In Whom Are Hidden All the Treasures of Wisdom and Knowledge

“My goal is that [you] may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that [you] may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that [you] may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3, NIV).

By Steven Barto, B.S. Psych.

Paul’s opening statement in Colossians is what I like to refer to as very meaty. It is rich beyond what we can comprehend, containing much promise for the Colossians. It applies to us today as much as it did to those living in Colossae. Paul wanted the Colossians to grasp what was available to them as new Christians. They were to be encouraged in heart and united in love, enjoying the full riches of complete understanding. He noted that through Jesus they had access to the mystery of God. Not that they would know the mind of God, or be like God; rather, that they would begin to comprehend all the hidden treasures of knowledge and wisdom that was revealed through Christ Jesus.

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Revealed through Him? Yes. He walked in complete harmony with the Father, determined to do the Father’s will no matter what it cost. He was the embodiment of love, yielded to the will of the Father—even unto death—and exemplified compassion for the lost and the downtrodden. If Christ were to walk the Earth in the twenty-first century, I have no doubt He would teach, admonish, heal, and serve everyone no matter their personality, sexual orientation, political affiliation, denomination, afflictions, habits, or hangups. Jesus Christ came that all might know the Father through Him. He only displayed anger and disappointment when confronting the self-righteous. The Pharisees. The Hypocrites.

That’s a strange phrase: the self-righteous. In the secular world, it means “having or characterized by a certainty, especially an unfounded one, that one is totally correct or morally superior” That is a rather convicting statement even without a spiritual component. I’ve known some self-righteous people in my life. Some who know me might think the term applies to me. I’ll admit I have a difficult time being humble, but I’ve never felt morally superior. On the contrary, I have often felt inferior, shameful, unable to be redeemed. I have often struggled with being trustworthy, honest, or transparent. The root-cause of these rather ugly traits are deep for me. It’s something I’ve worked hard to overcome. It has not been easy forgiving myself and shaking the sense of shame and guilt.

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It is not surprising that we cannot achieve “righteousness” on our own. Isaiah 64:6 says, “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (NKJV). Eugene Peterson translates this verse as follows: “We’re all sin-infected, sin-contaminated. Our best efforts are grease-stained rags. We dry up like autumn leaves—sin-dried, we’re blown off by the wind” (MSG). That’s quite an indictment. Who can stand before God clothed in such a manner and hope to survive His judgment? No one. We can’t save ourselves, earn God’s grace, pay the ransom for sin, or escape through our own power the punishment we justly deserve.

Today’s New Atheists want us to believe God is a heavenly despot who unjustly inflicts pain and takes away life. I’ve heard it said that there is no “free will” in Christianity. These militant atheists say that because God threatens us with hellfire and brimstone (and the gnashing of teeth) if we don’t accept the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, it’s as if God is holding a gun to our head, saying, “Believe in my Son or I will kill you.” These so-called scholars want to convince us that God kills with impunity. That He has no right to create a sentient being and then kill him for not believing in Him. My initial response is quite adamant: Yes He does. But beyond that, God never intended for mankind to suffer, or for His creation to be wrought with pestilence, disease, famine, disasters, wars, and death. Nothing is as God intended it to be.

I don’t believe God kills or hands out cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, COPD, diabetes, or whatever infirmity you may list. He does not condone pedophilia, rape, murder, theft, deception, or environmental crimes. When our first parents, Adam and Eve, chose to disobey God’s one command (that’s all they had to do was not eat of the forbidden fruit), man (and thus mankind) fell from grace. Because of original sin, the Garden of Eden and access to the Tree of Life was closed off to all. Any attempt to behave or earn our way back into God’s grace (back into the Garden) is doomed to fail. Our own righteousness is like filthy rags. The righteousness of Christ, however, is white as the driven snow; as pure as the wool of a young lamb. It is sad, however, that many fail to see themselves as God sees them, including me.

IN WHOM ARE HIDDEN

According to the Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible, the phrase “in whom are hidden” in Colossians 2:3 does not necessarily mean in whom, but rather in which, referring to the mysteries of verse two. In these mysteries of the Gospel are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. In Romans 11:33-36, Paul wrote, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them? For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen” (NIV). These mysteries have been revealed by God in Christ.

Jesus knows all. He created all. He died to save all. He sustains all. When we see Him, we see the Father (John 14:9). Jesus was one with the Father and the Holy Spirit even at the moment of Creation. In fact, John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made (John 1:1-3, NIV). John said that in Christ was life, and that life was the light of all mankind (v. 4). Genesis 1:26 reads as follows: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.'” (NKJV).

