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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Colossians 2

 

 

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Verses 1-23

CHRIST THE SOURCE OF WISDOM AND KNOWLEDGE

(vs.1-10)

In verse 1 the unselfish faith and love of the apostle shines beautifully. He was as deeply concerned for believers who had not seen him as he was for his own converts. He had "great conflict" which involves prayerful exercise in combating the opposition of Satan's hosts against the truth. He loved the Church because Christ loved it, desiring all saints to be "knit together in love" (v.2). This is vitally connected with "all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God." This precious objective knowledge and resulting subjective experience must always go together, for the revelation must be taken to heart just as it is, not as our feelings would like to assume it to be. How precious too are the resulting feelings and experiences when they are fully under the influence of the truth of God.

In this mystery of God now revealed in His beloved Son, are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (v.3). When this truth concerning Christ and the Church, His body, is known, it gives a true perspective for the understanding of all Scripture. Many today ignore Church truth, and are therefore left in sad confusion as to their interpretations of Scripture. Only if we know our own place in the counsels of God can we rightly discern His counsels in other respects. This is extremely important if we are to be kept from the beguiling enticements of men, for there are many plausible teachings that are actually deceptive and destructive.

Paul delights to encourage what was commendable among the Colossians. Though absent from them, yet in spirit he was with them, having great joy in the knowledge of their order and of their steadfast faith in Christ (v.5). He does not in any way reprove them, though there are dangers of which we warns them and of which we too need to be warned. Apparently these things had not been allowed to creep into the local assembly, but were so prevalent on the outside that there was need of being watchful.

The positive exhortations of verses 6 and 7 are as needful for us as for them. In having received Christ Jesus as Lord, our lives should be consistent with this fact: we should "walk in Him." This side of the truth is specially pressed in Colossians. To walk in Him it is necessary first to be "rooted." The root system of a tree takes considerable time to develop before there is much growth above ground, and continues to develop during the tree's growth upward. Hidden communion with the Lord is vital that there may be strength to stand. And the building up too is to be "in Him:" nothing can be left to our own ability or energy.

The stable basis of all this is "the faith," the whole revealed truth of Christianity. We must be solidly established "in the faith" as taught in Scripture, yet not only being doctrinally correct, but "abounding in it with thanksgiving" (v.7). For the truth is that which can so fill the heart as to cause an abundant overflow with spontaneous thanksgiving arising to our God and Father.

As to the negative side, we are to be watchful (v.8), for some people are always ready to ruin the testimony of a believer. Philosophy is the first serious danger mentioned. This is the wisdom of man intruding where he has no real understanding. Christ is our Head from whom all wisdom flows: in the things of God, man's wisdom is foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:20). There has been no greater human wisdom than that of Solomon, and his book of Ecclesiastes is the best philosophical book in existence. But even Solomon's philosophy leads only to one conclusion so far as this world is concerned: "all was vanity and grasping for the wind" (Ecclesiastes 2:11). If such philosophy intrudes at all in spiritual matters, it is "empty deceit," both empty and deceiving. It may have man's venerable tradition behind it, but is still only of man -- of the world not subject to Christ who is not of this world.

Verse 9 declares the central truth of this book: "For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." No human wisdom would have imagined this: it is God's revelation, marvelous above the capacity of human intellect. Christ is God come in bodily form, and all God's glory is expressed in Him. The facts of His being both God and true Man are thoroughly proven in His life on earth. Though we cannot expect to understand this, we have no alternative but to believe it, and honest faith worships at His feet.

This being true, then in Him believers find all fullness. They are complete or filled full in Him. This is not experience, but a fact which all believers have title to enjoy. Further, Christ is the Head of all principality and power, that is, the highest dignities and authorities are subject to Him and dependent on Him. We therefore are not dependent on them , but on Him.

NOT LEGALITY, BUT CHRIST

(vs.11-23)

Since all believers are "in Him," we are linked with One who has been cut off from the earth in the death of the cross. We therefore also are "circumcised" in Him, not by human hands, but in the true spiritual significance of circumcision, the flesh cut off by identification with "the circumcision of Christ," that is, His own cutting off in the death of the cross (Philippians 3:3). This involves our being cut off from the world's philosophy and from every other worldly principle: it is "putting off the body of the sins of the flesh" (v.11).

Death is seen in verse 11, and in verse 12, then resurrection. Water baptism "unto Christ" is the burial of one dead. Baptism speaks only of death and burial, not of life in any way. The words "in which" here may be as rightly translated "in whom," that is, resurrection is in Christ, not in baptism, and this is further stressed in the following words, "through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead" (v.12). Compare this verse as translated in the Numerical Bible by F.W.Grant, available from the publisher of this book. Our resurrection life is connected vitally with Christ raised from the dead, and on our part requiring only faith in the working of God. Baptism has nothing to do with this vital operation.

