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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Beet's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
Colossians 2

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 4-7

DIVISION III WARNING AGAINST ERRORS. CH. 2:4-3:4.

SECTION 8. — DO NOT FORSAKE THE TEACHING ALREADY RECEIVED. CH. 2:4-7.

This I say in order that no one may delude you with persuasive speech. For, indeed in the flesh I am absent, yet in the spirit I am with you, rejoicing and beholding your order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. As then ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and being built up in Him and being established by your faith, according as ye were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. (Or abounding in it with thanksgiving.)

Colossians 2:4. Hitherto, although in Colossians 1:9 we have the occasion of Paul’s praise and prayer for his readers, viz. the good news about them brought by Epaphras, and although Colossians 1:23 has suggested a danger of their being moved away from the safe anchorage of their hope, we have had no mention yet of any specific aim of this Epistle. Now for the first time we have a clearly stated and definite aim, viz. to guard the Colossian Christians from erroneous teaching.

I say this: not merely Colossians 2:3; for as we have seen this was added to explain and justify the words preceding. Moreover, Colossians 2:5 bears directly on Colossians 2:1 : and the words mystery of God in Colossians 2:2 take up similar words in Colossians 1:26. Thus the words I say this recall the entire teaching of DIV. II., of which indeed Colossians 2:3 is but a compact summing up. In other words, Paul’s invaluable exposition of the nature and work of the Son of God was given, not merely to instruct and edify, but as a safeguard against persuasive error. A good example for us. The only real safeguard against the manifold religious errors is an intelligent and comprehensive knowledge of the central doctrines of the Gospel. Such expositions of truth have abiding worth even when the errors they were designed to combat have passed utterly away. Paul’s method of defence makes all the difference between the living epistle before us and the obsolete Refutation of Irenæus.

Delude you: reason you away from the line. It is a modification of Paul’s favourite word reckon in Romans 2:3; Romans 2:26, etc.; and denotes perverse reckoning.

With persuasive-speech: cp. Romans 16:18, by means of smooth-speech and fine-speech deceive the hearts of the innocent; 1 Corinthians 2:4 persuasive words of wisdom. This persuasiveness does not in itself imply error. The error lies in the word delude. What specific delusion Paul has in view, we must learn from the specific warnings following.

Colossians 2:5. For if etc.; explains the interest in the readers which prompted the foregoing warning, and thus tacitly and very kindly supports it.

Flesh… spirit: favourite contrast of Paul. It is practically the same as body and spirit in 1 Corinthians 5:3. While the weak and mortal flesh of Paul lingered in prison at Rome, the eye of his spirit was fixed on the Christians at Colossæ.

Rejoicing and beholding: as though the narrative of Epaphras at once gave Paul joy; and led him to contemplate with abiding interest his readers’ military regularity and solidity.

Order: same word and sense in 1 Corinthians 14:40; cognate word in 1 Corinthians 15:23 : a not uncommon military term.

Firmness: or better, firm-front. It denotes something made firm.

Of your faith in Christ: the solid front which your faith enables you to present. Cp. Acts 16:5 : made firm by faith. The Christians at Colossæ held their position as good soldiers: and their faith in Christ enabled them to present to every enemy an immoveable line of battle. The military tone of this verse suggests that looseness in faith exposes Christians to disastrous overthrow. The phrase rendered faith in Christ is not found elsewhere in the N.T.: but we have faith towards God in 1 Thessalonians 1:8; Philemon 1:5; and a similar phrase believe in God or in Christ in Romans 10:14; Philippians 1:29; 1 Peter 1:8; 1 Peter 1:21, and frequently in the Fourth Gospel.

The truthfulness of Paul compels us to accept these words as complete proof that the Christians at Colossæ had not yet been actually led away by the delusion against which he now warns them. If so, this verse is not only a courteous, but a necessary, recognition, in view of the warnings which follow, of their loyal adherence to the truth.

Colossians 2:6. An exhortation, based on Colossians 2:5, and followed in Colossians 2:7 by collateral details of manner.

Received: same word in John 1:11, His own people received Him not.

Frequently used by Paul in reference to the Gospel he received from Christ: 1 Corinthians 11:23; 1 Corinthians 15:1; 1 Corinthians 15:3; Galatians 1:9; Galatians 1:12. They who welcome the good news of salvation thereby receive Christ Himself to be their Lord and their life. As then, or inasmuch then as, ye received etc.: practical application of Colossians 2:5. That they have received Christ and have thus obtained spiritual solidity, is good reason why they should walk in Him: cp. Colossians 4:5, walk in wisdom; Ephesians 5:2, in love. Let the personality of Christ be the encompassing and guiding and controlling element of every step in life. Cp. Galatians 5:25 : If we live by the Spirit, by the Spirit let us also walk. A good beginning is reason for continuing in the same path.

Colossians 2:7. Collateral details about the walk in life which Paul desires for his readers.

Rooted, same word and form in Ephesians 3:18. It suggests stability and nourishment and life derived from inward contact with Christ: in Him.

Built-up: same composite word in Ephesians 2:20; 1 Corinthians 3:10; 1 Corinthians 3:12; 1 Corinthians 3:14; Judges 1:20. It calls attention to the foundation on which the building rises. This second metaphor adds the idea of stability derived from the mutual cohesion of various component parts. [Notice a conspicuous change of tenses. The Greek perfect rooted denotes an abiding result of a past event: the present being-built-up describes a process now going on. Our walk in Him is a present result of our having first taken root in Christ; and continues only so long as we retain our hold of Him. And, while we walk in Him, our spiritual life, which derives stability from union with our fellow-Christians, makes progress day by day like the rising walls of a building.] Each metaphor supplements the other. The former suggests organic life, and nourishment: the latter suggests strength derived from union of various parts. The words in Him forsake the metaphor of a building, in order to recall the foregoing exhortation, walk in Him, and to keep before us the inwardness of that union with Christ from which the members of His Church derive cohesion and stability. A condition and accompaniment of our walk in Christ is that we retain our inward grasp of Him and that by compact union with our fellows the Christian life makes daily progress in us.

Being-made firm by faith: another collateral detail supporting the foregoing metaphor by singling out, and stating in plain language its chief element, viz. immoveable firmness, and by pointing to the channel through which spiritual firmness comes, viz. faith.

[The dative of instrument, as in Colossians 1:10 is more likely here than that of limitation. For we need to know the channel through which comes the firmness implied in built-up rather than the particular element of our spiritual life in which that firmness is to be found: for evidently the whole man is made firm in Christ.] They who rest on the promises of God are themselves immoveable. These last words recall the firmness of your faith in Colossians 2:5.

According as ye were taught: the directive rule of their faith: cp. Colossians 1:7, according as ye learnt from Epaphras. The teaching which already has brought them out of darkness into light is to be the guide of their present faith. Similar argument in Galatians 3:3. Thanksgiving is to be associated with faith; as in Philippians 4:6 with prayer. And so abundant are the reasons for gratitude that Paul prescribes for his readers an overflow of thanks: abounding with thanksgiving: cp. Philippians 4:6.

Paul reminds the Christians at Colossæ that they have already accepted Christ as their Lord, and bids them now walk in Him they have received. In other words, he urges that their outward life correspond with the beginning of their Christian profession. There must be continued inward grasp of Christ, firm cohesion with their fellows and progress, and the solidity which faith gives; all this on the lines laid down by those who have led them to Christ, and mingled with thanks to God.

As yet we have learnt nothing about the specific danger which prompted Paul’s warning, except that it is one against which the foregoing exposition of the dignity of Christ will shield his readers, and one which threatens to lead them away from the path which at their conversion they entered. We wait for more definite information about the specific and plausible error Paul has in view.


Verses 8-15

SECTION 9. — WARNING AGAINST ERROR IN THE GUISE OF PHILOSOPHY AND JUDAISM. CH. 2:8-15.

Take heed lest there will be any one making plunder of you through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the rudiments of the world, and not according to Christ. Because in Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And in Him ye are made full; who is the Head of all principalities and authority; in whom ye were also circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in the putting off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with Him in Baptism: wherein (or in whom) also ye were raised with Him through belief of the working of God who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead by your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made you alive with Him, having forgiven us all the trespasses, having blotted out the handwriting against us with the dogmas, which was contrary to us: and He has taken it out of the midst, having nailed it to the cross; having stripped of from Himself the principalities and the authorities, He made a show of them openly, having led them in triumph in it.

Colossians 2:8. Specific danger against which Paul warns his readers.

Take heed or see-to-it: same word as behold in Colossians 2:5. It denotes simply an act of sight: have your eyes open lest etc.

Making-plunder of: or literally lead-away-plunder. Paul fears lest his readers be themselves led away by an enemy as spoil. For error enslaves both body and soul. This exposition is suggested by the use in one or two places of this rare Greek word, and of similar words. It is a compound of the word used in 2 Corinthians 11:8; where Churches are said to have been plundered by Paul who received their contribution to do work for others.

Through philosophy etc.: means by which Paul feared that his readers might be led captive.

Philosophy: literally love-of-wisdom: a common Greek word. Diogenes Lærtius tells us (Lives of Philosophers Introd. 12) that Pythagoras was the first to call himself a philosopher or lover of wisdom, on the ground that no one is wise except God. In this sense, the word is one of the noblest in human language, denoting man’s effort to understand that which is best worth knowing. In a somewhat similar sense, it is used by Philo to describe the religious teaching of the Jews: e.g. vol. i. 613, they who philosophize according to Moses. And Josephus speaks (Antiq. bk. xviii. l. 1, 2) of the schools of thought embodied in the Jewish sects, Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, as philosophies. This last use helps us to understand how a word with an origin so good came to have, as here, a sense evidently bad. Under the guise of professed love of wisdom, men attached themselves to schools putting forth their own explanations of the phenomena of life, explanations for the more part artificial and baseless. Of such baseless philosophies we have abundant and various examples in the many Gnostic systems prevalent in the second century, strange mixtures of the Gospel with earlier Jewish and Gentile teaching. See note on THE GNOSTICS at the end of this Exposition. These were called philosophy: and we shall see that to something of this sort probably Paul refers here.

