8. Beware lest any one plunder you.He again instructs them as to the poison, which the antidote presented by him should be made use of to counteract. For although this, as we have stated, is a common remedy against all the impostures of the devil, it had, nevertheless, at that time a peculiar advantage among the Colossians, to which it required to be applied. Beware, says he, lest any one plunder you. He makes use of a very appropriate term, for he alludes to plunderers, who, when they cannot carry off the flock by violence, drive away some of the cattle fraudulently. Thus he makes Christ’s Church a sheep-fold, and the pure doctrine of the gospel the enclosures of the fold. He intimates, accordingly, that we who are the sheep of Christ repose in safety when we hold the unity of the faith, while, on the other hand, he likens the false apostles to plunderers that carry us away from the folds. Would you then be reckoned as belonging to Christ’s flock? Would you remain in his folds? Do not deviate a nail’s breadth from purity of doctrine. For unquestionably Christ will act the part of the good Shepherd by protecting us if we but hear his voice, and reject those of strangers. In short, the tenth chapter of John is the exposition of the passage before us. [Joh_10:0 ]
Through philosophy. As many have mistakingly imagined that philosophyis here condemned by Paul, we must point out what he means by this term. Now, in my opinion, he means everything that men contrive of themselves when wishing to be wise through means of their own understanding, and that not without a specious pretext of reason, so as to have a plausible appearance. For there is no difficulty in rejecting those contrivances of men which have nothing to set them off, but in rejecting those that captivate men’s minds by a false conceit of wisdom. Or should any one prefer to have it expressed in one word, philosophy is nothing else than a persuasive speech, which insinuates itself into the minds of men by elegant and plausible arguments. Of such a nature, I acknowledge, will all the subtleties of philosophers be, if they are inclined to add anything of their own to the pure word of God. Hence philosophy will be nothing else than a corruption of spiritual doctrine, if it is mixed up with Christ. Let us, however, bear in mind, that under the term philosophy Paul has merely condemned all spurious doctrines which come forth from man’s head, whatever appearance of reason they may have. What immediately follows, as to vain deceit, I explain thus; “Beware of philosophy, which is nothing else than vain deceit,” so that this is added by way of apposition.
According to the tradition of men. He points out more precisely what kind of philosophy he reproves, and at the same time convicts it of vanity on a twofold account — because it is notaccordingtoChrist, but according to the inclinations of men; and because it consists in the elements of the world. Observe, however, that he places Christ in opposition to the elements of the world, equally as to the tradition of men, by which he intimates, that whatever is hatched in man’s brain is not in accordance with Christ, who has been appointed us by the Father as our sole Teacher, that he might retain us in the simplicity of his gospel. Now, that is corrupted by even a small portion of the leaven of human traditions. He intimates also, that all doctrines are foreign to Christ that make the worship of God, which we know to be spiritual, according to Christ’s rule, to consist in the elements of the world, and also such as fetter the minds of men by such trifles and frivolities, while Christ calls us directly to himself.
But what is meant by the phrase — elements of the world? There can be no doubt that it means ceremonies. For he immediately afterwards adduces one instance by way of example — circumcision. The reason why he calls them by such a name is usually explained in two ways. Some think that it is a metaphor, so that the elements are the rudiments of children, which do not lead forward to mature doctrine. Others take it in its proper signification, as denoting things that are outward and are liable to corruption, which avail nothing for the kingdom of God. The former exposition I rather approve of, as also in Gal_4:3
Beware lest any man spoil you – The word συλαγωγων, from συλη, prey, and αγειν, to lead or carry away, signifies to rob, or spoil of their goods, as if by violence or rapine. Their goods were the salvation they had received from Christ; and both the Gentile and Jewish teachers endeavored to deprive them of these, by perverting their minds, and leading them off from the truths of Christianity.
Philosophy and vain deceit – Or, the vain or empty deceit of philosophy; such philosophizing as the Jewish and Gentile teachers used. As the term philosophy stood in high repute among the Gentiles, the Jews of this time affected it; and both Philo and Josephus use the word to express the whole of the Mosaic institutions. So the former: Οι κατα Μωσην φιλοσοφουντες· “Those who embraced the philosophy of Moses;” Phil., De Nomin. Mutand. And the latter; Τρια παρα Ιουδαιοις ειδη φιλοσοφειται· “There are three systems of philosophy among the Jews,” (Bell. Jud., lib. ii. cap 8, sec. 2), meaning the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes, as immediately follows. The Jewish philosophy, such as is found in the Cabala, Midrashim, and other works, deserves the character of vain deceit, in the fullest sense and meaning of the words. The inspired writers excepted, the Jews have ever been the most puerile, absurd, and ridiculous reasoners in the world. Even Rabbi Maymon, or Maimonides, the most intelligent of them all, is often in his master piece (the Moreh Nevochim, the Teacher of the Perplexed) most deplorably empty and vain.
After the rudiments of the world – According to the doctrine of the Jewish teachers; or, according to the Mosaic institutions, as explained and glossed by the scribes, Pharisees, and rabbins in general. We have often seen that העולם הזה haolam hazzeh, this world, of which του κοσμου τουτου is a literal translation, is frequently used to express the Jewish system of rites, ceremonies, and institutions in general; what the apostle calls the tradition of men, namely, what men, unauthorized by God, have taught as doctrines received from him. Our Lord frequently refers to and condemns these traditions.
Not after Christ – Not according to the simple doctrine of Christ, viz.: He died for our offenses; believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved.
Beware lest any man spoil you – The word “spoil” now commonly means, to corrupt, to cause to decay and perish, as fruit is spoiled by keeping too long, or paper by wetting, or hay by a long rain, or crops by mildew. But the Greek word used here means to spoil in the sense of plunder, rob, as when plunder is taken in war. The meaning is, “Take heed lest anyone plunder or rob you of your faith and hope by philosophy.” These false teachers would strip them of their faith and hope, as an invading army would rob a country of all that was valuable.
Through philosophy – The Greek philosophy prevailed much in the regions around Colossae, and perhaps also the oriental or Gnostic philosophy. See the Introduction They were exposed to the influences of these plausible systems. They consisted much of speculations respecting the nature of the divine existence; and the danger of the Colossians was, that they would rely rather on the deductions of that specious reasoning, than on what they had been taught by their Christian teachers.
And vain deceit – Mere fallacy. The idea is, that the doctrines which were advanced in those systems were maintained by plausible, not by solid arguments; by considerations not fitted to lead to the truth, but to lead astray.
After the tradition of men – There appear to have been two sources of danger to which the Christians at Colesso were exposed, and to which the apostle in these cautions alludes, though he is not careful to distinguish them. The one was that arising from the Grecian philosophy; the other, from Jewish opinions. The latter is that to which he refers here. The Jews depended much on tradition (see the notes at Mat_15:2); and many of those traditions would have tended much to corrupt the gospel of Christ.
After the rudiments of the world – Margin, elements. See this explained in the Notes at Gal_4:3.
And not after Christ – Not such as Christ taught.
Take heed (blepete). Present active imperative second person plural of blepo, common verb for warning like our “look out,” “beware,” “see to it.”
Lest there shall be any one (me tis estai). Negative purpose with the future indicative, though the aorist subjunctive also occurs as in 2Co_12:6.
That maketh spoil of you (ho sulagogon). Articular present active participle of sulagogeo, late and rare (found here first) verb (from sule, booty, and ago, to lead, to carry), to carry off as booty a captive, slave, maiden. Only here in N.T. Note the singular here. There was some one outstanding leader who was doing most of the damage in leading the people astray.
Through his philosophy (dia tes philosophias). The only use of the word in the N.T. and employed by Paul because the Gnostics were fond of it. Old word from philosophos (philos, sophos, one devoted to the pursuit of wisdom) and in N.T. only in Act_17:18. Paul does not condemn knowledge and wisdom (see Col_2:2), but only this false philosophy, “knowledge falsely named” (pseudonumos gnosis, 1Ti_6:20), and explained here by the next words.
And vain deceit (kai kenes apates). Old word for trick, guile, like riches (Mat_13:22). Descriptive of the philosophy of the Gnostics.
Tradition (paradosin). Old word from paradidomi, a giving over, a passing on. The word is colourless in itself. The tradition may be good (2Th_2:15; 2Th_3:6) or bad (Mar_7:3). Here it is worthless and harmful, merely the foolish theories of the Gnostics.
Rudiments (stoicheia). Old word for anything in a stoichos (row, series) like the letters of the alphabet, the materials of the universe (2Pe_3:10, 2Pe_3:12), elementary teaching (Heb_5:12), elements of Jewish ceremonial training (Act_15:10; Gal_4:3, Gal_4:9), the specious arguments of the Gnostic philosophers as here with all their aeons and rules of life.
And not after Christ (kai ou kata Christon). Christ is the yardstick by which to measure philosophy and all phases of human knowledge. The Gnostics were measuring Christ by their philosophy as many men are doing today. They have it backwards. Christ is the measure for all human knowledge since he is the Creator and the Sustainer of the universe.
9. For in him dwelleth. Here we have the reason why those elements of the world, which are taught by men, do not accord with Christ — because they are additions for supplying a deficiency, as they speak. Now in Christ there is a perfection, to which nothing can be added. Hence everything that mankind of themselves mix up, is at variance with Christ’s nature, because it charges him with imperfection. This argument of itself will suffice for setting aside all the contrivances of Papists. For to what purpose do they tend, but to perfect what was commenced by Christ? Now this outrage upon Christ is not by any means to be endured. They allege, it is true, that they add nothing to Christ, inasmuch as the things that they have appended to the gospel are, as it were, a part of Christianity, but they do not effect an escape by a cavil of this kind. For Paul does not speak of an imaginary Christ, but of a Christ preached, who has revealed himself by express doctrine.
Further, when he says that the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ, he means simply, that God is wholly found in him, so that he who is not contented with Christ alone, desires something better and more excellent than God. The sum is this, that God has manifested himself to us fully and perfectly in Christ.
Interpreters explain in different ways the adverb bodily. For my part, I have no doubt that it is employed — not in a strict sense — as meaning substantially. For he places this manifestation of God, which we have in Christ, to all others that have ever been made. For God has often manifested himself to men, but it has been only in part. In Christ, on the other hand, he communicates himself to us wholly. He has also manifested himself to us otherwise, but it is in figures, or by power and grace. In Christ, on the other hand, he has appeared to us essentially. Thus the statement of John holds good: He that hath the Son, hath the Father also. (1Jo_2:23.)
For those who possess Christ have God truly present, and enjoy Him wholly.
Only here in the New Testament. See on Rom_1:20, where θειότης divinity or godhood is used. Appropriate there, because God personally would not be known from His revelation in nature, but only His attributes – His majesty and glory. Here Paul is speaking of the essential and personal deity as belonging to Christ. So Bengel: “Not the divine attributes, but the divine nature.”
In bodily fashion or bodily-wise. The verse contains two distinct assertions: 1. That the fullness of the Godhead eternally dwells in Christ. The present tense κατοικει dwelleth, is used like εστιν is (the image), Col_1:15, to denote an eternal and essential characteristic of Christ’s being. The indwelling of the divine fullness in Him is characteristic of Him as Christ, from all ages and to all ages. Hence the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in Him before His incarnation, when He was “in the form of God” (Phi_2:6). The Word in the beginning, was with God and was God (Joh_1:1). It dwelt in Him during His incarnation. It was the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth, and His glory which was beheld was the glory as of the Only begotten of the Father (Joh_1:14; compare 1Jo_1:1-3). The fullness of the Godhead dwells in His glorified humanity in heaven.
2. The fullness of the Godhead dwells in Him in a bodily way, clothed the body. This means that it dwells in Him as one having a human body. This could not be true of His preincarnate state, when He was “in the form of God,” for the human body was taken on by Him in the fullness of time, when “He became in the likeness of men” (Phi_2:7), when the Word became flesh. The fullness of the Godhead dwelt in His person from His birth to His ascension. He carried His human body with Him into heaven, and in His glorified body now and ever dwells the fullness of the Godhead.
