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4. Anxiety of the Apostle about their being led away by false wisdom
1For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for1 you and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen2 my face in the flesh; 2that their hearts might be comforted, being knit together3 in love, and unto all riches4 of the full assurance [lit., of the fulness of assurance] of understanding, to the acknowledgment [full knowledge] of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ 3 [or omit all after God],5 in whom [or which] are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4And this I say, lest any man [that no one, μηδείς]6 should beguile you with enticing words. 5For though I be absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the steadfastness [firm foundation] of your faith in Christ. 6As ye have therefore [or As then ye have] received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk [walk] ye in him; 7rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith [or by faith],7 as ye have been taught, abounding therein8 with thanksgiving. 8Beware lest any man spoil you [lit., lest there shall be any one that maketh you his booty]9 through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of 9 men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For [Because] in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 10And ye are complete [made full, πεπληρωμένοι] in him, which [who]10 is the head of all principality and power: 11in whom also ye are [ye also were] circumcised with the [a, article wanting ] circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins [omit of the sins]11 of the flesh, by [in, ἐν] the circumcision of Christ; 12buried with him in baptism, wherein [or in whom]12 also ye are risen with him [were raised] with him [or together] through the faith of [in] the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. 13And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, [insert you]13 hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you [us]14 all 14 trespasses; blotting [having blotted] out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took [he has taken, ἧρχεν]15 it out of the 15 way, nailing [by nailing]16 it to his cross: and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly [with boldness],17 triumphing over them in it.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Winning exordium full of tender concern for the spiritual health of the Church. Colossians 2:1 to Colossians 3:18
Colossians 2:1. For I would that ye knew (1 Corinthians 11:3; Philippians 1:12; Romans 11:25).—“For” links this to the foregoing, and according to the context, to “striving” (1:29); with good reason did he speak of conflicts in this Epistle, since he was anxious about the Colossians also.
What great conflict I have for you.—Ἡλίκον (only in James 3:5, where it is used twice of little fire and great wood), derived from ἧλιξ (one of the same age, a companion), describes the manner, the vehemence and importance rather than the extent (Meyer and others), as πηλίκοις (Gal 6:1119)=qualibus. Hesychius: ποδαπόν, ὁποῖον. [Ellicott: qualitative adjective.—R.] Ἀγῶνα ἔχω denotes the continuance of his anxiety. [Eadie: “intense and painful anxiety.” Any reference to outward sufferings (Ellicott) is very doubtful.—R.] Περὶ ὑμῶν indicates the readers as the object; what is more prominent in ὑπέρ, viz., for their benefit, is put in the back ground. And them at Laodicea adds a neighboring church in the same situation (see Introd. § 4.).
And as many as have not seen my face in the flesh.—On ἑώρακαν (see Winer’s Gram. p. 73). Colossians 2:2 : αὐτῶν, requires us to understand this of persons belonging together and grouped together. It is improper to imply it either to those unknown to Paul in other places, in contrast with those in Colosse and Laodicea (Theodoret, Schultz in Stud. und Krit., 1829, p. 135 sq.). Paul having been in both places, or to those Colossians and Laodiceans who remained unknown to him (Rohr, Wiggers), Paul merely adds a category for his readers; they had not seen him. [Alford: καί is not copulative, but generalizing. See his remarks on the grammatical inference that Paul had not been at Colosse—so most modern editors.—Wordsworth is decided in favor of the other view, following Theodoret. The passage so naturally suggests the thought that Paul had not been there, as to require far stronger evidence than has yet been adduced to sustain any other view.—R.] He adds to πρόσωπόν μου (1 Thessalonians 2:17; 1 Thessalonians 3:10) ἐν σαρκί, since the contrast between spiritual presence and lack of personal acquaintanceship (Colossians 2:5) readily suggested this concrete strengthening (bodily face). The reason for it is not to be found in the spiritual physiognomy (Olshausen), nor is it to be joined with ἑώρακαν (Chrysostom and others). It marks rather, that the readers need not be surprised at the Apostle’s concern, when they did not know each other, that he included all Christians, known and unknown, in his sympathy as brethren, than that the motive of his concern was the fact of his not having himself founded and instructed this Church (Schenkel), or his having only an uncertain idea of it (Bleek). Bengel: Paulus se omnium gentium debitorum statuit.
Colossians 2:2. That their hearts might be comforted.—This is the purpose of the conflict (ἵνα). The verb means accurately, “to call upon,” then “to admonish” (Philippians 4:2), “to entreat” (Philemon 1:10), [rendered “beseech” in both cases in E. V.—R.], “to comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:4), so that trust, confidence, strength is there, not doubt, uncertainty, wavering (4:8; Ephesians 6:22); hence also “to strengthen, confirm” (James 4:3; Isaiah 35:3). [Alford insists that the idea of confirming predominates here. But Meyer, Eadie, Ellicott agree in upholding the usual meaning.—R.] The Apostle regards the danger from false teachers as misfortune, affliction (Chrysostom: οὔτε κατηγορῶν οὔτε ). This comfort and tranquillity should first affect the heart, the centre.—Being knit together in love.—Συμβιβασθέντες according to the sense, as though it were αὐτοί, 3:16; Ephesians 4:2-3, Winer’s Gram. p. 532. On the meaning, comp. 2:19; Ephesians 4:16. The participle denotes the way, the mode of the comfort; union in love according to the context: in amore fidelium mutuo, brotherly love, as the ethical element (Meyer) in which the “knitting together” was consummated. The Vulgate (instructi) is incorrect, and Luther also: comprehended (coördinate to “comforted”).
And unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the full knowledge of the mystery of God [even Christ. Ellicott. God Christ, Wordsworth.—R.]—Καί joins coördinately the end (εἰς) of the union, and in a two-fold direction; formally and quantitatively, “all riches of the fulness of assurance of understanding,” materially and qualitatively, “to the full knowledge of the mystery of God.” It is not sufficient to maintain, to know individual matters, the understanding must extend to the whole, in its fulness, and must attain to knowledge of the mystery. Comp. 1:9.; Ephesians 3:18; in fellowship we advance to full knowledge.—On πληροφορία, see 1 Thessalonians 1:5; Hebrews 6:11; Hebrews 10:22; it denotes full conviction, excludes incompleteness, includes joyous self-certainty. [Eadie: “the fixed persuasion that you comprehend the truth, and that it is the truth which you comprehend.” What is commonly termed “assurance of knowledge,” rather than “assurance of faith.”—R.]—On “the mystery of God” see Ephesians 1:9. If Χριστοῦ is inserted, this could not be regarded as dependent on θεοῦ (against Huther, Meyer, Schenkel), since the article is wanting, and every clear ground for it in the text, but only as in apposition to θεοῦ, so that Christ is called God, a singularity which is not Pauline, notwithstanding Romans 9:5; Ephesians 5:5; Titus 2:13 (against Steiger)—nor is it in apposition to μυστηρίον, as a gloss indicates. [Rejecting the reading of the Rec. as untenable, but one other than the shortest, has a claim upon our attention, the one referred to above: τοῦ θεοῦ Χριστοῦ. Braune refers to the three interpretations suggested. The first: the “mystery of the God of Christ,” is harsh, as well as open to the grammatical objection he urges. The second is defended by Wordsworth, following Hilary: “the mystery of the God Christ,” i.e. the mystery of the Divine nature of the Man Christ Jesus. His notes are worthy of attention. The third, making Χριστοῦ in apposition with μυστηρίον seems far preferable: “the mystery of God, even Christ.”—It is well supported by Ellicott, and the gloss above referred to (ὅ ἐστιν Χριστός), is not without weight in determining the reading and the interpretation. Even Meyer, in adopting the interpretation “the mystery of the God of Christ,” says: In Christ God has comprehended and consummated the decree of Redemption (the μυστήριον). To him who has acknowledged God as the God of Christ, the divine mystery is thereby revealed.” Of course the meaning of μυστήριον is widely extended by taking Ellicott’s view. It includes not simply the mystery of the Incarnation, but also of Redemption as involved in the Incarnation. The next verse can certainly be interpreted more readily, if this view be accepted.—R.]
Colossians 2:3. In which—Ἐνῷ refers to μυστηρίον. [E. V., “in whom”—(with the marginal reading “wherein,”) refers it to Christ. If Χριστοῦ is retained above, and then taken in apposition to μυστηρίον, the meaning is the same. Unless the reference be to Christ in some direct way, it seems scarcely likely that Paul would say that in it were “hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” So wide a predicate is best applied to Christ.—R.]—Are.—Εἰσίν stands first for emphasis, to lay stress upon the fact that in God all mysteries are actually present.—All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, πάντες οἱ θησαυροὶ τῆς σοφίας καὶ τῆς γνώσεως.—Σοφία is the practical wisdom, to which every Christian attains, γνῶσις is the dialectic science, which is found only in a mentally gifted and cultivated Christian. [Σοφία, the more general, γνῶσις, the more special, Meyer, Eadie, Alford, Ellicott.—R.] Calvin is incorrect: duplicatio ad augendum valet. Bengel: θησαυροί, hinc πλοῦτος, σοφία hinc σύνεσις, γνῶσις hinc ἐπίγνωσις. Hence the mystery must needs be revealed for the treasures are hid, ἀπόκρυφοι, in it. The adjective is a closer definition of the existence of the treasures in the mystery, and not a description of the treasures in themselves, therefore not an attributive joined to θησαυροί (Bengel, Meyer, Schenkel). [Alford defends most fully the interpretation: “the secret treasures.” Eadie upholds the view not noticed by Braune, that the treasures are “laid up.” Ellicott, whose notes here are valuable, makes it a “secondary predicate of manner,” i.e., the treasures, etc., are in the mystery or in Christ, they are so suddenly; until revealed and made the object of “full knowledge” as above (Colossians 2:2). This recognizes the emphatic position of the verb, takes the adjective in its natural meaning, and accords better with the context. It seems to be Braune’s view. Davies refers to the gnostical stamp of the terms in this verse. There is probably an allusion to the false doctrine at Colosse.—R.] The church did not need another system of doctrine, only more profound exposition.20
Brief sketch of the Situation. Colossians 2:4-5.
Colossians 2:4. And this I say, refers to Colossians 2:1-3, not to Colossians 2:3 alone (Œkumen, Calvin, Baehr and others). In Colossians 2:5 he proves his λέγω by his sympathy. The danger which environs his readers, on account of which he cannot be silent, corresponds with his inward conflict about and for them: that no one should beguile you.—The verb (παραλογίζηται, only here and James 1:22,) denotes, through παρα, as in παραβαίνω, παράδοξος, a deviation, violation, of the λόγος, the λογίζεσθαι, to miscalculate, to be deceived through sophisms (Passow, sub voce).
With enticing words, ἐν πιθανολογίᾳ denotes especially the danger. Πιθανός means “adapted to convince, persuading,” like πειθός, and λογία denotes the mode in which this skill appears, viz.: in speech; it is stronger than ἐν πειθοῖς σοφίας λόγοις (1 Corinthians 2:4); it is found here only and in malam partem. Luther is incorrect—“with rational speech.” The formal side of the false doctrine, the sophistical, rhetorical, insinuating method is noted, there is nothing from which the purport of the false doctrine can be inferred. [Ellicott: “the preposition ἐν has that species of instrumental force, in which the object is conceived as existing in the means,” rather than indicating merely “the element in which the deceit works” (Alford).—R.]
Colossians 2:5. For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit.—Comp. 1 Corinthians 3:5. External, bodily absence, and spiritual presence, strongly marked by σὺν ὑμῖν, are here contrasted. There is no hint here of a previous presence at Colosse (Wiggers, Stud. und Krit. 1838, p. 181). [Nor does ἐν πνεύματι refer to the Holy Spirit, even secondarily (Davenant).—R.] There is no proof here of the danger of enticement to which the Colossians were exposed, nor of the greatness of the Apostle’s anxiety, though these are involved. This proof lies in what follows; a description of the possessions endangered through the dangerous false teachers: joying and beholding your order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.—“Joying and beholding”. describe the mode of Paul’s presence. The joy is emphasized by the position, in order to point to the noble possessions which it concerns: his joy on this account enchains him, so that he stands there as a spectator. The representations made by Epaphras were sufficient to bring him into this attitude, although he was then unknown and absent. The object of the “joying and beholding” is, first, “your order;” its opposite is ἀταξία. It is the external appearance of the Church in good order—fixed, orderly deportment (1 Corinthians 14:40); ὑμῶν, placed first, indicates the contrast with the false teachers, who disturb such order. Secondly, “and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ,” describes sharply and definitely the internal state of the Church. Στερέωμα, firmamentum, like τάξις, is a military word, a fortification into and upon which they could and should fall back; perhaps suggested by ἀγῶνα (Colossians 2:1). 1 Peter 5:9 : στερεοὶ τῇ πίστει is similar. It is incorrect to regard the participles as a hendiadys: cum gaudeo videns (Bengel), or gaudeo videns (Grotius), nor is καί causal: quia video (Calvin), nor explicative: to wit (Winer’s Gram. p. 438), nor can the order of words be called illogical. Neither should another object than that of βλέπων be given to χαίρων: his spiritual presence with the readers (Meyer, Schenkel), or about you (Winer), [apparently Ellicott, see Alford also.—R.] Στερέωμα is not=στερέοτης (Huther and others). [Alford: not any abstract quality, but as all nouns in -μα, the concrete product of the abstract quality.—R.] Finally we cannot limit this to a part of the Church (Flatt) which was unseduced, or apply it to the whole, hypothetically, were this the case (Baumgarten-Crcsius). [Ellicott: “after these words we have no reason for doubting that the church at Colosse—was substantially sound in the faith.”—R.]
Admonition to fidelity in walk, Colossians 2:6-7.
