Discussion Guide for Colossians 2:8-15

The battle against religious idols is a major theme of the Scriptures. Even from the days of Genesis, the people of God were constantly faced with the decision of whether they would worship and serve a host of lesser deities or give their allegiance to God alone.

Most people in the modern world do not think of idolatry as a struggle for their everyday lives. Idolatry, we believe, belongs to a more superstitious age. People today tend to either say they believe in God or they don’t. Underneath the surface of our lives, however, religious idols are (ahem) alive and well. 

Idolatry has never typically involved an outright rejection of the existence or sovereignty of God. Instead, it usually involves some practical decision where we allow something that is obviously of lesser importance than God to gain power or influence over one or more particular aspects of life. Listen to how Psalm 115 confronts idolatry. 

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory,
    for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!

Why should the nations say,
    “Where is their God?”
Our God is in the heavens;
    he does all that he pleases.

Their idols are silver and gold,
    the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak;
    eyes, but do not see.
They have ears, but do not hear;
    noses, but do not smell.
They have hands, but do not feel;
    feet, but do not walk;
    and they do not make a sound in their throat.
Those who make them become like them;
    so do all who trust in them.

O Israel,[a] trust in the Lord!
    He is their help and their shield.
10 O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord!
    He is their help and their shield.
11 You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord!
    He is their help and their shield.

The letter to the Colossian church gives New Testament believers the same choice. Are we going to worship God alone, or are we going to exchange the glory of God for something lesser?

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

We are told in this passage to reject lesser authorities, lesser practices, and the lesser condition of slavery to sin. Faith in Christ is what allows us to rise above these things to something greater.

Discussion Questions

  • How does religion set up idols that keep people away from God?
  • What is an example of a philosophy that often gets confused with Christianity (v. 8)?
  • What is an example of a tradition that often gets confused with Christianity (v. 8)?
  • How is the person of Jesus greater than the thoughts of what we call the Christian religion (v. 9)?
  • Do you spend enough time reflecting on the identity of Jesus in your own personal life?
  • How is a life filled with the actual presence of Jesus different than a life filled with the rules and philosophies of religion (v. 10-12)?
  • Why do Christians need to understand the extent of our forgiveness in Christ (v. 13-14)?
  • Which “rulers and authorities” need to be put to shame so that you can triumph over them (v. 15)?
  • What steps are you able to take away the power that those things have in your life?
Jonathan Pugh
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