Do You Have the Key?

March 2008

For most of my life, I believed Jesus was my Savior, but I was convinced obedience to the laws of the Old Testament was also necessary for salvation. I had no idea this is called “Christ plus.” I heard the term, and discovered I practiced it, all on the same day!

I also thought this was a modern problem. But in the process of owning the book of Colossians (see my February article at the link below), I came across something called the Colossian Heresy. It’s not mentioned by name, but the commentaries all talk about it. It seems some people in Colosse were teaching a different gospel, one that more or less openly intimated Jesus wasn’t enough. So Christ plus is nothing new. It existed back in Paul’s day too.

The commentaries say no one really knows what the Colossian Heresy was, but they do agree it “attacked the total adequacy and the unique supremacy of Christ” (The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and the Thessalonians, William Barclay). Paul covers several points to refute these Gnostic teachings, including Christ’s role in creation, his total divinity and total humanity, warnings about angel worship, empty philosophies and legalistic teachings.

Some of the books I’ve read and websites I’ve visited give me a feeling this Christ plus agenda is still alive and well in the 21st century. Everyone seems to have some special knowledge or a key to whatever you need, either for salvation or spiritual fulfillment. If you follow their advice or seven keys or physical or spiritual regimen, you’re in like Flynn.

But do we need special knowledge to attain salvation? Do we need secret keys to unlock the doors of heaven? Yes, we do, but both are found in one word: Jesus. (The doors of heaven aren’t locked, but some would have you believe this.) Paul said he was chosen by God “to present to you [the Colossians] the word of God in its fullness” (Colossians 1:25, NIV throughout), and “to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

The answer to the mystery of God is as simple as that, and needs no embellishment or special knowledge. Jesus himself said he is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He offered no secret handshake or password. He put no conditions on life in him, he simply said come to me and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28). He said all we have to do is ask and he will give us living water (John 4:10). In an amazing display of grace, when the thief on the cross asked to be remembered when Jesus came into his kingdom, Jesus assured the man he would be with him in paradise (Luke 23:42-43).

Paul’s words of warning are as relevant today as they were almost 2,000 years ago. “I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments” (Colossians 2:4). “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (2:8).

And don’t fall for the gimmicks and keys some try to convince us are necessary to be a Christian or necessary even for salvation. To paraphrase the song, all you need is Christ.

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