “prince of Persia.” The “prince of Grecia” is referred to in Daniel 10:20. Other angelic princes are mentioned in Daniel, as well as, Ezekiel. However, the titles for an angelic hierarchy, of “thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers,” are not once mentioned in the Bible other than by the Apostle Paul.

The Gnostics’ Answer for Creation of the Material World

It should be mentioned that the name they gave to their God was the “Abyss.” Abyss is from the Greek word, abussos, which means unfathomable, or the immeasurable depth, or unbounded. Abussos is translated as “bottomless,” as in the “bottomless pit,” in the book of Revelation.

“According to the Gnostics, God is thought of as the ultimate, nameless, and unknowable Being, of whom they speak as the “Abyss.” He is perfect, but the material world is alien to the Divine nature. How then does it come to exist at all? What is the source of its imperfections and evils?

“How did the world originate? The Gnostic answer is that the pleroma or fullness of Deity could flow out in no other way than in the emanations or aeons or angels, all of which are necessarily imperfect, the highest of these emanations or aeons or angels being more spiritual than the grade immediately below it. Of these aeons there is a gradation so numerous, that at length the lowest of them is almost wholly corporeal, the spiritual element having been gradually diminished or eliminated, until at last the world of man and matter is reached, the abode of evil. In this way the gulf is bridged between God and the world of mankind. The highest aeons approximate closely to the Divine nature, so spiritual are they and so nearly free from matter. These form the highest hierarchy of angels, and these as well as many other grades of the angelic host are to be worshipped.” (from the International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia).

These imagined emanations which flowed out from the Abyss were the “genealogies” the Gnostics worshipped.

The Apostle refutes this ridiculous notion of creation by writing in Colossians 1:16:

“For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him:”

Here, we find a double reference to Christ and His relation to the Universe—as both the initial and final cause.

The highest forms of aeons, forming their hierarchy of angels, were the thrones, dominions, principalities and powers—and they were created by Christ and for Christ, the Apostle asserted—by Him and for Him.

In his comment on the names, J. B. Lightfoot wrote; “No stress can be laid on the sequence of the names, as though St. Paul were enunciating with authority some precise doctrine respecting the grades of the celestial hierarchy.” Then he compared the order of them in Ephesians 1:21 where he said them to be “principality, and power, and might, and dominion.” He left out “thrones” and used the word “might.”

Lightfoot continued; Paul “brushes away all these speculations without inquiring how much or how little truth there may be in them, because they are all together beside the question. His language here shows the same spirit of impatience with this elaborate angelology ….” [page 152 in the afore said book].

“And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist” (Col. 1:17).

The “He is,” which is in the present tense, establishes and declares the absolute pre-existence of Christ. The “before all things” refers to the thrones and dominions, etc. That is, Christ was prior to them and figuratively, superior to them. Being superior to the so-called hierarchy is the proper way to look at Christ being “before” them. The next verse (v. 18) emphasizes Christ’s preeminence over all things.

“And by Him all things consist”, which is to say, all things are held together by Him. Christ is the Principle of Cohesion in the Universe.

“And He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence” (Col. 1:18).

Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Preeminent Personage of the Universe. Bishop Lightfoot’s comment on this verse is: “And not only does he hold this position of absolute priority and sovereignty over the Universe—the natural creation. He stands also in the same relation to the Church—the new spiritual creation. He is its’ head, and it is His body. This is His prerogative, because He is the Source and beginning of its’ life, being the First-born from the dead. Thus in all things—in the spiritual order as in the natural order—in the Church as in the World—He is found to have the pre-eminence” [page 156].

We are seeing the Apostle Paul, systematically, pulling down their strongholds and the casting down of their imaginations, and every high thing that exalted itself against the true knowledge of God, even our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, Paul just weighed their doctrines in the balances, and they were found wanting!

We now come to perhaps the greatest doctrine of the Person of Jesus Christ. In the Colossians letter, Paul’s main object is to affirm the supremacy of the Person of Christ. He does so by asserting:

“For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell” (Col.1:19).

“Fulness” is the Greek word, pleroma. “Pleroma” is generally said to mean, “to fill up,” or “to complete,” or “completion.” However, according to sources, other than Strong and Thayer, it can mean “the complement,” as in a “ship’s complement.” The ship’s crew is its’ pleroma. Likewise, the population of a city is the city’s complement (i.e. its’ pleroma). Bishop Lightfoot adds the following … “The fundamental meaning of the word … is neither ‘the filling material,’ nor ‘the vessel filled;’ but that which is complete in itself,’ or in other words, ‘plenitude, fullness, totality, abundance.” [page 259].

In view of the foregoing, it could be said, in plainer words, ‘For it pleased the Father that the totality of all Deity should dwell in Christ.’

