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Bible Commentaries

Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
Colossians 2

 

 

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Verses 1-7

Complete in him - 1

Colossians 2:1-7

Colossians 2:1-5. The apostle wanted the people of Colosse to know what great concern he had for them (and for believers everywhere), even though he had never met them personally. He then gave reasons for this conflict and concern.

Colossians 2:2. ‘That your hearts might beat as one in love for Christ and one another.’ This is the way to comfort. Lack of unity of heart and affection will destroy joy and comfort.

Colossians 2:2. ‘That your hearts may beat as one in understanding and acknowledging the gospel of the glory of the Father and the Son (which is called in the preceding chapter ‘the mystery of God’). Union of heart in affection depends much upon common understanding and belief of the main truths concerning Christ and how God saves sinners. ‘Two will not long walk together in spiritual love who do not agree on spiritual truth.’ Let us pray for a growth in the knowledge of Christ and his grace.

v.3. In Christ are stored up all the riches of God's grace and glory (Colossians 2:3). In him are stored all wisdom and knowledge. Don't look for anything pertaining to God's mercy, grace and righteousness anywhere but in Christ. There is in Christ everything necessary to salvation (l John 5:20).

v.4. ‘I say this with deep concern (Colossians 2:4), lest any should mislead or deceive you, lest any should draw you away from the simplicity of Christ with beguiling speech’ (2 Corinthians 11:3). Satan endeavours to sow the seed of error wherever the gospel of Christ is preached. His chief weapon is to entice men to depart in any way from a full trust and confidence in Christ alone and to lean even partially on the flesh (Romans 11:6).

Colossians 2:5. ‘I am absent from you in the flesh’ (v.5). If Paul had been there in person, he could have dealt with these errors as he dealt with Peter (Galatians 2:11-14). (We are to guard jealously the gospel of God's glory.) He was ‘with them in spirit,’ however, rejoicing over their faith in Christ.

Colossians 2:6. ‘As ye have received Christ.’ How did you receive Christ? You received him:

1. As the sum and substance of all saving truth.

2. As the fulfillment of all promises.

3. As the fountain of all grace.

4. As the whole of acceptance and righteousness with and before God.

5. As the object of faith and love.

‘In the same manner as you received him, continue to walk in him. Live day by day in this faith, trust and relationship. You don't begin in Christ and get perfected, comforted or accepted in your flesh’ (Galatians 3:1-3).

Colossians 2:7. In this verse Paul prescribes three means for attaining to a constant walk in Christ.

1. ‘Rooted and built up in him.’ This is a metaphor taken from trees deeply rooted; ‘rooted in him.’ The grip with which faith lays hold on Christ is like a tree deeply rooted in the ground. Its strength, nourishment, life and fruit are supplied from him. Built up in him is a metaphor taken from a building fastened to a foundation. The shape and the stability of the building are determined by the foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11).

2. ‘Established in the faith, as ye have been taught, and abounding therein,’ established in the doctrine of faith concerning Christ (Hebrews 13:9). Not weary of old truths, not moved by new revelations from teachers who glory in the flesh, not easily offended, not driven about with every wind of doctrine, this ‘building’ is firmly established and growing in the faith of the Lord Jesus.

3. All of this is ‘with thanksgiving.’ There is great reason for thanksgiving:

The unspeakable gift of Christ.

Faith itself, which is the gift of God.

The gospel and spiritual light.

True ministers.

All things in Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:18).


Verses 8-13

Complete in him – 2

Colossians 2:8-13

After expressing his great concern and care for the church at Colosse, Paul begins to warn them of false teachers and their errors.

Colossians 2:8. In this verse the error of false religion is dealt with under three heads:

1. ‘Philosophy.’ There is nothing wrong with true philosophy, but the word of God is never to be subjected to human reason, and human philosophy is never to be introduced into the worship and service of God. ‘Let God be true and every man a liar’ (Romans 3:4).

2. ‘Tradition of men.’ These are practices and rites in the church without the authority of the written word, having no warrant but custom and human tradition. For instance: infant baptism, mass, purgatory and prayers for the dead, the celebration of religious holidays such as Christmas, Easter and so forth.

3. ‘Rudiments of the world.’ These are the Mosaical rites and ceremonies - circumcision, abstaining from certain meats, the observance of sabbath days and so forth. Since Christ has fulfilled all these, the practice of them is sinful. The way of Christ will not mix with man's philosophy, traditions, nor legal obedience!

Colossians 2:9. There is nothing that will make a believer look to Christ alone, cling to and rest in Christ alone, more than to realize that everything God is, that God requires and that the sinner needs is in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30). This is the third time that Paul has told the Colossians that all fulness is in Christ (see Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:3). You can add nothing to fulness!

Colossians 2:10. We are perfect in him! He is perfect, and our being in him makes us perfect. This is not speaking of what we shall be, but of what we are right now in Christ! Not in ourselves, but in him. He is the head of all principality and power (not only in the church, but angels, kings, rulers, religious heads, etc.). In him there is no charge, obligation, duty or service that can be demanded of us for redemption - not by anyone! (Colossians 1:21-22.)

Colossians 2:11. Circumcision was instituted by God (Genesis 17:10-13).

