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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;
Ver. 1. For I would that ye knew ] Little do most men know what incessant care and pains their faithful ministers take for their souls’ health. But we would they should know it, and know those that labour among them, and are over them in the Lord, and to "esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake," 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 .
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;
Ver. 2. That their hearts may be comforted ] Ministers are "sons of consolation," while by them God maketh the heart to hear of joy and gladness, Psalms 51:8 , and createth the fruit of their lips peace, peace, &c., Isaiah 57:19 .
Being knit together ] No such comfort upon the earth, as in the communion of saints; it differeth from the happiness of heaven but in degrees only.
Of the full assurance of understanding ] Such as was that of St Luke, Colossians 1:3 . See Trapp on " Col 1:3 "
3 In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Ver. 3. In whom are hid ] What so great a matter is it then if we be obscured, and our good parts not so noticed? Usque adeone scire tuum nihil est? (Pers.) Christ was content his treasures should be hidden. In maxima sui mole se minimum ostendunt stellae.
All the treasures of wisdom ] Out of Christ then there is no true wisdom or solid comfort to be found. "The depth saith, It is not in me, and the sea saith, It is not with me," Job 28:14 . The world’s wizards cannot help us to it, Jeremiah 8:9 . Nescio quomodo imbecillior est medicina quam morbus, saith Cicero concerning all philosophical comforts: The medicine is too weak for the disease. And as for wisdom, that of the flesh serves the worldling (as the ostrich’s wings) to make him outrun others upon earth and in earthly things, but helps him never a whit toward heaven. Since the fall, every man hath principium laesum, his brain pin cracked (as to heavenly things), neither can he recover but by getting into Christ.
4 And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.
Ver. 4. With enticing words ] With probable and persuasible speeches, πιθανολογια . It is not safe for simple men to hear heretics; for though they may think themselves able enough to answer them, yet they have a notable faculty of persuading the credulous and less cautelous. a The Valentinian heretics had an art to persuade before they taught. (Tertull.) The locusts have faces like women. In the year 497, Pope Anastasius II, seeking to reduce the heretic Acacius, was seduced by him.
a Cautious, wary, heedful, circumspect. ŒD
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.
Ver. 5. Your order, and the stedfastness ] Faith and order, that is, doctrine and discipline, saith one. These two make the Church "fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners," Song of Solomon 6:10 .
The stedfastness of your faith ] Gr. στερεωμα . The firmament of your faith. As in the first creation, so in the new creature, there is first the light of knowledge; secondly, the firmament of faith; thirdly, repentant tears and worthy fruits, as seas and trees, &c.
6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
Ver. 6. So walk ye in him ] Continue well affected, as ye were at your first conversion; fall not from your own stedfastness, 2 Peter 3:17 . Happy is he that can say in a spiritual sense (as it was said of Moses), that after long profession of religion his sight is not waxed dim nor his natural strength abated.
7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
Ver. 7. Abounding therein with thanksgiving ] Thankfulness for smaller measures of grace gets more. Efficacissimum genus est rogandi, gratias agere. (Plin. Panegyr.)
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.
Ver. 8. Lest any man spoil you ] A metaphor either from sheep stealers or plunderers, συλαγωγων . Seducers plunder men of their precious souls. They take them prisoners, 2 Timothy 3:6 . They make merchandise of them, 2 Peter 2:3 ; or bring them into bondage, smiting them on the face, 2 Corinthians 11:20 . Constantius the emperor suspecting Julian’s proneness to paganism, sent him to be carefully grounded in Christianity to Nicomedia; but he frequented by stealth the company of Libanus and Jamblichus the philosophers, who warped him fully to their bent; which brake out afterwards.
