Rudiments of the World

“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” (Colossians 2:8, KJV)

An object is said to be spoiled when it is no longer usable for its original purposes. For example, food that has spoiled may make great compost, but it makes a lousy dinner—dinner being its original purpose. In our passage then, what is it that is in danger of spoiling? It cannot be salvation because Paul is addressing Christians, and Christians are eternally secure in Christ. But it must be something important since Paul is telling us to beware…and indeed it is. Christ has more than “just” a future reward in heaven for us, he also has work for us to do right now here on earth, and that’s what we must guard from spoiling. Fortunately, spoiling takes time, so we often have an opportunity to take corrective action before something begins to smell. However, time is also where we are vulnerable… and our enemy has all the time in the world.

One may argue that Satan is busier at ruining the lives of Christians than he is at managing the lives of the lost — and why not? He already owns those who are lost, and their maintenance is easy. But he hates us with bitter hatred, and he considers it energy well spent to keep us from doing our Christian tasks. I cannot say truly which enterprise keeps him the busiest, but the Bible tells us why and how he does what he does (Revelation 12:9). His main objective is to deceive the world, and frankly, he’s doing a pretty good job. His deceit is twofold. It keeps those who are lost from being found, and it prevents God’s people from working their ministries. What are some of the trappings he uses? The rudiments of the world. And these are in evidence where people esteem the culture more than the Christ.

Our passage infers that a Christian worldview is true. Therefore, any philosophy or tradition that opposes it is untrue and is overtly against the Christ. It is no small irony that we creatures, whom God has gifted with minds capable of developing philosophy, use these gifts to develop arguments against God, and all the while our ability to do so points directly to the Creator! Yet still, (and in testimony to free will) philosophies wind up all over the map. This is the result of vain deceit. That the world is askew may affect God’s popularity, but it does not affect God’s truth. His word still insists that all humans are basically sinful, that sin must be addressed by blood and that judgment for sin is imminent. But the rudiments of the world insist that man is basically good, that we should not use the word sin and that the notion of eternal judgment is wrong-headed — and many who name the name of Christ have adopted such notions. These are now spoiled for service.

Paul keeps us out of any so-called gray areas with the phrase “and not after Christ” — which is a simple comparison contrasting the philosophies of the world with the truth of Christ. People of the world may fool themselves into thinking that they are neutral concerning God due to lack of information, but there’s plenty of data. It is rather that they lack earnest investigation and application. But Christians who seek the middle ground between Christ and the world will soon be spoiled. They have abandoned God’s word, jeopardized viable ministries and have displeased the Christ. Christ beckons all to come, but those who come must come indeed.

“He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.” (Matthew 12:30, KJV)

When a ship leaves the harbor, you are either on board or not on board. It is a simple matter of looking at your feet. Are they on the deck or on the dock? Christianity is very much about the feet. To become saved, look up. To check your salvation, look down — but beware. If you continue to look around for a gray area to stand in, you might wind up in the drink.

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