Gordon E. Johnson



Paul's Prayer

Walk but Beware

Life in Union with a Risen Christ

Freedom In Christ

Victory: Real or Counterfeit

The Christ Life in an Alienated World

Panoramic Review

Holiness in the Home

Holiness in Our World at Large

Paul's Greetings to Fellow Workers


Victory: Real or Counterfeit

Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute

Colossians 2: 20-23 (NKJ)

Paul continues to address his concerns with regard to the Colossians who face a double threat. In Col. 2:8 he warns them against "philosophies and empty deceit."  He pauses in 2:9-16 to give his remedy, our vital union with Christ in death to self. He picks of the warning more explicitly in 2:16-18 by addressing the externals some sought to make essential to Christian living. He denies their relationship to life in Christ. He warns them not to let others rob and frustrate them by specious offers of "false humility and worship of angels"(18).  He rejects any value to anything in the name of Christ that does not center itself in Christ and Christ alone.

These teachers and so called truths are grounded in what they do or do not see; the text could be read either one way or the other (18). The truth is that what is presented is imaginary, not real and is grounded in their "fleshly mind."   The basic error of counterfeit substitutes is that there is no real grasp on or "taking hold of the Head." (19).

Counterfeit Christian experiences are widespread; they have an appearance of value and appeal, but, if not grounded in Christ, the Head from whom all members derived their victory they prove to be fraudulent.  It is only in that relationship, that organic union with Christ at the Cross that there can be true growth.  As the Head controls and directs each member, "joints and ligaments," can there be real growth in unity, in Christ likeness.

Now comes his defining argument against the counterfeit experience that promises much and delivers nothing of lasting value. Paul states a basic fact: "Since you died with Christ from the basic (elementary) principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations" (20)?  He exposes the irony and contradiction of this legalistic position. You died in Christ to sin and self (Rom. 6:2, 6). You died to the world (Gal. 6:13).  Just as Christ's death moved him past sin (Rom. 6:10), so also you share that deliverance and victory.

The utter foolishness of the standards by which they claimed holiness is ineffective to deal with the root problem of pride. In descending order: "don't touch, taste or handle" (21). Such externals are bound to pass with the using. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3: 6; 6:63).

"These things indeed have the appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility and neglect of the body."  But the acid test, they don't deal with the root problem of the adamic nature in the believer.  In brief, "but they are of no value" (23). Counterfeit experiences sound appealing: healings - - there are the truly genuine - - but those paraded before others, the visions that inflate, the revelations that draw attention to the speaker, the "prophecies" that seek flattery, the merchandising of the "gifts," all only mask our basic problem: pride, self importance and a search for power.

Such self effort brought Paul to:"O wretched man that I am, Who will deliver me from this body of death." I thank God -- through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Rom. 7:24, 25).  The bottom line is only Christ, our death with him. He alone brings the real victory at the level of our deepest need. This is true victory and Colossians 3 will expound it fully.

Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute
January 10, 2006