Colossians 2:1-23 - Outline of Colossians (Book Notes menu page)
1. For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you,
and [for] them at Laodicea,
and [for] as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;
2 That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love,
and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding,
to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;
3 In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
[The first three verses, of ch.2, were discussed near the end of the Book Notes on Colossians ch.1.]
4. And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.
5 For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit,
joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ.
6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, [so] walk ye in him:
7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught,
abounding therein with thanksgiving.
This I say...-
In the previous section (Col 1:23 - 2:3), Paul has been explaining the ministry which Christ, the Head of the church, gave to him for the purpose of leading His body to a full knowledge of Him. It is to this end that Paul has been laboring and agonizing, in behalf of the Colossian believers. They need to have the full assurance that in Christ "are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (2:3). They need to discover those hidden treasures for themselves, through a personal knowledge of Him.
     Why has Paul been so urgent about this? Because he saw grave danger that believers would be drawn away from Christ by the appeal of worldly wisdom, in various forms.
lest any man should beguile {GK=paralogizomai, deceive with false reasoning}
...through enticing words {GK=pithanologia, persuasive speech}...-
Tragically, many young people, who grew up in churches where they were instructed in God's Word, have gone off to college only to 'lose their faith' through the persuasive arguments of unbelieving professors. Yet, others, from the same churches, and subjected to the same worldly pressures, have stood their ground to become even stronger in their faith. What makes the difference in their responses?
as ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him...
Not everyone, who attends church, is truly born again. Not everyone, who has grown up in Sunday School, has entered into a vital relationship with Christ. Those who have received salvation through faith in the gospel, will show evidence of the new life within them (eg., 1:3-5) and will have a desire to grow in their knowledge of their Savior (1:9-14). Those who have received the gospel "as it is in truth, the Word of God" (1The 2:13), have started off on the right foot, with a right understanding of who He is (the Fullness of God, the Creator, the Sustainer, who is above all, and who is the believer's Lord and Head, Col 1:15-19), and a right appreciation of what He has done for them (having reconciled them to God by His blood 1:20-22). Such true believers will continue walking with their Lord.
     But those who have received God's Word as mere moralistic stories, and who have not personally embraced Christ as Savior and Lord, will be easily led down another path.
I am... joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith...
Although Paul had never been in Colosse, he was encouraged, by the things he had heard from Epaphras (1:8), that their walk with Christ was real. The church was 'ordered' {arranged by rank}. The believers were steadfast {GK=stereoma, strong, established} in their faith. But knowing the dangers which they faced, Paul wanted them to grow stronger.
so walk... rooted and built up in Him, and established in the faith...
Roots have a dual function. They gather nourishment to sustain life (eg., Psa 1:1-3). Roots also provide stability, anchoring the tree to stand firm against storm winds (Eph 3:17; Col 1:23). The believer must sink his roots into the Word of God (Col 3:16; 2Tim 3:16,17). Are your roots deep or shallow? Mat 13:5,6
     The words "built up" {GK=epoikodomeo, built upon} put an emphasis on stability. Here is a foundation that is ready to support the weight of life. What is that foundation? "Built up in Him." (See 1Cor 3:9-15, where this word appears four times [build, buildeth, built], and where the Foundation is clearly identified.)
     Believers, who are rooted and built up in Christ, become 'established' {GK=bebaioo, confirmed, made firm}, as their faith in Christ becomes ever more unshakeable. (See this word in 1Cor 1:6-8, 'confirm'; and 2Cor 1:21)
as ye have... received Christ... as ye have been taught... abounding therein with thanksgiving.-
The teaching of God's Word, which was essential in leading us to receive Christ, is no less necessary to establish the believer's life in 'the faith.' Our need is to 'super abound' {GK=perisseouo}, growing more and more in our knowledge of Him, if we are to stand against the forces that would assail our faith, and if we are to do so with joyful thanksgiving in the face of opposition (Col 1:10-12).
...lest any man should beguile you with enticing words (v.4)...
Paul identifies four deceptive dangers along the path of life, and urges believers to cling to Christ.
Christ is:
  1. Superior to human Philosophy (2:8-10)
  2. Superior to religious Legalism (2:11-17)
  3. Superior to mystical Speculation (2:18,19)
  4. Superior to fleshly Asceticism (2:20-23)
8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit,
after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world,
and not after Christ.