Colossians 2:6. As then ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord.—The emphasis rests upon ὡς; on which account καθώς is repeated (Colossians 2:7). “Ye have been taught” there corresponds to “ye have received” here. Comp. ver 8: κατὰ τὴν παράδοσιν; Ephesians 4:20 : ἐμάθετε; 1 Thessalonians 2:13 : παραλαβόντες—ἐδέξασθε. It is not then: have accepted [angenommen habt (Luther and others); it refers to correct instruction. “Christ Jesus the Lord” [lit., the Christ, Jesus the Lord.—R.] sets forth the object, and “the summary of the whole confession” (Meyer), giving stronger prominence to the Person. “The Lord” marks, in apposition, what Jesus is for us, whom Paul had named “the Christ” over against God: τὸνκύριον is not to be interpreted, ut dominum (Bengel and others). [Ellicott well remarks: “Though the reference seems mainly to reception by teaching, the object is so emphatically specified, as apparently to require a more inclusive meaning; they received not merely the doctrinam Christi, but Christ Himself, in Himself the sum and substance of all teaching.”—R.] From the favorable state of the Christian cause, the Apostle deduces (οὗν), according to the received instruction, the obligation: walk in him !—Ἐναὐτῷ standing first, is emphasized; He is the Life-element. “Walk” includes in agreement, external and internal mode and conduct of life. “In Him” is still further explained by
Colossians 2:7. Rooted and built up, ἐῤῥιζωμένοι καὶ ἐποικοδομουένοι, [lit. “having been rooted and being built up.”—R.]—The perfect denotes a concluded and still efficient fact,—the present, a continuing state, a process of becoming, a progressing development; hence it is not ἐποικοδομηθέντες (Ephesians 2:20) or τεθεμελιωμένοι (Ephesians 3:18). Bengel: præteritum pro initio, præsens etiam in progressu. The figures are different, yet related. Lucian de saltat., 34: ῥίζαι καὶ θεμέλιοι. Comp. Ephesians 3:18. Thus the readers are more closely characterized in their relation to Christ, and obligated to Christian walk. [The mixed figures mark “the stable growth and organic solidity of those who truly walk in Christ.” “The accessory idea of the foundation is admirably conveyed by the ἐπί in the compound verb” (Ellicott).—R.] Schenkel is incorrect in beginning a new sentence here, because the participles do not correspond with “walk.”—In him, is of course to be joined with both participles according to the figure. Christ is first regarded as the soil, and then as the corner stone, [foundation,—R.]; but not as the bond of the root-fibres and the parts of the building (Schenkel).
And stablished by faith.—To the objective ground of life, the subjective element is thus added. Βεβαιούμενοι, also in the present, denotes a progressing development, the means of which is indicated by τῇ πίστει; the Christian is fortified by means of appropriating faith; it is almost=διὰ τῆς πίστεως (Theophylact), and not the dative of reference: “as to the faith” (De Wette). [The former view is that of Meyer, and Eadie, if ἐν, be omitted. Alford and Ellicott, rejecting ἐν, adopt the latter view. If ἐν αὐτῇ, below, be retained, “faith” must be considered subjective, a view which is preferable on other grounds.—R.]—As ye have been taught.—Καθώς connects with τῇ πίστει, and ἐδιδάχθητε reminds of Epaphras (i. 7).—Abounding therein with thanksgiving, is subordinate to “stablished,” in order to denote the tone in which the “becoming established” acts upon the extension and enlargement of the measure of faith. [Ellicott; “mainly reiterating with a quantitative, what had previously been expressed with a, qualitative reference.—R.] Hence περισσεύοντες ἐν αὐτῇ is abundantes ea, i. e., fide (Philippians 1:9; Romans 15:13; 2 Corinthians 8:7), which is felt to be a privilege, a great gift; ἐν εὐχαριστίᾳ σὺν εὐχαριστίᾳ (Œkumen). [Alford: “the field of operation in which that abundance is manifested.” Ellicott more accurately distinguishes: “the accompaniment with which περισσ. ἐν πίστει was associated and as it were, environed.”—R.] Luther incorrectly joins (reichlich dankbar) “abundantly thankful:” the position of the words and the context, which treats of faith, are against this.
Warning against apostasy. Colossians 2:8.
Colossians 2:8. Take heed lest there shall be any one that maketh you his booty.—The future indicative (ἔσται) denotes an impending danger, whose entrance is feared as certain. (Hebrews 3:12; comp. Luke 11:35; Galatians 4:11. Winer’s Gram. p. 469.) Υ̓μᾶς ἔσται ὁ συλαγωγῶν is not =συλαγωγῇ: it marks the continuance of this state; it is not simply that one or another one deceives them, but there is one or another there, who in character and action is a deceiver, ever misleads others. Winer’s Gram. p. 326. ‘Υμᾶς, emphatically placed, makes perceptible the advantages described in Colossians 2:4, which they have above others [as well as indicating that they themselves were the booty to be carried away.—R.] The verb, occurring only here in New Testament, means prædam abigere (Bengel: qui non de vobis, sed vos ipsos spoliam faciat): they themselves were made a spoil, lost to the Lord. Luther is incorrect; who may rob you; and the Vulgate (decipiat).
Through philosophy and vain deceit.—The means employed by the seducers. Since the preposition and article are not repeated, one means, a category is here presented. Bengel: quod adversarii jactabant esse philosophiam et sapientiam, id Paulus inanem fraudem esse dicit. [Not “philosophy” in general, but what they called such, which was “vain deceit.”—R.] In distinction from “enticing words,” Colossians 2:4, “philosophy” refers to the substance, the thought and doctrine (against Theodoret, Calvin and others); in distinction from σύνεσις, ἐπίγνωσις, ἐπιστήμη (against Tittmann), to a system; according to the state of the Church and the context, an Oriental, and according to Colossians 2:11; Colossians 2:16; Colossians 2:18, somewhat Judaistic system, although the future (ἔσται) may point to one just arising. It is not to be regarded as Hellenic philosophy (tertullian), nor more particularly as Epicurean (Clemens Alex.), or as Platonic and Stoic (Heumann), or Pythagorean (Grotius): nor yet as Gnosticism or Kabbalism (Brucker) whose germs were just discernible. Philo had already called the Jewish religion τὴν πάτριον φιλοσοφίαν, and Josephus speaks of the three doctrinal systems of the Essenes, Sadducees and Pharisees, as τρεῖς φιλοσοφίας; yet it is by no means equivalent on this account to cultus divinus (Heinrich). Paul does not mean philosophy in itself (CalixTus: si dicam, vide, ne decipiat vinum, nec vinum damno, nee usum ejus accusc, sed de vitando abusu moneo), but a certain Judaistico-oriental one (Meyer)21 which was in itself “vain deceit.” Ephesians 5:6. On this account the Apostle characterizes it more closely:
After the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world.—Emphatically asyndetic, with the preposition repeated; co-ordinate clauses, which are to be joined, not with the verb, but with what immediately precedes. The first: κατὰ τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν marks the origin as purely human in contrast with the revelation from God (Bengel: antitheton, deitatis). The other: κατὰ τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου marks the substance (Bengel: antitheton, corporaliter, Colossians 2:9). Τὰ στοιχεῖα, used in a physical sense 2Pe 3:10; 2 Peter 3:12, is here, as in Colossians 2:20; Galatians 4:3; Galatians 4:9; Hebrews 5:12, used in a spiritual, didactic sense; beginnings in education, the A B C of knowledge, upon which childish thoughts the Christian as a man looks down (1 Corinthians 13:11). It is incorrect to interpret: principles of the moral life in the world (Huther); precepts of the world (Luther); rudimenta legis ritualia is too limited (Schaubach: Commentatio, qua exponitur quid στ. τ. κοσ. in N.T. sibi veluit). Comp. on Colossians 2:20. [Wordsworth’s interpretation, following that of the Fathers, is curious: “The physical elements, such as the Sun and Moon, regulating times and seasons; and according to superstitious observances of times, Fasts, New Moons, and Seventh Day Sabbaths ordered thereby, as if they were of the same importance as articles of faith, and equally necessary to salvation.” Ellicott’s view is to be preferred: “all rudimental religious teaching of non-Christian character, whether heathen or Jewish or a commixture of both,—the first element possibly slightly predominating in thought here, the second in Colossians 2:20.” Whether the immediate reference be to Judaistic errors or not, the phrase must not be limited to Jewish worship (Eadie) or ritualistic observances (Alford), for the Apostle is not describing the things themselves, but giving the category (κατά) to which they belong. A careful investigation of his use of the phrase will not justify any such limitation. Comp. Galatians, pp. 96, 105.—R.]—And not after Christ.—Sharply conclusive, comprehensive negative. Comp. Ephesians 1:21; 2 Corinthians 5:17. Incorrect: after the doctrine of Christ (Erasmus and others). [Meyer: “The activity of this συλαγωγεῖν does not have Christ as its objective norm.” Eadie: “True Christian science has Him for its centre and Him for its object.” On the whole verse the notes of Wordsworth are very full and interesting as grouping the patristic authorities respecting the angel-worship of the early heretics.—R.]
Praise of the glory of Christ and His work. Colossians 2:9-15.
Colossians 2:9. Because in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.—̔́Οτι confirms the warning against a doctrine which does not have its norm in Christ, supposing it can transcend Him and yet not attaining to Him. By “in Him dwelleth” (κατοικεῖ not κατῴκησε) Jesus, whose importance is to be portrayed, is described as a habitation, whose value rests upon what is at home there. [“In him” is emphatic, in him and in none other than him (Ellicott).—R.] This is then “all the fulness of the Godhead” (1:19; comp. Romans 15:29; Romans 11:25). θεότης must be distinguished from θειότης (Romans 1:20); the former, vocabulum abstractum significantissimum (Bengel), means Deitas, Godhead [das Gottsein], the Divine Essence; the latter, Divinitas, Divinity [Göttlichkeit, the Divine Quality; what is here viewed metaphysically is regarded in 1:19, charismatically (Meyer). θεότης is not to be understood as meaning God’s will (the Socinians), Divine grace and gift (Schleiermacher), nor does “all the fulness of the Godhead” refer to the Christian Church (Heinrich, Schenkel and others). Σωματικῶς, placed last for emphasis, limits “dwelleth,” which refers, in the present, to the permanent state of the present and exalted Christ, founded (1:15) upon His nature, and is to be regarded, in contrast with “rudiments of the world” (Colossians 2:8), and “shadows” (Colossians 2:17), as indicating the full nature of the matter, and from the relation of οἷκος and σῶμα (2 Corinthians 5:1 sq.) with a reference to the Incarnation (Hoffmann, Schriftbew. II. pp. 27 sq, 533; Schmid, Bibl. Theologie, 2, p. 301). Hence it is neither=οὐσιωδῶς (Cyril, Steiger, Huther), since there is no contrast between οὐσία in Christ and ἐνέργεια in the prophets, nor=ἐν τῷ σώματι, whether this be referred to the Church (Schenkel) or to the body, which He assumed of the Virgin, that is now glorified (Meyer): before the Incarnation He was ε̇ν μορφῇ θεοῦ (Philippians 2:6). Beyond Christ there is no eternal truth; beyond Him is away from Him. [Wordsworth interprets: 1, substantially and truly (Hilary); 2, bodily, in distinction from “soul” (Council of Antioch),—quoting Augustine, who combines both views. But the literal interpretation is far preferable: “in bodily fashion” (Ellicott). “Before His Incarnation the fulness dwelt in Him, as the λόγος ἄσαρκος, but not σωματικῶς, as now that He is the λόγος ἔνσαρκος” (Alford). If this be the correct view, then with Meyer we must regard the present, κατοικεῖ, as referring the whole expression to the glorified Christ. He also finds an apologetic design in the emphasis given to the adverb, “bodily,” since the false teachers, “by their doctrine of angels (comp. Colossians 2:10), appear to have spiritualistically split up the πλήρωμα τῆς θεότητος.”—R.]
Colossians 2:10. And ye are made full in him.—[Perhaps to bring out the double predication involved in the position of the words, it were better to render: “And ye (being) in Him are made full.”—R.] Kαί is a simple copulative, making the clause depend upon ὄτι. ̔Εστέ (not γίνεσθε) standing first is pregnant: “ye are,” need not first become so; the “being” is more strongly marked than the subject, in contrast to Christ; hence ὑμεῖς is not expressed. It is not the imperative (Grotius and others): Beneficium Christi, non nostrum officium (Calov.). But only in Him are they πεπληρωμένοι. Erasmus: Christo cum sitis semel insiti; Bengel: ipse plenus, nos replete. Luther is incorrect: vollkommen. [E. V. also—“complete.” Eadie’s translation is given above; Alford: “filled up;” Ellicott, as above, also “filled full,”—Rhemish, “in Him replenished.”—R. ] The perfect excludes the further effect of the fact. Neither τῆς θεότητος (Theophylact and others) nor sapientia et virtute (Bengel) is to be Bupplied; the first is not indicated by the text, which does not read καὶ υμεῖς, nor the second by the context. Divine Truth, Power, Life are treated of. Comp. Ephesians 3:19; John 1:16.—[Meyer: “Out of the ‘fulness of the Godhead’ which dwells in Christ, flows the being made full of the Christian, which therefore has its ground in none other than Christ and in nothing else than fellowship with Him. Filled with what? The answer is self-evident to the consciousness of the reader. It is the charismatic πλήρωσις which Christians in virtue of their vital union with the Lord have received and continually possess, out of the metaphysical πλήρωμα dwelling in Christ, out of the ‘fulness of the Godhead.’ ”—R.]
Who is the head of all principality and power.—This affirms the absolute dignity of Christ over against the angelic world (Colossians 2:18). Comp. 1:18. In Him they may, must have enough.
Colossians 2:11. In whom ye also were circumcised.—[Κ α ί, “also,” emphasizes the fact stated by the verb, which is a historical aorist: hence “were” not “are” (E. V.).—R.] The reference is to their entrance into Christianity, to conversion, regeneration in Christ. The Christian is circumcised, not indeed as the Judaistic teachers required, with the Jewish circumcision, but: with a circumcision made without hands, περιτοῇ [“not hand-wrought,” Ellicott.—R.]—The Jewish external rite was χειροποίητος (Ephesians 2:11). Comp. Romans 2:28-29; Deuteronomy 10:16; Deuteronomy 30:6; Jeremiah 9:26; Ezekiel 44:7; Acts 7:51. He then sets forth, wherein this spiritual circumcision of the heart, which is better than the Jewish, consists : in the putting off the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ.—[The E. V. not only retains “of the sins,” but is faulty in punctuation; the second ἐν also it renders “by,” when it is parallel to the first.—R.] The first clause is in contrast with the externality, the second with the “hand” that performs it; according to the former this circumcision is a moral advance, according to the latter an act of Christ. “In the putting off the body of the flesh” describes the body on which it takes place, as belonging to the flesh (σάρξ), entirely corresponding with the context, and parallel to “the body of sin” (Romans 6:6), which lives in the flesh, so that it is not indifferent (see Ephesians 2:3). The material, earthly body is not spoken of here, as in 1:22, but the sinfully sensuous organism, “the old man” (Romans 7:14). The substantive ἀπέκδυσις (only here) is emphatic and in contrast with the circumcision, which severs only a small part. It is joined with τοῦσώματος, which naturally neither means, massa, totality (Calvin and others), nor refers to Christ’s body and His death (Schneckenburger), since αὐτοῦ is wanting. Luther, retaining τῶνἀμαρτιῶν renders incorrectly: “the sinful body in the flesh.”—“In the circumcision of Christ” presents nothing new or important, except in the genitive, which denotes the author (Theodoret: αἴτιος) of the circumcision. [Ellicott: “the originating cause; Christ by union with Himself brings about the circumcision and imparts it to believers.”—R.] It is incorrect to apply it to the circumcision to which Christ was subjected (Schöttgen), or to view Christ only as the Mediator of it (Meyer). Nor should we on account of ἀχειροποιήτου apply it to baptism (Storr [Alford apparently], and others).
