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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
Colossians 2

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-23

Colossians 2:1-2. I would that ye knew what great conflict I have, in the inward feelings of my heart and wrestlings of prayer, for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many, in the adjacent districts, as have not seen my face in the flesh. I want you to be comforted in the Lord by the strong bonds of unity, concord, and love. I want the gospel to be preached to you in all its excellence and extent, to the full assurance of understanding and prudence in the knowledge of the mystery of God, even of the Father, and of Christ. It is the plenitude of divine knowledge which alone can command the heart to concord, in all piety and divine enjoyment.

Colossians 2:3-4. In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Christ is the wisdom of the Father. The Spirit of Jehovah was upon him to preach good tidings to the meek. The whole mystery of grace and glory are hid in his bosom as regards the recovery of man, the revelation of the righteousness of God, and of eternal life. All other knowledge compared with this vanishes away. Under this ministry, oh Colossians, you would be drawn away from the fables of the crafty, who beguile you with enticing words, and be made to feel the powers of the world to come.

Colossians 2:6-7. As ye have received Christ Jesus, by the ministry of the word, by faith and prayer, so walk ye in him, conformably to all the moral maxims and holy precepts of the Lord. Let the desire to learn, let the spirit of piety and love continue, for the religion of Christ does not change with the fashions of the age. Be rooted and built up in him, that you may grow in grace, and in the knowledge of the Lord, like trees which abide in the soil where they were first planted.

Colossians 2:8. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit. The Greek philosophers had sects, and sects which subsisted by their disciples; and the doctrines of those sects form the religion of the Greeks. These were the disciples of Plato, of Aristotle, of Epicurus, and of Zeno, the founder of the stoics, whose disciples had laughed at Paul in the Areopagus. But as God had spoken at sundry times, and in divers manners to the fathers by the prophets, the strong pillars of revelation must ever prevail against the fluctuating theories of the schools. Prophecies and promises have received the seals of providence in their accomplishment, and the foundation of the mysteries of God standeth sure. Therefore beware lest any man rob you through vain deceits, or the wisdom of mere words, the στοιχεια, the elements of the world, and not after Christ:

Colossians 2:9. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. The Lord said to Philip, Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. John 14:10. And this confirms what Paul indicates, that by the word Father, the whole deity is understood, as is designated by the word godhead, or divinity. “The fulness of the godhead,” the whole deity, or whatever is in the Father, dwells in the Son; and this not in figure, as when the glory dwelt in the tabernacle, but in truth. The Word was made flesh, by the hypostatic union of the deity and humanity in Christ, without confusion of essence, but by union in the glorious person of Christ, the God-man. And of his fulness have we all received, and grace for, or upon, grace, abounding towards man. This phrase, with a shade of variation, was common enough among the Greeks, soldiers being generally exhorted to go to war full of the spirit of the gods.

Colossians 2:10. Ye are complete in him, and being illuminated with the plenitude of divine wisdom, gentile philosophy can add nothing to you. The boasted purity, elegance, and beauties of philosophical compositions are all but “enticing words,” and quite irrelevant in the work of your salvation. What can you ask more? In the knowledge of Christ you have the knowledge of God, whom to know is life and peace.

Colossians 2:11-12. In whom also ye are circumcised — buried with him in baptism. The heart of stone being removed by spiritual circumcision, or renovating grace, and we being dead with Christ, and buried with him, as was indicated by the figure when John was baptizing in the Jordan, what need have we of gentile philosophy? Here then is a new argument that the rudiments of this world are nothing to us; and not only a new argument, but a new proof that Paul understood religion by resolving it, not to the circumcision made with hands, but to the enjoyment of all the blessings of the new covenant, a new heart and a right spirit.

Colossians 2:13. You, being dead in your sins — hath he quickened. See notes on Ephesians 2:1; Ephesians 2:5.

Colossians 2:14. Blotting out the hand-writing of ordinances that was against us. Christ having justified us, and quickened us by his Spirit, has not only delivered us from condemnation, but has also liberated us from the ordinances of the ceremonial law, as the apostle has explained it in Ephesians 2:15. “Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, the law of commandments [contained] in ordinances, to make in himself of twain [the jews and gentiles] one new man, so making peace.” Christ being now the mediator of the new covenant, and minister of the more perfect tabernacle, and having confirmed all by his blood, there is no further need of the blood of bulls and of goats. As bonds and covenants are cancelled by cutting away the seals, so Christ has nailed the ceremonial obligation to the cross, and for ever done it away.

Colossians 2:15. Having spoiled principalities and powers of their armour, so that death himself is now destitute of a sting, he made a show of them openly, and put the grave beneath his feet. He then ascended up on high, leading captivity captive.

Colossians 2:16. Let no man therefore judge you, or trouble you with the elements of this world. You are now under the easy yoke of Christ, his law of love, which is the end and the perfection of the moral obligation. Let no man vex you, in meat or drink, for every creature of the Lord is good, and is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. Or in respect of a holy day. Syrus, a man much respected by the critics, says, “in regard to the number of days prescribed.” Or of the new moon, binding you to observe a festival on the first welcome sight of the moon with her new horns. Numbers 28:11; Numbers 29:1. Or of the sabbath, forbidding you to walk outside the gate more than nineteen hundred paces. Ezekiel 20:12; Ezekiel 20:20.

