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Paul is speaking very blessedly of Christ. He warns the Church against Philosophy and vain Deceit.
(1) For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; (2) That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; (3) In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
The opening of this Chapter gives a very lovely representation of Paul's mind. He had never seen the Church of the Colossi ans. But what of that? They were Christ's flock, and Paul loved them for it. Reader! is it not so to us with Christ himself? You and I have never seen Christ in the flesh. But can we not say with one of old concerning him, whom having not seen we love; in whom, though now we see him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory, 1 Peter 1:8 .
Observe how gloriously the mystery of the Holy Three in One, spoken of, and known, and enjoyed, when the souls of God's people are knit together in love. And observe, how blessedly CHRIST in his fulness is described: In whom are hid all the treasures (page 17) of wisdom and knowledge. Then, Reader! if it be so, (as that it most assuredly is,) it is of no use to seek either for wisdom or knowledge elsewhere. But for the encouragement of all that seek after Christ, be their circumstances ever so poor or wretched, they are sure to find. Yea, Jesus, under his well-known character of Wisdom, is represented as not waiting to be sought for, but himself coming to invite every wretchedly, ignorant sinner, whom God the Spirit hath caused to see his want and misery, to come and buy wisdom of him, without money, and without price, Isaiah 55:1 . And those treasures being said to be hidden, doth not mean hidden by way of concealment, but by way of safety and security. They are, indeed, hidden from the wise and prudent; that is, the wise in their own eyes, and the prudent in their own conceit; but they are revealed unto babes. For so Jesus thanked his Father, Matthew 11:25 . And if the Reader will turn to the book of the Proverbs, he will find Christ, as Wisdom, crying aloud, and calling upon his people to come and find a fulness of wisdom and knowledge. I love them (saith he) that love me, and them that seek me early shall find me, I will cause them that love me to inherit substance, and I will fill their treasures, see Proverbs 8:0 throughout.
(4) And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words. (5) For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ. (6) As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: (7) Rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. (8) Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. (9) For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. (10) And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
Within the compass of these few verses, we have several very interesting subjects. I must be brief. It appears, that in the Apostle's days, as well as in ours, the Church of Christ had to contend with what Paul calls enticing words of man's wisdom. It was made up of philosophy, falsely so called, and vain deceit. But here was the line of distinction, it was not after Christ, then was it against Christ, for so Christ saith, he that is not with me is against me, Matthew 12:30 . There is nothing neutral in this war. And I beg the Reader yet further to observe, this malice to the Church of Jesus came not from the openly profane. It was not the opposition of the licentious, or the daring ungodly, but professors of religion. Yea, it should seem, from what Paul saith of their beguiling and enticing words, that they were very zealous for an holy life and conversation. Such were the Pharisees of our Lord's days. Such it should appear were those of Paul's days. Such there hath been in all days. And such, I am sure, are in ours. But the Holy Ghost hath marked their real character by his servant, when he saith, they are not after Christ!
But, Reader! we are much more concerned to know what remedy God the Holy Ghost, by his servant Paul, hath here pointed put to counteract their fallacy, than to go in any further search after their character. And, sure I am, that what the blessed Spirit hath in those few verses commanded, if attended to, and accompanied with his blessing, must prove the most effectual preservative against an whole host of Pharisees, men of fake philosophy, and the rudiments of the world. It cannot possibly fail, but must forever silence all opposition, both of the leaven of the Pharisee, and of hypocrisy, because it is wholly of Christ, it comes from Christ, it leads to Christ, and rests all upon Christ. Lord! I would say for myself, and all his people, give us to hear in this sweet scripture what the Spirit saith unto the Churches! And thus the lord speaks. As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the lord, so walk ye in him, rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Let us examine these great points one by one.
And first. As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord. The question is how have you received him? There can be but one proper way, and that is when a man receives Christ as a poor, needy, ruined, and undone sinner is supposed to receive him, Reader! if so be you have received Christ, it is easy for you to describe how you received him. You came, if you came right, under the fullest sense, that you had nothing but sin, you were nothing but a sinner, and you needed Christ as a whole and complete Savior. Now then it is God the Holy Ghost, which in this scripture positively commands, that as you first received him, so are you to receive him now. For you have no more to bring him the last day of your abode on earth, in a way of recommendation, than you had the first day you 'heard of his blessed name. And as you did not halve it with Christ when you fled to him for salvation, so have you nothing to divide with him now. And I will be bold to say, that if this blessed precept of God the Holy Ghost was closely followed, and such views of Jesus, as are here held up by the Holy Ghost, were kept alive in all hearts, preached by all ministers in all Churches of the Lord's people, and by grace pursued by everyone professing the eternal truths of the Gospel, it would tend, under the divine blessing, more effectually to silence the unhumbled pride of the Pharisee, who hath never been brought acquainted with the plague of his own heart, than all the exhortations to the carnal, and to the followers of false philosophy and the rudiments of the world. Secondly. The very reception of Christ in this manner, both first and last, will cause the poor, sensible sinner to accept him under all his offices and characters. I shall receive him as Christ, that is, God and man in one Person, God's Christ, God's anointed, God's chosen, God's sent, God's sealed. Hence, I shall receive him in God's name and authority. I shall receive him as Jesus, a Savior, for such was, and is, and will be, his name, to save his people from their sins, Matthew 1:21 . And I shall receive him as my Lord, for the whole affections of my soul will bow before him, when the Lord hath made me willing in the day of his power, Psalms 110:3 . And, oh! what a blessed security shall I find against sin, and all the tremendous consequences of it, when receiving Christ Jesus the Lord in all the compleatness of his finished salvation; and as God the Father's remedy, of his own providing, in delivering from the wrath to come.