There are three possible explanations for God’s use of the plural “Us” in this instance. First, some believe God may be referring to Himself and the angels. I don’t agree with this conclusion given the rest of Scripture’s depiction of angels as representative servants or messengers of God who are not endowed with the power to create. Indeed, Lucifer’s fall from grace was a direct result of his wanting to be equal with God. Second, this could be what scholars call a plural of self-exhortation or self-encouragement, meaning God is referring only to Himself. This would also be referred to as “the royal ‘we,'” something we see used by human kings and rulers when making proclamations or decrees. I believe the third possibility is the truth: That God is speaking as a Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. According to Scripture, the Trinity was present as a whole at Creation. Genesis 1:2 describes the Spirit of God hovering over the waters, and John 1:1–3 reveals that the Word, Christ, was active in the creation of all things.

THAT WE MAY KNOW

Jesus simply knows all things. John 16:30 says, “Now we know that You know all things, and have no need for anyone to question You; by this we believe that You came from God” (NASB). The extent of Jesus’s knowledge was compelling proof of His divine origin. At the end of His time on earth Jesus pressed Peter: “The third time He said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep'” (John 21:17, NIV). Peter concluded from Jesus’s words that Jesus had knowledge of his heart. “You know all things” is a general and unqualified statement that John’s gospel presses on our minds.

The greatest thing that can be said of Jesus’s knowledge is that He knows God perfectly. We can only know God partially and imperfectly. Jesus knows Him like no one else can. He said, “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27, NIV). Accordingly, our knowledge of the Father depends wholly on Jesus’s gracious revelation. But our knowledge of God is derivative, partial and imperfect. First Corinthians 13:12 says, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (NIV).

Mankind has been endowed with a certain kind of awareness—one which animals were not given. We possess the capacity for reason, morality, language, personality, and purpose. We can ponder the wonder and meaning of life. Morality and spirituality are unique to man. Like God, we possess the capacity to experience and understand love, truth, and beauty. In this manner, we are God’s chosen image-bearers. So when we accept Christ, we become one with Him in death and in new life. This must occur in order for us to see that which is hidden in Christ.

The desire to know the hidden treasures of God is truly a gift. Not everyone believes in any theistic being at all. Many do believe but don’t buy into the Christian faith or believe in the divinity of Christ. For those who do believe in Jesus, it is not a matter of believing in something or someone that is known through external observance. Instead, it is a matter of finding and knowing the truth by way of deep and serious meditation. It is a matter of faith. But the reward for such faith is full revelation of the reality, nature, character, morality, and truth of God.

Matthew Henry (1997) says our soul prospers when we have clear knowledge of the truth as it is in Christ. We not only believe with the heart, we also are ready (when called) to make confession with the mouth. The truth is so huge we cannot contain it within our own spirit. Knowledge and faith make the soul rich. The more we know and understand the truth, the stronger our faith. These true statements are hidden from non-believers. This, of course, includes the atheist who is determined to shout from the mountaintops how irrational and backward is our faith in Jesus. They simply cannot see the truth for they have chosen to reject the truth ad hoc.

Naturally, we cannot be built up in Christ, nor can we grow in Him, unless we are first rooted in Him—founded upon Him. Once established in the faith, we are exhorted  to abound and improve in it, working out our salvation daily. The Greek word for full assurance in Colossians 2:2 (plêrophoria) actually means “full and accurate knowledge” or “full persuasion.” This implies not only knowledge, but an accurate understanding of that knowledge. We cannot achieve such a degree of certainty by our own mental capacity. Thankfully, that which Paul is speaking about is literally revealed in and through Jesus. Christ Himself is the mystery in Whom all the treasures of wisdom are hidden. Understanding this passage of Scripture allows us to better understand why no one can “know” God through application of empirical tests and measurements. The fullness of the knowledge of God is revealed by the Father through the Son.

References

Dake, J. (2008). Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible. Lawrenceville, GA: Dake Publishing, Inc.

Henry, M. (1997). Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

 

 

 

 

 

Are You New?

Most people want to be someone new. This is why seemingly every cover of the most popular magazines and books, the topics of the most popular radio and TV shows, and the most trafficked blogs and websites are about one thing. Becoming a new you. Most everyone, even if they don’t use the biblical language of sin and redemption, knows something is wrong, that we’re not entirely who we could or should be, and that making changes would be a good thing. Using biblical language, we want to be “saved” from the consequences of our sin. We want to be “justified” or declared good by whomever or whatever we worship, which can range from Jesus to a false deity. We want our friends and co-workers to have a high opinion of us. We want approval from our parents, or even ourselves.