Colossians 2:12. Buried with him in baptism.—The participle συνταφέντες, following περιετμήθητε (Colossians 2:11), denotes the progress of the entrance of conversion. “Putting off the body” reminded of death; “being buried” was readily suggested. Αὐτῶ, governed by σύν in composition, denotes the fellowship with Christ, which is consummated “in baptism,” that is a water bath and a water grave for the “old man.” Comp. Romans 6:3-4. We live Christ’s life, with and through Him, symbolically, ethically, spiritually, but actually and really. [“Burial implies a previous death.” “The reality of death is evinced by burial.” “This point of burial they had reached—when they were baptized—for then they personally professed a faith which implied the death of sin within them” (Eadie). The reference to burial in connexion with baptism, suggests, that death to sin had already taken place, hence this ordinance has not in itself any efficacy “in the putting off the body of the flesh.” There is no doubt that the participle describes an action nearly contemporaneous with that of the preceding verb. This rite would speedily follow the “putting off;” though Alford is scarcely correct: “the new life being begun at baptism.”—Braune admits, as must be done, an allusion to immersion in baptism, but enters into no discussion as to the mode; the question is not deemed so important in Germany as it has been made here. Eadie says: “Whatever may be otherwise said in favor of immersion, it is plain that here the burial is wholly ideal.—Believers are buried in baptism, but even in immersion they do not go through a process having any resemblance to the burial and resurrection of Christ.” Alford correctly admits an allusion to the κατάδυσις and ἀνάδυσις in baptism, but adds, “To maintain from such a circumstance that immersion is necessary in baptism, is surely the merest trifling, and a resuscitation of the very ceremonial spirit which the Apostle here is arguing against.” A fair exegesis must allow that the passage proves immersion to be baptism; whether baptism is immersion turns on something else than exegesis; see controversial works on both sides of the question. A list will be found, Lange’s Com. Matthew, p. 560.—R.]
In whom ye were also raised together through the faith.—[So Braune renders. The aorist συνηγέρθητε, must be rendered “were raised.” Whether raised “together” or “with Him,” depends upon the reference in ἐνᾧ: in baptism or in Christ.—R.] Ἐν ᾧ is parallel to ἐνᾧ (Colossians 2:11), and refers like ὄς (Colossians 2:10) to Christ and not to baptism; καὶ συνηγέρθητε does not confirm the latter reference, but requires the former, since καί renders prominent an advance from the “burial” in immersion at baptism—the new life would not enter with the immersion but with the emersion, and we should find ἐξ οὗ or δι’ οὗ [i.e., were the reference to baptism.—R.]. The fellowship with the life of Christ (“raised together”) rests upon union with His Person (ἐν ᾧ). [So Davenant, Meyer, Eadie. For the other view, see Alford and Ellicott in loco.—R.] Hence there is no pleonasm here (De Wette), nor any reference to the resurrection of the body, which is an ideal possession before the parousia, but becomes a reality with it (Meyer, the Greek Fathers: καὶ γὰρ ἐγηέρμεθα τῇ δυνάμει, εἰ καὶ μῆ τῇ ἐνεργει̇α). Συνηγέρθητε notes an accomplished fact, corresponding with that accomplished in baptism, and like this, actual, but according to the context, spiritual, ethical. After the negative side of dying to sin, the positive side of a new life is set forth, prominence being given to the subjective appropriation, διὰ τῆς πίστεως, hinted at already in ἐνᾧ Bengel is excellent: ut mors est ante resurrectionem, sic baptismus natura præcedit fidem adultam. The genitive depending on πίστεως: of the operation of God, can only set forth the object, since only this (Ephesians 3:12; Philippians 1:27; Philippians 3:9; Romans 3:22; Galatians 2:16; Galatians 2:20; Galatians 3:22), or the believing subject (Colossians 2:5; Col 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:2) is denoted by the genitive. [Ellicott, while taking this as the genitive objecti, considers the statement of Meyer, referred to above, and endorsed by Eadie and Alford, as not perfectly certain.—R.] Luther is incorrect: “which God works.”
God is then characterized : who hath raised him from the dead, because the syllogism runs: Has God raised Christ, then can He also bring me to new life (comp. Ephesians 1:19-20). It is precisely through faith in such an “operation of God,” that this is experienced.
Colossians 2:13. And you being dead in your sins.—[“When you were dead,” Ellicott.—R.] See on Ephesians 2:1-5. Here the “being dead” is more strongly marked, than the “being;” there the simple dative marks the cause of this condition, here the results manifesting the condition are added; there inward motions (ἀμαρτία) are added to outward transgressions (παραπτώματα), here is added: and the uncircumcision of your flesh (the preposition “in” is supplied in thought).—This means the uneradicated, sensuous, sinful nature which marked the heathen. “Uncircumcision” according to the context is ethical, spiritual (Deuteronomy 10:16; Jeremiah 4:4), and is more closely characterized by the genitive. This is epexegetical, σάρξ being used, as in Colossians 2:11, in the ethical sense, so that the carnal nature is regarded as their uncircumcision (Bleek). Bengel: exquisita appellatio peccati originalis. Meyer is incorrect in taking νέκρους and ἀκροβυστια literally, and σάρξ as indifferent. [Meyer seems to place the moral significance in τῆςσαρκός hence ἀκροβυστία, which is their state still, is now indifferent (Alford). This gives to ἀκροβ. its literal meaning. Eadie takes the whole phrase literally: “Uncircumcision of the flesh was the physical mark of a heathen state.” Ellicott gives a slight ethical force to σαρκός, which he considers a possessive genitive—they were heathens, unconverted heathens as their very bodies could attest. Braune’s view seems more in accordance with the context.—R.]
You hath he quickened together with him, συνεςωποίͅησεν ὑμᾶς σύν αὐτᾧ. See on Ephesians 3:5. ὑμᾶς [omitted in Rec.; “you” to be inserted in E. V.—R.] and σύν [“together with”—R.] are repeated as an emphatic reminder to the readers. Meyer incorrectly takes the verb in its literal sense [doubtless to correspond with his interpretation of the preceding context—R.], and Heinrich makes Christ the subject, when the context requires “God,” quite as much as it refers to the new spiritual life beginning with regeneration, which is eternal life to be perfected at the resurrection. [Ellicott also makes “Christ” the subject, rendering “with Himself.” His interpretation of the whole passage is modified by this view, which he ably defends; see his notes in loco, which are highly suggestive. Still the predicates throughout are better applied to God; those in this verse, “quickened” and “forgiven,” being so generally ascribed to God, that the burden of proof rests with those who take the other view. As they have not succeeded in showing a preponderance of reasons in its favor, it is safer to consider “God” the subject (comp. Meyer).—R.]
The mode of the life is described; having forgiven us all trespasses, χαρισάμενος ἡμῖν πάντα τὰ παραπτώματα (Chrysostom: ἃ τὴν νεκρότητα ἐποίει).—The objective act of reconciliation and justification is referred to, and its universal efficacy denoted by “us” [not “you,” the Colossians merely, but all believers.—R.] At the same time the connection between the new life beginning with pardon and justification, and the propitiation of the wrath of God and reconciliation of man with Him is hinted at. Bengel: cum hac liberatione a peccato conjuncta est liberatio ab opprobrio peccati (Colossians 2:14) et liberatio a potestate tenebrarum (Colossians 2:15).
Colossians 2:14. Having blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us.—“Having blotted out” (ἐξαλείψας), joined like the preceding participle to “quickened together,” is contemporaneous,22 and describes significantly the act of Divine grace. The verb (here and Acts 3:19; Revelation 3:5; Revelation 7:17; Revelation 21:4) means to wash out, then to obliterate. “The handwriting against us” is the law obligating us and proving our debt, witnessing against us, a bond [Schulddokument], (Job 5:3; Job 9:5). It means God’s law among Gentiles and Jews (Romans 2:14-15), not the Mosaic law merely (Meyer); hence we cannot here distinguish between the moral and ceremonial law, and refer this exclusively to the former (Luther), or to the latter only (Calvin), which is also a moral affair, and affects the conscience. “All trespasses” are here treated of [hence “the whole law” Davenant, Ellicott—R.], and Christ’s death for the Gentiles also, indeed here with special reference to them. The dative τοῖς δόγμασιν (see Ephesians 2:15; ἐν δόγμασιν) denotes the contents of the handwriting, written with well-known commandments (Meyer), as Galatians 6:11. This is explained by the adjectival and verbal character of the word χειρόγραφον. [The verbal element governing the dative. Meyer would make the dative instrumental; Ellicott makes it the dative with reference to, that in which the hostile aspect was specially evinced,” objecting decidedly to the government by the verbal element. Eadie and Alford agree with Braune: “The simple dative of form, that distinctive and I well known form which the handwriting assumed.—R.] The dative is not=consisting in commandments, (Calvin), nor instead of the genitive (Castellio), nor to be joined to καθ’ ἡμῶν (Calov.), nor connected with both the preceding expressions (Winer’s Gram., p. 206); as little does it belong to “having blotted out” in the sense: with reference to ordinances (Steiger, Harless on Ephesians 1:1), or through the gospel doctrine of faith (the Greek fathers). Schenkel joins it with what follows appealing to Acts 1:22 : διὰ πνεύματος ἁγίου οῦς ἐξελέξατο, and Bleek also without sufficient grounds.
Which was contrary to us.—This relative clause is only an emphatic repetition of καθ’ ἡμῶν (Meyer), and not to be distinguished from it as is done by Bengel: contra esse et inimicum esse differunt, sicut status belli el ipsa pugna. [Ellicott: “an expansion of the preceding: it was hostile not merely in its direction and aspects, but practically and definitely.” There is no idea of secret hostility, sub contrarius.—R.]
And he has taken it out of the way.—The perfect denotes the completed, still efficient fact; the handwriting is not only blotted out, it is removed entirely, and this continues to be so. Thus the transition from the participial to the finite construction is explained (as 1:26; Winer’s Gram. p. 533). The mode of taking it away is described: By nailing it to his cross [“to the cross.”—R.] It was the law rather than Christ, which was slain and done away with on the cross, because He bore the curse of the law, took away its condemnation. Men slew Christ, but the Lord slew the law on the cross. Gal 2:13; 1 Peter 2:24. [There seems to be no ground for the opinion, that there is here an allusion to the cancelling of a bond, by driving a nail through it, although Wordsworth expresses the thought thus strikingly: “He nailed the bond of our debt to the Tree, and as by the Tree in Paradise we became debtors to God in the first Adam, so by the Tree in Calvary we received remission of our debt in the Second Adam.”—R.]
Colossians 2:15. And having spoiled principalities and powers.—Ἀπεκδυσάμεςος, found only here and 3:9. It denotes the result of the contest against the wicked angels (comp. 1:16; 2:10; Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 6:11-12), and has an emphatic position at the beginning of the sentence before the finite verb. Bengel: qui angelos bonas colebant, malos timebant; neutrum jure. The verb is well rendered by the Vulgate: exspolians. The middle signification, which is unmistakable in 3:9, falls into the back ground here. [Two points are open to discussion here: 1. What is the meaning of ἀπεκδυσάμενος? 2. What is the reference in τὰς ? 1. The more common interpretation is as above, “having spoiled,” but Wordsworth, Ellicott, Alford, render “having divested himself of,” “putting off,” giving the middle sense. 2. Of what did He divest Himself? Here the commentators above mentioned differ. Wordsworth and Ellicott, taking Christ as the subject, refer “principalities and powers” to opposing hostile powers of evil, and follow Hilary, Augustine, in explaining thus: the powers of evil had power against Christ, as mortal in His flesh: He divested Himself of His flesh, by thus doing He divested Himself of them. See Wordsworth’s full notes upholding this view. Still it seems to be a forced interpretation. Alford does not admit that these principalities and powers are infernal potentates. He considers that the angelic agency (Galatians 3:19) in the giving of the law is referred to, and these “put off” by the abrogation and taking away of the law, God manifesting Himself henceforward without a vail in the exalted Person of Jesus. This too seems forced. The view so strongly supported by Meyer, which takes God as the subject, “spoiling” as the meaning of the participle, and the infernal powers as referred to in “principalities and powers,” is preferable to either of the others, on the ground of simplicity and accordance with the subsequent context.—R.] Thus deprived of their power, stripped of their armor as it were, in their helplessness: He made a shew of them with boldness.—Ἐδειγμάτισεν (only here and Matthew 1:19) has God as its subject, who now as in a triumph makes a show to their shame and His honor: the subject being the same as that of ἀπεκδυσάμενος, it is not repeated. Ἐν παῤῥησίᾳ is “frankly and freely” (frank und frei), and denotes the confidence and certainty of the complete, permanent victory (comp. 1 John 2:28) [Lange’s Commentary, p. 82.—R.] “Openly” (Luther) [and E. V.] is already found in the verb. [The idea of putting to shame (παραδειγματίσαι) does not necessarily belong to the simple verb. Alford, to carry out his view of the object of the verb, renders ἐν παῥῤησίᾳ “in openness” of speech, declaring and revealing by the cross, that there is none but Christ the Head of all principalities and powers. For this there Seems to be no good support.—R.]
Triumphing over them in it.—Here θριαμβεύσας αὐτόυς means “triumphing over them,” while 2 Corinthians 2:14 : θριαμβεύσας ἡμᾶς has the force of the Hiphil: “making us to triumph.” “Them” means the persons conceived of as “principalities and powers.” Ἐν αὐτᾧ denotes the place of contest, the cross (Colossians 2:14). It is not23=in Christo (Bengel), [Alford, margin of English Bible—R.]. It was precisely “the cross, this symbol of shame and sorrow, which was the place of victory over the enemies of God” (Schenkel).
[On the whole verse, see Eadie. Both he and Braune agree entirely with Meyer, whose exegesis of this, passage is highly satisfactory. Wordsworth is unusually full and valuable on this section, though his comments belong more properly to the homiletical department. Ellicott’s exegesis is modified by his taking Christ as the subject throughout.—R.]