“What a contrast to the human tradition and the rudiments of the world” (Meyer). What a contrast to the spiritual agencies conceived as intermediate between God and men, in each of which the divine fullness was abridged and the divine glory shaded, in proportion to the remoteness from God in successive emanation.
For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily (hoti en autoi katoikei pan to pleroma tes theotetos somatikos). In this sentence, given as the reason (hoti, because) for the preceding claim for Christ as the measure of human knowledge Paul states the heart of his message about the Person of Christ. There dwells (at home) in Christ not one or more aspects of the Godhead (the very essence of God, from theos, deitas) and not to be confused with theiotes in Rom_1:20 (from theios, the quality of God, divinitas), here only in N.T. as theiotes only in Rom_1:20. The distinction is observed in Lucian and Plutarch. Theiotes occurs in the papyri and inscriptions. Paul here asserts that “all the pleroma of the Godhead,” not just certain aspects, dwells in Christ and in bodily form (somatikos, late and rare adverb, in Plutarch, inscription, here only in N.T.), dwells now in Christ in his glorified humanity (Phi_2:9-11), “the body of his glory” (toi somati tes doxes). The fulness of the God-head was in Christ before the Incarnation (Joh_1:1, Joh_1:18; Phi_2:6), during the Incarnation (Joh_1:14, Joh_1:18; 1Jo_1:1-3). It was the Son of God who came in the likeness of men (Phi_2:7). Paul here disposes of the Docetic theory that Jesus had no human body as well as the Cerinthian separation between the man Jesus and the aeon Christ. He asserts plainly the deity and the humanity of Jesus Christ in corporeal form.
10. And ye are complete in him.He adds, that this perfect essence of Deity, which is in Christ, is profitable to us in this respect, that we are also perfect in him. “As to God’s dwelling wholly in Christ, it is in order that we, having obtained him, may posses in him an entire perfection.” Those, therefore, who do not rest satisfied with Christ alone, do injury to God in two ways, for besides detracting from the glory of God, by desiring something above his perfection, they are also ungrateful, inasmuch as they seek elsewhere what they already have in Christ. Paul, however, does not mean that the perfection of Christ is transfused into us, but that there are in him resources from which we may be filled, that nothing may be wanting to us.
Who is the head.He has introduced this clause again on account of the angels, meaning that the angels, also, will be ours, if we have Christ. But of this afterwards. In the mean time, we must observe this, that we are hemmed in, above and below, with railings, that our faith may not deviate even to the slightest extent from Christ.
And ye are complete in him – Having no need, for the purposes of salvation, of any aid to be derived from the philosophy of the Greeks, or the traditions of the Jews. All that is necessary to secure your salvation is to be found in the Lord Jesus. There is a completion, or a filling up, in him, so as to leave nothing wanting. This is true in respect:
(1) to the wisdom which is needful to guide us;
(2) the atonement to be made for sin;
(3) the merit by which a sinner can be justified; and,
(4) the grace which is needful to sustain us in the trials, and to aid us in the duties, of life; compare the notes at 1Co_1:30.
There is no necessity, therefore, that we should look to the aid of philosophy, as if there was a defect in the teachings of the Saviour; or to human strength, as if he were unable to save us; or to the merits of the saints, as if those of the Redeemer were not sufficient to meet all our wants. The sentiment advanced in this verse would overthrow the whole papal doctrine of the merits of the saints, and, of course, the whole doctrine of papal “indulgences.”
11. In whom ye also are circumcised.From this it appears, that he has a controversy with the false apostles, who mixed the law with the gospel, and by that means made Christ have, as it were, two faces. He specifies, however, one instance by way of example. He proves that the circumcision of Moses is not merely unnecessary, but is opposed to Christ, because it destroys the spiritual circumcision of Christ. For circumcision was given to the Fathers that it might be the figure of a thing that was absent: those, therefore, who retain that figure after Christ’s advent, deny the accomplishment of what it prefigures. Let us, therefore, bear in mind that outward circumcision is here compared with spiritual, just as a figure with the reality. The figure is of a thing that is absent: hence it puts away the presence of the reality. What Paul contends for is this — that, inasmuch as what was shadowed forth by a circumcision made with hands, has been completed in Christ, there is now no fruit or advantage from it. Hence he says, that the circumcision which is made in the heart is the circumcision of Christ, and that, on this account, that which is outward is not now required, because, where the reality exists, that shadowy emblem vanishes, inasmuch as it has no place except in the absence of the reality.
By the putting off of the body.He employs the term body, by an elegant metaphor, to denote a mass, made up of all vices. For as we are encompassed by our bodies, so we are surrounded on all sides by an accumulation of vices. And as the body is composed of various members, each of which has its own actings and offices, so from that accumulation of corruption all sins take their rise as members of the entire body. There is a similar manner of expression in Rom_6:13.
He takes the term flesh, as he is wont, to denote corrupt nature. The body of the sins of the flesh, therefore, is the oldman with his deeds; only, there is a difference in the manner of expression, for here he expresses more properly the mass of vices which proceed from corrupt nature. He says that we obtain this through Christ, so that unquestionably an entire regeneration is his benefit. It is he that circumcises the foreskin of our heart, or, in other words, mortifies all the lusts of the flesh, not with the hand, but by his Spirit. Hence there is in him the reality of the figure.
In whom also ye are circumcised – All that was designed by circumcision, literally performed, is accomplished in them that believe through the Spirit and power of Christ. It is not a cutting off of a part of the flesh, but a putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, through the circumcision of Christ; he having undergone and performed this, and all other rites necessary to qualify him to be a mediator between God and man; for, being made under the law, he was subject to all its ordinances, and every act of his contributed to the salvation of men. But by the circumcision of Christ, the operation of his grace and Spirit may be intended; the law required the circumcision of the flesh, the Gospel of Christ required the circumcision of the heart.
The words των αμαρτιων, of the sins, are omitted by ABCD*EFG, several others, by the Coptic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Vulgate, and Itala; and by Clement, Athanasius, Basil, Cyril, and several others. Griesbach has omitted them.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Implying that they did not need, as the Judaizers taught, the outward rite of circumcision, since they had already the inward spiritual reality of it.
are — rather, as the Greek, “Ye were (once for all) circumcised (spiritually, at your conversion and baptism, Rom_2:28, Rom_2:29; Phi_3:3) with a (so the Greek) circumcision made without hands”; opposed to “the circumcision in the flesh made by hands” (Eph_2:11). Christ’s own body, by which the believer is sanctified, is said to be “not made with hands” (Mar_14:58; Heb_9:11; compare Dan_2:45).
in putting off — rather as Greek, “in your putting off”; as an old garment (Eph_4:22); alluding to the putting off the foreskin in circumcision.
the body of the sins of the flesh — The oldest manuscripts read, “the body of the flesh,” omitting “of the sins,” that is, “the body,” of which the prominent feature is fleshiness (compare Rom_8:13, where “flesh” and “the body” mutually correspond). This fleshly body, in its sinful aspect, is put off in baptism (where baptism answers its ideal) as the seal of regeneration where received in repentance and faith. In circumcision the foreskin only was put off; in Christian regeneration “the body of the flesh” is spiritually put off, at least it is so in its ideal conception, however imperfectly believers realize that ideal.
by — Greek, “in.” This spiritual circumcision is realized in, or by, union with Christ, whose “circumcision,” whereby He became responsible for us to keep the whole law, is imputed to believers for justification; and union with whom, in all His vicarious obedience, including HIS CIRCUMCISION, is the source of our sanctification. Alford makes it explanatory of the previous, “a circumcision made without hands,” namely, “the circumcision brought about by your union with Christ.” The former view seems to me better to accord with Col_2:12; Col_3:1, Col_3:3, Col_3:4, which similarly makes the believer, by spiritual union with Christ, to have personal fellowship in the several states of Christ, namely, His death, resurrection, and appearing in glory. Nothing was done or suffered by our Mediator as such, but may be acted in our souls and represented in our spirits. Pearson’s view, however, is that of Alford. JOSHUA, the type (not Moses in the wilderness), circumcised the Israelites in Canaan (Jos_5:2-9) the second time: the people that came out of Egypt having been circumcised, and afterwards having died in the wilderness; but those born after the Exodus not having been so. Jesus, the Antitype, is the author of the true circumcision, which is therefore called “the circumcision of Christ” (Rom_2:29). As Joshua was “Moses’ minister,” so Jesus, “minister of the circumcision for the truth of God” unto the Gentiles (Rom_15:8).
Ye were also circumcised (kai perietmethete). First aorist passive indicative of peritemno, to circumcise. But used here as a metaphor in a spiritual sense as in Rom_2:29 “the circumcision of the heart.”
Not made with hands (acheiropoietoi). This late and rare negative compound verbal occurs only in the N.T. (Mar_14:58; 2Co_5:1; Col_2:11) by merely adding a privative to the old verbal cheiropoietos (Act_7:48; Eph_2:11), possibly first in Mar_14:58 where both words occur concerning the temple. In 2Co_5:1 the reference is to the resurrection body. The feminine form of this compound adjective is the same as the masculine.
In the putting off (en tei apekdusei). As if an old garment (the fleshly body). From apekduomai (Col_2:15, possibly also coined by Paul) and occurring nowhere else so far as known. The word is made in a perfectly normal way by the perfective use of the two Greek prepositions (apo, ek), “a resource available for and generally used by any real thinker writing Greek” (Moulton and Milligan, Vocabulary). Paul had as much right to mint a Greek compound as any one and surely no one ever had more ideas to express and more power in doing it.
Of Christ (tou Christou). Specifying genitive, the kind of circumcision that belongs to Christ, that of the heart.
12. Buried with him, in baptism.He explains still more clearly the manner of spiritual circumcision — because, being buried with Christ, we are partakers of his death. He expressly declares that we obtain this by means of baptism, that it may be the more clearly apparent that there is no advantage from circumcision under the reign of Christ. For some one might otherwise object: “Why do you abolish circumcision on this pretext — that its accomplishment is in Christ? Was not Abraham, also, circumcised spiritually, and yet this did not hinder the adding of the sign to the reality? Outward circumcision, therefore, is not superfluous, although that which is inward is conferred by Christ.” Paul anticipates an objection of this kind, by making mention of baptism. Christ, says he, accomplishes in us spiritual circumcision, not through means of that ancient sign, which was in force under Moses, but by baptism. Baptism, therefore, is a sign of the thing that is presented to us, which while absent was prefigured by circumcision. The argument is taken from the economy which God has appointed; for those who retain circumcision contrive a mode of dispensation different from that which God has appointed.
When he says that we are buried with Christ, this means more than that we are crucified with him; for burial expresses a continued process of mortification. When he says, that this is done through means of baptism, as he says also in Rom_6:4, he speaks in his usual manner, ascribing efficacy to the sacrament, that it may not fruitlessly signify what does not exist. By baptism, therefore, we are buried with Christ, because Christ does at the same time accomplish efficaciously that mortification, which he there represents, that the reality may be conjoined with the sign.
In which also ye are risen.He magnifies the grace which we obtain in Christ, as being greatly superior to circumcision. “We are not only,” says he, “ingrafted into Christ’s death, but we also rise to newness of life:” hence the more injury is done to Christ by those who endeavor to bring us back to circumcision. He adds, byfaith, for unquestionably it is by it that we receive what is presented to us in baptism. But what faith? That of his efficacy or operation, by which he means, that faith is founded upon the power of God. As, however, faith does not wander in a confused and undefined contemplation, as they speak, of divine power, he intimates what efficacy it ought to have in view — that by which God raised Christ from the dead. He takes this, however, for granted, that, inasmuch as it is impossible that believers should be severed from their head, the same power of God, which shewed itself in Christ, is diffused among them all in common.