Deceit: the teachers of this philosophy being either deceivers or themselves deceived.

Empty: a hollow form of error.

That both words are under one article, suggests that philosophy and error are two sides of one instrument of seduction. It claimed to be a search for wisdom: actually it was a hollow deception. A close parallel in 1 Timothy 6:20, the profane empty-voices and oppositions of knowledge falsely so named. For the precise nature of this teaching we must seek in the warnings which follow and in the foregoing exposition of truth which Paul tells us was written as a safeguard against this persuasive error.

According to… according to… not according to: description, positive and negative, of the path along which the captives were led.

Tradition of men: same words in Mark 7:8; cp. Mark 7:3; Mark 7:5; Mark 7:9; Mark 7:13 : a close and instructive parallel. Cp. Galatians 1:14; and contrast 1 Corinthians 11:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 2 Thessalonians 3:6. They who are led away by this philosophy go along a path marked out by no higher authority than that of men, from whom it has been handed down. All teaching is apt to become mere tradition. For it is easier to learn to repeat results than to understand the processes by which they have been attained and the proofs on which they rest; easier to accept as decisive a master’s ipse dixit than to follow his reasoning. False teaching is specially liable to become tradition. For it has no basis of truth. A conspicuous example of tradition is found in the Talmud which consists almost entirely of assertions of celebrated Jewish teachers; the greater part having no ground whatever except the teacher’s authority. See Barclay’s selections in English from the Talmud. Similarly the Gnostics handed down secret doctrines professedly received from one or other of the Apostles.

The rudiments of the world: same words and sense in Galatians 4:3, where see note: the rudimentary teaching derived from the material world. In some sense both Greek philosophy and O.T. ritual were on their better side rudimentary forms of teaching preparatory to the Gospel. And with all false teaching are associated such rudimentary elements of truth. Otherwise the falsehood would not live. In Galatians 4:3 we learn that this rudimentary teaching brings men under bondage. Similarly, they who seek to lead captive the Colossian Christians would lead them along a path marked out by the traditions of men and by the rudimentary teaching of the material world. Of these two delineations of this wrong path, possibly the traditions of men recall rather Jewish teaching; and the rudiments of the world that of Gentiles.

And not according to Christ: not taking for their guide the nature and purposes of Christ. Cp. Romans 15:5. And this agrees with Paul’s exposition in DIV. II. of the nature and work of Christ, as a safeguard against prevalent error; and especially with the last words of this exposition, Christ, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Colossians 2:9. A great truth proving, as Colossians 2:8 assumes, that every path not according to Christ leads astray. That which in Colossians 1:19 was a divine purpose is here stated to be an abiding reality: in Him dwells.

All the fulness: as in Colossians 1:19, but now defined by the words of the Godhead, or Deity. It denotes all that distinguishes God from the highest of His creatures; all the attributes and powers of which God is full, and in which our conception of God finds its realisation. These have an abiding home in the God-Man, and are His fulness: cp. John 1:14. The overflow of this fulness fills us. And because the Eternal Son wears a human body, in Him this fulness dwells bodily: i.e. in bodily form and manner. We may perhaps reverently say that in the Eternal Son dwelt from eternity the fulness of the Deity. At the Incarnation, the same fulness, dwelling unchangeably in Him, assumed bodily form. And in the glorified humanity of Christ this bodily form continues, as henceforth the abiding dwelling-place of all the perfections of God. The Son assumed bodily form in order that this fulness might fill us, supplying all our need and enabling us to attain the true aim of our being. Now, inasmuch as in Christ dwells this fulness, His nature ought to be the norm of our action. For His fulness is our hope. Consequently, every path which is not according to Christ leads away from the goal of our life.

Colossians 2:10. And we are etc.: one step farther, viz. from Christ to His people.

Ye are in Him: as your refuge and bulwark and home. Consequently, since He is full, in Him ye are made-full or made-complete: same word as in Colossians 1:9; Colossians 1:25. It denotes a filling up of an outline of any kind. The outline here is sketched by the needs and aim of our being. They who are in Christ, and so far as they are in Him, find in Him their need supplied and their goal attained. In them remain no unfilled chasms. They have therefore no need to seek anything away from Christ.

All principality and authority: same words in same order in Colossians 1:16, and apparently in the same sense, viz. different ranks of angelic powers. Their mention here, after the earlier mention there, suggests very strongly that they had something to do with the error prevalent at Colossæ. And this is confirmed by the same words again in Colossians 2:15 and by the mention of angels in Colossians 2:18.

See further in the note under Colossians 3:4. Paul here says that, whatever angelic powers have rule or authority over men, of all such Christ is the Head. This implies that He is not only their Ruler but stands to them in the relation of the head to the various members of a living body, viz. the living and controlling source of their power and action. Consequently, any trust in angels which leads away from Christ springs from ignorance of their relation to Him.

Notice that the angels, who are here said to be vitally united to Christ as their Head were also created by Him. In other words, their continued life depends upon their abiding union with Him from whom they first received it: and they use their powers under the direction of Him from whom these powers were derived. Doubtless it was to prepare the way for this important harmony, and thus to overturn an error which practically set the angels against Christ, that Paul taught in Colossians 1:16 that through Him even the angels were created; a statement nowhere found from his pen except in this Epistle written to dispel this special error.

Notice also that Christ bears to the Church (Colossians 1:18) and to the angels the same relation of Head: another important harmony. Both men and angels spring from Him: and of both angels and redeemed mankind He is the Head.

Colossians 2:11-12 a. Another important truth added to those foregoing.

Not-made-with-hands: i.e. superhuman. It emphasises the absence of human agency. Contrast Ephesians 2:11. The same two words, here contrasted, are placed conspicuously side by side in Mark 14:58. This superhuman circumcision has Christ for its encompassing element, being wrought in virtue of inward union with Him: in whom ye were also circumcised.

The laying-aside: as we take off and put away clothes. The cognate verb in Colossians 3:9, where the readers are said to have themselves laid aside the old man: a similar verb in 2 Corinthians 5:4. Also the opposite verb in Colossians 3:10 : put on the new man; and again in Colossians 3:12.

The body of the flesh: the human body looked upon in its material constitution, in view of the truth ever present to the mind of Paul (e.g. Romans 6:12) that through the needs and desires arising from the constitution of our body sin rules all those whom Christ has not saved. For in fallen man the flesh, although in itself good, has come under the domination of sin and has become a weapon with which sin enslaves its victims. Hence apart from Christ, man’s flesh is (Romans 8:3) flesh of sin and his body (Romans 6:6) a body of sin. Circumcision is only the outward removal, by human hands, of a small part of that body which to so many is an instrument by which sin holds them captive. But the servants of Christ have stripped off from themselves and laid aside their entire body of flesh, inasmuch as they have been completely rescued from its deadly dominion. Henceforth they stand in a new relation to their own bodies: these are no longer the throne of sin but the temple of God.

In the laying aside of the body of the flesh: the environment in which took place the circumcision not made with hands. While the one was done the other was done. Or, practically, the two clauses describe under two aspects the same inward experience. The two figures are linked together by the next clause: in the circumcision of Christ, the better circumcision which has Christ for its source and distinguishing mark.

Having-been-buried with Him in your Baptism: another description of this inward and spiritual circumcision, specifying also its time and outward instrumentality. A close parallel with Romans 6:4 : a parallel the more remarkable because in the N.T. this mode of thought is found only with Paul, and is extremely rare even with later Christian writers. Already, in Romans 6:3-11; Galatians 2:20; Galatians 6:14, we have been taught that, like Christ and in Christ, we are to be dead to sin, i.e. completely separated from it as the dead are separated from the world in which they once lived, by means of that death upon the cross by which Christ Himself was separated from the penalty and curse and power of sin under which for our sakes He once groaned; and that consequently Baptism, the visible gate through which the convert from heathenism entered the company of the professed followers of Christ, is designed to be the funeral service of the old life announcing publicly that life has ceased and separating the dead man completely from the land in which he lived. In this sense the Colossian Christians were buried in the grave of Christ; and this burial took place in their Baptism.

Although this burial is evidently metaphorical, we have no hint that Baptism refers to anything except the outward rite. Indeed the metaphor needs the outward rite as its basis and explanation. And in Romans 6:3, so similar in thought and expression, baptized for Christ refers indisputably to the rite, of which Paul goes on to explain the inward significance.

The sudden and conspicuous introduction of a new topic, circumcised… circumcision… circumcision, in this warning against error suggests irresistibly that, as in Galatia (Galatians 5:2-3) so in Colossæ, the false teachers insisted on circumcision as a condition of salvation. This reveals a Jewish element in the error here combated. (In Galatians 2:16 this suggestion is placed beyond doubt.) Paul declares that circumcision by the hands of men is needless for the servants of Christ because they have already undergone a more complete circumcision, that in the Baptism by which they were outwardly and formally joined to Christ their whole body, not a mere fragment of it, looked upon as a body of sin, its real earlier condition, was buried in the grave of Christ. Consequently, they have actually experienced that circumcision of the heart of which Moses and the Prophets (Deuteronomy 30:6; Ezekiel 44:9) so frequently spoke as the real condition of spiritual blessing.