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. Paul’s care of the Churches. Great is the sympathy of Paul, who not only has in eye and mind, as the Epistles to the Corinthians show, all the members of a Christian congregation, but fraternally remembers in prayer and paternally cares for with his counsel, all congregations of the Church of his Lord, even those personally unknown to him, whenever, as in this case, through the coming of Epaphras to him, a way of God’s pointing out is opened to him. He does not step aside from his calling, from his immediate sphere of duty, but takes root in the soil appointed to him and bears fruit, but fruit for many without, as far as in him lies, for all. No one can appeal to the Apostle and his part in the great work, who does not take root and bear fruit in his own immediate calling, as though it were too narrow for him.
2. Error a calamity. The Apostle regards error and entanglement therein as calamity and sorrow, which begins with wavering and uncertainty, and has its root in moral deficiency. Hence his sympathizing solicitude, hence his παρακαλεῖν directed to their καρδίας (Colossians 2:2). [Eadie: “The conflict of error with truth could not but lead to distraction and mental turmoil; and in proportion to their misconception of the gospel, or their confusion of idea with regard to its spirit, contents and aim, would be their loss of that peace and solace, which the new religion had imparted to them.”—R.]
3. Christian unity. That saying of Rupertus Meldenius in the seventeenth century: in necessariis unitas, in non necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas, could have been taken from Colossians 2:2, where “in love” sets forth the subjective, and “unto full knowledge of the mystery of God” the objective moment of true unity. The “mystery” is the “necessary” matter, in which there must be unity; for a) as to its nature it is entirely God’s affair; b) as to its purport it is the fulness of all wisdom and knowledge, the treasury of all truth in the world and the plan of salvation in the kingdom of God; c) as to its position it is a fact revealed and revealing in Christ; d) as to its end, it reaches into eternity; e) as to its mission, it guides protectingly through time with its errors and dangers; f) as to its requirements, it concerns believing acceptance and living therein. [Be-living, which is implied etymologically and practically in believing.—R.] Accordingly the one centre of both the mystery and the unity is Christ in His Being and work. [Still more if we adopt the reading which makes Christ Himself the mystery. The one “necessary” matter, about which there must be unity, is the answer to the question, “what think ye of Christ ?”—R.]
4. The Being of Christ is all the fulness of the Godhead in bodily reality (Colossians 2:9). This Pauline statement is related to the Johannine; “the Word became flesh;” the latter gives prominence to the historical incarnation, the former to the permanent state of the Exalted One.
5. The Work of Christ is pre-supposed as that of a mediator, who suffered death upon the Cross as an atonement for us, whom God the Father has raised again, in order that this fact of salvation should be made of benefit to us; it is essentially of an ethical nature.
6. Salvation is essentially a new life, the cause of which is God (the subject in Colossians 2:13-15), the mediation of which is in Christ, resting objectively upon Christ’s death on the Cross, whereby forgiveness of sin has been provided, the accusations and curse of the law done away, the power of the kingdom of darkness broken, and beginning subjectively with faith, the principle of the new life, types of which are found both in the Old Testament and the life of Christ. The circumcision of the Old Testament corresponds with baptism in the New; both point, formally, to a putting away, the former partially, to a separation, the latter totally, to a dying, since the immersion points to the burial of Christ (Colossians 2:11-12; Romans 4:24); materially, both apply to the flesh, on which the sinful nature depends; the dying, being buried and rising again of Christ are events in His life which the believer, in contrast with the world, in and about him, must experience in his inner, moral life. In Christ, therefore, that is fulfilled, which before Him was only hinted at, prefigured; and only from Him and in Him, by means of faith, can the participation in this fulfilment be gained. [Eadie: “The Apostle looks on circumcision and baptism as being closely connected—the spiritual blessing symbolized by both being of a similar nature; though, probably, it would be straining this connection to allege it as a proof that baptism has been in all points ordained for the Church in room of circumcision.”—To this may be added that just so far as we can refer to this passage in support of any mode of baptism, to the same extent we can find in it a proof of the connexion between baptism and circumcision. If we press it in the first direction, we must also in the second, as Braune does. Whatever may be gained from it in support of immersion, is equally gained for pædo-baptism.—-R.]
7. Sin has so widely developed its power, that not only does every man stand under that power, but each man entirely : he is dead in his sinful doing and sinful being (Colossians 2:13), so that he must be born again. It is the first power, which Christ endured to the uttermost and, sinlessly, victoriously, overcame on the cross in His propitiatory death. With the pardon of sin the new life begins.
8. The law, given on account of sin and against it as an external one, is contrary to man in his sin as his accuser. In Christ it is fulfilled, in Him it is satisfied. Against Him it can present no accusation and no guilt: He is the Fulfilled. Bodily law, which He has at once upheld and torn; upheld on the side of righteousness, torn and done away with on the side of the accuser and the curse. Only when the law is satisfied, is it done and done away; this has taken place in Christ and takes place only in Him.
9. The kingdom of darkness, the spiritual powers of evil have in sin their power over man, but lost it on the sinless Redeemer; in the atoning death of Christ, they gained a victory which was their defeat. Only he who lives to the flesh, remains under the dominion of the Evil one : whoever dies to sin and the flesh with Christ is snatched from this and has a share in the victory of Christ.
10. All mental culture, even the bloom of an organic science, of a philosophy, a love of wisdom, which is merely the intellectual product of the human mind, which does not proceed out of a moral life founded on Christ’s life and rooted in Him is idle, empty deceit and illusion. That which is most elegant, most noble and great without Christ is only elementary, imperfect in comparison with what He offers: the simplest, plainest of what is offered in Him, exceeds that in value. An humble Christian has and can do and knows, more and better than an unchristian philosopher. What is Christian alone is worthy of humanity, humane. As truly Christian life surpasses any other nobly moral life, so truly Christian opinion is more important and more truthful than any otherwise important speculative knowledge.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Do not meddle in spheres and activities, which do not concern you, but, with, the gifts entrusted to you, labor in the calling to which you are appointed; do not seek only for intimate friends of the same mind and station as yourself, perhaps in wider circles, to make amends for those indolent or opposed about you.—Take no offence at the ocean depth of the mystery of Redemption in Christ; the pearls of truth and wisdom, thou canst only find there. Before the truths become a harvest which we gather in, they are dull clouds in the distance, or ere in the depths.—What thou receivest as seed, return as blossom, what thou receivest as blossom, return as fruit.—Only the fellowship which has its cement in love, has its eternal end in true knowledge.—Entering into worldly mental culture without, thou not only losest something, but art thyself lost; lost to God and bound to human principles; you forego a blessed eternity, as you gaily go down the stream of time. No stand-points are more inferior than those without Christ, however well esteemed they may be of men.—Three powers are to be feared: 1) the power of Satan who stands behind the flesh and its motions; 2) the power of the flesh, that breaks out in sin; 3) the power of the law, that appears against our sin as accuser.
Colossians 2:15. No tribunal so magnificent, no regal throne so glorious, no triumphal pomp so splendid, no chariot so sublime, as was that gibbet upon which Christ overcame death and the devil, the prince of death, whom He utterly bruised under His feet.
Starke:—There are three excellent peculiarities, which must be found in a preacher, and also in any. Christian, if he would make others know a matter; 1) that he himself be certain of its truth; 2) that he be able rightly to convince others of the same; 3) that he have a good end in view.—As a mother, who has children suffering in various degrees of sickness, attends most to the one who lies lowest, but never on that account permits herself to neglect or slight the others, so an instructor cares most for those hearers, who are in the most dangerous circumstances; yet not so as to forget or neglect the others.—See what belongs to genuine Christianity; a wealth and certainty of faith, a knitting together of hearts in love, a walk in Christ.—When we rightly know and have Christ, we know and have enough, though we know and have nothing else.—God’s word is an inexhaustible mine full of treasures and riches; seek ! dig ! test! you will find one after another unto your spiritual and eternal delight.—Rational speeches are not always the truth, nor are learning and skill always a certain evidence of truth.—If we are rooted in Christ, we must prove by bearing fruit as trees of righteousness. Are we built on Christ, we must stand steadfast and unmovable, so that no winds and rains of affliction can overthrow us. A good inflow makes a good outflow; he who takes in much, can and must also give out much. Since then believers receive so much from and in Christ, so their active gratitude must flow copiously forth in unremitting obedience.—The Church is not a school of sages, where each can display the fanciful dreams of his reason.—In matters of faith the reason is an unfaithful and deceitful guide, that delivers us to error and delusion. The gospel is the true Christian philosophy, transcending all science, all human institutions, from which it can accept no law.—God is the creditor, we His debtors. 1) He is Omniscient, we cannot conceal a debt from Him; 2) He is almighty, He can exact the debt by force; 3) He is just, He will and must be paid; 4) He is omnipresent, none can escape Him. Who must not fear on this account ?
Gerlach:—To every man, unenlightened, following his own wisdom, the mystery, plainly as it is revealed in the gospel, is closed, as to the blind eye the sun at mid day does not shine. But whoever knows how to study this great book, Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh, finds all knowledge therein. Humility opens the book, faith reads it, and love understands it.—[Jesus Christ; 1) The way on which the Christians walk; 2) the root from which they draw all their life-sap, 3) the foundation on which their whole inner life should rest.—R.]
Rieger:—In natural things man prefers seeing all with his own eyes, and resting on his own observation rather than on what others can tell him. In the kingdom of grace however, one must be of such a tender heart, that he from the “being knit together in love,” accepts much that others have experienced.—Among the Corinthians there was more of intelligence and knowledge, but less of submissive love reaching to others. On this account he pruned their knowledge and guided them to growing strength in love. Among the Colossians there was more of tractable love, but without sufficient light. Hence he had a conflict, that their obedient love should not be abused, but that they might acquire minds expert in examination.—The Apostle’s word of incitement: walk in Him, means more than following in His footsteps, it signifies, that for such a walk as He walked, all strength is derived from Christ, that the walk is a fruit borne from Christ the vine.—In the time when God permitted the heathen to walk their own ways, He yet granted some footprints, from which something of Him and His truth could be made an object of search. On the part of God these were given as serviceable rudiments, but on the part of men they did not remain purely so. And if now-a-days any one will extol these as the choice relics of antiquity, it is as though some one should devote himself to a heap of sweepings, to find there a lost pearl.
Schleiermacher.—Ripeness of understanding in regard to the kingdom of God and intelligence respecting the things of this world are not together (Matthew 11:25; Luke 16:8).—Love furthers the growth and maturity of the understanding.—[Why we continue in Christ? He has 1) not only the words of eternal life, but 2) the power of eternal life.—R.]
Heubner:—Unity, firm knitting together, incorporation in love, increases the “plerophy” [πληροφίας fulness, made an adjective in E. V. Colossians 2:2.—R.]: the correct, firm conviction, the confidence in our insight, when we are certain of the matter.—External discipline and order must ever accompany faith in the life of the Church. Paul mentions their “order” first, because it first meets the eye.—In Christian faith there must be constancy. Growth therein is necessary, but change is destructive.—Man may learn to know himself from the wisdom of the world, but it cannot help him.—He who has the fulness, can give abundantly. In Christ we have abundance, all others let us hunger. Christ’s word satisfies, contents the soul.—All, whom Christ has not awakened, are to be re-girded as still dead.—[He who remains under Christ’s standard, conquers.—R.]
Passavant:—What now-a-days is so gladly shunned by many pious people, sometimes as dangerous, again as unprofitable, the Apostle here holds to be necessary, aye, he labors and struggles to bring souls thither. He would know of no poverty of spirit, which, made up of sheer laziness and cowardice, is willingly satisfied with superficial knowledge of saving truth : he insisted rather upon that riches of knowledge and of spirit, which contributes to the genuine poverty of an humble spirit. He would know of no blind or dim faith, but of open seeing eyes. He sought to produce in the Colossians a clear understanding, a plenitude of knowledge,—that their knowledge might suffer from no defects, be diseased from no obscurations or fluctuations, that might profoundly penetrate and gaze into the mystery of God and the Father.—Gratitude then helps us to stand, and joyously stand fast before every foreign spirit, before every foreign power, in every temptation and conflict; it is a rock, from which the darts of unbelief rebound. When the Roman proconsul on the judgment-seat urged that holy man Polycarp to curse Jesus Christ to save his life, the martyr answered, “For eighty-six years I have served Him: He has never yet done me harm. How can I blaspheme my King, who has saved me?”—“Vain deceit,” Paul, calls all human worldly wisdom and doctrine, which knows nothing of one true God; “tradition of men, rudiments of the world,” all that oriental philosophy, which with its old and new twilight, its destructive atmosphere, marred the divine doctrine, it would enlarge and complete,—“vain deceit,” that Jewish leaven, which through its ancient consequence, through use and abuse of the Mosaic ordinances and principles, threatened to rob the disciples of their new freedom, or stint them therein, to put again upon them “a yoke which neither their fathers nor they themselves were able to bear.”—
For the Reformation festival [October 31st, anniversary of the nailing of Luther’s theses on the church-door at Wittenberg, 1517.—R.] (Colossians 2:6-9) How do we prove ourselves abundantly grateful for the regeneration of our Church? If we 1) hold fast to the ground of salvation, which it proclaims to us; 2) use the means of salvation, which it offers to us; 3) walk in the way of salvation, which it prescribes to us.
Colossians 2:6. Notice that Paul here Says, “ye have received Christ,” not the doctrine of Christ. True faith is a spiritual communion; for in faith we receive not only the doctrine of Christ, but Himself, into us: in faith He Himself dwells in us: we cannot separate Christ, as Eternal Truth and His doctrine.—R.]
Colossians 2:14, If one be in debt and danger of the law, to have a brother of the same blood, made of the same woman, will little avail him, except he will come also “under the law,” i. e., become his surety, and undertake for him. And such was our estate. “The handwriting,” our bond, we had forfeited. This debt of ours was no money debt, we were not sub lege pecuniariâ, but capitalii; and the debt of a capital law is death. He paid that to the full, and having paid it “blotted out the hand-writing,” cancelled the sentence of the law.—R.]
Colossians 2:1. We can think, and pray and be concerned for one another at the greatest distance; the communion of the saints is a spiritual thing.
Colossians 2:2. The prosperity of the soul is the best prosperity. Great knowledge and strong faith make a soul rich. The more intimate communion we have with our fellow Christians, the more the soul prospers.
Colossians 2:6-7, a sovereign antidote against seducers.—They who pin their faith on other men’s sleeves, and walk in the way of the world, are turned away from following after Christ.—It is not enough to put away some one particular sin, but we must put off the whole body of them.—We have communion with Christ in His whole undertaking. We are both buried and rise with Him, and both are signified by our baptism; not that there is anything in the sign or ceremony of baptism, which represent this burying and rising, any more than the crucifixion of Christ is represented by any visible resemblance in the Lord’s Supper.—Christ’s death was the death of our sins; Christ’s resurrection is the quickening of our souls. The Redeemer conquered by dying. See His crown of thorns turned into a crown of laurels. Never had the Devil’s kingdom such a mortal blow given to it, as was given by the Lord Jesus.—R.]