Having been buried with him in baptism (suntaphentes autoi en toi baptismati). Second aorist passive participle of sunthapto, old word, in N.T. only here and Rom_6:4, followed by associative instrumental case (autoi). Thayer’s Lexicon says: “For all who in the rite of baptism are plunged under the water, thereby declare that they put faith in the expiatory death of Christ for the pardon of their past sins.” Yes, and for all future sins also. This word gives Paul’s vivid picture of baptism as a symbolic burial with Christ and resurrection also to newness of life in him as Paul shows by the addition “wherein ye were also raised with him” (en hoi kai sunegerthete). “In which baptism” (baptismati, he means). First aorist passive indicative of sunegeiro, late and rare verb (Plutarch for waking up together), in lxx, in N.T. only in Col_2:12; Col_3:1; Eph_2:6. In the symbol of baptism the resurrection to new life in Christ is pictured with an allusion to Christ’s own resurrection and to our final resurrection. Paul does not mean to say that the new life in Christ is caused or created by the act of baptism. That is grossly to misunderstand him. The Gnostics and the Judaizers were sacramentalists, but not so Paul the champion of spiritual Christianity. He has just given the spiritual interpretation to circumcision which itself followed Abraham’s faith (Rom_4:10-12). Cf. Gal_3:27. Baptism gives a picture of the change already wrought in the heart “through faith” (dia tes pisteos).
In the working of God (tes energeias tou theou). Objective genitive after pisteos. See note on Col_1:29 for energeia. God had power to raise Christ from the dead (tou egeirantos, first aorist active participle of egeiro, the fact here stated) and he has power (energy) to give us new life in Christ by faith.
13. And you, when ye were dead.He admonishes the Colossians to recognize, what he had treated of in a general way, as applicable to themselves, which is by far the most effectual way of teaching. Farther, as they were Gentiles when they were converted to Christ, he takes occasion from this to shew them how absurd it is to pass over from Christ to the ceremonies of Moses. Ye were, says he, dead in Uncircumcision. This term, however, may be understood either in its proper signification, or figuratively. If you understand it in its proper sense, the meaning will be, “Uncircumcision is the badge of alienation from God; for where the covenant of grace is not, there is pollution, and, consequently, curse and ruin. But God has called you to himself from uncircumcision, and, therefore, from death.” In this way he would not represent uncircumcision as the cause of death, but as a token that they were estranged from God. We know, however, that men cannot live otherwise than by cleaving to their God, who alone is their life. Hence it follows, that all wicked persons, however they may seem to themselves to be in the highest degree lively and flourishing, are, nevertheless, spiritually dead. In this manner this passage will correspond with Eph_2:11, where it is said, Remember that, in time past, when ye were Gentiles, and called uncircumcision, by that circumcision which is made with hands in the flesh, ye were at that time without Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the promises.
Taking it metaphorically, there would, indeed, be an allusion to natural uncircumcision, but at the same time Paul would here be speaking of the obstinacy of the human heart, in opposition to God, and of a nature that is defiled by corrupt affections. I rather prefer the former exposition, because it corresponds better with the context; for Paul declares that uncircumcision was no hinderance in the way of their becoming partakers of Christ’s life. Hence it follows, that circumcision derogated from the grace of God, which they had already obtained.
As to his ascribing death to uncircumcision, this is not as though it were the cause of it, but as being the badge of it, as also in that other passage in the Epistle to the Ephesians, which we have quoted. It is also customary in Scripture to denote deprivation of the reality by deprivation of the sign, as in Gen_3:22, — Lest peradventure Adam eat of the fruit of life, and live.
For the tree did not confer life, but its being taken away was a sign of death. Paul has in this place briefly expressed both. He says that these were dead in sins: this is the cause, for our sins alienate us from God. He adds, in the uncircumcision of your flesh.This was outward pollution, an evidence of spiritual death.
By forgiving you.God does not quicken us by the mere remission of sins, but he makes mention here of this particularly, because that free reconciliation with God, which overthrows the righteousness of works, is especially connected with the point in hand, where he treats of abrogated ceremonies, as he discourses of more at large in the Epistle to the Galatians. For the false apostles, by establishing ceremonies, bound them with a halter, from which Christ has set them free.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
you, being dead — formerly (Eph_2:1, Eph_2:2); even as Christ was among the dead, before that God raised Him “from the dead” (Col_2:12).
sins — rather as Greek is translated at end of this verse, “trespasses,” literally, “failings aside” from God’s ways; actual transgressions, as that of Adam.
uncircumcision of your flesh — your not having put off the old fleshly nature, the carnal foreskin, or original sin, which now by spiritual circumcision, that is, conversion and baptism, you have put off.
he quickened — God “quickened together with Him (Christ).” Just as Christ’s resurrection proved that He was delivered from the sin laid on Him, so our spiritual quickening proves that we have been forgiven our sins (1Pe_3:22; 1Pe_4:1, 1Pe_4:2).
forgiven you — So Vulgate and Hilary. But the oldest manuscripts read, “us,” passing from the particular persons, the Colossians, to the general Church (Col_1:14; Eph_1:7).
all trespasses — Greek, “all our trespasses.”
Morally, as Ephesians 2, Eph_1:5; Rom_6:11. In your sins (ἐν τοῖς παραπτῶμασιν) The best texts omit ἐν in, and the dative is instrumental, through or by. Rev., through your trespasses. See on Mat_6:14.
The uncircumcision of your flesh
That sinful, carnal nature of which uncircumcision was the sign, and which was the source of the trespasses. Compare Eph_2:11.
He quickened together (συνεζωοποίησεν)
Only here and Eph_2:5. Endowed with a new spiritual life, as Col_2:12. This issues in immortal life. Compare Eph_2:6.
Having forgiven us (χαρισάμενος ημιν)
Freely (χάρις grace, free gift), as Luk_7:42; 2Co_2:7, 2Co_2:10; Col_3:13. Note the change of pronoun from you to us, believers generally, embracing himself. This change from the second to the first person, or, vice versa, is common in Paul’s writings. See Col_1:10-13; Col_3:3, Col_3:4; Eph_2:2, Eph_2:3, Eph_2:13, Eph_2:14; Eph_4:31, Eph_4:32.
14. Having blotted out the hand-writing which was against us.He now contends with the false apostles in close combat. For this was the main point in question, — whether the observance of ceremonies was necessary under the reign of Christ? Now Paul contends that ceremonies have been abolished, and to prove this he compares them to a hand-writing, by which God holds us as it were bound, that we may not be able to deny our guilt. He now says, that we have been freed from condemnation, in such a manner, that even the hand-writing is blotted out, that no remembrance of it might remain. For we know that as to debts the obligation is still in force, so long as thehand-writing remains; and that, on the other hand, by the erasing, or tearing of the handwriting, the debtor is set free. Hence it follows, that all those who still urge the observance of ceremonies, detract from the grace of Christ, as though absolution were not procured for us through him; for they restore to the hand-writingits freshness, so as to hold us still under obligation.
This, therefore, is a truly theological reason for proving the abrogation of ceremonies, because, if Christ has fully redeemed us from condemnation, he must have also effaced the remembrance of the obligation, that consciences may be pacified and tranquil in the sight of God, for these two things are conjoined. While interpreters explain this passage in various ways, there is not one of them that satisfies me. Some think that Paul speaks simply of the moral law, but there is no ground for this. For Paul is accustomed to give the name of ordinances to that department which consists in ceremonies, as he does in the Epistle to the Ephesians, (Eph_2:15,) and as we shall find he does shortly afterwards. More especially, the passage in Ephesians shews clearly, that Paul is here speaking of ceremonies.
Others, therefore, do better, in restricting it to ceremonies, but they, too, err in this respect, that they do not add the reason why it is called hand-writing, or rather they assign a reason different from the true one, and they do not in a proper manner apply this similitude to the context. Now, the reason is, that all the ceremonies of Moses had in them some acknowledgment of guilt, which bound those that observed them with a firmer tie, as it were, in the view of God’s judgment. For example, what else were washings than an evidence of pollution? Whenever any victim was sacrificed, did not the people that stood by behold in it a representation of his death? For when persons substituted in their place an innocent animal, they confessed that they were themselves deserving of that death. In fine, in proportion as there were ceremonies belonging to it, just so many exhibitions were there of human guilt, and hand-writings of obligation.
Should any one object that they were sacraments of the grace of God, as Baptism and the Eucharist are to us at this day, the answer is easy. For there are two things to be considered in the ancient ceremonies — that they were suited to the time, and that they led men forward to the kingdom of Christ. Whatever was done at that time shewed in itself nothing but obligation. Grace was in a manner suspended until the advent of Christ — not that the Fathers were excluded from it, but they had not a present manifestation of it in their ceremonies. For they saw nothing in the sacrifices but the blood of beasts, and in their washings nothing but water. Hence, as to present view, condemnation remained; nay more, the ceremonies themselves sealed the condemnation. The Apostle speaks, also, in this manner in the whole of his Epistle to the Hebrews, because he places Christ in direct opposition to ceremonies. But how is it now? The Son of God has not only by his death delivered us from the condemnation of death, but in order that absolution might be made more certain, he abrogated those ceremonies, that no remembrance of obligation might remain. This is full liberty — that Christ has by his blood not only blotted out our sins, but every hand-writing which might declare us to be exposed to the judgment of God. Erasmus in his version has involved in confusion the thread of Paul’s discourse, by rendering it thus — “which was contrary to us by ordinances.” Retain, therefore, the rendering which I have given, as being the true and genuine one.
Took it out of the way, fastening it to his cross. He shews the manner in which Christ has effaced the hand-writing; for as he fastened to the cross our curse, our sins, and also the punishment that was due to us, so he has also fastened to it that bondage of the law, and everything that tends to bind consciences. For, on his being fastened to the cross, he took all things to himself, and even bound them upon him, that they might have no more power over us.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Blotting out — Greek, “Having wiped out”; coincident in time with “having forgiven you” (Col_2:13); hereby having cancelled the law’s indictment against you. The law (including especially the moral law, wherein lay the chief difficulty in obeying) is abrogated to the believer, as far as it was a compulsory, accusing code, and as far as “righteousness” (justification) and “life” were sought for by it. It can only produce outward works, not inward obedience of the will, which in the believer flows from the Holy Spirit in Him (Rom_3:21; Rom_7:2, Rom_7:4; Gal_2:19).
the handwriting of ordinances — rather, “IN ordinances” (see on Eph_2:15); “the law of commandments contained in ordinances.” “The handwriting” (alluding to the Decalogue, the representative of the law, written by the hand of God) is the whole law, the obligatory bond, under which all lay; the Jews primarily were under the bond, but they in this respect were the representative people of the world (Rom_3:19); and in their inability to keep the law was involved the inability of the Gentiles also, in whose hearts “the work of the law was written” (Rom_2:15); and as they did not keep this, they were condemned by it.
that was against us … contrary to us — Greek “adversary to us”; so it is translated, Heb_10:27. “Not only was the law against us by its demands, but also an adversary to us by its accusations” [Bengel]. Tittmann explains the Greek, “having a latent contrariety to us”; not open designed hostility, but virtual unintentional opposition through our frailty; not through any opposition in the law itself to our good (Rom_7:7-12, Rom_7:14; 1Co_15:56; Gal_3:21; Heb_10:3). The “WRITING” is part of “that which was contrary to us”; for “the letter killeth” (see on 2Co_3:6).
and took it — Greek, and hath taken it out of the way” (so as to be no longer a hindrance to us), by “nailing it to the cross.” Christ, by bearing the curse of the broken law, has redeemed us from its curse (Gal_3:13). In His person nailed to the cross, the law itself was nailed to it. One ancient mode of canceling bonds was by striking a nail through the writing: this seems at that time to have existed in Asia [Grotius]. The bond cancelled in the present case was the obligation lying against the Jews as representatives of the world, and attested by their amen, to keep the whole law under penalty of the curse (Deu_27:26; Neh_10:29).
