Meditations in Colossians 2: 20: Body Life
Col 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.
The ‘He’ here in our present verse of course refers to the person in the previous verse, “who delights in false humility and the worship of angels (and) ….goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions.” (v.18) Whether what follows in verse 19 is a consequence or cause of what we saw in verse 18 is debatable. Seeing verse 19 as a consequence says that because this person (or people – the Gnostics) allowed Satan to deceive them with false teaching, it resulted in them turning away from the Gospel and from Christ. Seeing verse 19 as a cause says, the heart of this person (or people) was weak towards Christ to start with and turning from him they turned to false teaching and all that followed from it. I suggest the ‘consequence argument’ is more likely, although it does show that the heart of the person being deceived was in fact not strong towards Christ otherwise they would never have countenanced any such false teaching.
Whatever the order, the reality is that such people have lost their connection with Christ. We assume you see Christ as the head of the body which is the Church: “God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body.” (Eph 1:22,23) and “Christ is the head of the church, his body.” (Eph 5:23) The Gnostics of course considered Jesus as less than God which is why Paul had said, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” (Col 2:9). They turned away from a living relationship with God through Christ to a mystical experience-centred belief system where mystical knowledge was more important.
It is both interesting and highly significant that Paul doesn’t merely speak about Christ, he points him out as the head of his body, the Church. Now why does he do that? Well, we have just said that the Gnostics focused on mystical experience and mystical knowledge whereas the Gospel brings about a situation where we believers are permanently linked to Christ by his Holy Spirit and all life, all spiritual experiences, all growth and development, comes through that linkage, comes through being part of his body and receiving directly from him.
If we have been brought up (since we came to Christ) in a church that is weak on understanding the concept and outworking of the idea of the church being the body of Christ, we will be weak in our understanding that we are directly linked as individuals to Christ, we will be weak in understanding that we are individual members of this body with unique roles and gifting, and we will be weak in understanding that so much of ‘life’ from Christ flows to me through the other members of the body.
If we are weak in these ways we will have an outlook that fails to expect personal growth which comes through Christ and his body, that brings change, development and growing maturity in me, and we will probably be law-focused people who rely on keeping the rules and making effort to be nice or good people. We cannot emphasise enough how significant the concept of the body of Christ is and the life that flows through it. It is this body life and not mystical experiences or knowledge that make us what we are ‘in Christ’. This is why Paul says, “from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.” Growth comes to the body from the head, but flowing through the whole body. Again, and we cannot emphasise this enough times in this present context of rejecting the Gnostics and their false teaching, ‘life’ comes not through mystical experiences and mystical knowledge but through encountering Christ directly as part of his body, and by receiving his life through other ‘members’ of his body, the church.
Note the closeness of ideas that Paul has when writing this letter and the one to the Ephesians. Here he says, “from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.” To the Ephesians he said, “speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Eph 4:15,16) The ligaments and sinews are, I suggest, gifts or ministries that God imparts to the Church that provide strength and direction and power. The body is also built by the love that flows through it.
What a difference we have here. A group of people in confusion about the nature of God and of Christ, who resort to having mystical experiences and claiming special knowledge as a result. On the other side we have the Church, the body of Christ, brought into being by Christ’s death on the Cross, and now energised, empowered and directed by Christ’s own Holy Spirit who indwells every believer regardless of how mature or immature they are. One relies on weird occult experiences, the other encountering the true One God. One relies on dubious knowledge, the other on life pouring through the loving body, the gifted body, the directed body, through whom God reveals His love more and more. Hallelujah!