Through philosophy ] In the year of Christ 220, the Artemonites, a certain kind of heretics, corrupted Scripture out of Aristotle and Theophrastus, turning all into questions, as afterwards the schoolmen also did, that evil generation of dunghill divines, as one calleth them. Tertullian not unfitly saith, that the philosophers were the patriarchs of the heretics. Not but that there is an excellent and necessary use of philosophy, truly so called; but the apostle meaneth it of their idle speculations and vain deceits, those airy nothings, as the apostle expounds himself. See Trapp on " Rom 1:21 " See Trapp on " Rom 1:22 "
And not after Christ ] The Gentiles then could not be saved by their philosophy without Christ. And yet not only the divines of Cullen set forth a book concerning the salvation of Aristotle, whom they called Christ’s forerunner in naturals, as John Baptist was in supernaturals; but also some of the school doctors, grave men (saith Acosta), do promise men salvation without the knowledge of Christ. (Agrippa, Balaeus.)
9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
Ver. 9. All the fulness of the Godhead bodily ] That is, essentially, not in clouds and ceremonies, as once between the cherubims, which the Jews called Shechinah; whereunto the apostle here alludeth.
10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
Ver. 10. And ye are complete ] Ye have that true happiness of a man, which philosophers hunted after in the thicket of earthly vanities, and lost themselves in the chase. Varro makes report of 288 different opinions that they had about this subject, and were out in all, while they caught at the shadow of fruits in a hedge of thorns, but could not come at the Tree of Life, Christ Jesus, in whom we are complete.
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:
Ver. 11. Made without hands ] Oh, how honourable (saith an interpreter) is the work of mortification, even as to make those huge heavens, &c.
By the circumcision of Christ ] Which circumciseth our hearts, pulling off that wretched foreskin.
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.
Ver. 12. Buried with him in baptism ] Which succeedeth in the place of circumcision, and is also to us a seal of the righteousness of faith, Romans 4:11 . There were (saith one) many ceremonies in baptism used in the primitive Church, viz. putting off old clothes, drenching in water, so as to seem to be buried in it, putting on new clothes at their coming out; to which Paul alludeth in these two verses.
Of the operation of God ] In the work of faith God putteth forth the same almighty power that he did in raising Christ from the dead,Ephesians 1:19-20; Ephesians 1:19-20 . See Trapp on " Eph 1:19 " See Trapp on " Eph 1:20 "
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;
Ver. 13. And you being dead ] See Trapp on " Eph 2:1 "
Hath he quickened ] The first springing in the womb of grace is precious before God.
14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
Ver. 14. Blotting out the handwriting ] Crossing out the black lines of our sins with the red lines of his Son’s blood.
15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
Ver. 15. He made a show of them ] A plain allusion to the Roman triumphs. See Trapp on " Eph 4:8 " Christ made the devils a public spectacle of scorn and derision, as Tamerlane did Bajazet the Great Turk, whom he shut up in an iron cage made like a grate, in such sort, as that he might on every side be seen; and so carried him up and down, as he passed through Asia, to be of his own people scorned and derided.
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 :
Ver. 16. Let no man therefore judge you ] That is, set not up any such for a judge over your consciences; or, if any usurp such an authority, slight him, according to that, Galatians 5:1 . Periculosum est in divinis rebus ut quis cedat iure suo, saith Cyprian. In things of God we should be tender of our liberty.
17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
Ver. 17. Which are a shadow ] And so a sign of Christ, obscurely and imperfectly representing him to the old Church, and now abolished by his coming in the flesh. In the twelfth year of our Saviour’s age (the same year wherein he taught in the Temple, Luk 2:42 ) the sanctuary was polluted by the casting about the bones of dead men through every part and porch thereof, at the very feast of the Passover, in the night time. This Josephus saith was done by the Samaritans, out of hatred to the Jewish services. But God had surely a special hand in it, to show that people that those shadows were to vanish, now that Christ the body was come and showed himself.
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,
Ver. 18. Let no man beguile you ] Gr. βραβευετω , brave it over you. Confer Exodus 8:9 ; "Glory over me," Gloriam assume supra me, as thou hast done over thy sorcerers; I give thee this liberty. See also Judges 7:2 ; Isaiah 10:15 .
In a voluntary humility ] A proud humility. They would not dare to worship God, but angels, &c., yet were vainly puffed up by their fleshly minds. And something like this was that of the Baptist in refusing to wash Christ, and of Peter in refusing to be washed by him, John 13:8 .