Blotting out the handwriting – The word rendered handwriting means something written by the hand, a manuscript; and here, probably, the writings of the Mosaic law, or the law appointing many ordinances or observances in religion. The allusion is probably to a written contract, in which we bind ourselves to do any work, or to make a payment, and which remains in force against us until the bond is cancelled. That might be done, either by blotting out the names, or by drawing lines through it, or, as appears to have been practiced in the East, by driving a nail through it. The Jewish ceremonial law is here represented as such a contract, binding those under it to its observance, until it was nailed to the cross. The meaning here is, that the burdensome requirements of the Mosaic law are abolished, and that its necessity is superseded by the death of Christ. His death had the same effect, in reference to those ordinances, as if they had been blotted from the statute-book. This it did by fulfilling them, by introducing a more perfect system, and by rendering their observance no longer necessary, since all that they were designed to typify had been now accomplished in a better way; compare the notes at Eph_2:15.
Of ordinances – Prescribing the numerous rites and ceremonies of the Jewish religion.
That was against us – That is, against our peace, happiness, comfort; or in other words, which was oppressive and burdensome; compare the notes at Act_15:10. Those ordinances bound and lettered the soul, restrained the expansive spirit of true piety which seeks the salvation of all alike, and thus operated as a hindrance to the enlarged spirit of true religion. Thus, they really operated against the truly pious Jew, whose religion would lead him to seek the salvation of the world; and to the Gentile, since he was not in a situation to avail himself of them, and since they would be burdensome if he could. It is in this sense, probably, that the apostle uses the word “us,” as referring to all, and as cramping and restraining the true nature of religion.
Which was contrary to us – Operated as a hindrance, or obstruction, in the matter of religion. The ordinances of the Mosaic law were necessary, in order to introduce the gospel; but they were always burdensome. They were to be confined to one people; and, if they were continued, they would operate to prevent the spread of the true religion around the world; compare 2Co_3:7, note, 9, note. Hence, the exulting language of the apostle in view of the fact that they were now taken away, and that the benefits of religion might be diffused all over the world. The gospel contains nothing which is “against,” or “contrary to,” the true interest and happiness of any nation or any class of people.
And took it out of the way – Greek, “Out of the midst;” that is, he wholly removed it. He has removed the obstruction, so that it no longer prevents union and harmony between the Jews and the Gentiles.
Nailing it to his cross – As if he had nailed it to his cross, so that it would be entirely removed out of our way. The death of Jesus had the same effect, in regard to the rites and institutions of the Mosaic religion, as if they had been affixed to his cross. It is said that there is an allusion here to the ancient method by which a bond or obligation was cancelled, by driving a nail through it, and affixing it to a post. This was practiced, says Grotius, in Asia. In a somewhat similar manner, in our banks now, a sharp instrument like the blade of a knife is driven through a check, making a hole through it, and furnishing to the teller of the bank a sign or evidence that it has been paid. If this be the meaning, then the expression here denotes that the obligation of the Jewish institutions ceased on the death of Jesus, as if he had taken them and nailed them to his own cross, in the manner in which a bond was cancelled.
Having blotted out (exaleipsas). And so “cancelled.” First aorist active participle of old verb exaleipho, to rub out, wipe off, erase. In N.T. only in Act_3:19 (lxx); Rev_3:5; Col_2:14. Here the word explains charisamenos and is simultaneous with it. Plato used it of blotting out a writing. Often MSS. were rubbed or scraped and written over again (palimpsests, like Codex C).
The bond written in ordinances that was against us (to kath’ hemon cheirographon tois dogmasin). The late compound cheirographon (cheir, hand, grapho) is very common in the papyri for a certificate of debt or bond, many of the original cheirographa (handwriting, “chirography”). See Deissmann, Bible Studies, p. 247. The signature made a legal debt or bond as Paul says in Phm_1:18.: “I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it.” Many of the papyri examples have been “crossed out” thus X as we do today and so cancelled. One decree is described as “neither washed out nor written over” (Milligan, N. T. Documents, p. 16). Undoubtedly “the handwriting in decrees” (dogmasin, the Mosaic law, Eph_2:15) was against the Jews (Exo_24:3; Deu_27:14-26) for they accepted it, but the Gentiles also gave moral assent to God’s law written in their hearts (Rom_2:14.). So Paul says “against us” (kath’ hemon) and adds “which was contrary to us” (ho en hupenantion hemin) because we (neither Jew nor Gentile) could not keep it. Hupenantios is an old double compound adjective (hupo, en, antios) set over against, only here in N.T. except Heb_10:27 when it is used as a substantive. It is striking that Paul has connected the common word cheirographon for bond or debt with the Cross of Christ (Deissmann, Light, etc., p. 332).
And he hath taken it out of the way (kai erken ek tou mesou). Perfect active indicative of airo, old and common verb, to lift up, to bear, to take away. The word used by the Baptist of Jesus as “the Lamb of God that bears away (airon) the sin of the world” (Joh_1:29). The perfect tense emphasizes the permanence of the removal of the bond which has been paid and cancelled and cannot be presented again. Lightfoot argues for Christ as the subject of erken, but that is not necessary, though Paul does use sudden anacolutha. God has taken the bond against us “out of the midst” (ek tou mesou). Nailing it to the cross (proselosas auto toi stauroi). First aorist active participle of old and common verb proseloo, to fasten with nails to a thing (with dative stauroi). Here alone in N.T., but in 3 Maccabees 4:9 with the very word stauroi. The victim was nailed to the cross as was Christ. “When Christ was crucified, God nailed the Law to His cross” (Peake). Hence the “bond” is cancelled for us. Business men today sometimes file cancelled accounts. No evidence exists that Paul alluded to such a custom here.
15. Spoiling principalities.There is no doubt that he means devils, whom Scripture represents as acting the part of accusing us before God. Paul, however, says that they are disarmed, so that they cannot bring forward anything against us, the attestation of our guilt being itself destroyed. Now, he expressly adds this with the view of shewing, that the victory of Christ, which he has procured for himself and us over Satan, is disfigured by the false apostles, and that we are deprived of the fruit of it when they restore the ancient ceremonies. For if our liberty is the spoil which Christ has rescued from the devil, what do others, who would bring us back into bondage, but restore to Satan the spoils of which he had been stript bare?
Triumphing over them in it.The expression in the Greek allows, it is true, of our reading — in himself; nay more, the greater part of the manuscripts have ἐν αὑτῳ with an aspirate. The connection of the passage, however, imperatively requires that we read it otherwise; for what would be meagre as applied to Christ, suits admirably as applied to the cross. For as he had previously compared the cross to a signal trophy or show of triumph, in which Christ led about his enemies, so he now also compares it to a triumphal car, in which he shewed himself conspicuously to view. For although in the cross there is nothing but curse, it was, nevertheless, swallowed up by the power of God in such a way, that it has put on, as it were, a new nature. For there is no tribunal so magnificent, no throne so stately, no show of triumph so distinguished, no chariot so elevated, as is the gibbet on which Christ has subdued death and the devil, the prince of death; nay more, has utterly trodden them under his feet.
And having spoiled principalities and powers – Here is an allusion to the treatment of enemies when conquered: they are spoiled of their armor, so much the word απεκδυειν implies; and they are exhibited with contumely and reproach to the populace, especially when the victor has the honor of a triumph; to the former of which there is an allusion in the words εδειγματισεν εν παρῥησιᾳ, making a public exhibition of them; and to the latter in the words θριαμβευσας αυτους, triumphing over them. And the principalities and powers refer to the emperors, kings, and generals taken in battle, and reserved to grace the victor’s triumph. It is very likely that by the αρχας και εξουσιας, principalities and powers, over whom Christ triumphed, the apostle means the נשיאות nesioth and רשות roshoth, who were the rulers and chiefs in the Sanhedrin and synagogues, and who had great authority among the people, both in making constitutions and explaining traditions. The propagation of Christianity in Judea quite destroyed their spiritual power and domination; just as the propagation of Protestantism, which was Christianity revived, destroyed, wherever it appeared, the false doctrine and domination of the pope of Rome.
In it – The words εν αυτω refer rather to Christ, than to the cross, if indeed they be genuine; of which there is much reason to doubt, as the versions and fathers differ so greatly in quoting them. Griesbach has left them out of the text.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Alford, Ellicott, and others translate the Greek to accord with the translation of the same Greek, Col_3:9, “Stripping off from Himself the principalities and the powers:” God put off from Himself the angels, that is, their ministry, not employing them to be promulgators of the Gospel in the way that He had given the law by their “disposition” or ministry (Act_7:53; Gal_3:19; Heb_2:2, Heb_2:5): God manifested Himself without a veil in Jesus. “THE principalities and THE powers” refers back to Col_2:10, Jesus, “the Head of all principality and power,” and Col_1:16. In the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, God subjected all the principalities, etc., to Jesus, declaring them to be powerless as to His work and His people (Eph_1:21). Thus Paul’s argument against those grafting on Christianity Jewish observances, along with angel-worship, is, whatever part angels may be supposed to have had under the law, now at an end, God having put the legal dispensation itself away. But the objection is, that the context seems to refer to a triumph over bad angels: in 2Co_2:14, however, Christ’s triumph over those subjected to Him, is not a triumph for destruction, but for their salvation, so that good angels may be referred to (Col_1:20). But the Greek middle is susceptible of English Version, “having spoiled,” or, literally [Tittmann], “having completely stripped,” or “despoiled” for Himself (compare Rom_8:38; 1Co_15:24; Eph_6:2). English Version accords with Mat_12:29; Luk_11:22; Heb_2:14. Translate as the Greek, “The rules and authorities.”
made a show of them — at His ascension (see on Eph_4:8; confirming English Version of this verse).
openly — Joh_7:4; Joh_11:54, support English Version against Alford’s translation, “in openness of speech.”
in it — namely, His cross, or crucifixion: so the Greek fathers translate. Many of the Latins, “In Himself” or “in Him.” Eph_2:16 favors English Version, “reconcile … by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.” If “in Him,” that is, Christ, be read, still the Cross will be the place and means of God’s triumph in Christ over the principalities (Eph_1:20; Eph_2:5). Demons, like other angels, were in heaven up to Christ’s ascension, and influenced earth from their heavenly abodes. As heaven was not yet opened to man before Christ (Joh_3:13), so it was not yet shut against demons (Job_1:6; Job_2:1). But at the ascension Satan and his demons were “judged” and “cast out” by Christ’s obedience unto death (Joh_12:31; Joh_16:11; Heb_2:14; Rev_12:5-10), and the Son of man was raised to the throne of God; thus His resurrection and ascension are a public solemn triumph over the principalities and powers of death. It is striking that the heathen oracles were silenced soon after Christ’s ascension.
Having spoiled principalities and powers (απεκδυσάμενος τὰς αρχὰς καὶ τὰς εξουσίας)
For the verb spoiled, see on putting off, Col_2:11. The principalities and powers are the angelic hosts through whose ministry the law was given. See Deu_33:2; Act_7:53; Heb_2:2; Gal_3:19. Great importance was attached, in the later rabbinical schools, to the angels who assisted in giving the law; and that fact was not without influence in shaping the doctrine of angelic mediators, one of the elements of the Colossian heresy, which was partly Judaic. This doctrine Paul strikes at in Col_1:16; Col_2:10; here, and Col_2:18. God put off from himself, when the bond of the law was rendered void in Christ’s crucifixion, that ministry of angels which waited on the giving of the law, revealing Christ as the sole mediator, the head of every principality and power (Col_2:10). The directness of the gospel ministration, as contrasted with the indirectness of the legal ministration, is touched upon by Paul in Gal_3:19 sqq.; 2Co_3:12 sqq.; Heb_2:2.