Colossians 2:12 b. Wherein also: or in whom also. Grammatically, each rendering is equally admissible: and the context affords no sure ground of decision. On the one hand, Baptism is the nearest antecedent: and raised with Him evidently supplements buried with Him, recalling forcibly the ancient mode of the rite (see under Romans 6:4) and the baptismal water under which the convert sank and from which he rose. Paul may wish to say that in their Baptism his readers were not only buried, but also raised, with Christ. On the other hand, Christ in His relation to His people is the chief thought of the whole sentence: in Him dwells and in Him ye are, Colossians 2:9-10; who is the Head, Colossians 2:10; and in whom also ye were circumcised, Colossians 2:11, where the first three words are the same as in Colossians 2:12 b. Paul may wish to say, still thinking of the dignity of Christ, that in Him we have been not only circumcised with a superhuman circumcision but also raised together with Christ through faith. It cannot be objected that our resurrection is not with Him but in Him. It is both in Him, resulting from inward union with Him, and with Him, introducing us to a life enjoyed by fellowship with Him. So expressly Ephesians 2:6 : raised together with Him… in Christ Jesus. This latter exposition is slightly favoured by the added words through faith. For to say that in Baptism they were raised through faith is somewhat clumsy: whereas the words buried with Him in Baptism would be evenly balanced by the addition, in Him ye were also raised through faith. But confident decision is impossible; and unimportant. For each exposition embodies a truth. The command of Christ made Baptism, to those not yet baptized, whether Jews or heathens, a condition of His favour; and therefore the only ordinary way to the new life which flows from His death, burial, and resurrection. In this correct sense, in their Baptism the Colossian Christians had risen with Christ. On the other hand, their resurrection was in Christ as well as with Christ. For it both resulted from inward contact with Him and placed them by His side.

Through faith: the constant condition of salvation in all its aspects; Philippians 3:9; Ephesians 2:8; Ephesians 3:12; Ephesians 3:17; Romans 3:22, etc.

Working: see under Philippians 3:21. It was the active power of God raising Christ from the dead. A close and important parallel in Ephesians 1:19.

Faith or belief of the working etc.: belief that the activity of God raised Him from the dead. According to a common Greek construction, the genitive specifies the object of faith, and in this case the object-matter. So Philippians 1:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:13. Similarly, in Philippians 3:9; Ephesians 3:12; Romans 3:22; Romans 3:26, it specifies the personal object of faith. These words assert that saving faith (like that of Abraham, Romans 4:21) rests upon the recognised power of God.

The phrase raised together with Christ is found also in Colossians 3:1; Ephesians 2:6. In this last place the readers are said to be also seated with Christ in the heavenly places. Similarly, believers are crucified, dead, and buried, with Christ: Colossians 2:20; Romans 6:6; Romans 6:11; Romans 6:4. This remarkable teaching is both very familiar to Paul and peculiar to him. It demands our best attention.

Under Romans 6:6 we have learnt that we are dead and crucified with Christ in the sense that we have shared with Him the results of His own death, that through His death upon the cross we have escaped completely, as He escaped, from the penalty and burden and dominion of sin. The day will come when we shall share to the full the results of His resurrection and ascension: for, ourselves risen from the dead, we shall sit with Him upon His throne in endless life. In that day we shall say, I am risen with Christ and through Christ and in Christ. For we shall share His throne, this being a result of His resurrection and ascension, and of our inward union with Him, a union begun on earth. For, had He not risen, we should not have believed in Him, and should not rise with Him. Now, when a future event is absolutely certain, we sometimes speak of it as present or past. For the future seems inadequate to express such certainty. Just so, as Paul looked forward with perfect confidence to the day when he will sit with Christ in glory, and remembered that no hostile power could prevent that glory, he felt that it was already his. And when, looking back to the cross and to the empty grave of Christ, he remembered that all the glory awaiting him was a result of His death and resurrection, and felt in his own heart and life the presence and power of the Risen One bearing him forward to the great consummation, the intervals between Christ’s resurrection and his own conversion and between his present life on earth and the realisation of his hopes in the great day seemed to vanish from his view; and he felt himself to be already risen and enthroned with Christ. This anticipatory language is the more easy because a certainty touching the future is to a large extent an actual present influence upon us. Our confident hope becomes a mental platform on which we stand and from which we view all things. The heir to vast estates looks upon them as already his own; and takes them into all his plans for life. In this sense Paul was already risen with Christ. In his Baptism he had been laid in His grave: for it was a formal declaration that in Christ his old life of bondage had ceased. And through a faith grasping the infinite power which raised Christ from the grave Paul was himself made a sharer of the immortal life to which His resurrection and ascension had introduced the humanity of Christ, already a sharer virtually of that victory over death which will soon, as it seemed to him, be his in outward bodily reality.

Notice that faith is the link between Christ’s resurrection and our own. Our assurance that the power of God is able to raise the dead enables us to believe that God actually raised Christ. A result of this faith will be that the same power will raise us. And a foretaste of that final resurrection we have in the new life which the power of God has already breathed into us, and which reveals itself day by day in victory over sin and communion with the spiritual world. In Ephesians 1:19-20, this relation between the resurrection of Christ and our present spiritual life is further expounded.

Colossians 2:13. Another statement, in a somewhat different, yet related, form, of the great change described as risen with Christ.

And you: in addition to Christ whom God raised from the dead. It emphasises by repetition this second resurrection. Same words in Colossians 1:21, where they add, to God’s purpose to reconcile all things to Himself in Christ, the actual reconciliation of the readers of this Epistle: similarly Ephesians 2:1. In Colossians 1:21 Gentile Christians were contrasted with Jewish Christians. But the word ye-were-raised in Colossians 2:12, which certainly includes Gentiles, forbids such contrast here. At the same time these introductory words raise into great prominence the Colossian Christians to whom Paul now writes: and the words uncircumcision of your flesh remind us that they were Gentiles.

By trespasses: the instrument with which these dead ones were slain. Same words and sense in Ephesians 2:1.

In what sense these men were formerly dead, must be determined by Paul’s general system of thought. Since they were manifestly living, their death could not be that of the body. Since it was caused by trespasses, and was connected with uncircumcision, it could not be inherited depravity resulting from Adam’s one trespass: Romans 5:18. Moreover, the dead ones have been made alive in close connection with the resurrection of Christ, and their trespasses have been forgiven. Now we remember that (Romans 6:23) the wages of sin is death. This death can only be utter ruin of body and soul. It will be consummated (2 Thessalonians 1:9; Matthew 10:28) in the day of judgment. But inasmuch as sinners are already beyond reach of salvation except by the power of Him who raises the dead, and are separated from the Source of Life, a separation producing moral corruption, Paul correctly and frequently speaks of them as already dead. See under Romans 7:9; Ephesians 2:1; 1 Timothy 5:6 : also John 5:24-25, a most important coincidence enabling us to trace the teaching of Paul to the lips of Christ; 1 John 3:14; Revelation 20:14. Just as a dead and a sleeping child differ chiefly in that, whereas the latter will wake up to life, activity, growth, and manhood, nothing awaits the former except corruption and worms, a difference which all human power fails utterly to bridge, so and in infinitely greater degree differ those whom God has, and those whom He has not, made alive together with Christ: cp. John 5:25. Such was the awful former position of the Colossian Christians. They had committed trespasses: and these trespasses were bars shutting them up in the doom and gloom of eternal corruption.

Uncircumcision: joint cause with trespasses of this death. Or rather it places their death by reason of trespasses in its relation to their outward separation from the ancient people of God. Similar thought in Ephesians 2:11-12. The uncircumcised bodies of the Colossians once bore witness to their separation from the God of Abraham and from the chosen nation of the Old Covenant. By commanding circumcision God had claimed for His own the human body. The heathen live in ignorance or rejection of this claim and are thus outside the Covenant. The words uncircumcision of your flesh came the more easily to Paul’s pen because, in the heathen, with absence of the seal of the Covenant was associated moral bondage to the rule of the bodily life.

Such was the terrible position of those to whom Paul now writes. They had again and again fallen into sin, and were as their bodies bore witness outside the Covenant of God. Consequently, they were separated from the only life worthy of the name, and were under the dominion of eternal corruption, a dominion from which no earthly power could save them.

Has-made-alive: has removed all that is involved in the word death. By reuniting them to Himself, the source of life, God breathed into them new vital power, a power opening to them a prospect of endless development and activity, a spiritual development already begun.

You together with Him: a very emphatic mode of asserting that God has so joined us to Christ that the act by which He gave life to the sacred corpse in the grave gave immortal life also to us. This is really equivalent to the statement in Colossians 2:12, ye were raised together with Him. But this statement now before us looks at the inward spiritual life received by believers, when they believe, in consequence of the life then breathed into the Saviour’s lifeless body. Colossians 2:12 looked at their removal from the realm of spiritual death and restoration to the land of the living resulting from Christ’s uprising from the sleep of death. Both expressions are again together in Ephesians 2:5-6. The words before us are the more suitable here because the new life thus received is derived each moment from vital inward contact with the Risen Lord.

All the trespasses: suggesting many sins, and an all-embracing pardon.

Having-forgiven etc.: a condition involved in this new life. Since surrender to death is the just and inevitable punishment of sin, restoration to life implies forgiveness; and necessarily follows it. Just so, to a man doomed to die, pardon is life.

Forgiven: literally bestowed favour-upon: same word in Romans 8:32; Philippians 1:29; Philippians 2:9; and in the same sense in Colossians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 2:7; 2 Corinthians 2:10; 2 Corinthians 12:13. By the change from you to us, Paul puts himself among those whose trespasses are forgiven.