Colossians 2:1. The men of the world little understand, and less consider, what burthen of care lies upon the ministers of Christ, for, and on behalf of the whole Church of Christ in general, which is continually in danger of being corrupted by false teachers, who everywhere lie in wait to deceive.
Colossians 2:15. Christ’s bloody cross was a chariot of triumph unto Him. Lord! whilst thou wert bleeding and racking upon the gibbet for us, thou wert then rejoicing and triumphing for the benefits redounding to us.—R.]
Colossians 2:1. Like the caged bird beating its bared and bleeding breast against the wires of its prison, as it hears the repeated cry of its unseen young ones, the Apostle turned ever and anon toward those churches—nor did he idly chafe in his confinement, but he wrote this letter.
Colossians 2:4. The traveller who has already made some progress, but who begins gradually to doubt and debate, to lose faith in himself, and wonder whether he is in the right way at all, is prepared to listen to the suggestions of any one who, under semblance of disinterested friendship, may advise to a path of danger and ruin.—No philosophy ever dreamed of such an awful expedient as God robed in humanity, and in that nature dying to redeem His guilty creatures—whose name, nature and legal liabilities He had assumed : and such a scheme never found a place in any system of jurisprudence—what men have sought in deep and perplexing speculations on the order and origin of all things, they will find in this mystery.—The hallowed sphere of walk is “in Him,” but beyond this barrier are sin and danger, false philosophies and mazy entanglements.—Any philosophy not “after Christ” must be earthly and delusive. It has missed the central truth—is amused with the stars, but forgetful of the sun.—Though the scar of circumcision might attest a nationality, it was no certificate of personal character—but wherever “the flesh” was parted with, there was the guarantee of individual purity and progress.—The nails which killed Christ pierced the sentence of doom,—gave egress to the blood which canceled it, and inflicted at the same time a mortal wound on the hosts of darkness.—R.]
[Barnes:—We should be on our guard against the seductive arts of false teachers. It is, in general, a safe rule for a Christian to abide by the views which he had on the great subjects of religion when he became converted (Colossians 2:6). Then the heart was tender—there are some things in which the heart judges better than the head.—If at any time we can ascertain what are the prevalent views of Christ, we can easily see what is the prevailing character of the theology of that age.
Colossians 2:11-15, Christ has laid us-under the highest obligations to serve Him. He has enabled us to put off our sins; He has raised us from spiritual death to spiritual life; He has removed the old ordinances that were against us, and has made religion easy and pleasant; He has subdued our enemies and triumphed over them.—R.]
Colossians 2:1; Colossians 2:1.—Περὶ ὑμῶν is to be preferred as the more difficult reading to ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν which א. A. B. C. read, probably taken from 1:24. [The authorities are as follows: περί, D.1 D.3 E. F. G. K. L., most cursives, Tischendrof, Meyer, Ellicott, Eadie, Wordsworth; ὑπέρ, א. A. B. C. D.2 Lachmann, Alford. Retaining the former, “for”=“about”—R.]
Colossians 2:1; Colossians 2:1.—[Ἐώρακαν (an Alexandrian form of the perfect) is adopted by Lachmann, Tischendorf, Meyer and later English editors on the authority of א. A. B. C. and others—R.]
Colossians 2:2; Colossians 2:2.—[Instead of συμβιβασθέντων. (Rec., grammatical emendation, uncial authority slight) συμβιβασθέντες is well sustained, adopted by all modern editors.—R.]
Colossians 2:2; Colossians 2:2.—[Instead of πάντα πλοῦτον, (Rec.) modern editors adopt one of two readings; πᾶν τὸ πλοῦτος, Lachmann, Tischendrof, Meyer, Ellicott, Wordsworth: πᾶν πλοῦτος. Alford on the authority of א.1 B. The former is preferable as it accounts of the reading πάντα, το, being changed to τα. The neuter form has a distinct meaning.—R.]
Colossians 2:2; Colossians 2:2.—Τοῦ θεοῦ is found in several cursive manuscripts which usually agree with B. To this B. adds: χριστοῦ [adopted by Lachmann, Tischendorf, Exodus 1:0, Meyer, Huther, Wordsworth, Tregelles, Ellicott, “with considerable confidence.”—R.] א. adds πατρὸς χριστοῦ; a later hand: καὶ πατρὸς τοῦ χριστοῦ; A. C. insert πατρὸς τοῦ χριστοῦ; some cursive manuscripts and versions: πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ χριστοῦ; Rec. with E. K. L. καὶ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ χριστοῦ. We find besides ἐν χριστῷ and ὅ ἐστιν χριστός. See Exeg. Notes. [Amid so great variety, we may yet conclude, 1. that the longer reading of Rec., followed by E. V., is not the true reading. 2. That the simplest explanation of the great variety is, the original text was the shorter τοῦ θεοῦ, the rest being glosses. So Braune, Tischendorf, Exodus 2:7. De Wette, Alford and many others. But 3, this reading having no uncial support, there remains a strong doubt in favor of another one of the many. Of these the most probable as well as best supported is that of B., τοῦ θεοῦ χριστοῦ. For a defence of the former, see Alford, who confesses his inability to fix the reading on any external authority; of the latter, Meyer, Ellicott, and the editors they respectively quote. The rendering, in case the latter be adopted, is still doubtful; either “of God, Christ” or “of God, even Christ” i. e., Christ in apposition with “mystery.” See Exeg. Notes.—R.]
Colossians 2:4; Colossians 2:4.—א. A. B. C. D. and others have μηδείς, [Tischendorf and modern editors generally.—R.]; better supported than μήτις, [Rec.—The above reading indicates stronger probability of their being deceived.—R.]
Colossians 2:7; Colossians 2:7.—Τῂ πίστει. B. D. [Lachmann, Tischendorf, Meyer, Alford, Ellicott.—R.] א. and many others insert ἐν [Rec. Wordsworth—R.], which seems to have been taken from the foregoing context. [The simple dative may be either instrumental, Braune, Meyer—“by faith,” or of reference, Alford, Ellicott. See Exeg. Notes.—R.]
Colossians 2:7; Colossians 2:7.—Ἐν αὐτῇ is to be retained with B. [D.3 E. K. L. Tischendorf, Exodus 7:0, Lachmann, Meyer, Ellicott, Wordsworth.—R.] It is wanting in א. but ἐν αὐτῷ is added by a later hand.
Colossians 2:8; Colossians 2:8—[The E. V. is too condensed. “You” is emphatic, the more so, as the correct reading seems to be τις ὑμἀς ἔσται, B. K. L. Rec., Tischendorf, Exodus 7:0, Meyer, Alford, Ellicott, Wordsworth. Not ἔσταἰ ὑμᾶς, Lachmann, Braune apparently.—R.]
Colossians 2:10; Colossians 2:10.—[Ὅς is the reading of א. A. C. K. L., Rec. Tischendorf, Meyer and others. ὅ, B. D. E. F. G. Lachmann “Which,” E. V., stands here for “who.”—R.]
Colossians 2:11; Colossians 2:11.—[Τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν of the Rec. is generally rejected as an explanatory gloss. Uncial authority very slight.—R.]
Colossians 2:12; Colossians 2:12.—[Ἐν ῷ may mean “wherein” or “in whom.” If the latter be adopted, read “risen together” instead of “with Him.” See Exeg. Notes;—βαπτίσματα is to be retained with most authorities and editors, instead of βαπτισμῷ, Alford.—R.]
Colossians 2:13; Colossians 2:13.—Ὑμῖν is to be retained with א. [A. C. K. L., Lachmann, Tischendorf, Meyer, Alford, Ellicott, Wordsworth.—R.] B. has ἡμᾶς. Some [Rec. D. F.] omit both as unnecessary.
Colossians 2:13; Colossians 2:13.—[Ὑμῖν of the Rec. is not well supported, Wordsworth retains it; ἡμῖν. א. A. B. C. D. F. K., Tischendorf and most modern writers. Ellicott says: “Both external and internal arguments suggest the more inclusive ἡμῖν.”—R].
Colossians 2:14; Colossians 2:14.—[The perfect should be retained by rendering “hath taken,” so Tyndale, Converdale and other versions.—R.]
Colossians 2:14; Colossians 2:14.—[“By nailing” preserves the model force as well as the relation of time implied in προσηλώσας.—R.]
Colossians 2:15; Colossians 2:15.—[This alternation is the only one required to make the English text harmonize with Branne’s exegesis. The various renderings that are substituted for “spoiled,” as well as the marginal reading of the E. V., “in him” for “in it,” are discussed in the Exeg. Notes.—R.]
[“From the construction of this Exordium I venture to assert that there is no rule laid down by Aristotle, Cicero, and other masters of eloquence, concerning the framing of introductions, which is not adhered to in this brief opening. For three things are required of them in a legitimate Exordium: That it be adopted to render the hearer attentive, and docile, and to conciliate his affection.” Davenant.—R.]
[The meaning of πηλίκοις (Galatians 6:11) has been much discussed. See in loco. It is very doubtful whether qualibus is strictly correct.—R.]
[In view of the errors which assailed them, the verse implies that they needed to know, “not more than Christ, but more of Christ.”—R.]
[Meyer remarks: “This φιλοσοφία is not philosophy in itself and in general. however much it had, in its decay and according to its manifestation in that age, proven itself to the Apostle as folly in comparsion with the wisdom of the gospel, but the definite speculation. known to his readers, which obtained in Colosse and that region, and which consisted of gnostic theosophy blended with Judaism (Essenism), designated by the name philosophy. on account of its ontological character, and in general, irrespective of its relation to the truth rightly so called; but perhaps put forward also by the false teachers themselves under this designation, which is the more probable, since Paul uses the word only in this passage.” So Eadie, Alford and Ellicott substantially.—R.]
[Meyer with reason insists that it is not contemporaneous. but means: “after he had blotted out,” etc. “The divine work of redemption in Christ must occur before the forgiveness, through appropriation of it by the believers, could take place.”—R.]
[The original omits “not,” but it is an obvious typographical error, which I have corrected without hesitation.—R.]
5. Two special warnings
16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink [in eating or in drinking],24 or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days [of sabbaths]:25 17Which26 are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ [Christ’s]. 18Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility [arbitrarily in humility]27 and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not28 seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind [lit., the mind of his flesh], 19And not holding the Head, from which [whom]29 all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered [being supplied], and knit together, increaseth with the increase 20of God. Wherefore [omit Wherefore]30 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; 22Which all are to perish with the using;) [for destruction in the consumption:]31 after the commandments and doctrines of men? 23Which things have indeed a shew [repute] of wisdom in will-worship, and humility; and neglecting [unsparingness]32 of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh [only to the satisfying of the flesh].33
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
The first warning, against a fleshly legality. Colossians 2:16-17.
Colossians 2:16. Let no man therefore judge you.—Since the personality of the readers is strongly emphasized by the position of the words: τις ὑμᾶς. in sharp contrast, “therefore” refers to what was said above (Colossians 2:1-15), especially to their endowments and position in Christ: not merely however to the doing away of the Mosaic law (Meyer and others). Bengel: ex. v. 8–15 deducitur igitur. Κρίνειν means “to judge;” the connexion defines it more closely : allow no one the right to judge and to condemn you, if you do not respond to such demands. The warning is found in this,—permitting their action to be determined by this (Bleek). Neminem, qui vos judicare conatur, audiatis (Bengel). He treats of Christian, gospel freedom. Luther: Let no one make conscience for you (see also Romans 14:22). It is not therefore=κατακρινέτω (Baehr).
In eating or in drinking.—, Ἐν denotes the sphere, the point where the judgment was exercised, as Romans 2:1. Βρώσει. and πόσει set forth the act of eating and drinking—food is βρῶμα; drink, πόμα (Romans 14:17; 2Co 9:10; 1 Corinthians 8:4; 1 Corinthians 10:4; Hebrews 11:10). As the Mosaic law had (Leviticus 7:10-27) prohibitions respecting food alone, and forbade wine only to the Nazarites (Numbers 6:3), and during the time of priestly service (Leviticus 10:9), the false teachers had certainly gone beyond this and heightened asceticism for Christians (Matthew 23:24; Romans 14:21). It is a false view, that there is here only a consonance without further significance (De Wette). Whether all indulgence in meat (Olshausen) or in wine (Schenkel) was forbidden, does not appear from the context.
Or in respect of a holyday, or of the new moon, or of sabbaths.—After “eating and drinking,” joined with the copulative καί, the disjunctive union with ἤ follows, because the Apostle passes over to another matter. [It is true that eating and drinking may form one category, but in view of the doubtful reading, there is no sufficient critical or exegetical ground for preferring to make the above distinction.—R.] Ἐνμέρει, in respect of, in the point of (2 Corinthians 3:10; 2 Corinthians 9:8; comp. Winer’s Gram. p. 571), denotes the category, which includes the species: ἑορτῆς, festum annum, νομηνίας, in mense, σαββάτων, in hebdomade (Bengel); the diversity is indicated by ἤ instead of καί. The threefold order of 1 Chronicles 23:31; 2Ch 2:4; 2 Chronicles 31:3, is transposed. Comp. Galatians 4:10. It is incorrect to apply it to partial observances of festivals (Chrysostom and others), or to make it=vicibus festorum (Melanchthon), or=ne ulla quidem eorum ex parte (Suicer); Beza and others inexactly interpret by respectu. [The E. V. “in respect of” is exact enough, as it certainly suggests the idea of a category,=in the matter of.—R.] Christians should not permit themselves to be bound to Jewish festivals in their worship of God; neither to the three great annual feasts, nor the new moons, nor the Sabbath; σάββατα σάββατον, Matthew 12:1; Luke 4:16; Acts 13:14; Acts 16:13; it does not refer to the triple Sabbath (jubilee year, Sabbatic year, weekly Sabbath, Heumann [Barnes). Bengel: hic significanter positus; nam sabbata dicuntur dies singuli hebdomados. Thus Ignatius contends against the σαββατίζειν as well as against Judaism in the Epistle to the Magnesians, 9. [The passage reads in English: “no longer observing Sabbaths, but keeping the Lord’s day.”—Eadie:—“nor were they to hallow the ‘Sabbaths,’ for these had served their purpose, and the Lord’s Day was now to be a season of loftier joy, as it commemorates a more august event than either the creation of the universe, or the exodus from Egypt. The new religion is too free and exuberant to be trained down to ‘times and seasons’ like its tame and rudimental predecessor. Its feast is daily, for every day is holy; its moon never wanes, and its serene tranquility is an unbroken Sabbath.” The Jewish Sabbath was kept by the early Christians as well as the Lord’s Day. The practice was condemned finally at a council in the neighboring city of Laodicea.—Wordsworth: “σαββάτων, the Seventh day Sabbath, the Jewish Sabbath, which as far as it was the seventh day Rest, had been filled by Christ resting in the grave. The position of the day is changed, but the proportion remains unchanged, and has received new strength and sanction by its consecration to Christ under the gospel in the Lord’s Day.”—R.].