He made a show of them (εδειγμάτισεν)
Only here and Mat_1:19, see note. The compound παραδειγματίζω to expose to public infamy, is found Heb_6:6; and δειγμα example, in Jud_1:7. The word is unknown to classical Greek. The meaning here is to make a display of, exhibit. He showed them as subordinate and subject to Christ. Compare especially Heb_1:1-14 throughout, where many points of contact with the first two chapters of this epistle will be found.
Openly (εν παρρησία)
Or boldly. See on Phm_1:8. Not publicly, but as by a bold stroke putting His own ministers, chosen and employed for such a glorious and dignified office, in subjection before the eyes of the world.
Triumphing over them (θραιμβεύσας αυτοὺς)
See on 2Co_2:14. If we take this phrase in the sense which it bears in that passage, leading in triumph, there seems something incongruous in picturing the angelic ministers of the law as captives of war, subjugated and led in procession. The angels “do His commandments and hearken unto the voice of His word.” But while I hold to that explanation in 2 Corinthians, I see no reason why the word may not be used here less specifically in the sense of leading a festal procession in which all share the triumph; the heavenly ministers, though set aside as mediators, yet exulting in the triumph of the one and only Mediator. Even in the figure in 2 Corinthians, the captives rejoice in the triumph. Compare Rev_19:11. Our knowledge of the word θριαμβεύω is not so extensive or accurate as to warrant too strict limitations in our definition.
In it (εν αυτω)
The cross. Many expositors, however, render in Him, Christ. This I adopt as harmonizing with the emphatic references to Christ which occur in every verse from Col_2:5 to Col_2:14; Christ, four times; in Him, four; in whom, two; with Him, three. In it is necessary only if the subject of the sentence is Christ; but the very awkward change of subject from God (quickened us together, Col_2:13) is quite unnecessary. God is the subject throughout.
Having put off from himself (apekdusamenos). Only here and Col_3:9 and one MS. of Josephus (apekdus). Both apoduo and ekduo occur in ancient writers. Paul simply combines the two for expression of complete removal. But two serious problems arise here. Is God or Christ referred to by apekdusamenos? What is meant by “the principalities and the powers” (tas archas kai tas exousias)? Modern scholars differ radically and no full discussion can be attempted here as one finds in Lightfoot, Haupt, Abbott, Peake. On the whole I am inclined to look on God as still the subject and the powers to be angels such as the Gnostics worshipped and the verb to mean “despoil” (American Standard Version) rather than “having put off from himself.” In the Cross of Christ God showed his power openly without aid or help of angels.
He made a show of them (edeigmatisen). First aorist active indicative of deigmatizo, late and rare verb from deigma (Jud_1:7), an example, and so to make an example of. Frequent in the papyri though later than paradeigmatizo and in N.T. only here and Mat_1:19 of Joseph’s conduct toward Mary. No idea of disgrace is necessarily involved in the word. The publicity is made plain by “openly” (en parresiai).
Triumphing over them on it (thriambeusas autous en autoi). On the Cross the triumph was won. This late, though common verb in Koinéš writers (ekthriambeuo in the papyri) occurs only twice in the N.T., once “to lead in triumph” (2Co_2:14), here to celebrate a triumph (the usual sense). It is derived from thriambos, a hymn sung in festal procession and is kin to the Latin triumphus (our triumph), a triumphal procession of victorious Roman generals. God won a complete triumph over all the angelic agencies (autous, masculine regarded as personal agencies). Lightfoot adds, applying thriambeusas to Christ: “The convict’s gibbet is the victor’s car.” It is possible, of course, to take autoi as referring to cheirographon (bond) or even to Christ.
16. Let no one therefore judge you.What he had previously said of circumcision he now extends to the difference of meats and days. For circumcision was the first introduction to the observance of the law, other things followed afterwards. To judge means here, to hold one to be guilty of a crime, or to impose a scruple of conscience, so that we are no longer free. He says, therefore, that it is not in the power of men to make us subject to the observance of rites which Christ has by his death abolished, and exempts us from their yoke, that we may not allow ourselves to be fettered by the laws which they have imposed. He tacitly, however, places Christ in contrast with all mankind, lest any one should extol himself so daringly as to attempt to take away what he has given him.
In respect of a festival-day. Some understand τὸ μέρος to mean participation. Chrysostom, accordingly, thinks that he used the term part, because they did not observe all festival days, nor did they even keep holidays strictly, in accordance with the appointment of the law. This, however, is but a poor interpretation. Consider whether it may not be taken to mean separation, for those that make a distinction of days, separate, as it were, one from another. Such a mode of partition was suitable for the Jews, that they might celebrate religiously the days that were appointed, by separating them from others. Among Christians, however, such a division has ceased.
But some one will say, “We still keep up some observance of days.” I answer, that we do not by any means observe days, as though there were any sacredness in holidays, or as though it were not lawful to labor upon them, but that respect is paid to government and order — not to days. And this is what he immediately adds.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
therefore — because ye are complete in Christ, and God in Him has dispensed with all subordinate means as essential to acceptance with Him.
meat … drink — Greek, “eating … drinking” (Rom_14:1-17). Pay no regard to any one who sits in judgment on you as to legal observances in respect to foods.
holyday — a feast yearly. Compare the three, 1Ch_23:31.
new moon — monthly.
the sabbath — Omit “THE,” which is not in the Greek (compare Note, see on Gal_4:10). “SABBATHS” (not “the sabbaths”) of the day of atonement and feast of tabernacles have come to an end with the Jewish services to which they belonged (Lev_23:32, Lev_23:37-39). The weekly sabbath rests on a more permanent foundation, having been instituted in Paradise to commemorate the completion of creation in six days. Lev_23:38 expressly distinguished “the sabbath of the Lord” from the other sabbaths. A positive precept is right because it is commanded, and ceases to be obligatory when abrogated; a moral precept is commanded eternally, because it is eternally right. If we could keep a perpetual sabbath, as we shall hereafter, the positive precept of the sabbath, one in each week, would not be needed. Heb_4:9, “rests,” Greek, “keeping of sabbath” (Isa_66:23). But we cannot, since even Adam, in innocence, needed one amidst his earthly employments; therefore the sabbath is still needed and is therefore still linked with the other nine commandments, as obligatory in the spirit, though the letter of the law has been superseded by that higher spirit of love which is the essence of law and Gospel alike (Rom_13:8-10).
Let no man, therefore, judge you – compare Rom_14:10, note, 13, note. The word judge here is used in the sense of pronouncing a sentence. The meaning is, “since you have thus been delivered by Christ from the evils which surrounded you: since you have been freed from the observances of the law, let no one sit in judgment on you, or claim the right to decide for you in those matters. You are not responsible to man for your conduct, but to Christ; and no man has a right to impose that on you as a burden from which he has made you free.”
In meat – Margin, or eating and drinking. The meaning is, “in respect to the various articles of food and drink.” There is reference here, undoubtedly, to the distinctions which the Jews made on this subject, implying that an effort had been made by Jewish teachers to show them that the Mosaic laws were binding on all.
Or in respect of a holy day – Margin, part. The meaning is, “in the part, or the particular of a holy day; that is, in respect to it” The word rendered “holy-day” – εορτὴ heorte – means properly a “feast” or “festival;” and the allusion here is to the festivals of the Jews. The sense is, that no one had a right to impose their observance on Christians, or to condemn them if they did not keep them. They had been delivered from that obligation by the death of Christ; Col_2:14.
Or of the new moon – On the appearance of the new moon, among the Hebrews, in addition to the daily sacrifices, two bullocks, a ram, and seven sheep, with a meat offering, were required to be presented to God; Num_10:10; Num_28:11-14. The new moon in the beginning of the month Tisri (October) was the beginning of their civil year, and was commanded to be observed as a festival; Lev_23:24, Lev_23:25.
Or of the Sabbath days – Greek, “of the Sabbaths.” The word Sabbath in the Old Testament is applied not only to the seventh day, but to all the days of holy rest that were observed by the Hebrews, and particularly to the beginning and close of their great festivals. There is, doubtless, reference to those days in this place, since the word is used in the plural number, and the apostle does not refer particularly to the Sabbath properly so called. There is no evidence from this passage that he would teach that there was no obligation to observe any holy time, for there is not the slightest reason to believe that he meant to teach that one of the ten commandments had ceased to be binding on mankind. If he had used the word in the singular number – “the Sabbath,” it would then, of course, have been clear that he meant to teach that that commandment had ceased to be binding, and that a Sabbath was no longer to be observed. But the use of the term in the plural number, and the connection, show that he had his eye on the great number of days which were observed by the Hebrews as festivals, as a part of their ceremonial and typical law, and not to the moral law, or the Ten Commandments. No part of the moral law – no one of the ten commandments could be spoken of as “a shadow of good things to come.” These commandments are, from the nature of moral law, of perpetual and universal obligation.
Conclusion from the canceling of the bond. The allusions which follow (Col_2:16-19) are to the practical and theoretical forms of the Colossian error, as in Col_2:9-15; excessive ritualism, asceticism, and angelic mediation.
Sit in judgment.
Meat – drink (βρώσει – πόσει)
Properly, eating, drinking, as 1Co_8:4; but the nouns are also used for that which is eaten or drunk, as Joh_4:32 (see note); Joh_6:27, Joh_6:55; Rom_14:17. For the subject-matter compare Rom_14:17; 1Co_8:8; Heb_9:10, and note on Mar_7:19. The Mosaic law contained very few provisions concerning drinks. See Lev_10:9; Lev_11:34, Lev_11:36; Num_6:3. Hence it is probable that the false teachers had extended the prohibitions as to the use of wine to all Christians. The Essenes abjured both wine and animal food.
In respect (εν μέρει)
See on 2Co_3:10. Lit., in the division or category.
Festival or feast-day. The annual festivals. The word holyday is used in its earlier sense of a sacred day.
New moon (νουμηνίας)
Only here in the New Testament. The monthly festivals. The festival of the new moon is placed beside the Sabbath, Isa_1:13; Eze_46:1. The day was celebrated by blowing of trumpets, special sacrifices, feasting, and religious instruction. Labor was suspended, and no national or private fasts were permitted to take place. The authorities were at great pains to fix accurately the commencement of the month denoted by the appearance of the new moon. Messengers were placed on commanding heights to watch the sky, and as soon as the new moon appeared, they hastened to communicate it to the synod, being allowed even to travel on the Sabbath for this purpose. The witnesses were assembled and examined, and when the judges were satisfied the president pronounced the words it is sanctified, and the day was declared new moon.
Sabbath days (σαββάτων)
The weekly festivals. Rev., correctly, day, the plural being used for the singular. See on Luk_4:31; see on Act_20:7. The plural is only once used in the New Testament of more than a single day (Act_17:2). The same enumeration of sacred seasons occurs 1Ch_23:31; 2Ch_2:4; 2Ch_31:3; Eze_45:17; Hos_2:11.
17. Which are a shadow of things to come.The reason why he frees Christians from the observance of them is, that they were shadows at a time when Christ was still, in a manner, absent. For he contrasts shadows with revelation, and absence with manifestation. Those, therefore, who still adhere to those shadows, act like one who should judge of a man’s appearance from his shadow, while in the mean time he had himself personally before his eyes. For Christ is now manifested to us, and hence we enjoy him as being present. The body, says he, is of Christ, that is, IN Christ. For the substance of those things which the ceremonies anciently prefigured is now presented before our eyes in Christ, inasmuch as he contains in himself everything that they marked out as future. Hence, the man that calls back the ceremonies into use, either buries the manifestation of Christ, or robs Christ of his excellence, and makes him in a manner void. Accordingly, should any one of mortals assume to himself in this matter the office of judge, let us not submit to him, inasmuch as Christ, the only competent Judge, sets us free. For when he says, Let no man judge you, he does not address the false apostles, but prohibits the Colossians from yielding their neck to unreasonable requirements. To abstain, it is true, from swine’s flesh, is in itself harmless, but the binding to do it is pernicious, because it makes void the grace of Christ.
