One of the chief concerns of Jesus was that His followers might be deceived into believing false doctrine. He warned, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves (Matthew 7:15). He also warned against false teachers, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees” (see Matthew 16:6). A few verses later, Jesus made clear that the leaven of which they must beware was the false teaching of the Pharisees and the Sadducees (Mat. 16:16). Jesus’ apostles whom he sent into the world to make other disciples, and establish churches were also concerned that followers of Christ might be led astray by false doctrine (Acts 20:29-31; Philippians 3:2; 2Peter 3:17; 2John 1:7).
In his letter to the Colossians, Paul urged them to beware of false teachers so that they may not be deceived or led astray (Col. 2:8-10, cp. 2:4, 18). He wrote, See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits1 of the world, and not according to Christ (Colossians 2:8). Scholars and Bible commentators differ as to the precise identity of the false doctrine which threatened the Colossians, but Paul makes clear at the end of this verse that it was “not according to Christ.” It was not in agreement with Who Christ is or what He teaches. Given what Paul wrote in the next two verses, it was probably an attack on Christ’s sufficiency to make those who believe in Him completely acceptable to God (2:9-10, cp. 1:21-22). For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power (Col. 2:9-10). So the false teachers who were poised to deceive the Colossians would try to do so by suggesting that Christ and His gospel were not enough, but they must adopt other religious beliefs and practices (2:16-19, 21-23). There is much false teaching out there in our day as well, and so we, like the Colossian saints before us, must continue in the faith, and not be moved away from the hope of the gospel (1:23). Christ is all we need! We are complete in Him!