The false teachers at Colossae seem to have used "fullness," (i.e., pleroma) as a technical or semi-technical term, for the purpose of their philosophical or theosophical teaching, employing it to signify the entire series of angels or aeons, emanating from their Abyss, which filled the space or interval between a holy God and a world of matter, which was conceived of as essentially and necessarily evil. Teaching of this sort was entirely insulting to the Person of Christ. In opposition, therefore, to the Colossian false teaching in regards to "the fullness," Paul shows what the facts really are, that in Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.

“For in Him dwelleth all the fullness (pleroma) of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9).

The entire pleroma of Deity—Its’ totality—dwells or abides in bodily form in Christ Jesus.
And if this is true, and it is, then it is the logical conclusion that we, as members of His Body, have been given the fullness (i.e. the pleroma) of Christ.

“And ye are complete in Him, which is the Head of all principality and power” (Col. 2:10).

“Complete” is the Greek word, “pleerooo,” which is derived from “pleroma.” As members of His Body, we are filled with His Pleroma, that is to say, with “His Fullness.”

Paul’s teachings against Gnosticism in the Colossian and Ephesian Epistles evidently were effective, because Gnosticism didn’t really take a foot-hold in Christian circles until the second and third centuries. By then the Apostle Paul’s credentials were in doubt by the “church fathers.”

Tom L. Ballinger

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Part VII

Paul warned, in Colossians 2:18, not to let any man beguile them of their reward. Rewards are held out to members of the Church which is His Body. “Beguiled” means to be lured, charmed, mesmerized, or captivated. In the case of Colossians, there was the danger of believers being beguiled by the philosophy of Gnosticism, such as:

“Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility (self-abasement) and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind” (Col. 2:18).

The antidote for being mesmerized by the gnosis (knowledge) of Gnostic thought was to hold fast to the Head, the Lord Jesus Christ, for it is from Him the believer receives spiritual nourishment and fortification. Keep in mind, the Office Christ holds as Head of the Body, is that of being the Original Source—the Supplier—the Increasor.

“And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God” (Col. 2:19).

In order to not be moved away from the Hope of the Gospel, one must hold fast to the Head, Who supplies all of the spiritual nourishment and spiritual power, not only to the entire Body, but to its’ individual members also.

If a believer became beguiled, it is as if he is cut off from his Source (Head). That doesn’t mean he lost his salvation. It means the growth, grace, light, truth, true knowledge, wisdom, peace, joy, and power stops flowing to him from Jesus Christ—his Head.

This reminds us of the following; “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38).

While John was not writing Present Truth, the principle is as applicable now as it was at the time Paul wrote Colossians. Rivers of living waters stop flowing.

A beguiled believer is cut-off from his Head, figuratively speaking. It could be likened to electrical power originating from a huge generator. The utility company that provides electricity for our area in Texas is the “Texas Utility Company” which goes by the name of “TXU.” This company’s power plant is the head of all electrical power in the area. It supplies a continuous flow of electrical current. The current hums through the power lines supplying power to all who are connected.

However, there are times when there is a disruption of power, sometimes to the whole area, sometimes just to a small area, sometimes to a single individual connection. Whenever we lose power, the first thing we do is check to see if our neighbors have power. If they do, we know we have an isolated problem. The problem is ours. Current is still flowing to the neighbors. Something caused us to be disconnected from the electrical head—TXU. The neighbor’s lights are on, their telephone rings, their refrigerators still refrigerate, their air-conditioning is still on, and etc. Our loss is not theirs. The head—TXU keeps on supplying the rest of the body of power users. But, we are in the dark. We have lost connection with our head—TXU.

Perhaps, this is a way to explain what happens when a believer loses his connection with the Lord Jesus Christ’s endless supply of spiritual nourishment and power. He is in “the dark.” No light, no wisdom, no true knowledge, no grace, no peace, no joy, and no power flows to him from his Head. The Source, the Supplier, the Generator—the Lord Jesus Christ—the stream of current is shut down.

Notice the NIV’s rendering of Colossians 2:19; “He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.” Spiritual growth stopped! Stunted! Shut down!

Another thought which we should have used earlier but didn’t do so. It regards gnosis. Have you ever considered what “oppositions of science falsley so called” means?

“O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called:” (1 Tim. 6:20).

The word “science” is “gnosis” which is learned, or acquired knowledge as opposed to “epignosis;” knowledge derived from revelation and spiritual discernment.

Paul warned Timothy to avoid profane and vain babblings and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge. It must refer to the GNOSIS (knowledge) of Gnosticism.

“Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen” (1 Tim. 6:21).