Colossians 2:17. Which are a shadow of things to come.—This verse is a proof of the warning. “O [see critical notes; the meaning is the same if the reading a be adopted.—R.] comprises all as a unit, and means: this (eating, drinking, feasts according to the precepts of the laws of Moses) is “a shadow of things to come.” Σηιά, umbra vitæ expers (Bengel), is not=σκιαγραφία, sketched in outline with charcoal, “silhouette” (Calvin and others), since its antithesis here is not εἰκώς, but σῶμα. It denotes the typical in the Mosaic law, not exactly the unsubstantialness (Meyer) or the transitoriness (Spener), and not at all the darkness (Musculus); for it gives certain intimation of the substance of the reality, and truth of the “things to come” (Hebrews 8:5; Hebrews 10:1). Ἐστίν denotes the permanent nature of the former things; it is not=ἧν, but the commands and institutions have and retain a typical meaning. Τὰ μέλλοντα are future things, the things of αἰὼν μέλλων, not like this (Schenkel), nor is ἀγαθῶν to be supplied, from Hebrews 10:1. These things cast a shadow into the αἰὼν οὗτος, so that the light, as well as the μέλλοντα, standing in the light, are before us. So long as one walks in the shadow, holds to it, he is not in the αἰὼν μέλλων, which began with the appearing of Christ, not to begin first with His parousia (Meyer); for there is added:
But the body is Christ’s (Winer’s Gram. p. 495).—This refers to the presence of the αἰὼν μέλλων, which had already entered. However, he, who still holds to the ordinances of the law, and allows himself to be governed by erring and erroneous men, not by Christ, does not hold to Him, is not yet in the Messianic kingdom and age, as he may and should be. The passage treats of a point of view rather than a point of time. See 1 John 2:8 [Lange, Comm. p. 53.] “But the body” is in contrast with “shadow,” fulfilment, full substance and life of “the things to come.” Ἐστίν is to be joined to Χριστοῦ; to Him as Head and Lord (Colossians 2:6; Colossians 2:19) it belongs; He has the direction of the “things to come,” is the antithesis of τις (Colossians 2:16). It is neither: ad Christum pertinet, ab eo solo petenda est (Grotius), ex Christo pendet (Storr), appeared in Christ (Huther), nor is σῶμα to be repeated with Χριστοῦ (Bengel), certainly it is not=the Christian Church (Schenkel); as little is σκιά the Jewish Church. [Wordsworth: σῶμά is substantial reality. Alford incorrectly asserts that the Apostle could not thus have spoken, if the ordinance of the Sabbath had been, in any form, of lasting obligation in the Christian Church. Against this view, see Ellicott in loco and his references, also Wordsworth, Sermon 44, Christian Sunday.—R.] The joining of this clause to the following verse (Greek Fathers) is objectionable, because it obviously belongs to the antecedent context, and does not belong to ὑμᾶς.
Against superstitious worship of angels (Colossians 2:18-19).
Colossians 2:18. Let no man beguile you of your reward.—Μηδείς corresponds with μή τις Colossians 2:16, and introduces a warning. [Eadie remarks the uniform use of the singular in these warnings, as contrasted with the plural used in Galatians. “Either he marks out one noted leader, or he merely individualizes for the sake of emphasis.” Probably the latter.—R.] Here too the stress is laid upon the object ὑμᾶς, placed in an emphatic position. Καταβραβευέτω corresponds with κρινέτω (Colossians 2:16). The word is rare, but Attic (Demosthenes adv. Midiam, c. 25), hence not a Cilician provincialism (Jerome); βραβεύειν is to be a βραβευς [i. e., the awarder of prizes in the games.—R.], to perform such an office, παραβραβεύειν is to do this partially, unjustly, in favor of or against a competitor, καταβραβεύειν denotes definitely the hostile intent against one entitled to the prize. The prize (βραβεῖον, Philippians 3:14 : “of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus;” 1 Corinthians 9:24) is the imperishable crown (1 Corinthians 9:25) “of righteousness” (2 Timothy 4:8; 2 Timothy 2:5), “of life” (James 1:12), “of glory” (1 Peter 5:4). Hence it is not to be interpreted as Christian freedom (Grotius) or the honor and prize of true Christian worship (De Wette), nor is the verb = κατακρίνειν (Baehr and others). The following thought is not remote from, but not in, the passage; Ne quis brabeutæ potestatem usurpans atque adeo potestate abutens, vos currentes moderetur perperamque præscribat, quid sequi; quid fugere debeatis, brabeum accepturi (Bengel—similarly Beza). Luther is incorrect: let no one frustrate you in your aim; Vulgate also: nemo vos seducat.
Arbitrarily in humility and worshipping of angels.—θέλων characterizes the design of the false teachers as to its ground. The participle denotes, what is joined to θρησκεία in the compound ἐθελοθρησκεία (Colossians 2:23): the wilful desiring, having pleasure in “humility and worshipping of angels.” θέλειν ἐν is =חָפֵץ־בְ 1 Samuel 18:22; 2 Samuel 15:26; Romans 10:9; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Psalms 147:10. It is not to be complemented with τοῦτο or τοῦτο ποίειν(=καταβραβεύειν, Meyer). Nor is it to be explained cupide (Erasmus). The former is both a pleonasm and brachylogy at once: the latter is contrary to usage. To join it with ἐμβατεύων (Luther) is inadmissible. [Ellicott follows Meyer and renders: “desiring to do it,” but objects to any imputation of malice.—He characterizes the view supported by Braune (Augustine, Olshausen and many others) as distinctly untenable and contrary to all analogy of usage of θέλειν the New Testament; yet his own interpretation is open to the objections made above. Alford renders: “of purpose,” joining it with καταβραβευέτω, following Theophylact. The interpretation of Meyer, Ellicott, et al., he deems “flat and spiritless;” that of Braune, he terms “a harsh Hebraism—irrelevant.” If the view of θέλειν, given on p. 35, note, be correct, then Alford’s interpretation is inadmissible. Braune’s exegesis accords best with the distinction there made. They arbitrarily, spontaneously, from the evil impulses of their own nature, indulged in these things. This is relevant, for this made them dangerous.—R.] The context indicates that the first substantive, elsewhere used in a good sense (3:12; Ephesians 4:2; Philippians 2:3; Acts 20:19; 1 Peter 5:5), has here a bad sense : false, affected humility, behind which much spiritual pride may hide. The other substantive (θρησκείᾳ) means worship, adoration, James 6:26, 27; Acts 26:5 [E. V. “religion.”—R.], the object of which is set forth by the genitive. Comp. Wis 14:27; Wis 11:16; 1Ma 5:6. Winer’s Gram. pp. 176, 233. In the Old Testament the angels repeatedly appeared as mediators between God and man, and as representatives of men with God (Job 5:1; Job 30:23; Zechariah 1:12; Tob 12:15). In the Testimony of the VII. Patriarchs (Philo) they appear as interceding, helping beings; among the later Jews the opinion is current, that the law was delivered to Moses through angels (Bleek on Hebrews 2:2). The Fathers refer to the fact that the Jews supplicated angels and councils declare themselves on this point34 (Böhmer in Herzog’s Realencyclop. 4. p. 31). [See Eadie in loco. It was at Colosse that special worship was given in after days to the archangel Michael, for an alleged miracle wrought by him, viz., opening a chasm to receive the river Lycus. And at a council held in the neighboring city of Laodicea, the practice referred to in the text was condemned.—(Conyb. and Hows. Am. ed. II. p. 390, note 2).—R.]—“Humility” is to be regarded as so connected with angel worship, that the latter is proof of the former, since the mediation of angels was claimed in approaching God (Theodoret), or because the Majesty of the Only Begotten demanded it (Chrysostom). It is a mistake to take “humility” in a good sense, but as irony (Steiger and others), or τῶν as genitive subjecti (Luther: spirituality of the angels, Schleiermacher, religion of the angels), or to weaken it to studium singularis sanctitatis, or to understand by it demons, demigods (Estius). [“The Catholic interpreters, Estius and A-Lapide, make a strong effort to exclude this passage from such as might be brought against the worship of the saints” (Eadie), but the connection of the two substantives gives it a direct application to this error.—R.]
Intruding into those things which he hath not seen, ἃ μὴ ἐώρακεν [ἐόρακεν] ἐμβατεύων, is a further definition of καταβραβευέτω. The verb [participle] occurs only here; to step upon a place, hence spiritual regions through speculation; it is used of the entrance of the gods and their seating themselves (Passow sub voce); in distinction from ἐμβαίνειν, it denotes a confident, immediate stepping up, which the description of the regions entered (ἃ μὴ ἐόρακεν)—the transcendental—emphatic from position—shows to be unjustifiable. [The E. V. “intruding” is sufficiently accurate, though Braune’s “sich versteigend” is more so.—R.] The negative μή instead of which οὐ occurs also, is correct in the relative clause after μηδείς (Winer’s Gram. p. 448). Without the negative it may be referred to ὁράματα (Acts 20:10; Acts 20:12; Acts 10:3); or ὀράσεις (Acts 2:17) with Meyer: but if ὀφθείς (Acts 9:17) must also be so understood according to the context, still ἃ ἐόρακεν (comp. 1 John 4:20) cannot be rightly referred to enthusiastic fancies. [These passages above cited speak of “visions;” to interpret thus would imply either that these visions were in themselves “illusions,” or in their influence became “delusions.” Alford renders: “standing on the things which he hath seen” i. e., “an inhabitant of the realm of light, not of faith;” which as Ellicott observes “is ingenious, but not very plausible or satisfactory.” The difficulty in such interpretations arises from following another than the true reading. The canon respecting lectiones difficiliores may be pushed too far.—R.]
Vainly puffed up by the mind of his flesh, is the third trait, more closely characterizing “humility.” Εἰκῇ, temere (Romans 13:4) or frustra (1 Corinthians 15:2; Galatians 3:4; Galatians 4:11), is here joined with φυαιούμενος in the former sense. [Ellicott: “bootlessly, without ground or reason.” So Braune: “ohne Ursache.” “Vainly” may imply vanity in the cause or the result; here the former.—R.] On account of its position it cannot be joined with ἐμβατεύων (Steiger and others). His obscurity is groundless, since it rests upon his own mind, is caused by his own spirit (ὑπὸ τοῦ νοός), and the more so, since “the mind” (νοῦς) is determined by, entirely in the service of and belonging to, “the flesh” (τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ), which while unredeemed serves evil (Romans 7:14; Romans 7:25), and commands the “mind,” possesses and rules it, instead of being possessed and ruled by it. Chrysostom: ύπὸσαρκικῆς διανοίας [followed by the E. V., “fleshly mind.”—Meyer: “It must be noticed that the matter is so represented that the σάρξ of the false teacher seems personified (comp. Romans 8:6), as though it had its own νοῦς, under the influence of which he is made proud. The pride of these people consisted in this, that with all their supposed humility, they allowed themselves to fancy, as is generally the case with fanatical tendencies, that they could not be satisfied with the simple knowledge and obeying of the gospel, but could attain to a peculiar, higher wisdom and sanctity.”—R.]
Colossians 2:19. And not holding the Head.—This is the fourth trait to be connected with the “worshipping of angels,” denying Christ and the church [die Christlichkeit und Kirchlichkeit.]—The object is Christ, to whom the false teachers did not hold fast as Head, hence as before and above all, angels as well. The negative οὐ, not μή as before, denotes a matter of fact (Winer’s Gram. p. 452). Bengel: Qui non unice Christum tenet, plane non tenet: but he may yet belong to the church.—From whom all the body [or the whole body.—R.]—According to the parallel passage, Ephesians 4:15, ἐξ οὗ refers to Christ, hence is masculine, not neuter. (Meyer) [So Eadie following Meyer: “not personally as Jesus, but really or objectively.” But “the following verse seems to imply distinctly the contrary” (Ellicott).—R.] The preposition which is to be joined with αὔξει denotes the cause from which proceeds what it predicated, viz., the growth, and not a remote one, only conditioning it from without, but indicating the most intimate vital connection between them. “All the body” includes the whole church (Gemeinde) without exception; there is no member that does not derive its growth from the Head. [It is a question whether the reference here is to the body in its entirety, or to the body as including every member. Ellicott and Eadie favor the former view, Alford and Braune the latter, which is preferable, as the whole passage is against false teachers, who did not deny the unity of the church, but slighted the fact that each member “must hold fast the Head for himself” (Alford). There is then the greater reason for taking “from whom” personally. Meyer, followed by Eadie, refers ἐξ οὗ both to the verb and the participles, which reference does not correspond so well with the above views.—R.]
By joints and bands being supplied and knit together, διὰ τῶν , characterizes the body, the church, as Ephesians 4:16. The first participle belongs to ἀφῶν, the second to συνδέσμῶν. Both substantives, joined without a repetition of the article, form a category. Ἀφαί are the nerves, σύνδεσμοι the muscles: the former alford help, the latter compactness, firmness. Wherein the assistance consists is not expressly stated, the context only intimating vital activity in general (Meyer), not “nourishment” [E. V.] however, (Grotius). Ἀφαί do not refer to faith (Bengel), σύνδεσμοι to prophets (Theodoret) or believers (Böhmer), for faith is the life and the persons are the members.—[The fact that the two substantives are joined without a repetition of the article, is against the assignment of a participle to each. As Ellicott remarks: “The distinctions adopted by Meyer, et al., according to which the ἁφαί are especially associated with ἐπιχορ., and referred to Faith, the συνδέσ. with συμβ., and referred to Love—are plausible, but perhaps scarcely to be relied upon. As in Eph. the passage does not seem so much to involve special metaphors, as to state forcibly and accumulatively a general truth.”—In the parallel passage, Ephesians 4:16, Braune seems to interpret ἀφαί, “joints.” To limit it specifically to “nerves,” seems to be incorrect. Eadie: “We may understand it not merely of joints in the strict anatomical sense, but generally of all those means, by which none of the parts or organs of the body are found in isolation.” He is not correct in giving a middle sense to ἐπιχορηγούμενον: “furnished with reciprocal aid.” Both participles are passive; as present they denote “that the process is now going on” (Alford).—R.]