Should any one ask, “What view, then, is to be taken of our sacraments? Do they not also represent Christ to us as absent?” I answer, that they differ widely from the ancient ceremonies. For as painters do not in the first draught bring out a likeness in vivid colors, and (εἰκονικῶς) expressively, but in the first instance draw rude and obscure lines with charcoal, so the representation of Christ under the law was unpolished, and was, as it were, a first sketch, but in our sacraments it is seen drawn out to the life. Paul, however, had something farther in view, for he contrasts the bare aspect of the shadow with the solidity of the body, and admonishes them, that it is the part of a madman to take hold of empty shadows, when it is in his power to handle the solid substance. Farther, while our sacraments represent Christ as absent as to view and distance of place, it is in such a manner as to testify that he has been once manifested, and they now also present him to us to be enjoyed. They are not, therefore, bare shadows, but on the contrary symbols of Christ’s presence, for they contain that Yea and Amen of all the promises of God, (2Co_1:20,) which has been once manifested to us in Christ.
Which are a shadow – All these things were types, and must continue in force till the Christ, whom they represented, came; the apostle therefore says that the body – the substance or design of them was of Christ – pointed him out, and the excellent blessings which he has procured. The word σκια, shadow, is often used to express any thing imperfect or unsubstantial; while the term σωμα, body, was used in the opposite sense, and expressed any thing substantial, solid, and firm. The law was but the shadow or representation of good things to come; none should rest in it; all that it pointed out is to be sought and obtained in Christ.
18. Let no one take from you the palm. He alludes to runners, or wrestlers, to whom the palm was assigned, on condition of their not giving way in the middle of the course, or after the contest had been commenced. He admonishes them, therefore, that the false apostles aimed at nothing else than to snatch away from them the palm, inasmuch as they draw them aside from the rectitude of their course. Hence it follows that they must be shunned as the most injurious pests. The passage is also carefully to be marked as intimating, that all those who draw us aside from the simplicity of Christ cheat us out of the prize of our high calling. (Phi_3:14.)
Desirous in humility.Something must be understood; hence I have, inserted in the text idfacere, (to do it.) For he points out the kind of danger which they required to guard against. All are desirous to defraud you of the palm, who, under the pretext of humility, recommend to you the worship of angels. For their object is, that you may wander out of the way, leaving the one object of aim. I read humility and worship of angels conjointly, for the one follows the other, just as at this day the Papists make use of the same pretext when philosophizing as to the worship of saints. For they reason on the ground of man’s abasement, that we must, therefore, seek for mediators to help us. But for this very reason has Christ humbled himself — that we might directly betake ourselves to him, however miserable sinners we may be.
I am aware that the worship of angels is by many interpreted otherwise, as meaning such as has been delivered to men by angels; for the Devil has always endeavored to set off his impostures under this title. The Pope at this day boasts, that all the trifles with which he has adulterated the pure worship of God are revelations. In like manner the Theurgians of old alleged that all the superstitions that they contrived were delivered over to them by angels, as if from hand to hand. They, accordingly, think that Paul here condemns all fanciful kinds of worship that are falsely set forth under the authority of angels. But, in my opinion, he rather condemns the contrivance as to the worshipping of angels. It is on this account that he has so carefully applied himself to this in the very commencement of the Epistle, to bring angels under subjection, lest they should obscure the splendor of Christ. In fine, as he had in the first chapter prepared the way for abolishing the ceremonies, so he had also for the removal of all other hinderances which draw us away from Christ alone. In this class is the worship of angels
Superstitious persons have from the beginning worshipped angels, that through means of them there might be free access to God. The Platonists infected the Christian Church also with this error. For although Augustine sharply inveighs against them in his tenth book “On the City of God,” and condemns at great length all their disputations as to the worship of angels, we see nevertheless what has happened. Should any one compare the writings of Plato with Popish theology, he will find that they have drawn wholly from Plato their prattling as to the worship of angels. The sum is this, that we must honor angels, whom Plato calls demons, χάριν τὢς εὐφήμου διαπορείας(for the sake of their auspicious intercession.) He brings forward this sentiment in Epinomis, and he confirms it in Cratylus, and many other passages. In what respect do the Papists differ at all from this? “But,” it will be said, “they do not deny that the Son of God is Mediator.” Neither did those with whom Paul contends; but as they imagined that God must be approached by the assistance of the angels, and that, consequently, some worship must be rendered to them, so they placed angels in the seat of Christ, and honored them with Christ’s office. Let us know, then, that Paul here condemns all kinds of worship of human contrivance, which are rendered either to angels or to the dead, as though they were mediators, rendering assistance after Christ, or along with Christ. For just so far do we recede from Christ, when we transfer the smallest part of what belongs to him to any others, whether they be angels or men.
Intruding into those things which he hath not seen.The verb ἐμβατεύειν, the participle of which Paul here makes use of, has various significations. The rendering which Erasmus, after Jerome, has given to it, walking proudly, would not suit ill, were there an example of such a signification in any author of sufficient note. For we see every day with how much confidence and pride rash persons pronounce an opinion as to things unknown. Nay, even in the very subject of which Paul treats, there is a remarkable illustration. For when the Sorbonnic divines put forth their trifles respecting the intercession of saints or angels, they declare, as though it were from an oracle, that the dead know and behold our necessities, inasmuch as they see all things in the reflex light of God. And yet, what is less certain? Nay more, what is more obscure and doubtful? But such, truly, is their magisterial freedom, that they fearlessly and daringly assert what is not only not known by them, but cannot be known by men.
This meaning, therefore, would be suitable, if that signification of the term were usual. It is, however, among the Greeks taken simply as meaning to walk. It also sometimes means to inquire. Should any one choose to understand it thus in this passage, Paul will, in that case, reprove a foolish curiosity in the investigation of things that are obscure, and such as are even hid from our view and transcend it. It appears to me, however, that I have caught Paul’s meaning, and have rendered it faithfully in this manner — intruding into those things which he hath not seen. For that is the common signification of the word ἐμβατεύειν— to enter upon an inheritance, or to take possession, or to set foot anywhere. Accordingly, Budaeus renders this passage thus: — “Setting foot upon, or entering on the possession of those things which he has not seen.” I have followed his authority, but have selected a more suitable term. For such persons in reality break through and intrude into secret things, of which God would have no discovery as yet made to us. The passage ought to be carefully observed, for the purpose of reproving the rashness of those who inquire farther than is allowable.
Puffed up in vain by a fleshly mind.He employs the expression fleshlymindto denote the perspicuity of the human intellect, however great it may be. For he places it in contrast with that spiritual wisdom which is revealed to us from heaven in accordance with that statement — Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee.(Mat_16:17.)
Whoever; therefore, depends upon his own reason, inasmuch as the acuteness of the flesh is wholly at work in him, Paul declares him to be puffed up in vain. And truly all the wisdom that men have from themselves is mere wind: hence there is nothing solid except in the word of God and the illumination of the Spirit. And observe, that those are said to be puffed up who insinuate themselves under a show of humility. For it happens, as Augustine elegantly writes to Paulinus, by wonderful means, as to the soul of man, that it is more puffed up from a false humility than if it were openly proud.
Let no man beguile you – Μηδεις υμας καταβραβευετω· Let no man take the prize from you which the βραβευς, brabeus, or judge in the contests, has assigned you, in consequence of your having obtained the victory. This any reader will see, is an allusion to the Olympic and Isthmian games, and to the prizes assigned to these who had obtained the victory in one or more of the contests which there took place. The Colossians had fought and conquered under the direction of Christ, and he, as the sole judge in this contest, had assigned to them the prize; the false teachers, affecting great modesty, humility, and sanctity, endeavored to turn them aside from the Gospel, and to induce them to end in the flesh who had begun in the Spirit. Against these the apostle warns them.
In a voluntary humility and worshiping of angels – This is a difficult passage, and in order to explain it, I shall examine the meaning of some of the principal terms of the original. The word θελειν, to will, signifies also to delight; and ταπειμοφροσυνη signifies not only lowliness or humility of mind, but also affliction of mind; and ταπεινουν την ψυχην, Lev_16:20, Lev_16:31, and in many other places, signifies to afflict the soul by fasting, and self-abnegation; and θρησκεια signifies reverence and modesty. Hence the whole passage has been paraphrased thus: Let no man spoil you of the prize adjudged to you, who delights in mortifying his body, and walking with the apparent modesty of an angel, affecting superior sanctity in order to gain disciples; intruding into things which he has not seen; and, notwithstanding his apparent humility, his mind is carnal, and he is puffed up with a sense of his superior knowledge and piety. It is very likely that the apostle here alludes to the Essenes, who were remarkably strict and devout, spent a principal part of their time in the contemplation of the Divine Being, abstained from all sensual gratifications, and affected to live the life of angels upon earth. With their pretensions all the apostle says here perfectly agrees, and on this one supposition the whole of the passage is plain and easy. Many have understood the passage as referring to the adoration of angels, which seems to have been practised among the Jews, who appear (from Tobit, xii. 15; Philo, in lib. de Somn.; Josephus, War. lib. ii. cap. 8, sec. 7) to have considered them as a sort of mediators between God and man; presenting the prayers of men before the throne; and being, as Philo says, μεγαλου Βασιλεως οφθαλμοι και ωτα, the eyes and ears of the great King. But this interpretation is not so likely as the foregoing.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
beguile — Translate, “Defraud you of your prize,” literally, “to adjudge a prize out of hostility away from him who deserves it” [Trench]. “To be umpire in a contest to the detriment of one.” This defrauding of their prize the Colossians would suffer, by letting any self-constituted arbitrator or judge (that is, false teacher) draw them away from Christ,” the righteous Judge” and Awarder of the prize (2Ti_4:8; Jam_1:12; 1Pe_5:4), to angel-worship.
in a voluntary humility — So “will-worship” (Col_2:23). Literally, “Delighting [Wahl] in humility”; loving (so the Greek is translated, Mar_12:38, “love to go in long clothing”) to indulge himself in a humility of his own imposing: a volunteer in humility [Dallaeus]. Not as Alford, “Let no one of purpose defraud you,” etc. Not as Grotius, “If he ever so much wish” (to defraud you). For the participle “wishing” or “delighting,” is one of the series, and stands in the same category as “intruding,” “puffed up,” “not holding”; and the self-pleasing implied in it stands in happy contrast to the (mock) humility with which it seems to me, therefore, to be connected. His “humility,” so called, is a pleasing of self: thus it stands in parallelism to “his fleshly mind” (its real name, though he styles it “humility”), as “wishing” or “delighting” does to “puffed up.” The Greek for “humility” is literally, “lowliness of mind,” which forms a clearer parallel to “puffed up by his fleshly mind.” Under pretext of humility, as if they durst not come directly to God and Christ (like the modern Church of Rome), they invoked angels: as Judaizers, they justified this on the ground that the law was given by angels. This error continued long in Phrygia (where Colosse and Laodicea were), so that the Council of Laodicea (a.d. 360) expressly framed its thirty-fifth canon against the “Angelici” (as Augustine [Heresies, 39], calls them) or “invokers of angels.” Even as late as Theodoret’s time, there were oratories to Michael the archangel. The modern Greeks have a legend that Michael opened a chasm to draw off an inundation threatening the Colossian Christians. Once men admit the inferior powers to share invocation with the Supreme, the former gradually engrosses all our serious worship, almost to the exclusion of the latter; thus the heathen, beginning with adding the worship of other deities to that of the Supreme, ended with ceasing to worship Him at all. Nor does it signify much, whether we regard such as directly controlling us (the pagan view), or as only influencing the Supreme in our behalf (the Church of Rome’s view); because he from whom I expect happiness or misery, becomes the uppermost object in my mind, whether he give, or only procure it [Cautions for Times]. Scripture opposes the idea of “patrons” or “intercessors” (1Ti_2:5, 1Ti_2:6). True Christian humility joins consciousness of utter personal demerit, with a sense of participation in the divine life through Christ, and in the dignity of our adoption by God. Without the latter being realized, a false self-humiliation results, which displays itself in ceremonies and ascetic self-abasement (Col_2:23), which after all is but spiritual pride under the mock guise of humility. Contrast “glorying in the Lord” (1Co_1:31).