Thirdly. And when, tinder divine teaching, the soul is daily led to see and feel her daily need of Christ, so as to receive him every day, as he was received the first day, and to be made sensible that equally will he be needed to the very last day, a soul so taught of God, will be in no danger of philosophy or vain deceit. To walk in Christ, and to act faith upon Christ, will be the leading principle of the soul. Every duty will be undertaken only in his strength, and every desire of the soul will be but for his glory, Reader! pause over this view of the subject! Can a child of God do otherwise than walk in Christ, as long as he makes Christ the whole of salvation? Is not that man rooted and built up in Christ, whose springs of spiritual life are all in him? Is he not established in the faith who makes Christ both the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last in his salvation? But if a man comes to Christ at the first as a poor, self-condemned sinner, and in the after stages of life fancieth he hath now somewhat to bring to the Lord, and, therefore, brings of his own, as a procuring cause, or, as some men call it, the evidences of his calling, what is this but a departure from the original plan of coming? It cannot be said that he is now walking in Christ Jesus the Lord as he first received him. And, hence, this command of the Holy Ghost is not obeyed.
Reader! bear with me while I say, that, according to my view of things, to this one cause is to be ascribed the leanness of the Church in the present day, and even some, which have, in times past, learned the truth as it is in Jesus, Many there are, who, when the Lord first called them from darkness to light, Set out upon the sweet plan of receiving Christ, as God the Holy Ghost hath here set him forth. But it may be said of them, as the Lord Jesus himself said to the Church at Ephesus, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love, Revelation 2:4 . It is a melancholy consideration that our affections to Christ should lessen, and that we should fancy we need him not as much in the after parts of life, as when first we came to him, self-condemned, and self-loathing; when it is notorious to every man who is no stranger to the plague of his own heart, that we multiply transgressions as we multiply days!
Lastly, to add no more. This sweet command of God the Spirit which bids us walk in Christ, under the same needy circumstances as we first received Christ, bids us also to abound in Christ with thanksgiving. Precious consideration to a child of God, that is daily receiving out of Christ's fulness, and grace for grace. There will be cause for unceasing praise, and abounding thanksgivings as long as we are drawing out of the wells of salvation. While I am living upon the daily alms of my Lord, every visit to his mercy-seat will be opening new cause for joy, for I shall go out empty and return full. I shall lose sight of my nothingness in my Lord's all-sufficiency. And from receiving Christ Jesus the Lord as I received him the first day, I shall be rooted and built up in him the last day. Jesus will be unceasingly precious, when I find my soul established in him. And while he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his Name's sake, He will be my strength and song, and I shall abound in him with thanksgiving.
I now beg the Reader's attention to what is contained in the latter part of this paragraph. Paul having, in what went before, stated the necessity of always receiving Christ the same, here gives the reason of it: For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And, as if fearing such a stupendous contemplation might overwhelm the mind, (as it might well be supposed to do,) he adds, ye are complete in him who is the head of all principality and power. Reader! do not expect an explanation of this wonderful mystery, God manifest in the flesh, God dwelling in flesh, yea, all the fulness of the Godhead dwelling in him bodily! This is not the province either of men or angels to unfold. Neither is it revealed for the object of our discovery, but for our faith. One point only I beg particularly to notice in it, by way of recommending it more affectionately, as an article of faith, to the Reader's heart, and to my own: namely, that what is here said of the fulness of the Godhead dwelling in Christ bodily, most evidently and plainly means in Christ personal. Not as God is said in scripture to dwell with his people, and walk in them, which means nothing more than in a way of grace. But by the indwelling of the Godhead bodily in Christ, means a oneness and union of God and man in one Person; so that the human nature of Christ is filled with the divine nature, and both are so inseparably united, as to form but One and the same Person. Oh! the glorious truth! Oh! the vast dignity bestowed on the Church!