Increaseth with the increase of God, αὔξει τὴν αν̓́ξησιν τοῦ θεοῦ—[lit., “increaseth the increase of God.” Accusative of cognate substantive and genitive auctoris.—R.] By this God is described as He who effects the growth from Christ (1Co 3:6; 1 Corinthians 3:12; 1 Corinthians 6:18; Winer’s Gram. p. 232). The most appropriate preposition for Christ in this figure is ἐξ, for God ὑπό. Hence it does not refer to growth well-pleasing to God (Calvin), [nor “godly growth,” Conybeare and Howson.—R.] But the folly and danger of the false teachers is sharply marked.
Comprehensive conclusion. Colossians 2:20-23.
Colossians 2:20. If ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world.—Sketch of their Christian state, in accordance with the context and the preceding passage (Colossians 2:1-15). Bengel: continuatur illatio v. 16 coepta. Εἰ is a rhetorical “if, as is actually the case” (Winer’s Gram. p. 418). There are here two definitions of “being dead:” how? “with Christ;” to what ? “from the rudiments of the world.” The motive for “being dead” is given in Colossians 2:11-12, and for “with Christ” in Colossians 2:19 (the Head) and Colossians 2:10-15. For the sake of distinctness, and at the same time to mark the “dying” as an emancipation (Bengel: concise: mortui et sic liberati ab elementis), the preposition ἀπό is repeated from the verb, where otherwise the dative would be found (Galatians 2:19; Romans 6:2). “The rudiments of the world” are here those rudiments in which they lived before they became “in Christ,” when they were still heathen; they should not fall away into such again, seduced by Judaistic false teachers. See on Colossians 2:8.—Meyer incorrectly supposes that Christ also was “dead from the rudiments;” he overlooks that Gentile Christians are referred to; Christ is indeed “the end of the law,” but has not to die to it.
Why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances?—“Why” introduces, emphatically in the form of a question, the conclusion that it was wrong. Comp. Galatians 4:8-10. “As living in the world” like “when we were in the flesh” (Romans 7:5), describes their standpoint before conversion, to which they are returning; ὠς denotes the justifiable conclusion and comparison=quippe qui, “as though.” Δογματίζεσθε is the middle (Luther: why do ye allow yourselves to be caught with ordinances?); the verb is=δόγμα τιθέναι, like νομοθετεῖν. It can be neither: one decrees to you (Meyer);35 nor: you lay ordinances upon yourselves (Bleek); they did not do this, nor does it correspond with the situation, while the former does not correspond with the intention of the intensive question, as if it concerned only a sketch of the fact, and not a rousing of the readers against it.
These ordinances are now noted concretely as to their purport: Colossians 2:21. Touch not, taste not, handle not, μὴἄψῃ, μηδὲγεύαῃ, μήδὲθίγῃς.—The triple reference forming a climax, marks the urgency of the demand for abstinence (Meyer). The reference to Colossians 2:16 allows the omission of the objects, meat and drink, which are required by the second verb γεύσῃ. It is incorrect to apply “touch not” to sexual pleasure (Flatt); this cannot be justified by 1 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Timothy 4:3, against the context, viz., the former part of Colossians 2:22. The suppression of the object is not to be accounted for by the fear and dissimulation of the false teachers, who did not name it themselves (Steiger), nor thus: that Paul had not thought on any definite object. The objects he sets forth in paraphrase:
Colossians 2:22. Which all are for destruction in the consumption, ἄἐστινπά νταεἰςφθορὰντῇἀπο χρήσει—This relative clause sketches the forbidden objects, all of them (ἅ—πάντα); ἐστιν, placed first for emphasis, denotes that their nature is,—“appointed to destruction, perishable” (ἐιςφθοράν), by being used up (τῇἀποχρήσει). This verdict reminds us of Matthew 15:17; Mark 7:18-19; 1 Corinthians 6:13. Hence these words must be considered the Apostle’s judgment to show, and that not without irony, the perversity of the notion, that through eating and drinking moral detriment originated (Chrysostom: εἰς κόπρον γὰρ ἄπαντα μεταβάλλεται). They cannot be regarded as the words of the false teachers (Vatable, Schenkel), who will not suffer them to be touched, nor as parenthesis36 (Meyer). Nor is ä to be referred to δόγματα, implied in σογματίζεσθε above (Augustine [Barnes] and others), nor is εἰς φθοράν to be explained as moral corruption (De Wette), since it merely describes destruction, decomposition, here of sensuous things. Although ἀποχρῇσει must not be taken as the simple noun, it must however be distinguished from παράχρησις and κατάχρησις, “abuse.” [The view Braune upholds is so generally adopted by modern commentators and so far preferable that it seems unnecessary to notice the others particularly. The practical bearing of the passage is obvious to any, who discover its true meaning. That this true meaning has not always been discovered by American Christians is evident from the fact that some still cite: “Touch not, taste not, handle not,” in support of “total abstinence” from beverages which can intoxicate. Whatever may be the expediency of such a principle, it is one against which, as a binding rule of universal application, this passage, rightly interpreted, might be used. To use it in its favor is contrary to all fair dealing with the word of God,—a wresting of the Scripture, excusable only on the ground of ignorance, if in these days such ignorance be not rather an aggravation.—R.]
After the commandments and doctrines of men, κατὰ τὰ ἐντάλματα καὶ διδασκαλίας τῶν , sets forth a modality of δογματίζεσθε, marking it as in contrast with God’s law and word in Christ, indeed with the law of Moses, beyond which they have gone. “Doctrines” is added in justification of “commandments;” the latter are more restricted, the former more extended; the latter are results, the former set forth the premises and consequences. Matthew 15:7; Mark 7:7. [Ellicott: they were submitting to a δογματισμός not only in its preceptive, but even in its doctrinal aspects.—R.]
Colossians 2:23. Which things have indeed a repute of wisdom.—“Which things” refers to “commandments and doctrines of men,” and denotes, not single commandments, etc., but the whole category of human ordinances. Ἐατὶν λόγον μὲν ἔχοντα σοφίας is a concession (μές), to which the antithesis (δέ) is wanting; still to the very significant λόγος we have the correlate τιμῇ, to λόγον ἔχοντα corresponds ἐν τιμῇ τινι, and on this account to μέν the following οὐκ corresponds. Hence λόγος here must mean “report,” as Luke 5:15; John 21:23; Acts 11:22. So Herodot. 5, 66 (Grimm, Clavis, sub voce p. 260). Chrysostom: λόγον φησὶν, οὐ δύναμιν, ἄραοὐκ . The Vulgate therefore: rationem habentia, and Luther: “appearance” [E. V.: “show”] are incorrect. [Alford; “possessed of a reputation,”—Ellicott: “do have the repute”—are enjoying the repute of wisdom.—R.] The omission of a clause introduced by δέ is an anacoluthon, but not strange, since the clause is unmistakable (Winer’s Gram. p. 535). ̔ Εστὶνἔχοντα is used instead of ἔχουσιν, to mark the weakness of men in permitting themselves to be so readily deceived and blinded, and contains a charge against such in general rather than against those in Colosse. Bengel improperly joins ἐστίν with πρὸς πλησμονήν, and resolves ἔχοντα into: cum habeant, ut sit incisum; so Schenkel also.
In will-worship, and humility, and unsparingness of the body, ἐν ἐθελοθρησκείᾳ καὶ ταπεινοφροσύνῃ καὶ .—“In,” standing only at the beginning, denotes that all three belong together. Compounds with ἐθελο are frequent (see Passow’s Lexicon) and describe, according to the word, something done freely, voluntarily, on one’s own responsibility, arbitrarily, factitiously, affectedly; ἐθελοθρησκεία is self-imposed, arbitrary worship (Colossians 2:18). The object is not added, because self-evident: God. The false teachers in question would worship Him through the mediation of the adoration of angels. Compare ἐθελοπερισσοθρησκεία, by which Epiphanius (haer. 1, 16) describes the piety of the Pharisees. Ταπεινοφροσύνη, as in Colossians 2:18, denotes the humility which appeared with ostentation, hence only apparent, external. Ἀφειδία σώματος denotes the unsparing austerity towards the body through ascetic abstinence. Such mortification is based upon contempt of the creatures, false views of matter as the seat of sin. The first substantive denotes the religious aspect of their conduct, the second, the moral in relation to men, the third, the same as respects earthly things. In such ways they gained a repute of wisdom.
In opposition to this repute, the Apostle adds his judgment: not in any honour, οὐκ ἐν τιμῇ τινι. Here belongs έστίν, which follows ἄτινα, in order to contrast with “the repute of wisdom among the people,” the Apostle’s judgment, viz.: the repute is without honorable grounds, without true honor. This is strongly affirmed; there is nothing at all in it which is really honorable; hence “in any honor” is a sharp negation (οὐκ) of will-worship, humility and unsparingness of the body.—To this negative Paul adds a positive statement: [only] to the satisfying of the flesh, πρὸς πλησμοὴν τῆς σαρκός.—The former clause denies “the repute of wisdom” as a just repute; this gives a motive for the negation, in connexion with “unsparingness of the body.” The false doctrine tends (πρός) to a satisfying (in contrast with “unsparingness”) of the fleshly nature (τῆς σαρκός opposed to σώματος). It is incorrect to render: “not giving to the flesh the honor due to its necessities” (Luther and others). Πλησμονή implies blame (Bengel: fere excessum denotat) and cannot=πρόνοια (Romans 13:14). The distinction between τοῦ σώματος and τῆς σαρκός, and the omission of τοῦ σώματος after ἑν τιμῇ τινι must not be overlooked. Grotius singularly deduces praise from this: habent ista rationem non stultam, si adsint cautiones, si sponte ista suscipiantur non abominando ea, quæ deus creavit,—cum ea modestia animi, quæ alios aliter viventes non damnet,—si hoc sibt propositum habeant, dure tractare corpus neque carni obsequi ad saturitalem.—[Braune’s view is that of Meyer, and is to be preferred, 1) as least un-grammatical; 2) as giving the best correlate to μέν; 3) preserving the distinction between σε͂μα and σάρξ; 4) bringing out the bad sense of πλησμονήν and thus conveying the sharp condemnation, that asceticism, while it appears to subdue the body, serves only to gratify the flesh and its evil nature. For other interpretations see Eadie, Alford, Ellicott. The latter agrees most nearly with Braune.—R.]
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. Fasts and Feasts are placed together by the Apostle (Colossians 2:16), while as a rule fasting and prayer occur together; Acts 13:3 : “when they had fasted and prayed;” 14:23: “prayed with fasting;” 1 Corinthians 7:5 : “fasting and prayer” (A. B. however omit the former). He forbids the one or the other, as little as Christ (Matthew 6:5; Matthew 6:16); he does not annul the decree of the apostolic council (Acts 15:20; Acts 15:28), in which also the ethical and ritual are united. But he opposes first, asceticism which extends to “unsparingness of the body,” secondly, an arbitrary abstinence from the means of nourishment ordained for eating and drinking, demanded equally from all, thirdly, those fasts connected with certain arbitrarily chosen days in the year, month and week. He thus opposes that dualistic view of the world, which does not regard and treat matter as the creature of God, which undervalues the body and its life, and in spite of its “unsparingness of the body” serves only “to the satisfying of the flesh;” he demands the maintenance of individual freedom and would commit all abstinence to the free moral resolution (as Romans 14:2 sq., 1 Corinthians 8:1 sq., 1 Timothy 4:3), and—as far as such abstinence is justified, and may be occasioned or required by internal or external circumstances, by the discipline necessary for the individual, or occurrences that affect him,—he would not have it mechanically and arbitrarily bound to special days, least of all that it should be regarded as of moral merit or as a work of supererogation, transcending or retrieving the purely moral law and moral conduct of life. The Christian should not bind his conscience to men, but only to God’s word and God’s law. Holy days and seasons should be determined by the great facts of salvation and the great acts of God, and not arbitrarily chosen. Thus we must judge both the Romish worship overrun with fasts and saints’ days, and the Methodist and Baptist sects adhering to the Reformed Church. [The author, being a Lutheran, refers to the entire neglect of even such anniversaries as Christmas, Easter and Pentecost.—The special reference to the Methodists and Baptists must be confined to Germany,—and indeed’ in this country there is no applicability in his allusion to their adherence to the Reformed Church. It is true that until lately the prevailing practice of many churches in America would fall under the condemnation he hints at, and even now these historic days are observed socially rather than religiously, as holidays rather than holy days. The Lord’s Day has always been kept in a truer position. I may add that “fasting” is practically ignored as a Christian duty from extreme antagonism to arbitrary fast days, but while the American Church has allowed “no man to judge” “in eating,” it has permitted strict judgment “in drinking” to lay a burden on the conscience. Paul places both in the same category (Colossians 2:16). However expedient abstinence may be, this passage (Colossians 2:16; Colossians 2:20-23) forbids the infringement on Christian freedom which is quite common.—R.]
2. The distinction and the connexion of the Old and New Testament economy are here described. The former is “the shadow of things to come” (Colossians 2:17) and “the rudiments of the world” (Colossians 2:20), which are given in heathenism as well as Judaism; contrasted with the former, the New Testament economy is “the body,” with the latter it is “perfection” (τελείωσις). Christianity is called “the power of God and wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24), at once to distinguish it from Judaism and to describe it as pre-announced, pre-intimated, prepared for in the same. The law is done away, not because it is in itself of no value, but because man is unable to fulfil it, obtains only in Christ, what he cannot attain without Him through the law. See Schmid, Bibl. Theol. II. 233–235; 322–325. Catholic and Reformed confessions fail in this respect; they regard the gospel as a nova lex, and permit the distinction between the Old Testament and New Testament to fall into the background: the former is Pharisaical, the latter spiritualistic. [The position of the law in the Reformed confession does not seem to me to warrant this remark. See the Heidelberg Catechism, Ques. 2, 91, 92. Belgic conf., xxiv. xxv. Perhaps others are more open to this, charge. See also Form of Concord, VI.—R. ]
[3. The observance of the Lord’s Day cannot be affected by the warning of Paul (Colossians 2:16). It is certain that the persons who were judging them, were pressing the duty of observing the Jewish Sabbath, not the Christian Lord’s Day. It is equally certain that the observance of a weekly day of rest is written in God’s physical and social laws for man, as plainly as in the Decalogue. Nor can we escape the conclusion that the fourth Commandment is but a reminder of a previous institution, so that even those who might contend that the whole Mosaic law is abrogated, as a guide to Christian life, do not escape this enactment. But since the Christian would live gratefully, he still finds the rule in God’s “holy, just and good” moral law, and sees in his very frame as well as in the frame-work of society, an additional reason for appropriating to “rest in God’s service,” one day in seven, rejoicing therein, since it now marks the great fact of his Lord’s resurrection, and since his Master has Himself explained how it should be observed.—R.]
