In Colossians, Paul seems to go out of his way to show that the BODY of Jesus Christ was some sort of utmost importance, and in so doing connects the body of Jesus to our bodies. In Colossians 1, Paul wrote:
19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
He would follow that by asserting:
21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,
Then Paul connects this notion of Christ’s body to those in the church when he wrote:
27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
So, just to understand this in a simplified way: 1) God was pleased to dwell in the body of Christ in which he worked peace between himself and the world, 2) This work was done by Jesus Christ’s physically death on the cross in which his body died, 3) and now it is Jesus Christ who is in our bodies proclaiming the glory (honor, majesty) of God.
This is interesting because Paul’s argument claims an incarnational ministry of God. In other words, God uses flesh and bone—not simply spirit and soul. But why this emphasis on the body and especially the embodiment of God?
Well, there were false teachers in Colossae who were proponents of “gnosticism.” Gnosticism was a complex religious philosophy which taught that salvation could only be achieved through secret knowledge, and those who taught these ideas were known as gnostics. While there are many varieties of gnosticism, there are also common ideas which we will see below:
The following may be regarded as the chief points in the Gnostic systems:
(1) A claim on the part of the teacher to a special knowledge of the truth; a tendency to regard knowledge as superior to faith and as the special possession of the more enlightened, for ordinary Christians did not possess this secret and higher doctrine;
(2) The essential separation of matter (body) and spirit, matter (body) being intrinsically evil and the source from which all evil has arisen;
(3) An attempt to solve the problems of creation and the origin of evil by postulating a demiurge, i.e., a creator or artificer of the world distinct from the deity, and emanations extending between God and the visible universe (the demiurge for the Gnostics being the God of the OT, an inferior being infinitely remote from the Supreme Being who can have nothing to do with anything material);
(4) A denial of the true humanity of Christ; a docetic Christology which considered the earthly life of Christ and especially His sufferings on the cross to be unreal;
(5) The denial of the personality of the Supreme God, and also the denial of the free will of mankind;
(6) The teaching, on the one hand, of asceticism (avoidance of all forms of indulgence) as the means of attaining spiritual communion with God, and, on the other hand, of an indifference that led directly to licentiousness (promiscuous life of sex);
(7) A syncretistic tendency that combined certain more or less misunderstood Christian doctrines and various elements from oriental, Jewish, Greek, and other sources;
(8) Ascription of the OT to the demiurge or inferior creator of the world.
(Adapted from The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, pp. 486-487, vol. 2, “Gnosticism")
Therefore, if you read Colossians 1 and 2 in light of this information above, what a reader will find is a strong counterargument by Paul who asserts the importance of the body and the physical labor, the suffering and the growth in faith, the death of Jesus and his residing in the believers body.
The reason I bring this up is because we cannot pretend that some of these ideas are not present in our contemporary church. Some believers think they have some special knowledge that makes them a superior Christian doctrine when compared to others who are devalued in their pursuits of faith. Others tend to make a stark unbiblical disconnect between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament…how is that possible within the roots of the gnostics? And there are those that would take away all pleasure and, shall we say, “fun” out of the Christian life since our bodies are evil and it is our spirits that must prevail.
We are left to ponder a God who is prevalent in our human condition from the beginning of time until now. Who has taken upon himself bodily form and then sacrificed that body, the very life of his son Jesus Christ, to draw our relationship closer. Moreover, after the resurrection and ascension of Christ, the Bible clearly teaches that this same God then resides in those who have made Jesus their Savior and Lord. Often, this residence is called the Holy Spirit and sometimes Paul will refer to it as “Christ in you” showing that it is the work of Christ that generated the coming of the Spirit and it is Christ’s work that the Spirit continues in the church. Consequently, we should take great joy in the body of Christ, the church, and in our own bodies and the work we do because God made and takes great delight in our humanity!
I want to share thoughts, insights, and scriptures that lead us in the direction of Christ.