Verse 13 reminds us of our sad previous condition, dead in sins with no spark of life toward God, and in "the uncircumcision of your flesh." that is, in the state of unjudged corruption. A person in such a condition is totally unfit for God. Out of such a state God has "quickened" or "made alive" together with Christ every believer. This is the divine, immediate impartation of eternal life, and reminds us of the words of the Lord Jesus, "the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live" (John 5:25). This quickening is connected with the full forgiveness of all trespasses (v.13). Therefore, the work done in us and the work done for us go hand in hand.

Only by the cross of Christ could this have been accomplished, and the cross has done away with every obligation to legal ordinances. "The handwriting of requirements that was against us" implies a legal document by which one is bound through his signature. Israel fully committed themselves to keep the law in Exodus 19:8, saying, "All that the Lord has spoken we will do." Every honest conscience recognizes an obligation to obey some standard of conduct, such as the ordinances of the law of Moses. But we find the law is against us because of our disobedience. Now, God Himself has taken this obligation out of the way, nailing it to the cross of Christ. Wonderful grace indeed! In addition He has disarmed all the influence of satanic dignity and authority, having exposed the deceitful and bitter enmity of Satan, and shown His Son to be, by means of the cross, altogether superior to such evil spiritual powers. God has triumphed by the cross of Christ, the very symbol of weakness and apparent defeat! His victory has broken all bondage too for the believer, whether bondage to Satan or to legal ordinances.

Therefore, if human philosophy has been effectively disposed of by the cross, so has the proud human principle of legality. These were not evils within the Colossian local assembly, but dangers from without, the first a Greek deception, the second Jewish. Believers were to refuse all human judgments that imposed restrictions in eating or drinking and required the keeping of holy days or sabbath days (v.16). Such things were proper in Judaism, though even then they were only a shadow to symbolize the substantial blessings that Christ has brought (v.17). Now that Christ has come, only unbelief can go back to the mere shadow. We have in Christ what is substantial and real, The blessedness of His Person transcends all that even God Himself had established previous to Christ's coming.

Verse 18 is a warning that we will be cheated if we allow anyone to impose legal ordinances on us after we have known the grace of God in Christ. In fact, if we go back to the Law we will soon be guilty of breaking the Law, which forbid worship to any but God. Yet legality, which is not true law-keeping, considers it humble to have angels as sort of intermediaries, suggesting that we are not worthy to directly approach God in worship. This is totally false humility, an intrusion into that which one does not understand, but resulting in puffing up the fleshly mind. It is mysticism, characteristic of many eastern religions, not subject to the clearly declared Word of God, though very religious and meticulous. Saints of God are warned strongly against this, for it is a defrauding thing, depriving one of true blessing now and of reward in the future, for it puts something other than Christ between the soul and God.

One glaring lack characterizes all this, the lack of simple, honest recognition of Christ as Head. How is the body to function without the head? From Him, the Lord Jesus glorified, proceeds all nourishment and wisdom to maintain every activity of the body in unity. Joints enable some members to function in varying different directions while remaining connected vitally with the body (v.19). And there are strong, supple bands, binding the body together, especially supporting the joints and every area where dangers of weakness might be present. It is the Head by whom all the body is thus "knit together" and by whom all is nourished and sustained. Paul does not here speak of the functioning of each individual member as in 1 Corinthians 12:1-31, but rather of the Head being the Source of all blessing and of all unity, Him upon whom we are utterly dependent and by whom the body increases with the increase of God - a gradual, united and sustained building up.

Verse 20 refers back to verse 11. Christ having died for us, then all who have trusted Him are looked at by God as having died with Him: His death is our death. Then why, as people still living in the flesh, should we be subject to worldly rituals and ordinances? By the cross we are crucified to the world (Galatians 6:14); we have died to sin (Romans 6:2); we have become dead to the law (Romans 7:4). Such things belong to a sphere we have left behind by death. Why be concerned with that which was intended (in the Jewish dispensation of law) to be only temporary and to which we have died?

The principle, "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle" describes the whole negative character of legality. If this is the sum of one's religion, he is certainly left empty, though sadly puffed up as though he were full. These things perish with the using. A balloon is only for amusement, quickly deflated and gone. Christianity is not ordinances, but Christ who has in His own blessed Person displaced the whole system of Judaism -- the dispensation set up by the commandment and doctrine of God. How much more so as to the commandments and doctrines of men which have been added to Judaism?

The apostle grants that such things have an appearance of wisdom. Otherwise they would not have been an enticement. But such commandments are rooted in "self-imposed religion," a religion dictated by people's thoughts of what is convenient, not in submission to the word and will of God. Thus their pretended humility is merely the pride of the flesh. In this pretended humility the body and its needs are often deliberately neglected, not as self-judging the flesh, but to actually minister to "the indulgence of the flesh." It has no value whatever, but rather increases fleshly pride. True fasting is not in showing off to others, but in honest self-sacrifice as before God.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Colossians 2:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/colossians-2.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, December 12th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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