Is there anything you can add to your salvation to make it better than it already is?
This is the question Paul answers next. He has already dealt with the gnostics. Now he deals with the ascetics.
Interesting isn’t it, that these churches, (Colosse and Laodicia,) were being attacked from both ends of the spiritual spectrum? In reality this level of deceptive doctrinal divide can be expected in every church. It is the devil’s playbook. There will ALWAYS be those who take away from the word of God, and there will always be those who add to the word of God.
This was the original temptation to sin in the garden, and it is the final warning given in the word of God, in the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
Asceticism has been a bane of the church since its earliest days. This comes in many forms and degrees, which Paul generally addresses here. On one side, it has come from the Jewish believers – which Paul has dealt with before – in the form of a legalistic view teaching Gentile believers they must keep the Jewish Law, (which ironically the Jewish believers have not been able to keep.) But now we also see another incursion, coming from the pagan realm, which involves self-deprivation and self-denial and even self-punishment to an extent greater than the word of God calls for.
The presumption from either perspective is the word of God and the Spirit of God is not enough to keep the flesh pure. We must take more upon ourselves to show ourselves and to keep ourselves pure.
Of course, all of this historically devolved into religion becoming a dominant force in the Christian Church, teaching people their ability to enter the kingdom of heaven was based upon their ability to keep a set of rules – and that they may find salvation if the good works in their life outweigh the bad.
By some degree or other probably many of us – if not all of us – grew up in churches that did not teach us the Word of God, but instead offered ‘sermon-ettes for Christian-ettes,’ (or homilies,) and introduced the false impression we might be able to enter heaven if we were, “good enough.” A central tenet of this religious philosophy is Christians must be ‘good.’
I remember how shocked I was to learn I could have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and that my salvation was based NOT upon anything I could do, but in placing my faith in Christ’s finished work of salvation – which made my salvation certain. There was NOTHING I could do to add to the finished work of Christ – and that for me to think I could was actually an insult to the finished work of Christ. The great news of the gospel is the work is finished. Never listen to those who say otherwise.