9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit...
We are engaged in spiritual warfare. The enemy is going about seeking whom he may devour (1Pet 5:8). Therefore, Paul warns us to be on guard "lest any man spoil you" {GK=sulagogeo, carry you off as a spoil}. The weapons which the adversary wields include:
  • philosophy {GK=philosophia, the love of man's wisdom}
    Philosophy is the pursuit of truth through the natural realm. Yet, no matter how hard or sincerely philosophers search, they cannot answer the question, "What is truth?" for they refuse to see the truth Who stands before them (Joh 18:37,38; 14:6; 2Tim 3:7). Instead, they present to their students, as truth, questionable theories which cannot satisfy their own minds. This is:
  • vain deceit - empty deception
  • after {according to} the tradition {GK=paradosis, that which is handed down} -
    The accumulated confusion of mankind is passed on from generation to generation, in the name of intellectual pursuit and higher education.
  • after {according to} the rudiments {GK=stoicheion, first principles} of the world {GK=kosmos, order, arrangement}-
    Man's philosophies rest upon worldly {humanistic} presuppositions (eg., 'all things continue as they were...' 2Pet 3:4-7), for they reject the true foundation of God's Word.
  • not after {according to} Christ...-
beware... for in Him dwelleth {permanently} all the fulness {GK=pleroma} of the Godhead bodily...
Ye are complete {GK=pleroo, full} in Him...-
  • Worldly philosophy is empty and vain.
  • But to know Christ is to be filled with the Truth, for He is the Fullness of Truth (Col 1:15-19).
    As God, He is the standard of Truth. There can be no 'truth' higher than He. Joh 14:6
...Who is the head... (Eph 1:21-23; 1Pet 3:22)
  • of all principality {GK=arche, beginning, source, rule}
  • and power {GK=exousia, authority}
    The philosophers and authorities who disallow Him will answer to Him.
    If you own Him, you possess unfailing wisdom (1Cor 1:30).
    He is superior to human philosophy.
B. Christ is Superior to religious Legalism (Col 2:11-17)
11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands,
in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with [him]
through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
13. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh,
hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances
that was against us, which was contrary to
{ie., adversarial toward} us,
and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
15 [And] having spoiled principalities and powers,
he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it
{or, 'in Him.'}.
16. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink,
or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath [days]:
17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body [is] of Christ.
Christ is superior to religious legalism.
Christ has accomplished for us what the law could never do (Rom 8:1-4).
  • Circumcision - (Identification with Christ, not religious ritual, marks His people, Col 2:11-13)
    • "The circumcision made by hands" refers to the external rite
      by which a Jewish man was marked as a son of the Covenant (Gen 17:9-14; Eph 2:11). This rite was meant to be symbolic of an inward separation from sin, to serve God (Deu 10:16; Rom 2:28,29). But the external rite could not accomplish the surgery which sinful hearts required.
      Ritualistic religion places undue emphasis upon externalities. Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians, to counter the false gospel of the Judaizers, who argued that in addition to faith in Christ, believers must submit to the Mosaic Law (as indicated by circumcision) in order to be saved (Acts 15:1; Gal 1:6-8; 2:15,16).
    • "The circumcision made without hands" (ie., the spiritual reality to which the symbol pointed)
      is accomplished within the heart of the believer, by Christ ('without hands,' Heb 9:11,24), through the cutting off of the sinful fleshly nature and the creation of a new godly nature (2Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15). When Christ died for my sins, I died with Him. When He arose, I was raised out of my deadness in sins, to live with Him in newness of life (v.12,13; Rom 6:1-6; Eph 2:1,5-6). I am identified as belonging to Him, not through an external mark, but by the 'circumcision of my heart' which He accomplished in my behalf (v.11).
  • Forgiveness of Guilt (v.13,14) - Christ, not religious ritual, has removed my sin, Heb 10:4-18.
    • "having forgiven you all trespasses" ('trespasses' include intentional and unintentional sins).
      Legalistic religionists may claim to prescribe paths toward absolution from guilt. Their paths may require steps by which to gain merit, or the payment of some price to obtain grace. But they are false teachers, whose empty claims cannot be verified. Only God can forgive sins. See Mark 2:5-12
    • "blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us."