As humans, we are religious by fallen nature, which means we think we can be justified in one of four ways. First, loosely religious people assume they’re good enough and that no spiritual devotion or extra effort is required for God to be pleased with them. Such people make moderate life corrections and learn occasional new life lessons, but for the most part they believe that only really bad people (and not themselves) need to be made new. Basically, they’re already saved and justified in their own minds. Isaiah 64:6 says, “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.”

Second, secular religious people work very hard at social causes because they think they’re good and need to overcome evil with their goodness. These people tend to see others’ problems more than their own and smugly think they’re God’s gift to the world, here to change it and make it new. They justify themselves by saving the rest of us.

Third, non-Christian spiritual people try to change themselves with vaguely spiritual self-help books and programs, wanting to become new but not understanding how to achieve that in Christ. They follow the trendy books and ideas about loving oneself as the means by which they can unleash their potential and change their life. For them, God provided principles to save and justify ourselves. They add something you will not find in the Bible: God only helps those who help themselves.

Fourth, devoutly religious people work hard at keeping the rules of a particular religion in an effort to justify themselves as good and obedient people in God’s sight. Such people try very hard to do the right thing so God will love them and be pleased with them. This thinking is pernicious, and likely most common for the kind of people who would read books by Christian authors rather than seeking a relationship with Christ.

Paul was a man just like this until he became a Christian. He put off his old religious identity and put on his new identity in Christ. Paul lists his “religious” credentials in Philippians 3:5-6. Paul’s point was that he had a perfect record. By the religious rules of his people, he would’ve been considered nearly perfect. Of course, inwardly he was filled with the sins of pride and self-righteousness. What exactly is self-righteousness? It means being convinced of one’s own righteousness especially in contrast with the actions and beliefs of others. This type of person is narrow mindedly moralistic. They are not willing to accept opinions, beliefs, or behaviors that are unusual or different from their own. They are completely confident of their own righteousness, especially regarding morals. A selfrighteous person acts superior to his peers because he believes his moral standards are perfect.

Though Paul looked perfect on the outside, he believed that his noble birth, impeccable education, tireless work ethic, clean lifestyle, and unprecedented religious devotion to be rubbish compared to his new identity. Having been made new, Paul had righteousness through faith in Christ. The Greek word for rubbish (skubala) means refuse, dregs, or dung. This tells us exactly what Paul thought about his former life. After having a new identity in Christ, Paul found every previous effort and accomplishment to be as worthless as stinky trash, and as disgusting as a steaming pile of dog dung.

Speaking from his own experience and identity in Christ, Paul explains how we live out our new identity in Ephesians 4:14-24, which says, “With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity. But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. Since you have heard about Jesus, and have learned the truth that comes from Him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Holy Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God; truly righteous and holy.” (NLT) Repentance is explained in terms of walking down a different path than we have been, by putting off our old self and putting on our new self. One way to define repentance is a turning away from what was.

Practically, this means we no longer think, desire, or act according to our old identity as someone disconnected from Jesus Christ. Instead, we have a new identity in Jesus, and we become a new person, created according to God in true righteousness and holiness. Of course, we have to learn to walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh. Paul says this new identity has to be put on like clothing. Therefore, it is a good idea every day as we dress ourselves physically to also pray that God would dress us spiritually to live out our identity in Christ as we go through our day. But how do we put off our old self and put on our new self? The answer is found in the effects of Christ’s work on the cross. He made justification, regeneration, and glorification possible for us. Justification makes us externally new. Regeneration makes us internally new. Glorification makes us eternally new in Christ.

While we’re genuinely new in Christ, we’re not yet completely new in Christ. There is still a seed of rebellion in us. There are temptations all around us, and the snares of the devil have been set. In this life, we continually grow to live out of our new identity as new people in Christ through a process called sanctification. In this process, we learn more about Jesus and become more and more like Him by the power of the Holy Spirit as we believe the Bible truths I’ve talked about in this blog post.

One day, we will die. If we die in Christ, we’re made fully, completely, unchangingly, and eternally new. This is called glorification. On that day, your faith will be rewarded as you see the risen and reigning Jesus face-to-face. On that day, everyone in Christ will be made completely perfect as together we rise like Jesus to be like Him forever. In Christ, you are new.