But how is this immense blessing enhanced to our view, when the Apostle adds, and ye are complete in Him. Complete, not only in all blessedness which arise out of Christ's offices in redemption, justification, sanctification, and the like, but complete by means of the Church's union with Christ, and her oneness with him. For as Christ Personal, God and Man in One, forms his glorious name, Christ; so the Church's union with Christ, brings with it an interest in all that belongs to him as Christ. It is a personal union of the Church with him, as her Head and Husband. And it thereby becomes a vital, spiritual union, living in him, and living by him: For he that is joined to the Lord is One Spirit, 1 Corinthians 6:17 ; Ephesians 5:32 .
I must not trespass in calling the Reader to the contemplation of the thousandth part of the blessings which arise out of this union. But a doctrine full of such stores of comfort, must not pass wholly unnoticed. I will beg to notice a few.
And s first . As the source and fountain of all, let the Reader pause over this precious view of One in his own nature, in whom the fulness of the Godhead dwelleth bodily. Though we can form no one idea that can bear the least proportion to what it really is, in the infinite dimensions of Godhead filling Christ's manhood; yet we may suppose that the Son of God, in this beauty and glory of Being, must be an object of unequalled excellency and greatness, since God the Father when contemplating him, and bringing him forth to the Church was thus heard to speak of him; Mine Elect, saith God, in whom my soul delighteth! Isaiah 42:1 . Such is the glory of his Person as God-man, that independent of all acts or works to be afterwards wrought by him, Christ himself is infinitely more lovely and more beloved in God's esteem, than any object beside. Millions of worlds, including all their inhabitants, sink to nothing in comparison, Matthew 3:17 ; Luke 9:35 ; John 12:28 .
Secondly. What a view doth the contemplation of such a Being afford to the soul of a regenerated believer, when he adds to the thought of what a Person so full of glory is in himself, is also in the infinite perfections of dispensing to others! I fear that this view of our adorable Christ is not considered, even by the Church of God, as it ought in the full extent of the subject. We are apt to confine our views of Christ as GOD-man Mediator, as if his office was limited to his body the Church. My Brother! beg of God the Holy Ghost to remove this narrow notion, and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ more to your view, and you will behold Christ as God - man Mediator, carrying on all the executive part of Jehovah's administration, in all the departments of nature, providence, grace, and glory. Our Lord Jesus Christ formed worlds, and both upholds all things, and governs all things. And this he doth as Mediator. Without this union of God and man, creation itself would have wanted a foundation. By him all things consist. Hence the sweetness and preciousness of this scripture, as well as the glory of it. In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. Oh! what a glorious object of everlasting love, adoration, and delight, is our Lord Jesus! Well might the Psalmist call him, the praise of all his saints, Psalms 148:14 .
Thirdly. But what endears the whole to the view of every truly regenerated child of God, and makes our meditation of Jesus so sweet, is, that while we are taught to know him as the God-man, in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the head bodily; we are no less taught to behold him as the head of his body the Church, the fulness that filleth all in all. Hence, all he is in this relationship, he is for his people. And they are complete in him. Not only complete in being accepted in him, as the Lord their righteousness, holy in his holiness, and made perfect in his perfection, but considered as one with him, they become his mystical body. And as the Head gives life and perfection to the body; so Christ, as Christ, gives life and perfection to his. And, hence, as they are complete in him as their head, so Christ is complete in them as his members. The head of anything could not be complete, without a body, neither can Jesus, as the head of his body the Church, be complete without the Church his body! Reader! ponder well the unspeakable mercy! You are groaning 'daily, under a conscious sense of a body of sin and death you carry about with you. Look to Him, in whom alone all your perfection is. Behold him as he is in himself. In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. Behold him as he is to his Church, ye are complete in him. Behold him as he is in his relationship to that Church, he is the Head of all principality and power. How much more to his own body? Think, my brother, what will that great day of God unfold, when the perfection of this Almighty Head of ours will manifest his perfection, not only in the glories of his own body personal, but in the perfection of his own body mystical, made comely in his comeliness, and perfect in his perfection! Oh! the joy of the vast multitude of all his innumerable members, when all shall see him as he is, and know even as they are known! Oh! the rapture of the whole ransomed of the Lord, which will then return to Zion with songs of everlasting joy upon their head, when Christ is beheld in all the fulness of the God-Head bodily! And, oh! my poor soul, what will be thy joy in that great day of God, when after all the breaking out of thy corruptions here below, the heartaches and headaches, by reason of sin, the fiery darts of Satan, and the scorns of the world, when thou shalt not only behold thy Jesus in all that is blessed and glorious in himself, but shalt find thyself to be a member of his mystical body, a part of Jesus himself, as one among the members of his body the Church! Lord! I bow down under the overwhelming contemplation! When will the day break, and the shadows flee away? Haste, haste my beloved, and be thou as the hart upon the mountains of spices!