      The Law condemns us all, as guilty before God (Rom 3:19,20). But the charges recorded against believers were put on Christ's account. When Jesus was crucified, the official charge against him (treason) was written and nailed to the cross above His head for all to see (Joh 19:19-21). But He died, not for His own sins, but for mine. God saw my sins written large above His Son, who died to take my sin and guilt away (2Cor 5:21), in order to erase the accusation written against me (Psa 51:1,9; Isa 43:25; 44:22; Acts 3:19).
  • Triumph over the Accuser (v.15) -
    • Christ, not religion, delivers believers from bondage to fear and death (Rev 12:10,11).
    • having spoiled {GK=apekduomai, to strip off, divest} principalities and powers...
      The powers of spiritual darkness, who oversee the false religions of the world, and who once held us in their grip, have been defeated, by the triumph of Christ's resurrection from the dead. He, as the victorious Head over all principalities and powers (v.10), has stripped them of their authority over us and delivered us from their jurisdiction (Col 1:13,14; Heb 2:14,15).
  • Freedom from legalism (v.16,17) - Christ is the fulfillment of the Law (Rom 8:3,4).
    • The believer is not to be judged by legalistic men. Rom 14:3-5
    • The Law foreshadowed the coming of Christ, providing a picture of His person and work.
      A shadow traces an outline of a person's body, but it does not contain its substance. Now that Christ has fulfilled the Law, our attention should be directed to Him, rather than to His shadow. Heb 9:28 - 10:1,12-14
C. Christ is Superior to mystical Speculation (Col 2:18,19)
18 Let no man beguile you of your reward
in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels,
intruding into those things which he hath not seen,
vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,
19 And not holding the Head,
from which all the body by joints and bands
having nourishment ministered, and knit together,
increaseth with the increase of God.
Christ is superior to mysticism.
Let no man 'beguile you of your reward' {GK=katabrabeuo, defraud you of the prize}...
  • The Gnostics, prided themselves as possessing a higher knowledge of the spiritual realm.
    The Gnostic heresy placed Christ high in the hierarchy of angels, through which blessings were supposed to be successively passed down to men, who therefore ought to humble themselves in worship of the various ranks of angelic messengers. Yet, this whole system was a fabrication of man's imagination, and is contrary to scriptural teaching: the angels of God do not accept worship (eg., Rev 22:8,9), there is only one mediator between God and men (1Tim 2:5), and Jesus Christ, the unique God-man, is far superior to the angels (Heb 1:6-8).
  • ...not holding the Head.-
    The believer, as a member of the body of Christ, is in direct and vital connection to the Head of the body, who is the Fullness of God, not a mere angel. We need to hold fast to Him, for He is all we need (v.9,10; cp. Gen 15:1; Psa 142:5; 73:25).
D. Christ is Superior to fleshly Asceticism (Col 2:20-23)
20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world,
why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,
21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not;
22 Which all are to perish with the using;)
after the commandments and doctrines of men?
23 Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom
in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body;
not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.
Christ is superior to asceticism.
Why are ye subject to ordinances... after the commandments and doctrines of men?
Secular thinking includes the extremes of Stoicism and Epicureanism.
  • The Stoics taught that a man should suppress and restrain the fleshly lusts for the good of society, and to demonstrate the power of his own will to control his appetites. The wording of v.23c may have dual meaning (the word 'honor' {GK=time} can also be translated 'value'):
    1. Their self-restraint was not to honor God, but rather was a fleshly elevation of their personal reputation, as being morally superior to others.
    2. Neither did it have any lasting value in addressing fleshly appetites. Their asceticism was all in vain, for they were still dead in their sins. (Paul addresses this error in v.20-23.)
  • On the other hand, the Epicureans, seeing that life is short and believing that death is final, indulged the flesh to obtain the maximum personal pleasure, before life's close. (Paul begins to address this error at Col 3:5.)
Wherefore, if ye be dead with Christ...
The believer's fleshly nature has been dealt with by Christ, with whom we have died to the worldly 'rudiments' {elementary principles, v.8} which previously controlled us (Rom 6:11-13).
     Therefore, Christians have no reason to subject themselves to self-imposed humanistic rules {'ordinances'} for self-restraint of fleshly appetites. Austere self-discipline, which is at best only temporarily beneficial (v.21,22; cp. 1Cor 6:13; Gal 4:9-11; 1Tim 4:3), tends to produce an ostentatious fleshly self-satisfaction in a false self-righteousness (v.23).

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