intruding into … things which he hath not seen — So very old manuscripts and Vulgate and Origen read. But the oldest manuscripts and Lucifer omit “not”; then translate, “haughtily treading on (‘Standing on’ [Alford]) the things which he hath seen.” Tregelles refers this to fancied visions of angels. But if Paul had meant a fancied seeing, he would have used some qualifying word, as, “which he seemed to see,” not “which he hath seen.” Plainly the things were actually seen by him, whether of demoniacal origination (1Sa_28:11-20), or phenomena resulting from natural causation, mistaken by him as if supernatural. Paul, not stopping to discuss the nature of the things so seen, fixes on the radical error, the tendency of such a one in all this to walk by SENSE (namely, what he haughtily prides himself on having SEEN), rather than by FAITH in the UNSEEN “Head” (Col_2:19; compare Joh_20:29; 2Co_5:7; Heb_11:1). Thus is the parallelism, “vainly puffed up” answers to “haughtily treading on,” or “setting his foot on”; “his fleshly mind” answers to the things which he hath seen,” since his fleshliness betrays itself in priding himself on what he hath seen, rather than on the unseen objects of faith. That the things seen may have been of demoniacal origination, appears from 1Ti_4:1, “Some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils” (Greek, “demons”). A warning to modern spiritualists.
puffed up — implying that the previous so called “humility” (Greek, “lowliness of mind”) was really a “puffing up.”
fleshly mind — Greek, “By the mind of his own flesh.” The flesh, or sensuous principle, is the fountain head whence his mind draws its craving after religious objects of sight, instead of, in true humility as a member, “holding fast the (unseen) Head.”
Beguile of reward (καταβραβευέτω)
Only here in the New Testament. From κατά against, βραβεύω to act as a judge or umpire. Hence to decide against one, or to declare him unworthy of the prize. Bishop Lightfoot’s rendering rob you of your prize, adopted by Rev., omits the judicial idea, which, however, I think must be retained, in continuation of the idea of judgment in Col_2:16, “let no man judge,” etc. The attitude of the false teachers would involve their sitting in judgment as to the future reward of those who refused their doctrine of angelic mediation. Paul speaks from the standpoint of their claim.
In a voluntary humility (θέλων εν ταπεινοφροσύνη)
Render delighting in humility. This rendering is well supported by Septuagint usage. See 1Sa_18:22; 2Sa_15:26; 1Ki_10:9; 2Ch_9:8. It falls in, in the regular participial series, with the other declarations as to the vain conceit of the teachers; signifying not their purpose or their wish to deprive the Christians of their reward, but their vain enthusiasm for their false doctrine, and their conceited self-complacency which prompted them to sit as judges. The worship of angels involved a show of humility, an affectation of superior reverence for God, as shown in the reluctance to attempt to approach God otherwise than indirectly: in its assumption that humanity, debased by the contact with matter, must reach after God through successive grades of intermediate beings. For humility, see on Mat_11:29.
Worship of angels (θρησκεία)
See on religious, Jam_1:26. Defining the direction which their humility assumed. The usage of the Septuagint and of the New Testament limits the meaning to the external aspects of worship. Compare Act_26:5; Jam_1:27.
Rev., dwelling in. Only here in the New Testament. It is used in three senses: 1. To step in or upon, thence to haunt or frequent. So Aeschylus: “A certain island which Pan frequents on its beach” (“Persae,” 449). 2. To invade. So in Apocrypha, 1 Macc. 12:25; 13:20; 14:31; 15:40. 3. To enter into for examination; to investigate or discuss a subject. So 2 Macc. 2:30, and so Philo, who compares truth-seekers to well-diggers. Patristic writers use it of searching the heart, and of investigating divine mysteries. Byzantine lexicographers explain it by ζητέω to seek; εξερευνάω to track out; σκοπέω to consider. In this last sense the word is probably used here of the false teachers who professed to see heavenly truth in visions, and to investigate and discuss philosophically the revelation they had received.
Which he hath not seen
Not must be omitted: which he imagines or professes that he has seen in vision. Ironical. “If, as we may easily imagine, these pretenders were accustomed to say with an imposing and mysterious air, ‘I have seen, ah! I have seen,’ – in relating alleged visions of heavenly things, the Colossians would understand the reference well enough” (Findlay).
Vainly puffed up (εικὴ φυσιούμενος)
Vainly characterizes the emptiness of such pretension; puffed up, the swelling intellectual pride of those who make it. See on 1Co_4:6; and compare 1Co_8:1. The humility is thus characterized as affected, and the teachers as charlatans.
By his fleshly mind (υπὸ του νοὸς της σαρκὸς αυτου)
Lit., by the mind of his flesh. The intellectual faculty in its moral aspects as determined by the fleshly, sinful nature. See on Rom_8:23. Compare Rom_7:22-25; Rom_8:7. The teachers boasted that they were guided by the higher reason. Paul describes their higher reason as carnal.
Rob you of your prize (katabrabeueto). Late and rare compound (kata, brabeuo, Col_3:15) to act as umpire against one, perhaps because of bribery in Demosthenes and Eustathius (two other examples in Preisigke’s Worterbuch), here only in the N.T. So here it means to decide or give judgment against. The judge at the games is called brabeus and the prize brabeion (1Co_9:24; Phi_3:14). It is thus parallel to, but stronger than, krineto in Col_2:16.
By a voluntary humility (thelon en tapeinophrosunei). Present active participle of thelo, to wish, to will, but a difficult idiom. Some take it as like an adverb for “wilfully” somewhat like thelontas in 2Pe_3:5. Others make it a Hebraism from the lxx usage, “finding pleasure in humility.” The Revised Version margin has “of his own mere will, by humility.” Hort suggested en ethelotapeinophrosunei (in gratuitous humility), a word that occurs in Basil and made like ethelothreskia in Col_2:23.
And worshipping of the angels (kai threskeiai ton aggelon). In Col_3:12 humility (tapeinophrosunen) is a virtue, but it is linked with worship of the angels which is idolatry and so is probably false humility as in Col_2:23. They may have argued for angel worship on the plea that God is high and far removed and so took angels as mediators as some men do today with angels and saints in place of Christ.
Dwelling in the things which he hath seen (ha heoraken embateuon). Some MSS. have “not,” but not genuine. This verb embateuo (from embates, stepping in, going in) has given much trouble. Lightfoot has actually proposed kenembateuon (a verb that does not exist, though kenembateo does occur) with aiora, to tread on empty air, an ingenious suggestion, but now unnecessary. It is an old word for going in to take possession (papyri examples also). W. M. Ramsay (Teaching of Paul, pp. 287ff.) shows from inscriptions in Klaros that the word is used of an initiate in the mysteries who “set foot in” (enebateusen) and performed the rest of the rites. Paul is here quoting the very work used of these initiates who “take their stand on” these imagined revelations in the mysteries.
Vainly puffed up (eikei phusioumenos). Present passive participle of phusioo, late and vivid verb from phusa, pair of bellows, in N.T. only here and 1Co_4:6, 1Co_4:18.; 1Co_8:1. Powerful picture of the self-conceit of these bombastic Gnostics.
19. Not holding the Head. He condemns in the use of one word whatever does not bear a relation to Christ. He also confirms his statement on the ground that all things flow from him, and depend upon him. Hence, should any one call us anywhere else than to Christ, though in other respects he were big with heaven and earth, he is empty and full of wind: let us, therefore, without concern, bid him farewell. Observe, however, of whom he is speaking, namely, of those who did not openly reject or deny Christ, but, not accurately understanding his office and power, by seeking out other helps and means of salvation, (as they commonly speak,) were not firmly rooted in him.
From whom the whole body by joints.He simply means this, that the Church does not stand otherwise than in the event of all things being furnished to her by Christ, the Head, and, accordingly, that her entire safety consists in him. The body, it is true, has its nerves, its joints, and ligaments, but all these things derive their vigor solely from the Head, so that the whole binding of them together is from that source. What, then, must be done? The constitution of the body will be in a right state, if simply the Head, which furnishes the several members with everything that they have, is allowed, without any hinderance, to have the pre-eminence. This Paul speaks of as the increase of God, by which he means that it is not every increase that is approved by God, but only that which has a relation to the Head. For we see that the kingdom of the Pope is not merely tall and large, but swells out into a monstrous size. As, however, we do not there see what Paul here requires in the Church, what shall we say, but that it is a humpbacked body, and a confused mass that will fall to pieces of itself.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Translate, “Not holding fast the Head.” He who does not hold Christ solely and supremely above all others, does not hold Him at all [Bengel]. The want of firm holding of Christ has set him loose to (pry into, and so) “tread haughtily on (pride himself on) things which he hath seen.” Each must hold fast the Head for himself, not merely be attached to the other members, however high in the body [Alford].
from which — rather, “from whom.”
the body — that is, all the members of the body (Eph_4:16).
joints — the points of union where the supply of nourishment passes to the different members, furnishing the body with the materials of growth.
bands — the sinews and nerves which bind together limb and limb. Faith, love, and peace, are the spiritual bands. Compare “knit together in love” (Col_2:2; Col_3:14; Eph_4:3).
having nourishment ministered — that is, supplied to it continually. “Receiving ministration.”
knit together — The Greek is translated, “compacted,” Eph_4:16 : implying firm consolidation.
with the increase of God — (Eph_4:16); that is, wrought by God, the Author and Sustainer of the believer’s spiritual life, in union with Christ, the Head (1Co_3:6); and tending to the honor of God, being worthy of Him, its Author.
20. If ye are dead. He had previously said, that the ordinances were fastened to the cross of Christ. (Col_2:14.) He now employs another figure of speech — that we are dead to them, as he teaches us elsewhere, that we are dead to the law, and the law, on the other hand, to us. (Gal_2:19.) The term death means abrogation, but it is more expressive and more emphatic, (καὶ ἐμφατικώτερον.) He says, therefore, that the Colossians, have nothing to do with ordinances. Why? Because they have died with Christ to ordinances; that is, after they died with Christ by regeneration, they were, through his kindness, set free from ordinances, that they may not belong to them any more. Hence he concludes that they are by no means bound by the ordinances, which the false apostles endeavored to impose upon them.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Wherefore — The oldest manuscripts omit “Wherefore.”
if ye be dead — Greek, “if ye died (so as to be freed) from,” etc. (compare Rom_6:2; Rom_7:2, Rom_7:3; Gal_2:19).
rudiments of the world — (Col_2:8). Carnal, outward, worldly, legal ordinances.
as though living — as though you were not dead to the world like your crucified Lord, into whose death ye were buried (Gal_6:14; 1Pe_4:1, 1Pe_4:2).
are ye subject to ordinances — By do ye submit to be made subject to ordinances? Referring to Col_2:14 : you are again being made subject to “ordinances,” the “handwriting” of which had been “blotted out” (Col_2:14).