And worshipping of angels ] Setting them up, as Papists do, for mediators of intercession. Let not us acknowledge any other master of requests in heaven but Christ alone, 1 John 2:1 . But what a piece of knavery is that in Surius and Caranza, who rendering that passage of the Laodicean Council, chap. xxxv., ου δει χριστιανους αγγελους ονομαζειν , Christians may not pray to angels; they make the words to be, Non oportet Christianos ad angulos congregationes facere, Christians may not be corner creepers; and the title they make, De iis qui angulos colunt, of those that worship (not angels, but) corners; against all sense. What! will they put out the eyes of God’s people? as he said, Numbers 16:14 . Or do they not rather, Festucam quaerere unde oculos sibi eruant, as Bernard hath it, seek straws to put out their own eyes also?
Intruding into those things ] εμβατευων , or invading those things, blind and bold, busy about such matters, as whereof there is neither proof nor profit. Of this sort of seducers was that daring Dionysius, that writeth so confidently of the heavenly hierarchy; the schoolmen also with their curious speculations and new niceties, as Scotellus and others.
Vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind ] Corruption is the mother of pride, as the devil the father. "He is the king of all the children of pride," Job 41:34 .
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.
Ver. 19. And not holding the head ] This is worse than all the former, that they despoiled Christ of his dignity; as if he alone were not sufficient to cherish and increase his Church.
With the increase of God ] That proceeds from God, that is, from the Spirit of Christ the head; to which growth is opposed that vain puffing up,Colossians 2:18; Colossians 2:18 , whereby men do not increase, but swell; grow bigger indeed, but weaker, as a gouty hand.
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,
Ver. 20. Are ye subject to ordinances ] Why do ye dogmatize; or be burdened with rites or traditions, as they now are in the Papacy? John Aunt, a Roman Catholic, in his humble appeal to King James, in the sixth chapter of that pamphlet, thus blasphemeth God, -The God of the Protestants (whom he knows to be the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost) is the most uncivil and evil mannered God of all those who have borne the names of God upon earth; yea, worse than Pan, god of the clowns, which can endure no ceremonies nor good manners at all.
21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not;
Ver. 21. Touch not, taste not, &c. ] The words of those impostors, which are here mimetically, or by way of imitation, related. See the like Ecclesiastes 10:14 , where the wise man graphically describeth the fool’s tautologies, "A man cannot tell what shall be, and what shall be, who can tell?" As for the sense, an excellent textman gives it thus: "Touch not;" viz. a woman, 1 Corinthians 7:1 ; "Taste not;" viz. meat. "Handle not;" viz. money, meddle not with secular contracts. (Dr Sclater.) This was that holy hypocrisy practised by these ancient seducers, and still commended by the Popish padres to their novices, and that with much eagerness, "touch not, taste not, handle not," without a copulative. The Capuchin friars in this day may not take or touch silver. This metal is as very anathema to these, as the wedge of gold to Achan, at the offer whereof they start back, as Moses from the serpent; yet they have ever a boy with them, that takes and carries it, and never complains of either metal or measure. In the year of grace 1453, John Capistranus, a Minorite, was sent by Pope Nicolas into Germany, and other countries, to preach and persuade obedience to the see of Rome; and that he might win authority to his doctrine, he strictly forbade feasting and sporting, and other civil exercises, lawful to be used; by which holy hypocrisy (as they call it) he gained the reputation of a very pious man, when he was nothing less. (Funccius.) But these things have a show of wisdom in neglecting the body, &c., and silly souls are much taken with such shows, as children are with gaudies and gewgaws. a
a A gaudy trifle, plaything, or ornament, a pretty thing of little value, a toy or bauble. ŒD
22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?
Ver. 22. Which all are to perish ] The very daily perishing of food and raiment are types of thy perishing also, saith a divine.
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.
Ver. 23. And neglecting of the body ] Gr. αφειδεια . Not sparing of it, as the old and new Baalites, these Flagellantes; and those also among us (good otherwise), that pinch their bodies too much with penury or excessive fasting, are blameworthy. The body is the soul’s servant, and that it may be Par negotio, neither supra nor infra negotium, it must have due honour and nourishment.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Colossians 2". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29