Colossians 2:14. This forgiveness is now traced to the cross of Christ, the means by which was removed the obstacle to forgiveness which lay in the written law. It is added in the form of a second participial clause, which passes, according to the frequent habit of Paul in matters of great importance, into direct assertion.

Blotted-out, literally washed-out: a common word for complete removal of writing. The defective nature of ancient ink made it easy. Same word and sense in Revelation 3:5; Acts 3:19; Psalms 69:29; Deuteronomy 9:14; and, in a similar sense, in Revelation 7:17; Revelation 21:4.

The handwriting: a later Greek word, usually in the sense of a written obligation; so Tobit 5:3; Tobit 9:5. In this sense it passed without change into Latin.

Dogma: an exact reproduction in English of the Greek word here used. It denotes something which seems good, e.g. an opinion which commends itself as true or a course of action which commends itself as wise. It is frequently used for the expressed judgments of the Greek philosophers, for a joint resolution touching some united action, and for the decrees of an authority which claims to determine the conduct of others. So in Luke 2:1, ‘there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus;’ Acts 17:7. The decisions of the conference at Jerusalem (Acts 15:23-29) are in Acts 16:4 called dogmas. Similarly Ignatius To the Magnesians (ch. 13) speaks of ‘the decrees of the Lord and of the Apostles.’ In this verse the dogmas must be the various commands, ritual or moral, of the Law of Moses, looked upon simply as the decrees of an authority claiming to direct and control man’s conduct. For the handwriting against us can be no other than the Law of Moses which Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 3:6 as the letter which kills. And this condemnatory document is the chief feature of the Old Covenant. The connection between the handwriting and the dogmas is not determined by the grammatical construction; but is left to be inferred. Perhaps it is easiest to understand it as the handwriting written with the dogmas, as in Galatians 6:11 we have an epistle written with (large) letters. But, however we render these words, their meaning is clear. The Law was made up of dogmas, i.e. of commands claiming simply obedience. And these decrees gave to the Law its power against us: for we had broken them; and they cried out for punishment.

Which was contrary to us: a very conspicuous repetition, given as an express assertion, of the words against us. This remarkable emphasis indicates Paul’s chief thought in this verse, a thought ever present to his mind, viz. the condemnation pronounced by the Law, and the barrier thus erected between man and God. Similarly, in Romans 7:3 the law of marriage condemns a married woman to bondage while her (bad) husband lives. Such a law seemed to be against her best interests.

Usually, the word rendered handwriting denotes something written by the person whom the writing binds. It is not so here. Man is bound by a law written not by himself but by God. But this does not in the least degree make Paul’s language inappropriate. The essential point is obligation resting upon a written document. By whom written is immaterial. Indeed it is the national law not made by us which gives its binding force to the bond we have ourselves signed. Another point is that the document consists of decrees claiming obedience.

The word dogmas proves that the handwriting was the Law of Sinai, which consisted entirely of written decrees. For the law written on the heart, (Romans 2:15,) although marking out certain actions as forbidden, would hardly be thus described. The change in Colossians 2:13 from you to us made it easy for Paul to write of the Law of Moses as hostile: for doubtless, as a Pharisee, he had often quailed under its condemnation. And in this condemnation even the heathen were included. For we read in Romans 3:19 that the Law was given to Israel to make the whole world silent and guilty before God. The Law of Sinai proves that all men are under the anger of God. For it awakens the law written within, and through that inner law pronounces sentence even upon those who have never heard of the God of Israel.

The mention of forgiveness recalls to Paul’s thoughts the tremendous sentence written in unmistakable characters in the commands of the ancient Law. He remembers that in former times this written law had seemed to be his worst enemy. And even now forgiveness can come only by blotting out its terrible decrees.

And He has taken it away out of the midst: a restatement, in the form of direct assertion, of what is already implied in blotted-out. The writing completely erased is here described as an obstacle removed. [The Greek perfect suggests the abiding result of the removal of the great barrier blocking the way to forgiveness.]

Having nailed it to the cross: means by which the obstacle was removed. The person holding the bond has driven a nail through it and fastened it to the cross of Christ, thus making it invalid. This is a very graphic way of saying that the obstacle to forgiveness which lay in the Law, i.e. in the justice of God of which the Law is an embodiment, was removed by means of the death of Christ. Practically, the nails which fastened to the cross the hands and feet of Jesus, and thus slew Him, pierced and rendered invalid the Law which pronounced our just condemnation.

Colossians 2:15. Perhaps the most obscure verse in the New Testament. Its obscurity arises from our ignorance of the precise nature of the error here combated.

[The verb εκδυω denotes to take off clothes. The very rare verb απεκδυμαι adds the idea of laying aside the stripped off clothing. An accusative following these verbs may denote either the person unclothed or the clothing taken off: for both person and clothes are direct objects of the act of unclothing. The middle voice denotes most simply removal of one’s own clothing. In this sense it occurs in Colossians 3:9; and the corresponding abstract substantive in Colossians 2:11. But the middle voice of all sorts of Greek verbs denotes not infrequently merely an action for the benefit of the actor. This would allow us to take the principalities etc. as the persons unclothed. And this is done by the Vulgate, which renders expolians princip. etc. But we cannot think that Paul would use in this more remote sense, without any indication of his meaning, a word so commonly used in, and therefore naturally suggesting, the simple meaning of laying aside one’s own clothes.

The principalities and the authorities may be either the clothing laid aside, or may belong only to the next verb made-a-show-of as its direct object, the clothing laid aside not being specified. This seems to have been the favourite exposition of the Latin Fathers, who suppose that the clothing laid aside was the human flesh of Christ. Their rendering would be, having stripped Himself of His own body by death, He made a show of the principalities, etc. This exposition has found its way into the MSS. FG, which read having laid aside the flesh, He made a show etc. Probably the word flesh was an explanatory note which was afterwards copied into the text: a frequent source of error in the text of the N.T. To this exposition it is an objection that, by putting the object before the verb it gives to the angelic powers a prominence not easily explained. On the other hand, the Greek Fathers generally accept the other interpretation, viz. that the principalities etc. were themselves the garment laid aside and the object of the public show. This interpretation agrees so well with the grammatical structure of the verse that we may, with most modern commentators, accept it.]

Two questions remain. The principalities and the authorities are undoubtedly successive ranks of angels. Are they good or bad? And did God or Christ strip them off from Himself?

In Colossians 2:10 and Colossians 1:16, where the same words are found in the same order, they certainly denote good angels, as does the word angel when not otherwise defined. But, that here the angelic powers are said to have been stripped off and laid aside, suggested to the Greek Fathers that Paul refers to hostile, and therefore bad, angels. This is the plain reference of the same words in Ephesians 6:12; where, however, the meaning is made quite clear by the foregoing mention of the devil and of strenuous conflict, and by the absence of any mention of good angels. But to the Colossians Paul says nothing about hostile angels: in Colossians 2:10 he uses the words before us of good angels: and in Colossians 2:18 we have, based upon this verse, a dissuasion from worshipping of angels, such worship being inconceivable except as rendered to holy beings. Again, the principalities etc. are here looked upon as a robe which must have been previously worn or it could not have been laid aside. In what sense could evil spirits be thus conceived? Only by supposing that in their attack on the Incarnate Son they clung to Him like a deadly robe, and that in repelling their attack He stripped them off from Himself. But I do not know that enemies attacking are ever so described: and of such desperate struggle with evil powers we have as yet in this place no hint. Another serious objection is that this exposition involves a change of subject of which we have no indication. Certainly in Colossians 2:13 it is the Father who has made us alive together with Christ and forgiven us all trespasses. In Colossians 2:14 there is no hint of change of subject. For it is in perfect harmony with Paul’s thought to say that the Father blotted out the handwriting against us and nailed it to the cross. Indeed God is said in Romans 3:25-26 to have given Christ to die in order to reconcile the justification of believers with His own justice. If Colossians 2:15 refers to Christ repelling an attack of evil spirits, we have a most important change of actor in the scene before us which could hardly have been made in perfect silence. An exposition surrounded by such difficulties can be accepted only after all others have failed.

Is there any sense in which until the death of Christ and no longer the angels of heaven were, or might be spoken of as, a robe of God? There is. In Galatians 3:19 we read that the Law was ordained by the agency of angels: see my note. The whole argument in Hebrews 1:1 ff; Hebrews 2:1 ff, especially Hebrews 2:2 the word spoken by the agency of angels, implies that they were the medium through which the revelations of the Old Covenant were given. If so, we may speak of these bright messengers as the robe in which God revealed Himself to men during long ages. Only under the veil of angelic forms and through angel lips did they see His face and hear His voice. Even at the Incarnation (Luke 2:9) God approached man in the same mysterious garb. But in Christ the veil was laid aside. Through the lips of the Incarnate Son God spoke to man face to face and revealed His unveiled glory. He thus stripped off and laid aside the garb He had previously worn. This action of God is a strong reason why the Colossian Christians should not (Colossians 2:18) worship angels. To do so, is to cling to a superseded mode of Divine revelation. The prevalence of this error suggested this mention of angelic powers. In Christ the Law as a means of salvation has passed away, having been nailed (Colossians 2:14) to His cross: therefore none may now (Colossians 2:16) pronounce sentence against others on legal grounds. And in Christ God has (Colossians 2:15) laid aside the visible mediation of angels: consequently, no one (Colossians 2:18) may any longer worship them.

Openly: i.e. without reserve, telling the whole truth. Same word in 2 Corinthians 3:12. By laying aside the mediation of angels, God revealed the whole truth about them and their relation to Himself and to men. They are seen to be our helpers not our lords.

Having-led-them etc.: an exposition of the foregoing, describing the manner of this unreserved and public show of the discarded angelic robe.