4. The importance of the doctrine respecting angels (Philippi: Kirchl. Glaubenslehre I. p. 279 sq.), without which the doctrine respecting Satan remains incomprehensible, is as great as the danger from the rationalistic denial of angels, springing from a Sadduceean view of the world, and the Romish adoration of angels, growing out of Essenic and dualistic heresy. The latter soon appeared in the Church. In Laodicea (at the council held between 343 and 381), it was forbidden in the 35th Canon. Ambrose first encouraged it (observandi sunt angeli). Augustine warns against it: imitandos eos potius, quam invocandos, and refers to the distinction between cultus religiosus and non religiosus. This, the second council of Nicæa (787) turned in favor of the adoration of angels, and the distinction established between λατρεία, invocation, and τιμητικὴ προσκύνησις, δουλεία, pious veneration, must now serve as a support for the heathenish adoration of angels and worship of the saints (Conc. trid. sess. 25. Cat. Romans 3:2; Romans 8:10). Our symbols maintain: angelos a nobis non esse invocandos, adorandos (Articles of Schmalkald ii. 2). [See Reformed Confessions and catechisms generally.—R.]
5. Christ the Head of the Church, is for her the foundation of all religious and moral life: she needs no other mediator with God.—
6. The Church is a living organism, not an establishment or institution, It is a unity of many members; it rests upon an act and work of God in Christ, is from God and to God, has as its end education for perfection and glory hereafter; and possesses, in the word and sacraments and the proper administration of the same, suitable means for the attainment of this end. As to its inmost being, it is a vital relation of the congregation [Gemeinde] to the ever present, spiritual-physically present Lord (Harless. Ethik. 6. Aufl. p. 564). [By “Ceistleiblich”—which is untranslatable, Braune means the presence of Christ in the eucharist according to the Lutheran view. Vital union with Christ the Head is not less insisted upon by those who hold the really Calvinistic view.—R.] It is an organization (but not the source), for the facilitating and furthering of Christliness [Christlichkeit,], and the sense of this fellowship founded and maintained by Christ with the corresponding conduct is Churchliness [Kirchlichkeit], which is indissolubly connected with Christliness. As Church and Churchdom [Kirche und Kirchenthum] are so distinguished, that the former, as a Divine act, legally and rightly, takes form in the latter, so there is a two-fold Churchliness; one holding fast to the revelation of grace and ordinance of salvation in Christ, the other adhering to the legal forms of a special Churchdom, which has been and is being humanly and historically developed. The former has its source in the invisible Church, the fellowship of the Spirit, the latter in the visible church, which is the fellowship of law, and hence only human, secondary, accessory; it is not the realization of the idea of the Church, but merely a help and external support (Stahl: Rechts-und Staats lehre, p. 164). All ecclesiastical canons non imprimunt credenda, sed exprimunt credita. But in thus distinguishing, rightly, the ordinances of salvation and of the Church, Christliness and Churchliness, and the latter again in this two-fold manner, care must be taken not to undervalue the latter, as well as not to overvalue it.
7. The principle of Christian liberty especially and of Christian life in general is, that one neither makes nor permits to be made an arbitrary law, and so exercises his Christianity upon all that is created, ordinances as well as gifts, that the creature is used in humble obedience to God’s will, without the fleshly nature exalting itself. Asceticism degenerates into mere mechanical morality, casuistic hair-splitting about the divine law, an externalizing of self-discipline and self-exertion, a stirring up of spiritual pride. Under austerity respecting externals is concealed effeminacy with regard to heart-emotions, and in the unsparing plaguing of the body the flesh is fondled.
[8. The connection of the two warnings. There is instruction in the connection of precepts in Paul’s writings. Here are two warnings, one against fleshly legality, the other against worship of angels, both condemned as having a “show of wisdom”—but tending only to the satisfying of the flesh. The connection is not obvious, yet side by side the two errors have existed with the same result. In germ at Colosse, in full flower in the medieval church, and in modern times, in America especially, fanatical binding of the conscience respecting articles of diet and drink, and “intruding into things not seen,” craving for other “spiritual manifestations” than those coming from the Head, have taken root and flourished in the same localities, together with “a show of wisdom” and an intense “satisfying of the flesh.” Error has its affinities and its unchanging law of development no less than truth.—R.]
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Christ wants no legal man, who through zeal in good works will earn the love of God, but a spiritual man, whose faith through grateful love to God is diligent in every good word and work.—In winter fruit trees look more alike than in spring, summer and autumn; where life and liberty are wanting, there is monotony in faith and walk; while lifeless liberty makes every diversity prominent.
Starke:—That is the devil’s way, to judge and make conscience where none should be made, and to make none where it should be. Let us hold to Christ alone, and put no man or creature as mediator with Him; but hold to Him truly too, so that we have His witness, whether we have received of His Spirit to abide in us.—Will worship is worthless.
Rieger:—Sincerity, which seeks God and clings to His Word, seizing salvation in Christ, as if it were I only in the world, whom it concerned; unity, joining itself to all who are called and pressing to the same goal with the same serviceableness; freedom, which binds and is bound by none in things that can neither hinder nor further me in the ordained course.—Each one has a corner in his heart where rash prejudices can hide, to break out swiftly in natural and spiritual things, so that we can quickly stumble at one thing, or thoughtlessly depreciate another.—[Self-will makes even humility, a vain puffing up.—R.]
Gerlach:—While one lives in the world, he serves its rudiments. Of these God made use in His law to typify in that time of childhood higher, eternal truths. But when the full light of truth has risen, to serve these is to be in bondage to the world. All this is renewed in Christendom, whenever Christ, as the only Mediator is supplanted or thrown into the background by other sub-mediators.
Schleiermacher:—The right way can only be the one way, in the likeness of the Divine Love to maintain the bond of love among each other, and in common with those who are our brethren to seek and to lead a spiritual life.—[The difficult wisdom of the gospel, which so few attain: rightly distinguishing the internal from the external, substance from shadow, spirit from letter.—R.]
Passavant:—Habit and custom, the regular return of religious exercises and festivals, regular Sabbaths, periodical communion seasons, even set hours of meditations, even family worship otherwise so necessary in addition to public worship,—how easily do all degenerate into empty form and external posture without spirit and life.—He who does not hold to the Head, but holds rather to the thoughts of his own wisdom and the dreams of his own fancy, relying upon systems of human philosophy, upon highly gifted minds or on the poesy of the human imagination, desiring to seek and find there all that is noble and exalted, salvation, joy, heaven itself, thereby denies and disowns the one great Reconciler and Redeemer, His Truth, His Love, His Right, and His Glory: he loses in his folly and ingratitude the whole wealth of the Word of God; he takes the shadow instead of the body, the sheen for the true light, a self-made life for the true Life, God’s Life in us.
Heubner:—The Christian should maintain freedom of conscience. He should not depend on others, but follow his own conscience, not permitting himself to be bound to non-essential exercises. A superstitious over-estimate of things indifferent always leads away from Christ.—Young Stilling, although indulging in many fancies about spirits, remained faithful to the biblical principle, that all such attempts to open up the invisible world about him are culpable and opposed to the present probationary state of man. A Christian, clinging to Christ is secure against all such foolery, which would divert him from his aim.
Wilhelm.—The holy simplicity of the Christian. It consists herein 1) that he keeps his goal uninterruptedly in view: 2) guards against all going according to his own choice: 3) studies true humility at heart.—Lehman:—Against what must we guard if we would not miss the mark of our heavenly calling? 1) Against our own choice in the matter of our blessedness; 2) against false humility; 3) against carnal mind. Claus:—Two great dangers on the path to the heavenly goal; 1) the error of human ordinances; 2) the pride of our own heart.
[Burkitt:—Abstinence is sinful when men abstain from some meats, upon pretence of holiness and conscience, as if some meats were unclean, or less holy in their own nature than others, or as if simple abstinence at any time were a thing acceptable to God in itself, without respect to the end for which it is sometimes required.—Men are most forward to that service of God, which is of man’s finding out and setting up; man likes it better to worship a God of his own making, than to worship the God that made him; and likes any way of worshipping God which is of his own framing, more than that which is of God’s appointing.—Henry: Colossians 2:19. Colossians 2:1) Jesus Christ is not only a Head of Government over the church, but a Head of vital influence to it. 2) The body of Christ is a growing body—R.]
Colossians 2:16. Sensations of spiritual joy are not to be restricted to holy days, for they thrill the spirit every moment, and need not wait for expression till there be a solemn gathering, for every instant awakes to the claims and the raptures of religion.
Colossians 2:19. The church can enjoy neither life nor growth, if, misunderstanding Christ’s person or undervaluing His work, it have no vital union with Him.
Colossians 2:20. Christ is the Head and to Him alone do we owe subjection.
What mean they? Canst thou dream there is a power
In lighter diet at a later hour
To charm to sleep the threatenings of the skies,
And hide past folly from all-seeing eyes? (Cowper).
Colossians 2:23. When Diogenes lifted his foot on Plato’s velvet cushion and shouted “thus I trample on Plato’s pride,” the Athenian sage justly replied “but with still greater pride.” The Apostle utters a similar sentiment. These corporeal macerations, as history has shown tend to nurse licentiousness in one age, and a ferocious fanaticism in another.—R.]
Colossians 2:16. It is the solemn and sacred duty of all Christians to remit all attempts to make ceremonial observances binding on the conscience.
Colossians 2:18. “Pride may be pampered while the flesh grows lean.”—Wordsworth: Colossians 2:18. Pride in its worst form; Pride dressed up in the disguise of lowliness. And this is the besetting sin of the human heart, which is more puffed up by false humility than by open, pride.—R.]
[Schenkel:—The danger of constituting oneself a judge of the consciences of others; 1) why it is so near us; 2) why it must be so earnestly contended against.—Christ the only mediator between God and man: It is not humility, but pride, if we seek another.—The officious seeking after revelations outside the Revelation: 1) how dangerous; 2) how foolish it is.—The danger of spiritual pride; 1) Its source—the flesh; 2) its effects—inflation.—Who has died with Christ, can no longer live in the world: 1)The reason, 2) the power of this truth.—Will-worship: 1) a self-deception, 2) a deceiving of others.—Interference with allowable enjoyment by ordinances of men: 1) the wrong inherent in such interference; 2) the impurity to which it leads.—R.]
Colossians 2:16; Colossians 2:16.—[Βρώσει ἢ ἐνπόσει, the act of eating or of drinking. See Exeg. Notes. The reading is doubtful: א. A. C. D. F. K. L. Rec. most versions; Lachmann, Tischendorf (Exodus 7:0), Ellicott, Wordsworth read ἤ. B. Tischendorf (Exodus 2:0). Alford, Braune: καί. The critical defence of the former reading is: “the Common association of βρῶσις and πόσις would very naturally suggest the displacement of ἤ for the more usual καί”—of the latter: καί would readily be altered to ἤ to suit the rest of the sentence. Both are so plausible, that the reading ἤ can safely be adopted on uncial authority. As to the meaning as affected by the readings, see Exeg. Notes.—R.]
Colossians 2:16; Colossians 2:16.—[Σαββάτων, literally “sabbaths,” here=the singular.—R.]
Colossians 2:17; Colossians 2:17.—א. A. D. E. F. read ἅ; B. has ὅ, which is to be preferred as the more difficult reading. [So Lachmann, Meyer. Alford is undecided, but gives ὅ in his text. Ellicott considers the reading ὅ not improbable, but insufficiently attested. Here also it is best to follow the mass of uncial MSS., with Rec. Tischendorf, and others. E. V. “which are” is correct in that case.—The reading Χριστοῦ (τοῦ omitted), Tischendorf, Ellicott, is preferable. Hence “Christ’s,” poss. gen. Eadie, Ellicott, Rhemish, Lachmann and Alford insert τοῦ (א. A. B. C).—R.]
Colossians 2:18; Colossians 2:18.—[Θέλων. Braune renders “willkürlich.” There is such diversity in interpretation that nothing more definite could be given in the text, and this will serve to show the one point of agreement among our modern commentators, viz., that the E. V. is incorrect.—R.]
Colossians 2:18; Colossians 2:18.—Μή is added in א., where it was originally wanting, as in A. B. and others; but it is not to be omitted, [Οὐκ is also found, but μή is the proper form of the negative here. See Exeg. Notes. The reading of Rec, has preponderant external authority, 6 MSS. nearly all cursives: supported by most versions, Tischendorf, Ellicott. Lachmann, Meyer, Alford reject the negative,—and this view affects the exegesis of the latter two.—R.]
Colossians 2:19; Colossians 2:19.—[Ἐξ οὗ, masculine, Christ the Personal Head, hence “whom;” “which” in E. V. doubtless stands for “whom.”—R.]
Colossians 2:20; Colossians 2:20.—[Οὖν of Rec. and the article before Χρ. “have the authority of all the MSS. against them and are properly rejected by all modern editors” (Ellicott).—R.]
Colossians 2:22; Colossians 2:22.—[The E. V. is indistinct,—the rendering given above presents the interpretation of Braune, Eadie, Alford, Ellicott, Wordsworth. The parenthesis should perhaps include this last clause only.—R.]
Colossians 2:23; Colossians 2:23.—[Ἀφειδίᾳ, “unsparingness.” So Eadie, Ellicott (“unsparing treatment”), Alford, Davies, and older English versions similarly.—R.]
 Colossians 2:23.—[This is the interpretation of Braune, Meyer, Ellicott and others. See Exeg. Notes. More modifications might well be made, but this slight change sufficiently indicates the view upheld below.—R.]
[The text of this abort passage, containing not less than 9 ἅπαξ λεγόμενα, is remarkably well established and free from variations.—R.]
[Barnes erroneously asserts: there is no evidence that any class of false teachers would deliberately teach that angels were to be worshipped.—R.]
[Meyer (followed by Alford) regards the verb as passive, finding here, not a reproach but a warning of the readers, who have not yet been led away. In that case, “as living in the world” indicates the wrong view which the false teachers take of the Christian position. There is much force in his objection to the common view, as implying that they were living as if in the world, a reproach which does not correspond with the tone of the rest of the Epistle. However the implication may only be, that if they allowed this to continue, they would be returning to the world.—R.]
[The parenthesis of the E. V. seems unnecessary. It was probably designed to connect “ordinances” and “after the commandments of men” more closely. If any clause be parenthetical, it is this one, and Meyer, Alford and Ellicott so regard it, agreeing entirely, however, with the exegesis of Braune.—R.]
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Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Colossians 2". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/
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