Here, we learn that some believers erred concerning the true faith, professing to have the special knowledge (gnosis) acquired by means of initiation (teleious) into the mysteries of Gnosticism.

Members of the Church, which is His Body, can err concerning the faith of the Mystery. They can become beguiled, even enamored with their own understanding, which is self-inflicted, causing them to be disconnected from Christ, Who is the Head.

“And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea. And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it” (Col. 4:16-17).

Archippus received his ministry “in the Lord.” Was Archippus dabbling in Gnostic speculations? We are not told one way or the other. Nevertheless, Paul said to tell him to “take heed.”

Tom L. Ballinger

Wednesday, November 09, 2005



The Gnostics’ use of the Greek word for fullness was “pleroma.” Pleroma was a word that played a very important linguistic role in the Apostle Paul’s two epistles which contain the capstone of all revelations—Colossians and Ephesians.

Paul, under inspiration, employed the word “pleroma” in Colossians to hammer-home the preeminence and supremacy of the person of Christ. In fact, the principle theme of Colossians is the fact that the Pleroma of God dwells permanently in Jesus Christ Himself.

For it pleased God that in Christ should all fullness (pleroma) dwell (Col. 1:19).

For in Christ dwells all the fullness (pleroma) of the Godhead bodily (Col. 2:9).

Whereas, in Ephesians, the Pleroma also plays a very significant role. The emphasis here, however, is that the fullness (pleroma) is found in the Church, which is His Body;

The fullness (pleroma) of Him that fills all in all (Eph. 3:19).

Till we all come in the unity of the faith … unto the measure of the fullness (pleroma) of Christ (Eph. 4:13).

All of the fullness, or pleroma which resides in Christ is communicated to the Church; thereby, the Church which is His Body can be said to be His fullness. For you see, Christ’s fullness is God’s fullness.

Colossians focuses on God’s fullness in Christ—Ephesians focuses on Christ’s fullness in the Church.

I very seldom make an extensive quote from other writings, but I found the following on the internet which I think is very appropriate with which close this study:

Quotation begins:
Colossians 2:9:
"For in Him dwells (katoikei) all the fullness (pleroma) of the Deity (theotetos) bodily (somatikos)."
This is perhaps one of the most powerful NT passages where the dual natures of Christ is explicitly taught. This will become more evident as we examine the key Greek words Paul was inspired to use. The first word dwells is in the present tense and implies that this is an eternal indwelling. Hence, Deity shall eternally dwell in Christ bodily. This indicates that the one person of Christ will forever remain both God and Man at the same time.
The second term that is of interest is Paul's use of the Greek word pleroma-fullness. Evidently, Paul had in mind a group of heretics called Gnostics. Seemingly, these men had tried to deny that Jesus had actually come in the flesh, since to them all matter was evil and therefore God could not incarnate, and denied that Jesus was fully God. These Gnostics believed that only a tiny fraction of divine power or pleroma resided in Christ. Paul refutes this by saying that the whole fullness of that which makes God absolute Deity resides in Jesus, and this eternally, not just a tiny fraction of it. Which brings us to the word Paul uses for Deity, namely theotetos.
According to Dr. Robert Morey this word "is only found here in the New Testament. It is derived from theos and means 'absolute Deity.' All the lexicons, grammars, and commentaries define theotetos as absolute Deity.' Thayer defines it as 'diety, i.e., the state of being God." (Morey, Trinity, p. 361)
Dr. James White notes:
"... The term Paul uses here of Christ refers to the very essence of deity rather than a mere quality or attribute. Thayer notes as one of his sources the work of Richard Trench on synonyms in the New Testament. Trench said of these two terms (i.e. theotes and theiotes):
... yet they must not be regarded as identical in meaning, nor even as two different forms of the same word, which in the process of time have separated off from one another, and acquired different shades of significance. On the contrary, there is a real distinction between them, and one which grounds itself on their different derivations; theotes being from Theos, and theiotes not from to theion, which is nearly though not quite equivalent to Theos, but from the adjective theios... But in the second passage (Col. ii. 9) St. Paul is declaring that in the Son there dwells all the fullness of absolute Godhead; they were no mere rays of divine glory which gilded Him, lighting up His person for a season and with a splendor not his own; but He was, and is absolute and perfect God; And the Apostle uses theotes to express the essential and personal Godhead of the Son.
"This is why B.B. Warfield hit it on the head when he said of this passage, 'that is to say, the very Deity of God, that which makes God God, in all its completeness, has its permanent home in Our Lord, and that in a "bodily fashion," that is, it is in Him with a clothed body.'" (White, Forgotten Trinity, pp. 85-86 bold emphasis ours). End of Quotation.
The above article was gleaned from the following web site.

Tom L. Ballinger