Led-in-triumph: same word as in 2 Corinthians 2:14, where see note. If the principalities etc. were enemies, this word would naturally suggest a train of captives led along as in a Roman triumph and revealing by their number the greatness of the victory. And it must be admitted that this natural connection of thought favours the exposition of the Greek Fathers noticed and rejected above. But the serious objections to it, stated above, outweigh this support. Moreover apparently the word denoted originally the peaceful Greek processions in honour of Dionysius: and this made more easy its use by Paul when thinking only of a public procession and not of the military victory implied in a Roman triumph.

How did God, in Christ or in His cross, lead the angels, good or bad, in triumphal procession and thus make them a public show? Perhaps in two ways. The changed position of angels in the New Covenant as compared with the Old was itself a conspicuous manifestation by God of their subordination to the Son. It made plain to all men that they were no longer His medium of revelation to man. Again, their occasional appearance around the person of Christ is another public mark of their changed position. They are now manifestly subordinate to the Son as His servants: e.g. Matthew 4:11; Luke 22:43; Matthew 28:5; Matthew 24:31; Matthew 26:53. In the N.T. angelic mediation as a means of revelation to man is almost laid aside; and angels appear only to pay homage to the Son or to help His servants; in other words, as swelling the train of Christ the Conqueror. The incompleteness of this explanation is perhaps due to our ignorance of the exact nature of the error this Epistle was designed to overturn.

The last words of Colossians 2:15 may be rendered with equal right in Him or in it. The former rendering is better. For it was in the entire personality of Christ rather than in His cross and death that God revealed the subordinate position of angels. And this suits the scope of § 9, of which Christ and His relation to us are the chief feature. In Him was manifested to men the victory of God involved in the establishment of the New Covenant.

The exposition implied in the Vulgate is maintained by Meyer: that of the Greek Fathers by Ellicott and Lightfoot. The exposition I have adopted differs little from that of Alford, and from that advocated by Findlay in a very able paper in The Expositor, 1st series, vol. x. p. 403 and in the Pulpit Commentary. Mr. Findlay has done good service by calling attention to the original connection of the Greek word rendered triumph with the Dionysiac processions.

In SECTION 9 the warning already given in § 8 becomes much more definite. The error warned against is called philosophy, i.e. an attempt to reach the realities underlying the phenomena around and is further described as empty deception. Its source is mere human tradition: and what good it possesses belongs only to the rudimentary teaching common to the whole human race. In contrast to it, Paul points to Christ as the norm of Christian belief and practice. In Him dwells all completeness; a completeness shared by all who dwell in Him. To Him bow the hierarchy of heaven. And even the blessings of the Old Covenant belong to His servants by their union with Him in Baptism. So closely are they joined to Him that they have lain in His grave, and already share His resurrection life. This life implies, as its condition, forgiveness of sins. And this forgiveness is traced to the death of Christ, by which was removed the barrier to forgiveness based upon the ancient Law or rather upon the eternal justice of God of which that law was a literary embodiment. In the Old Covenant God revealed Himself to men in the garb of angelic agency. But in these better days that garb has been laid aside: and those bright spirits, who in former times appeared as the highest powers on earth, bearers of the might of God, appear now merely as swelling the train of One Greater than themselves.

Notice in this warning, as marked features of the error combated, philosophy and tradition, angelic powers and circumcision. This suggests that the error contained both theosophic and Jewish elements. And this suggestion will be confirmed in § 10.

We notice also that, to guard against this error, Paul relies wholly on a setting forth of the Christian’s relation to Christ. This explains the full exposition in DIV. II., before the error is mentioned, of the Person and Work of Christ.


Verse 16

SECTION 10. — WARNING AGAINST VARIOUS DOGMAS, JEWISH OR GENTILE, CONTRARY TO CHRIST. CH. 2:16-3:4.

Let not any one then judge you in eating or in drinking, or in a matter of a feast or of a new moon or of a sabbath, which things are a shadow of those to come, but the body is Christ’s. Let no one rob you of your prize, desiring to do it in lowliness of mind and worshipping of angels, investigating things which he has seen, vainly puffed up by the mind of his flesh, and not holding fast the Head, from whom all the body, through the joints and hands receiving support and being knit together, increases with the increase of God.

If ye died with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why as though living in the world are ye placed under dogmas? Handle not, nor taste, nor touch, (all which things are to perish in the using up of them,) according to the commandments and teachings of men: things which have indeed a repute of wisdom in will worship and lowliness of mind and unsparing treatment of the body, not in any value against indulgence of the flesh.

If then ye have been raised together with Christ seek the things above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God: mind the things above, not those upon the earth. For ye are dead, and your life lies hidden with Christ in God. When Christ shall be manifested, your life, then also ye with Him will be manifested in glory.

This section falls into three clearly marked divisions, each comprising four verses. Colossians 2:16-19 specifies the errors referred to in the more general warning of § 9 distinguishing their Jewish (Colossians 2:16-17) and theosophic (Colossians 2:18-19) elements: Colossians 2:20-23 brings to bear against them one factor of the positive teaching in § 9, viz. our death with Christ: and Colossians 3:14 brings to bear upon them another factor, viz. our resurrection with Christ.

Colossians 2:16. Practical application of the foregoing, especially of Colossians 2:14. Since God has nailed to the cross of Christ, and thus made invalid, the written obligation of the Old Covenant with its decrees, do not submit to any one’s award of praise or blame on the ground of its prohibitions or prescriptions: for these have passed away.

Eating… drinking: same words in Romans 14:17, and similar thought; cp. Romans 14:13, let us no longer judge one another. They might refer, as they do associated together in Romans 14:21, to meat and wine offered in sacrifice to idols. But, that this is not Paul’s main reference here, is proved by Colossians 2:16 b, which mentions distinctively Levitical ordinances, by the mention in Colossians 2:11 of circumcision, which involves obedience to the whole Law of Moses, and the mention in Colossians 2:14 of a written obligation. The word eating refers therefore chiefly to the Levitical prohibition of unclean animals as food. The word drinking suggests that the would-be judges extended to themselves the Mosaic prohibition of wine to Nazarites (Numbers 6:3) and (Leviticus 10:9) to priests while officiating at the altar. In other words, they not only maintained the abiding obligation of the Law but also claimed to belong to the narrower circle of Nazarites, and possibly wished to force into it the entire Church of Christ. Paul’s protest against this judgment is in close accord with Romans 14:13-14. And it is a complete abrogation of the Law of Moses, of which a conspicuous feature was distinction of meats.

Feast… new-moon… sabbath: same words in same order in Ezekiel 45:17; Hosea 2:11; in the inverse order in 1 Chronicles 23:31; 2 Chronicles 2:4; 2 Chronicles 31:3.

Feast: a yearly festival, as in Acts 18:21; Matthew 26:5; Matthew 27:15; Leviticus 23:4, etc.

New-moon: same word in Numbers 28:11-15 : it refers to the special sacrifices at the beginning of each month.

Sabbath: the weekly day of rest. This is the ordinary meaning of the word; and is determined here by the ascending scale of frequency, annual, monthly, weekly. These three terms include all the sacred seasons of the Jewish year.

Colossians 2:17. A shadow: an intangible outline caused by, and revealing the approach of, a solid reality. Important coincidence of language and thought in Hebrews 8:5; Hebrews 10:1. Indeed this verse contains the germ of very much in that Epistle.

The things to come; or about to be: either the New Covenant or the eternal glory. There is no grammatical objection to the former: for the future must be measured, as in Romans 5:14, from the point of view of the shadow or type. And the Jewish restrictions and sacred seasons suggest at once by contrast our present service of Christ. On the other hand, since the shadow was still existing, though fading, when Paul wrote, the words things to come seem to point forward to the far future. So Hebrews 8:5 : shadow of the heavenly things. Indeed the distinction is unimportant. For Christian life on earth receives its real worth from the glory awaiting the children of God. Just so the daydawn is of worth chiefly as herald of the day. The prescriptions of the Old Covenant were outlines both of the Gospel and the spiritual life which it at once imparts and of the eternal temple and service and sabbath. Even the old restrictions of food have their counterpart in a loyalty to Christ which controls our food and all the little details of life: e.g. 1 Corinthians 8:13.

The body, i.e. the solid and tangible reality, (of the things to come,) is Christ’s, i.e. belongs to Him, so that he who has Christ has the reality whose approach was dimly foreshadowed by the Old Covenant. Cp. Josephus, Jewish Wars bk. ii. 2. 5, ‘asking a shadow of royalty when he had seized the substance (or body) of it.’ In Hebrews 10:1, the contrast is between a mere outline cast by a shadow and a complete picture or image. Possibly here the choice of the word body was prompted by the use Paul had made of it in Colossians 2:17.

Colossians 2:17 supports Colossians 2:16. Since Christ is ours, with all He has and is, we have the reality dimly outlined in the ancient ordinances. Consequently, the ancient ritual, once of value as an outline of things to come, is now worthless. Thus, as throughout this Epistle, Christ is Himself a sufficient safeguard against all error.

The warning in Colossians 2:16 proves how far Paul was from placing the Lord’s Day in the same category as the Jewish Sabbath. And this warning is not altogether needless now. For it is possible to degrade into a mere prescribed rite this precious and abiding gift of Christ to His Church. That this warning does not in any way contradict the divine authority and abiding validity and infinite value of the Lord’s Day, I have in my note under Galatians 4:11 endeavoured to show.

Colossians 2:18. Another warning. Whether it refers to another class of false teachers or to another element in the teaching combated in Colossians 2:16-17, Paul’s words do not indicate.

