Monday, March 19, 2007

The Chapter Division Heresy and Colossians 3

"Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth." - Colossians 3:1-2 (NASB)

I've heard it numerous times during preaching or teaching that chapter and verse divisions in the Bible were not in the original text, but put there by men as a way to help us in various ways, such as an address system for easy reference, or for dividing long passages into ideas. These artificial divisions could be a problem and we should look out for taking things out of context as a result of using these divisions. I can't think of a chapter division changing the meaning of the text more than Colossians 3.

"If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 'Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!' (which all refer to things destined to perish with use) - in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence." - Colossians 2:20-23 (NASB)

Colossians 3 taken out of the context of the end of chapter 2 is used by many people to say the exact opposite of the meaning of the text. The hyper-spiritual among us will see other Christians engaging in certain activities, eating or drinking certain things, and mis-apply chapter 3. "Hey, if you're a Christian, why are you watching sports? Or why are you eating at a nice restaurant or drinking alcoholic beverages? Why are you so involved in growing things in your garden or raising animals? You should be setting your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. So we shouldn't be involved with these things."

But to the one who partakes of something - and gives thanks - is setting his mind on things above. Christ is Lord of all things, and that's where the thanksgiving is directed. The hyper-spiritual Christian, on the other hand, is very consumed with the activities that his brother is involved in - sports, leisure, alcohol, physical things - the things of the earth. His hyper-spirituality leads him to conclude that Christians shouldn't handle, taste or touch these "earthly" things, which is the very conclusion that chapter 2 forbids! So he plods along in life, convinced of his spiritual superiority, but only maintains an appearance of wisdom in his self-made religion and misjudges where others' minds are set.

1 comment:

  1. Oddly enough I was just reading that passage the other day - and I came to the same conclusion - based on context - well to be honest - you went way deeper with it and I think you gave us some great insight.

    I think your view on hyper-spirituality is right on the 'money' and I for one agree 100%. I have been reading the bible for some time as a book and in context of the passages and it's very funny how most of that stuff being taught can be used in the 'right here right now'. I agree, the focus on heaven a hope is something to not 'forget' but at the same time our spirituality needs to have some human element to it - or it's useless.

    Man this interpretation was well done - thanks for the insights.