1. It was a token of the covenant, the promise of God's blessings.

2. It was a sign by which Israel was distinguished from other nations.

3. It is a picture of spiritual regeneration, circumcision of the heart, which is putting off the body and power of sin (Romans 2:28-29).

1. Circumcision was necessary to eating of Passover (Exodus 12:48).

2. A child was named at circumcision (Luke 1:59; Luke 2:21).

3. Circumcision of heart brings us to the table of the Lord and gives us a new name – sons of God! All this we have in Christ. Thus, it is not necessary to circumcise the flesh.

Colossians 2:12. We are not only circumcised in Christ in a spiritual sense (having the token, evidence and power of the covenant of grace), but all our sins are buried with Christ (of which our baptism in water is a representation)! Christ died for our sins and was buried. When he arose, all our sins were left behind! It is through faith that we see ourselves crucified, buried and risen with Christ. It is not just any faith, but that which is of God's operation!

Colossians 2:13. God raised Christ from the dead, and God must raise us from the dead. We were dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-8). Forgiveness of sin is not done piecemeal, but is done at once and includes all sin – past, present and future (1 John 1:7).

When we savingly believe in Christ, we are at that moment united to Christ. All that Christ did, suffered, or procured as our Head (whether in his life, death, burial, resurrection, or exaltation) is imputed to us by God, even to the right to all these benefits, given to us as if we had been personally present with him at those times and had done them all ourselves (Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 2:6).


Verses 14-23

Christ or ceremony

Colossians 2:14-23

In Christ we are complete (Colossians 2:10). In Christ we have the seal of the covenant upon our hearts (v.11). In Christ we are risen from the dead (Colossians 2:12). In Christ we are forgiven of all sins (Colossians 2:13).

Colossians 2:14. When we think of handwriting, we think of the handwriting on the wall against Belshazzar: ‘Thou art weighed in the balances and found wanting.’ This handwriting against us is the whole ceremonial law of Moses, with its ordinances, commandments and laws, plus the moral law. We are weighed and found wanting (Romans 3:19; Romans 3:23). None but Christ could put away this handwriting, because none but Christ was able to satisfy what it required (Hebrews 10:9). It took his perfect life and sacrificial death to do this.

Colossians 2:15. When a Roman emperor won a victory and conquered his foes, he rode through the streets in an open chariot; the captive kings and warriors, stripped of their armour and their hands tied behind their backs in chains, walked before him exposed to public shame and disgrace. Christ has disarmed all the principalities and powers which were against us (Romans 8:33-34). He has defeated Satan, sin, hell and death. He has made a bold display and public example of them in his cross. We are complete in Christ; he has set the captive free. We are not in bondage to any law, ceremony, or curse.

Colossians 2:16. Therefore, let no man sit in judgement on you in matters of food and drink or with regard to ceremonies, feast days, or Sabbaths. No man can command of us what Christ has not commanded (1 Timothy 4:1-8).

Colossians 2:17. The Old Testament ceremonies, circumcision, feast days and sacrifices were but shadows or symbols of Christ and his redemptive work. They were in effect only until he came. He is the truth, the body and the substance of all these. To continue in them is to say that Christ, the fulfillment, has not come! (Hebrews 10:1-5.)

Colossians 2:18. Our reward or prize is to win Christ and be found in him, to know him and the power of his resurrected life (Philippians 3:8-14). ‘Don't let anyone turn you away from this by insisting on a false humility, self-abasement, worshipping of angels and dead saints, teaching what is not in God's word (but only in his visions and imagination).’ All false, unscriptural philosophies are products of the flesh and lead away from Christ!

Colossians 2:19. These men bring reproach upon Christ, who is the only Head of the church. They make angels, the virgin, or other saints to be employed with him as mediators with the Father (1 Timothy 2:5-6). Christ is the only Head, Lord, King and Giver of life. The whole body is knit together in him. We receive our life, nourishment, growth and grace only from him! The more we draw from Christ, the more we grow and increase spiritually and the better we will be knit together in love and unity.

Colossians 2:20. If we died with Christ by virtue of our union with Christ, if we were buried and rose with him and in him have justification, pardon, redemption and sanctification, if in Christ all the ordinances, ceremonies and types were fulfilled and we are free from these requirements, if in Christ we are redeemed from the curse, covenant and condemnation of the law – why would we want to return to these shadows and types? (Galatians 4:21; Galatians 3:10.)

Colossians 2:21-22. ‘Touch not… taste not . . . handle not;’ that is, meats, unclean things and other things forbidden by religious rules. These things are of service and reference only to the body; they can be of no value to the soul. They are perishing materials and cease to be when they are not used. The using of them cannot defile, and the abstinence from them cannot sanctify, nor commend us to God. Submission to these ordinances by a believer is not commanded by God, but by false teachers.

Colossians 2:23. These religious rules, ceremonies and fleshly practices give the outward appearance of devotion, humility and consecration. All error has something to say in its defense. Men like to serve God with their own inventions. They like to appear to be pious and humble; so they promote self-imposed laws, discipline and punishment of the body; but these are of no value in checking the flesh or sanctifying the heart. They do not honour God, but only indulge natural flesh and its false concept of righteousness (Romans 10:1-4).

 


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Bibliography Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on Colossians 2:4". Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hms/colossians-2.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, December 9th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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