Rob-of-the-prize: by giving as an umpire an unfavourable judgment. This one word is a compound of that rendered prize in 1 Corinthians 9:24; Philippians 3:14. And the prize is in each case the same, viz. eternal life, the reward of victory in the good fight of faith: 1 Timothy 6:12. In Colossians 2:16 some one is supposed to be pronouncing sentence on the ground of eating and drinking. Here some one is supposed to be setting up himself as umpire in the Christian race and judging the prize in a spirit hostile to Paul’s readers. [Notice the present imperative in Colossians 2:16 and Colossians 2:18. It suggests that what the false teachers are already saying practically amounts to a hostile judgment.] Paul warns his readers not to submit to the judgment of the one or the other. And his words imply that such submission will rob them of the hope which is to them the light of life.

Lowliness-of-mind: same word in Philippians 2:3. Whether it was real or only professed, Paul does not say. In either case his warning remains the same.

Worship: the outward form of religious adoration: same word in Acts 26:5; James 1:26-27. This outward adoration, these men paid to the angels.

Wishing to do so in (or with) lowliness of mind etc.: description of the profession and outward action of the would-be umpire. (For the lowliness of mind must in some way have made itself known.) We may conceive him pretending to be unworthy immediately to approach God or the Son of God, and therefore in his humility directing his worship towards the created spirits who from heaven minister to the needs of men on earth. Paul says that what such men actually wish is to deprive his readers of the prize for which they are running the Christian race.

[The object-matter of this wish must be inferred from the long word foregoing. Evidently the would-be umpire wished to give a hostile decision. So 2 Peter 3:5, this lies hidden from them, they wishing it to be hidden. The Greek phrase here, θελων εν, is found in the LXX. as a rendering of a Hebrew phrase denoting to take delight in. But in this sense it never took root in the Greek language; and therefore is not likely to be so used here. Moreover, a man’s own delight in these things would do no harm to Paul’s readers unless he tried to force his own religious tastes upon them. But, however we understand the grammatical structure, practically the sense is the same. Paul feared that by this professed humility and this worshipping of angels his readers might be beguiled, and thus robbed of their prize.]

Investigating etc.: another detail collateral with in lowliness etc. Probably it refers specially to worshipping of angels, and traces this worship to its professed origin and foundation, viz. visions of angels. The word rendered investigate denotes originally to step into something, especially with a view to take possession of it. It is also used of mental entrance into a subject with a view to examine and thus take mental possession of it. So 2 Maccabees 2:30, ‘to investigate and to make discourse about all things and to be much occupied with the details, is fitting for the author of the story.’

Things which he has seen: professed visions of the unseen world. Like so many teachers of strange doctrines in all ages, these men professed to have seen something unseen by others. These supposed visions then became matters of investigation, i.e. of comparison and inference; and thus became the foundation of a system of teaching and of religious rites.

Vainly: either without reason or without result: senses closely allied. Same word in Romans 13:4; 1 Corinthians 15:2; Galatians 3:4; Galatians 4:11, Grammatically it may be joined to the words foregoing or to those following. For the order of the original is, things which he has seen, investigating vainly puffed up by etc. The word in-vain is best understood as Paul’s verdict about the uselessness of this investigation of these fancied visions. For it is needless to say that self-inflation is vain. ‘He talks about things which he has seen and makes his own visions a matter of laborious inquiry: a useless inquiry.’ Paul declares that this useless inquiry is the only foundation of his worship of angels and of his pretended humility.

Puffed-up: same word in 1 Corinthians 4:6; 1 Corinthians 4:18-19; 1 Corinthians 5:2; 1 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Corinthians 13:4; and not elsewhere in N.T. Notice that here only the false teachers are said to be puffed up, and of these Paul speaks in the third person: but at Corinth the same charge is brought against the whole Church.

The mind of his flesh: not exactly the same as, but similar to, the mind of the flesh in Romans 8:6.

His flesh: that portion of flesh and blood, with all its belongings physical and psychological, which is owned by one person. It is the bodily side of his nature.

Mind: the inward eye which looks through phenomena to the reality underlying them: same word in Philippians 4:7; Romans 1:28; Romans 7:23; Romans 7:25, etc. Here the bodily nature is said to have a mind. And rightly.

For the bodily appetites ever tend to dominate the intelligence, and to make it their slave. And since each mind thus dominated has a development of its own, both mind and flesh are here individualized: the mind of his flesh. Now the animating principle of the flesh is selfishness: for our bodies care for nothing except their own protection and maintenance and indulgence. Consequently, the mind of our flesh always begets an inflated self-estimate, which is a form of selfishness. This accounts for the supposed visions: for the selfish man is ever ready to believe anything which flatters his own vanity; and few things do this more than belief that he has personal and unusual intercourse with the unseen world. This man pretends to investigate his wonderful revelations; and on the ground of them pays outward adoration to angels. And, blinded by his own vanity, he attributes his desire to worship angels to a humility which dares not approach God Himself. Paul warns his readers that these empty products of self-esteem will, if accepted, rob the Christian of the prize he has in view; and that this is their real aim.

Such is perhaps the easiest explanation of this very obscure verse. Doubtless the obscurity is caused by our ignorance of details well known to the readers. Paul says plainly that worship of angels was part of the teaching of these false guides. And we can easily believe that they claimed to have seen visions of angels, and made these visions a matter of serious though empty examination. If so, the word in-vain would reveal in a moment the unreality of these boasted researches. And Paul’s explanation of them as a product of a self-estimate inflated by a sensual mind was probably verified by personal knowledge of the men who put forward these lordly claims.

The sense of this verse is completely changed by the corrected reading which he has seen. See Introd. iii. Lightfoot, moved by the difficulty of the passage, suggests that error may have crept into all our copies, and proposes a reading of which no trace whatever is found in any ancient MS., version, or quotation. A better suggestion in the same direction is made by Westcott and Hort; and may be rendered treading empty air. But that the true reading should have utterly vanished from the almost innumerable witnesses to the original text of the Epistle, is in the last degree unlikely. Even the erroneous insertion of the negative shows that the suggested reading was unthought of in the early Church. Its complete obliteration is much more difficult to accept than is the exposition given above. See a very good paper by Findlay in The Expositor 1st series, vol. xi. p. 385.

The express mention of angels here sheds light upon the mention of them in Colossians 2:15 where they are said to be led by God in triumphal procession, in Colossians 2:10 where Christ is said to be their Head, and in Colossians 1:16, where He is said to be their Creator.

Worship of angels was a conspicuous feature of the Gnostic sects so prevalent in so many strange varieties throughout the second century and traceable in their early origin almost or quite to the days of the apostles. So Irenæus (On Heresies bk . i. 31. 2) speaks of the Cainites as appealing to angels, “O angel, I use thy work O authority,” (same word as in Colossians 2:10; Colossians 2:15,) “I perform thy operation.” And Theodoret in his note on this passage says that a synod at Laodicea (in A.D. 364) forbade prayer to angels. This prohibition reveals how deeply the practice here condemned had taken root in the immediate neighbourhood of Colossæ. And this worship of angels implies as its basis supposed visions of the unseen world. See further in the note at the close of the Epistle.

Colossians 2:19. Further description of the false teachers, tracing their error, negatively, to their failure to grasp, or to retain hold of, Him from whom as the Head flows to the various members of the body nourishment and stability and growth.

The Head: as in Colossians 2:10 and Colossians 1:18 : the one highest member, itself a part of the body yet directing all the other members, which live only so long as they are united to each other and to the Head. The would-be seducer does not hold fast the Head, i.e. he has no firm union with Christ, the one great reality, and therefore investigates unreal visions and betakes himself to angel worship.

From whom etc.: reason for holding fast the Head, a reason which explains the aberrations of those who fail to do so.

The joints: Ephesians 4:16 : the various points of contact of the various parts of the body.

Ligaments: the bands which hold together the bones which form the joint. In this technical sense of ligaments the word is used by the Greek medical writers. The joints and ligaments comprise the whole mechanism by which the various parts of the body become one whole.

Receiving supply: see under 2 Corinthians 9:10. The supply in this case must be nourishment. We need not assume that Paul means that nourishment flows through the joints and ligatures. Probably his one thought was that without the bodily union of which these were the means the various members of the body would receive no nourishment.

And knit-together: same word as in Colossians 2:2.

The increase of God: i.e. wrought by God, 1 Corinthians 3:7 : cp. peace of God in Philippians 4:7. Paul here asserts that the entire body of Christ, consisting of various members, all receiving from Him nourishment and compactness, so long as they are closely fitted and joined each to the others, grows with a growth which God works and gives. Hence the need for holding fast the Head: for, separate from Him, there is neither nourishment nor compactness nor growth. Through want of this union with Christ, the false teacher is given up to his own vagaries. Close coincidence of words and thought in Ephesians 4:16.

Colossians 2:16-19 contain the specific warning of the Epistle. We note in it two distinct elements. Paul warns first against those who would maintain as still binding, and even extend, the prescriptions of the ancient law: and then against those who, relying upon fancied intercourse with the unseen, would set up a worship of their own invention. To this second error Paul gives great attention, unveiling its source in blind conceit fostered by sensuality. But against each error his real safeguard is a knowledge of Christ in His relation to His Church. They who know Christ have the reality dimly foreshadowed in the Old Covenant, and therefore will not wish to re-establish it. And He is the Head of the Church, His body, consisting of various members each receiving from Christ, in virtue of its close union with Him and with the other members, nourishment and compactness and growth. They who know this will not be led astray by empty fancies even about the bright ones of heaven.

Colossians 2:20-23. These verses bring to bear against the errors mentioned or alluded to in Colossians 2:16-19 the teaching in § 9 that through the death of Christ His servants have been placed beyond the domain of the ordinances of the written Law.

