“Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.”
Paul turns his guns of polemic assault against a particular philosophy, a philosophy that carries religious assumptions.
“and empty deceit”
There is such a thing as “empty deceit,” a hollow philosophy. The philosophy at Colosse was “empty” (hollow). This philosophy sets up its presuppositions against Christianity and makes its conclusions based on its own assumptions. This philosophy is false because it is prejudicial.
“Deceit” carries the idea of carrying a person off in captivity. It bears ideas of deception or beguilement, for it gives a false impression, whether by appearance, statement, or influence. It deceives or lies to people about what is true. It is a philosophy that connives and misleads.
Matthew 13:22 uses the word “deceit” for the deception of riches,
“Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.”
Hebrews 3:13 uses this word for the deceitfulness of sin,
“but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”
Ephesians 4:22 uses “deceit” for lusts excited by deceit; that is, deceit is the source of strength, not lusts deceitful in themselves,
“That you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.”
2 Thessalonians 2:10 uses this word for all manner of unscrupulous communication and deeds,
“And with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.”
All these things subtly and insidiously lead us astray from Christ. The individual weakened by deception says, “I just cannot believe that.” What happened? “I am taking sociology. I’ve ruled the Bible out of my life.”
Human religious philosophy is empty.
The Christian who follows the world’s religious philosophies operates on empty delusion. There are two areas of deception:
1. False doctrine.
2. Idolatry of things (e.g., riches).
False philosophy can take on two levels, the level of ideas or daily life. If we buy into belief systems contrary to God, it will result in disaster for the Christian life.
After Solomon sought fulfillment in pleasure, acquisition, women, power, etc., he proclaimed, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” Chasing the things of life never fulfills a person. The believer minus the Word of God will enter self-induced misery. If he loses his money, friends, or success, he will come to a crash.