(11) In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: (12) Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. (13) And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; (14) Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; (15) And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
On the subject of circumcision, to which these verses refer, I do not think it necessary to enlarge, having already dwelt upon it on, Romans second and sixth chapters. I would only in addition, take occasion from what is here said, to observe, how needful it is to eye Christ in all. The circumcision made with hands, and the uncircumcision made without hands, had Christ for their sole object. The circumcision of the Jew, and the baptism of the Gentile, both looked to Him, centered in Him, and in Him had their accomplishment. All but Christ is shadow. He alone is the substance.
I detain the Reader at the expression in the close of this paragraph, to remark, that when it is said of Christ having spoiled principalities and powers, and made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it; the original is much stronger, for it saith, triumphing over them in himself meaning, that his triumphs were personal. Jesus took the glory to himself. And the margin of the Bible very properly hath so retained it. It is always blessed to eye Christ's Person in all, for his Person, in all the work of redemption, is the glorious object of our - faith and hope. See Colossians 1:20 and Commentary.
(16) Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: (17) Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. (18) Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshiping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, (19) And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. (20) Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (21) (Touch not; taste not; handle not; (22) Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? (23) Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honor to the satisfying of the flesh.
It should be observed by the Reader, for the right apprehension of what is here said on the subject of dispute about ordinances, that they related to the Jewish and Gentile Church. The Jews converted to the Gospel, brought with them many of their Jewish prejudices. And the Gentiles having no attachment to those things, were not unfrequently reproved, it should seem, by their brethren the Jews, for not observing them. Paul desires that these things may die away, and that no unkind censure may anymore be heard about the new moon feasts, or the alteration of the Jewish Sabbath day to the first day of the week, in honor of the Lord's rising. He aims to call the attention of both from the shadow to the substance, from ordinances to Christ.
But though in these disputes the Church of God hath now no concern, yet much improvement may be made from what Paul hath here said on the subject of ordinances. It hath been in all ages, and still is too much the propensity in the human mind, to lay more stress upon the means of grace, than to regard the end. We are more concerned to observe the shadow, than look after the substance. The carcase is substituted for the life. Men feed, as the Prophet speaks, upon ashes, Isaiah 44:20 . Hence, anything, and everything but Christ make up a form, where there is no power of godliness. The Apostle sums up the whole of this lure of religion, in a full comprehension, when he calls it, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind. Alas! what pure form of worship is to be found in the present day wholly free from this leaven? What Church of Christ upon earth is there, that is so holding the Head, as to receive all nourishment alone from him, and to increase with the increase of God?
Reader! let you and I learn from this striking passage, the necessity of being dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, that we may so use ordinances, as not being subject to them. A soul dead with Christ to those things hath life with Christ in spiritual things. The life of Christ in the soul hath fellowship and communion with Christ in all that belongs to him, his life, his obedience, his death, his resurrection, ascension, glory. The soul is justified freely, fully, everlastingly. He is one with Him, and accepted in Him. Hence, though he useth ordinances, yet but as mediums only to lead to Christ, as chariots to carry him to Christ. He is not subject to them, much less to substitute them in the place of Christ, or make them part Saviors. All are subordinate, and as things which perish with using. Christ is the one, and only one object in every desire, in all pursuits, and all attainments. What one of old said, all find, and all blessedness follows in this enjoyment. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: thou art the strength of my heart, and my portion forever, Psalms 73:25-26 .
What a lovely view doth this Chapter open with of Paul'8 love for the Church, in his soul exercises for their spiritual welfare. And, what a contradiction of sinners did Christ endure against himself for his Church and people, lest his exercised ones should grow faint, and be weary in their minds. Oh! thou unequalled pattern of everything that is fair, and good, and lovely!
Oh! Lord the Holy Ghost! let thy Church praise thee for the gracious remedy thou hast taught in this chapter against philosophy and vain deceit, the tradition of men, and the rudiments of the world. It is, indeed, a sure relief, when a poor sinner is enabled, through all the time-state of the Church, to receive Christ as he first received him, when called out of darkness to light, and both to receive Christ, and to come to Christ, and to live upon Christ, from first to last, the same needy, helpless, self-condemned, self-loathing sinner still. Lord! be it my portion thus to receive Christ, and thus to walk in Christ, and to be rooted and built up in him, to the Lord's glory, and my joy.
Lord! keep thy Church from being beguiled with enticing words. Keep all thy redeemed from being vainly puffed up with a fleshly mind. Ye Ministers of my God, hold up the glorious Head, from which all the body having nourishment ministered, and knit together, may increase with the increase of God. Ye fathers, to the children make known his name!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Colossians 2". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25