If ye died: not doubt, but logical sequence. For death is plainly asserted in Colossians 3:3. It brings to bear against all restrictions of food the teaching of Colossians 2:11-12 : for baptism and resurrection imply death, and death is essentially a separation from the life previously lived.

Died with Christ: same words in Romans 6:8; and practically the same in 2 Timothy 2:11; Galatians 2:20.

The rudiments of the world: as in Colossians 2:8, which it recalls and in some measure explains. These rudiments of religious education belong to the bondage of spiritual childhood: Galatians 4:3. Under them Christ was Himself in bondage when for our sakes He took (Philippians 2:7) the form of a slave and was made (Hebrews 2:17) in all things like us, and became (Galatians 4:5) under law and (Galatians 3:13) under the burden and curse of our sins. From this subjection Christ was set free by His own death. That death we have shared: for through His death our old life of bondage has come to an end. In this sense we are (Colossians 3:3) dead with Christ, and thus removed from the elements of the world. Same thought, but not so fully expressed, in Galatians 6:14 : crucified to the world. Paul asks why, if all this be so, his readers are submitting-to-dogmas as though they were still living their old life in the world.

Allow-yourselves-to-be-dogmatized: the passive form of a verb derived from the word dogma. The active form is found in Esther 3:9; 2 Maccabees 10:8, and means, to issue an authoritative command. The passive form here used does not, however, imply that the Christians at Colossæ were actually submitting to this spiritual tyranny; and therefore does not necessarily imply blame. But it implies that efforts were being made to place them under the bondage of dogmas. Paul’s question reveals how inconsistent with their relation to Christ and His death is such bondage. To try to maintain it, is to try to keep in prison one whom death has set free. By showing this, Paul practically exhorts his readers not to bare the neck to the yoke which others would impose. Notice the contrast died… from the… world and living in the world: cp. Romans 6:2. This verse is a practical application of Colossians 2:14. For the decrees which the false teachers would reimpose have been nailed to the cross of Christ and thus made invalid.

Colossians 2:21. Various prohibitory dogmas which the false teachers sought to impose. This correct meaning of these words was observed so early as Tertullian: Against Marcion bk. v. 19. But it was overlooked by some of the Latin Fathers. What the prohibited things were, Paul did not find it needful to say. His readers knew well. The word taste evidently refers to the eating and drinking of Colossians 2:16. And to the same refer most probably the words handle and touch. This inference is strongly confirmed by Colossians 2:22 : for food and drink are, and most things are not, destroyed in their use. Of the three words, the first seems to be somewhat stronger than the third, which seems to denote always a mere touch, whereas the first is sometimes used in the sense of take hold of. Hence the R.V. reverses the order of the A.V. The words are in an ascending scale of stringency. Of this, that, and the other, these teachers say, Do not take it, do not even taste it, do not so much as touch it.

Colossians 2:22 a. All which things: those forbidden by the dogmatizers.

Are for destruction by the using: they exist in order to be used up and thus destroyed. This proves that the forbidden things were articles of food. For all such are by their nature perishing; and attain the aim of their existence by being consumed. Cp. 1 Timothy 4:3, to abstain from articles of food, which God created to be partaken of. Also 1 Corinthians 6:13, food for the belly, and the belly for the food: i.e. each is designed for the other, and both will pass away. And 2 Peter 2:12, born to be caught and destroyed. The argument here is that, since these articles of food were created in order to be eaten, to forbid them is to bring back the state of childhood (cp. Galatians 4:3) in which for a time certain things were not allowed to be put to their natural use.

Colossians 2:22 b. These words have evidently no connection with those immediately foregoing. Consequently, Colossians 2:22 a must be a parenthetic comment on the prohibitions of Colossians 2:21; and Colossians 2:22 b must be joined to dogmatized in Colossians 2:20, as a further description of the ordinances which the false teachers sought to impose.

Commandments: verbal prohibitions, resting on doctrinal grounds or teachings. All were of human origin. This clause recalls a similar rebuke of empty forms of religion in Isaiah 29:13, which in the LXX. reads, ‘teaching commands of men and teachings.’ It was quoted by Christ in Matthew 15:9 as a warning to some who transgress the commandments of God because of their traditions. This similar use of O.T. words suggests whether Paul had heard of the discourse of Christ there recorded.

We saw under Colossians 2:16 that the mention of drink proves that the false teachers not only maintained but exaggerated the Mosaic prohibitions. Such exaggerations were evidently commandments and teachings of men. And the divine commands of the Law of Moses became mere human precepts when they were asserted to be still binding after they had been revoked by Christ. The perpetual obligation of the Law was therefore a demand resting only on human authority. Consequently, all the prohibitions suggested in Colossians 2:16 come under this description, and under the warning in Colossians 2:8.

Colossians 2:23. Paul’s final and solemn judgment about the mere human and traditional teaching which forms the basis of the dogmas which some would impose on the Christians at Colossæ. They are things (or better a class of things) having indeed a repute of wisdom. In other words, these commands and doctrines belong to a larger category to which as a whole the following words apply.

Repute (literally word) of wisdom: a verbal utterance of wisdom, i.e. either called wise or claiming to be wise; senses closely allied. This recalls philosophy, i.e. love of wisdom in Colossians 2:8, by which Paul feared that his readers might be despoiled.

Self-imposed worship: evidently the worship of angels in Colossians 2:18, this looked upon as a fiction of man’s invention. It keeps before us, as in Colossians 2:8; Colossians 2:22, the human origin of that which Paul here condemns.

Lowliness-of-mind: again recalling Colossians 2:18 where, as here, a professed inward state of mind is joined with outward forms of religion.

Unsparing treatment of one’s body: harsh refusal to it of that which rightly or wrongly it desires. It seems to be a description of the prohibitions in Colossians 2:21. And these three things, self-imposed worship, apparent humility, ascetic self-denial, are represented as an encompassing element, perhaps as an auriole of glory, of the false teaching Paul here combats: in self-imposed-worship etc. This composite surrounding gained for it the repute of wisdom. [Paul’s language suggests that it was an empty repute: μεν solitary.]

This apparent glory was no mark of real worth: not in any honour. The precise meaning of these words is very obscure. Perhaps Paul wishes to say that this unsparing treatment, this refusal of all pleasant things, was no honour to the body, i.e. no recognition of its true dignity. For all asceticism is contempt of the body. From the body, the organized unity belonging to each one, Paul now turns to the flesh, the material constitution which human bodies have in common, which creates common needs, likes, and dislikes, and thus exerts a common influence on the spirit within.

Indulgence (or satiety) of the flesh: a supply to the full of these needs and desires, good or bad. The word rendered against is in itself neutral; and may refer, as the context determines, to something gratifying, or checking gratification of, the flesh. Perhaps the latter here. And, if so, we may join these words closely to the word honour. Thus understood, the verse means that these human prescriptions, though possessing a repute of wisdom, as being apparently fitted to show men a way to the attainment of their highest good, are not associated with any real honour to the body in the way of guarding it from the self-indulgence which so often covers it with shame.

Colossians 2:20-23 prove that our relation to Christ renders, or ought to render, impossible submission to the empty dogmatism of Colossians 2:16-19. And from it we may glean something about the nature of this dogmatism. We have what seem to be some of the very words of these spiritual autocrats words forbidding by mere human authority the eating of food destined by the Creator to be eaten. We are reminded that their worship of angels was a fiction of their own fancy; and that their hard treatment of their own bodies was not accompanied by any real honour to the body as the temple of God, and was not of any use to enable men to resist the temptations to self-indulgence prompted by the constitution of the body. Yet, as so often in the history of the world, this homage to citizens of the unseen world, this refusal of the luxuries and comforts of life, and the apparent humility of which these seem to be an outward expression, gained for these teachers credit for rare wisdom, i.e. for acquaintance with things unknown to the multitude. All this surrounded with an illusive auriole of glory the spiritual tyranny with which these apparently wise ones sought to dictate, by their own arbitrary will, restrictions to those foolish enough to submit to them. But to those who are Christ’s, such submission is impossible. For by His death they have themselves died, and have thus escaped from all spiritual bondage.

Colossians 2:1-4. The new life into which, by their union with Christ in His resurrection and ascension, Christians have already entered, a life utterly inconsistent with bondage to human dogmas. Thus, after bringing to bear upon the errors of Colossians 2:16-19, in Colossians 2:20-23, the believer’s union with Christ in His death, Paul now brings to bear on the same the believer’s union with Christ in His resurrection and ascension.

If then ye have been raised together with Christ: more glorious counterpart of Colossians 2:20, which it recalls. It takes up a statement in Colossians 2:12 and makes it a basis of exhortation. Through the resurrection of Christ we have been made citizens of the world to which He has gone and sharers of its wealth and glory. That this resurrection with Christ includes not only new spiritual life but also a place with Christ in glory, is made clear by the exhortation which follows.

The things above: the blessings of heaven. These are the reward of faithful service on earth, and are within reach of present human effort and are its noblest aim. Indeed every effort to please Christ and to advance His kingdom may be looked upon as an effort to gain the things at His right hand: for these are an inevitable and known result of such effort. Cp. Romans 2:7, seek glory and honour and incorruption.

Where Christ is: cp. Revelation 22:12, My reward is with Me. Christ and the reward are together. Paul’s assertion is then further developed. Among the things above Christ is; more accurately defined, He is at the right hand of God: and He is there, not worshipping or standing, but sitting in majesty. Same teaching in Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 1:13; Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 10:12; Hebrews 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22; Matthew 26:64 etc. These passages reveal a thought familiar in the early Church.