Colossians 2:17. Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body, the substance of all the types, is of Christ, who is the end of the law for righteousness, and ye are complete in him. We are therefore to regard holy persons and holy things under the ancient law, as indicative of higher and of real good. Adam was “a figure of him that was to come,” Romans 5:14; and thus the old testament is full of Christ. The prophets themselves understood these things allusively, and spake of the promised land, of the jewish feasts, and of the trumpet of jubilee with evident reference to future times, and blessings of higher importance, as may be observed in numerous instances. Psalms 95:7; Psalms 110:4. Isaiah 27:13; Isaiah 55:1; Isaiah 63:1-2.

Colossians 2:18. Let no man beguile you of your reward. Be not seduced from your course, and so be defrauded of the prize of your high calling, under a notion that God is inaccessible; and therefore, under a show of humility, supposing that you must address your prayers to angels, as intermediate beings, and mediators between God and men. This would draw you off from Christ, the only mediator, and supersede the whole of his undertaking. What would Paul have said to the missals of the Catholic communion, which have a general prayer to Michael the archangel, to St. Peter, and a cloud of other saints? What would he have said of the two and forty litanies to the Virgin Mary? Mater Dei, mother of God, pray for us? Queen of angels, pray for us? This is not holding the Head, the source of all authority and power, but creating thousands of other mediators. This is to beguile us of our reward; all such misguided devotion is no better than labour lost.

The apostle adds, Let no man beguile you in worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind. On this part of the verse we have a mass of ancient and modern criticisms. Among the ancients, Augustine says, nemo vos convincat. Daniel Heinsius, however, cites the canon of the council of Laodicea, and as those fathers understood the subject, their words seem relevant. “That in devotion, none of them set Christ before us, or lead us to God, but draw us off to the worship of angels, and other dignities.” Ed. Cantab. 1640, p. 465. Dr. Hammond, through seven columns, speaks of Gnostics and others, as embittered against marriage, but otherwise criminal in acts of concupiscence. Against these sects many of the ancient fathers inveigh. Some of the canons in the Apostolic constitutions are also levelled at their errors and immoralities.

Colossians 2:21. Touch not, taste not, handle not. By these three words the holy apostle is in earnest to charge, the Colossians not to feast with “filthy dreamers,” who corrupt the faith once delivered to the saints. On the last words, μηδε θιγης, mede thiges, handle not, we may observe that in the north of England a man was heard to say, when speaking of money owing to him, “If I cud nobbod thigg it.” This is a word of frequent occurrence in the Anglo-Saxon. Archbishop Ælfric uses it three times in the consecration of the hlaf to husel, bread for the sacrament, Ande we sceolon thicgan that halige husel Christes lichaman; and we should handle, or touch, that holy sacrament, Christ’s body.

REFLECTIONS.

How glorious, how perfect is the christian religion, in the person of the Mediator, in whom it has pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell, and all for wretched sinful man. How glorious that we do not approach the Father with bulls and goats, nor walk in the unfounded dreams of gentile philosophy. Christ stands alone as the shepherd of the flock, who guards his fold against obtrusive wolves. Let us consider this as an engagement to a life of exemplary holiness, especially as we are ourselves circumcised with the circumcision of Christ; as by baptism we are solemnly engaged to mortify all irregular affections, and being buried with Christ in that solemn rite, to rise to all newness of life, having received the forgiveness of our sins, and being raised with Christ to the hope of eternal glory.

Let us be solicitous ever to maintain the strictest union with Christ, remembering how great an honour it is to be thus related to him, in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. Let us be careful, in virtue of this union, to live in the communion of christian love with all the members of the body, and ourselves to grow with all the encrease of God. And let us guard against all those human traditions, or refinements of philosophical speculation, which are disagreeable to these elements of Christ, into which we have been initiated; against every thing which would be an infringement of that liberty which Christ hath granted to his church, and which it is our duty to endeavour to maintain against all encroachments; even though they should be made by any in his name, and under pretence of authority from him. It may be urged upon us as humility, to submit to such impositions, but it is the truest humility to maintain an exact obedience to the authority of our divine Master, and to limit even our submission to those of our brethren whom we may most honour and love, by a regard to his command and institution.

May divine wisdom preserve us from all those vain deceits whereby our faith might be corrupted, or our conformity to the plan of christian institutions be rendered, in any respect, less beautiful, pure, and complete. Let us charge it on our hearts, by all our great and solemn obligations to Jesus, our beloved Saviour and glorified Head, that we study the nature of true religion with greater care, and practise it with greater constancy. Let us not place it in a zeal for ceremonial observances, according to the doctrines and commandments of men. Let us cultivate greater spirituality of mind, and endeavour to have our hearts where our Lord is. Surely the reflection upon that relation in which we stand to him, in concurrence with that glory in which he is now enthroned, the kind designs he still bears to us, and the prospect we have of sitting down with him ere long in that kingdom, may well raise our thoughts thither, and bear us above all immoderate attachment to these lower scenes of mortal life.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Colossians 2:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/colossians-2.html. 1835.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, December 5th, 2019
the First Week of Advent
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