Colossians 2:2. Mind the things above: literally the things above, make these the objects of your thought. The repetition of the things above keeps conspicuously before us the new and lofty element just introduced.

Not the things on the earth: cp. Philippians 3:19, who mind the earthly things. This antithesis to the things above recalls the low aims of the false teachers. For their whole thought was, in spite of their religiousness, after the passing things of earth.

Colossians 2:3. Reason for the foregoing exhortation, viz. that the life which-Paul’s readers once lived on earth has ceased: consequently they can no longer mind the things on the earth.

Ye-are-dead or ye-have-died: in the death implied in the burial of Colossians 2:12 and hypothetically stated in Colossians 2:20. Christians are not merely dead to the world, i.e. separated by the death of Christ from its control, but dead absolutely; i.e. their former life which was entirely earthly has come absolutely to an end. So complete is the change that Paul can describe it only by saying that they are dead. And the dead care nothing for things pertaining only to the world they have left. So, if Christians are true to their profession, will they no longer care for things merely belonging to earth.

And your life: like Christ they still live, though dead: so Revelation 1:18; living and was dead; 2 Corinthians 5:15, all died… they who live. For they share already the immortal life of the Risen One. And this is their only life. For all they have and are and do is an outflow of it. On earth they are living a life which in its essence belongs to heaven and which will develop into eternal life.

Lies-hidden: beyond human sight and beyond reach of accident and death.

With Christ; for they are dead, buried, and risen with Him. Whatever Christ has and is, they share.

In God: the surrounding and life-giving element of the new life, and its impenetrable bulwark. As Christ is (John 17:21) in the Father, so are Christians with Christ in God. And, in the arms of omnipotence, their life, though apparently exposed to deadly peril, is absolutely and for ever safe.

This Christian life, hidden as to its root and essence beyond reach of human intelligence and human attack, is also incomprehensible in its manifestations. For these are an outflow of its hidden essence. Thus are men on earth living a life hidden from the children of earth, a life absolutely safe, a participation of Christ’s life in heaven. For by union with Christ in His death on the cross their old life has ceased; and by union with the Risen One they have entered a life altogether new.

Colossians 2:4. This life cannot be for ever hidden. Like all hidden things, it must be manifested: Mark 4:22.

When Christ etc.: or whenever Christ be manifested: suggesting uncertainty about the time of an event which itself is absolutely certain.

Manifested: set publicly before the eyes of all men in the great day. So will all men themselves be manifested: 2 Corinthians 5:10. The same word is used of Christ’s self-presentation to men in His earthly life: John 21:1; John 21:14. To describe His appearance in judgment, the word revelation is also used: 1 Corinthians 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:7; 1 Peter 1:13. For in that day manifestation and revelation (see under Romans 1:19) will coincide i.e. Christ will be set before the eyes of all; and all will actually see Him.

Christ is our life: for we shall live (John 14:19) because He lives and because (Galatians 2:20; John 17:23) He lives in us and we in Him. Consequently, where Christ is, there is our hidden life: and when Christ is manifested to the eyes of all men, then shall we also be manifested, sharing the splendour of His manifestation.

With Him: a frequent phrase, making conspicuous the truth that we shall be all that Christ has and is.

In glory: surrounded with a splendour which will excite the admiration of all: so 2 Corinthians 3:7-9; 2 Corinthians 3:11; Philippians 4:19; 1 Timothy 3:16. At present the real dignity of the sons of God is hidden from the eyes of men and indeed from their own eyes, as Christ is hidden from mortal sight. In that day Christ in His essential grandeur will appear and with Him will appear also the grandeur with which He will adorn His servants. Cp. Philippians 3:21, conformed to the body of His glory, and Romans 8:19; Romans 8:21, revelation of the sons of God… glory of the children of God.

The believer’s death and his pursuit only of things in heaven will in nowise unfit him for life on earth, or lessen his interest in things around. For the things of earth reach forward in their influence into the world to come. For instance, the movements of political life and the course of war have again and again helped or hindered the progress of the Gospel. Consequently, the Christian man whose eyes are open to the many spiritual issues at stake will watch these movements with deepest interest. Even the details and drudgery of common life receive thus importance and dignity. On the other hand, the new light in which he views all things will save him from the degrading tyranny which the uncertainties of earth exercise over those whom Christ has not made free.

Notice that in the phrases dead and ‘risen with Christ’ we have an ideal Christian life which is ours objectively in Christ; and which it is our privilege to make subjectively our own by faith. Hence Paul sometimes speaks as though his readers were already actually dead with Christ: at other times he urges them to appropriate the inward experience thus described. Contrast Colossians 3:5 with Colossians 3:3 and Galatians 5:24. This apparent contradiction is easily understood, and is spiritually helpful. To speak of believers as already dead with Christ, helps our faith: to urge them to put to death their members on the earth, warns us that the ideal needs to be made actual.

DIVISION III. reveals the specific occasion of the Epistle, viz. errors, or possibly one composite error, which some unknown persons were actively pressing on the Christians at Colossæ. Before mentioning this great danger, Paul armed his readers in DIV. II. with a complete protection against it, viz. a full exposition of the nature and work of Christ. He begins DIV. III. by saying in § 8 that he has written this exposition in order to guard them from seductive and perverse reasoning; and then goes on to recognise the solid front which faith enables them to present to all opponents, and to beg them, as already they have laid hold of Christ, to make Him the surrounding element, the nutritious soil, and the firm foundation, of their life and movement.

In § 9 Paul’s warning becomes more definite. The false teaching professes to be philosophy; but is really empty deception. It is such as we might expect from its outward source, viz. mere human tradition, and from its inward principle, viz. the rudiments of religion common to all mankind. And it does not take for its directive principle the one true norm, viz. the Person and Work of Christ. This norm, Paul further expounds, keeping in view the errors at Colossæ and thus to some extent indicating their nature.

From § 10 we shall learn that the seducers worship angels. And in § 9 Paul says that Christ, in whom the whole nature of God finds perfect embodiment in human form and in whom His people find their full development, is Himself Lord of the successive ranks of angels. From § 10 we shall also learn that the false teachers sought to enforce the restrictions and ordinances of the Jewish Law. And Paul teaches in § 9 that in Christ His people have received the fulness of which circumcision was but an outline, and that, just as it is needless to circumcise a corpse, so they who have been spiritually laid in the grave of Christ need no circumcision. Moreover, if dead with Christ, they are also by faith sharers of His resurrection. By forgiving their sins, God raised them from the dead. He did this by nailing to the cross of Christ and thus making invalid the Law which condemned them. Thus, what the ministrations of angels could not do, God did without their aid. So conspicuously subordinate is their position in this culmination of the work of salvation, as contrasted with their more prominent place in the Old Covenant, that God may be said, by placing them in this subordinate position, to have used them simply to swell the triumphant train of the real Conqueror. Thus without exact mention of the errors he is combating, Paul has virtually overturned them by expounding more fully the relation of Christ to the work of salvation.

In § 10, the errors indicated in general language in § 9 are stated without reserve. The false teachers not only maintain the abiding validity of the Law, which God had made invalid by nailing it to the cross of Christ, but add to its stringency. And other teachers, or more probably the same, amid professions of humility as unworthy directly to approach God, pretending to receive instruction from visions of the inhabitants of the unseen world, bow in worship to angels. From this it is evident that the errors which Paul combats comprise two elements, Jewish and theosophic. The former he rebuts by asserting that the Law is only an unsubstantial outline, of which the solid reality belongs to Christ. The latter element he condemns as worthless by pointing to its real source, viz. an inflated self-estimate, offspring of a mind dominated by the needs and pleasures of the bodily life, a delusion possible only to those who have no hold of Christ and who do not know that from Him is derived, by the mutual contact and close cohesion of the members of His Body, spiritual nourishment, firmness, and growth. The entire mass of restriction and ritual, resting as it does simply upon mere human assertion and pertaining only at best to the rudiments of religion common to the whole world, is for us completely set aside by the cross of Christ, which has for ever separated us from the things in which once we lived. It is far below the feet of those who are already sharers of the immortal life of the Risen Saviour and already citizens of the world in which He reigns. Our one aim now is to seek, even while we tread the soil of earth, the infinite and abiding wealth of heaven. Our thoughts and hearts go forward to that day when the inner life, hidden now not only from the world, but in great part even from us who live it, will by the appearance of Christ be manifested in the splendour of the eternal glory.

Notice how in DIV. III. Paul has led us down into, and completely out of, the mist and gloom of error. Before we entered the dark valley, he had already fixed our gaze upon the Son of God, Creator of the world, crucified that He might reconcile us to God, and risen from the dead. In § 8 he warned us that danger was near. In § 9 the outlines of the enemy became discernible. In § 10 he came fully into view: and we seemed in Paul’s argument to enter into deadly conflict with him. In that conflict, death came to our rescue, even the death of Christ upon the cross. We lay dead with Him. Then burst upon us like the light of Easter morn the bright vision of Colossians 3:1 ff: We saw Christ not only risen from the grave, but seated at the right hand of God. In the brightness of that vision we forgot that our bodies are still doomed to corruption and worms. These had vanished from our view. And we felt ourselves to be already where Christ is; and that henceforth the only matters worthy of our thought and effort are the realities which abide with Christ in God.

Notice how throughout DIV. III. Paul points to Christ. With Him we go down into the grave. In death we are with Him. And His presence guides us up to the light of day. As throughout this Epistle, so especially in this Division, the Son of God is All and in all.

 


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Bibliography Information
Beet, Joseph. "Commentary on Colossians 2:4". Joseph Beet's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jbc/colossians-2.html. 1877-90.


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