21. Eat not, taste not. Hitherto this has been rendered — Handle not, but as another word immediately follows, which signifies the same thing, every one sees how cold and absurd were such a repetition. Farther, the verb ἅπτεσθαι is employed by the Greeks, among its other significations, in the sense of eating, in accordance with the rendering that I have given. Plutarch makes use of it in the life of Caesar, when he relates that his soldiers, in destitution of all things, ate animals which they had not been accustomed previously to use as food. And this arrangement is both in other respects natural and is also most in accordance with the connection of the passage; for Paul points out, (μιμητικῶς,) by way of imitation, to what length the waywardness of those who bind consciences by their laws is wont to proceed. From the very commencement they are unduly rigorous: hence he sets out with their prohibition — not simply against eating, but even against slightly partaking. After they have obtained what they wish they go beyond that command, so that they afterwards declare it to be unlawful to taste of what they do not wish should be eaten. At length they make it criminal even to touch. In short, when persons have once taken upon them to tyrannize over men’s souls, there is no end of new laws being daily added to old ones, and new enactments starting up from time to time. How bright a mirror there is as to this in Popery! Hence Paul acts admirably well in admonishing us that human traditions are a labyrinth, in which consciences are more and more entangled; nay more, are snares, which from the beginning bind in such a way that in course of time they strangle in the end.
Touch – taste – handle (άψη – γεύση – θίγης)
Άπτομαι, A.V., touch, is properly to fasten one’s self to or cling to. So Joh_20:17 (note). Frequently rendered touch in the New Testament, and used in most cases of Christ’s touching or being touched by the diseased. To get hands on so as to injure, 1Jo_5:18. To have intercourse with, 1Co_7:1; 2Co_6:17. Thus, in every case, the contact described exerts a modifying influence, and a more permanent contact or effect of contact is often implied than is expressed by touch. “The idea of a voluntary or conscious effort is often involved.” No single English word will express all these phases of meaning. Handle comes, perhaps, as near as any other, especially in its sense of treatment, as when we say that a speaker or writer handles a subject; or that a man is roughly handled by his enemies. This wider and stronger sense does not attach to θιγγάνειν A.V., handle, though the two words are sometimes used interchangeably, as Exo_19:12, and though θιγγάνειν also implies a modifying contact, unlike ψηλαφάω, which signifies to touch with a view of ascertaining the quality of the object; to feel after, to grope. See Luk_24:39; Act_17:27. Thus ψηλαφίνδα is blind-man’s-bluff. The contact implied by θιγγάνειν is more superficial and transitory. It lies between άπτομαι and ψηλαφάω. Thus we have here a climax which is lost in the A.V. Handle not, taste not, do not even touch. Rev., handle not, nor taste, nor touch.
Handle not, nor taste, nor touch (me hapsei mede geusei mede thigeis). Specimens of Gnostic rules. The Essenes took the Mosaic regulations and carried them much further and the Pharisees demanded ceremonially clean hands for all food. Later ascetics (the Latin commentators Ambrose, Hilary, Pelagius) regard these prohibitions as Paul’s own instead of those of the Gnostics condemned by him. Even today men are finding that the noble prohibition law needs enlightened instruction to make it effective. That is true of all law. The Pharisees, Essenes, Gnostics made piety hinge on outward observances and rules instead of inward conviction and principle. These three verbs are all in the aorist subjunctive second person singular with me, a prohibition against handling or touching these forbidden things. Two of them do not differ greatly in meaning. Hapsei is aorist middle subjunctive of hapto, to fasten to, middle, to cling to, to handle. Thigeis is second aorist active subjunctive of thiggano, old verb, to touch, to handle. In N.T. only here and Heb_11:28; Heb_12:20. Geusei is second aorist middle subjunctive of geuo, to give taste of, only middle in N.T. to taste as here.
22. All which things tend to corruption.He sets aside, by a twofold argument, the enactments of which he has made mention — because they make religion consist in things outward and frail, which have no connection with the spiritual kingdom of God; and secondly, because they are from men, not from God. He combats the first argument, also, in Rom_14:17, when he says, The kingdom of God is not in meat and drink; likewise in 1Co_6:13, Meat for the belly, and the belly for meats: God will destroy both. Christ also himself says, Whatever entereth into the mouth defileth not the man, because it goes down into the belly, and is cast forth.(Mat_15:11.)
The sum is this — that the worship of God, true piety, and the holiness of Christians, do not consist in drink, and food, and clothing, which are things that are transient and liable to corruption, and perish by abuse. For abuse is properly applicable to those things which are corrupted by the use of them. Hence enactments are of no value in reference to those things which tend to excite scruples of conscience. But in Popery you would scarcely find any other holiness, than what consists in little observances of corruptible things.
A second refutation is added — that they originated with men, and have not God as their Author; and by this thunderbolt he prostrates and swallows up all traditions of men. For why? This is Paul’s reasoning: “Those who bring consciences into bondage do injury to Christ, and make void his death. For whatever is of human invention does not bind conscience.”
Which all are to perish with the using – This is commonly marked as a part of the parenthesis, or the quotation; and there is considerable difficulty in ascertaining its true meaning. It seems most probable that these are the words of the apostle himself, thrown in in the rapidity of composition, and that they are not to be connected with the phrase “touch not,” etc. If so, the idea is, that it cannot be of so much consequence as the Jewish teachers supposed, to mark distinctly the difference between meats and drinks. They were all to perish with the use of them. Nothing was permanent about them. It could really then be of no great importance what was eaten, or what was drunk, provided it was not in itself injurious. These ordinances had a value among the Hebrews when it was designed to keep them as a distinct people; but they had no value in themselves, so as to make them binding on all mankind. To suppose this, was the common error of the Jews; and hence, the apostle so frequently labored to show that the Jewish rites had no permanent value; see the Rom_14:1-6 notes; 1Co_8:1-13, note; compare the notes at Mat_15:17-18. According to this interpretation, Col_2:21 should be regarded as expressing the common maxim of the Jewish teachers, and the clause before us as the words of the apostle, and should be marked as a parenthesis. So it is marked in Hahn’s Ed. of the New Testament.
After the commandments and doctrines of men – Many of the ordinances on which the Jews insisted were those which were handed down by tradition. They depended on human authority only, and of course, should not bind the conscience. Others take the words here to mean, “All which things tend to the corruption of religion (Doddridge), or are cause of destruction or condemnation (Robinson, Lexicon), by the use of these things, according to the commandments and doctrines of these men.”
23. Which have indeed a show.Here we have the anticipation of an objection, in which, while he concedes to his adversaries what they allege, he at the same time reckons it wholly worthless. For it is as though he had said, that he does not regard their having a show of wisdom. But show is placed in contrast with reality, for it is an appearance, as they commonly speak, which deceives by resemblance.
Observe, however, of what colors this showconsists, according to Paul. He makes mention of three — self-invented worship, humility, and neglect of the body. Superstition among the Greeks receives the name of ἐθελοβρησκεία— the term which Paul here makes use of. He has, however, an eye to the etymology of the term, for ἐθελοβρησκεία literally denotes a voluntary service, which men choose for themselves at their own option, without authority from God. Human traditions, therefore, are agreeable to us on this account, that they are in accordance with our understanding, for any one will find in his own brain the first outlines of them. This is the first pretext.
The second is humility, inasmuch as obedience both to God and men is pretended, so that men do not refuse even unreasonable burdens. And for the most part traditions of this kind are of such a nature as to appear to be admirable exercises of humility.
They allure, also, by means of a third pretext, inasmuch as they seem to be of the greatest avail for the mortification of the flesh, while there is no sparing of the body. Paul, however, bids farewell to those disguises, for what is in high esteem among men is often an abomination in the sight of God. (Luk_16:15.)
Farther, that is a treacherous obedience, and a perverse and sacrilegious humility, which transfers to men the authority of God; and neglect of the body is not of so great importance, as to be worthy to be set forth to admiration as the service of God.
Some one, however, will feel astonished, that Paul does not take more pains in pulling off those masks. I answer, that he on good grounds rests contented with the simple term show. For the principles which he had taken as opposed to this are incontrovertible — that the body is in Christ, and that, consequently, those do nothing but impose upon miserable men, who set before them shadows.
Secondly, the spiritual kingdom of Christ is by no means taken up with frail and corruptible elements. Thirdly, by the death of Christ such observances were put an end to, that we might have no connection with them; and, fourthly, God is our only Lawgiver. (Isa_33:22.) Whatever may be brought forward on the other side, let it have ever so much splendor, is fleeting show.
Secondly, he reckoned it enough to admonish the Colossians, not to be deceived by the putting forth of empty things. There was no necessity for dwelling at greater length in reproving them. For it should be a settled point among all the pious, that the worship of God ought not to be measured according to our views; and that, consequently, any kind of service is not lawful, simply on the ground that it is agreeable to us. This, also, ought to be a commonly received point — that we owe to God such humility as to yield obedience simply to his commands, so as not to lean to our own understanding, etc., (Pro_3:5,) — and that the limit of humility towards men is this — that each one submit himself to others in love. Now, when they contend that the wantonness of the flesh is repressed by abstinence from meats, the answer is easy — that we must not therefore abstain from any particular food as being unclean, but must eat sparingly of what we do eat of, both in order that we may soberly and temperately make use of the gifts of God, and that we may not, impeded by too much food and drink, forget those things that are God’s. Hence it was enough to say that these were masks, that the Colossians, being warned, might be on their guard against false pretexts.
Thus, at the present day, Papists are not in want of specious pretexts, by which to set forth their own laws, however they may be — some of them impious and tyrannical, and others of them silly and trifling. When, however, we have granted them everything, there remains, nevertheless, this refutation by Paul, which is of itself more than sufficient for dispelling all their smoky vapours; not to say how far removed they are from so honorable an appearance as that which Paul describes. The principal holiness of the Papacy, at the present day, consists in monkhood, and of what nature that is, I am ashamed and grieved to make mention, lest I should stir up so abominable an odour. Farther, it is of importance to consider here, how prone, nay, how forward the mind of man is to artificial modes of worship. For the Apostle here graphically describes the state of the old system of monkhood, which came into use a hundred years after his death, as though he had never spoken a word. The zeal of men, therefore, for superstition is surpassingly mad, which could not be restrained by so plain a declaration of God from breaking forth, as historical records testify.
Not in any honor. Honor means care, according to the usage of the Hebrew tongue. Honour widows, (1Ti_5:3,) that is, take care of them. Now Paul finds fault with this, that they teach to leave off care for the body. For as God forbids us to indulge the body unduly, so he commands that these be given it as much as is necessary for it. Hence Paul, in Rom_13:14, does not expressly condemn care for the flesh, but such as indulges lusts. Have no care, says he, for the flesh, to the gratifying of its lusts.What, then, does Paul point out as faulty in those traditions of which he treats? It is that they gave no honor to the body for the satisfying the flesh, that is, according to the measure of necessity. For satisfying here means a mediocrity, which restricts itself to the simple use of nature, and thus stands in opposition to pleasure and all superfluous delicacies; for nature is content with little. Hence, to refuse what it requires for sustaining the necessity of life, is not less at variance with piety, than it is inhuman.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
have — Greek, “are having”; implying the permanent characteristic which these ordinances are supposed to have.
show of wisdom — rather, “a reputation of wisdom” [Alford].
will-worship — arbitrarily invented worship: would-be worship, devised by man’s own will, not God’s. So jealous is God of human will-worship, that He struck Nadab and Abihu dead for burning strange incense (Lev_10:1-3). So Uzziah was stricken with leprosy for usurping the office of priest (2Ch_26:16-21). Compare the will-worship of Saul (1Sa_13:8-14) for which he was doomed to lose his throne. This “voluntary worship” is the counterpart to their “voluntary humility” (Col_2:18): both specious in appearance, the former seeming in religion to do even more than God requires (as in the dogmas of the Roman and Greek churches); but really setting aside God’s will for man’s own; the latter seemingly self-abasing, but really proud of man’s self-willed “humility” (Greek, “lowliness of mind”), while virtually rejecting the dignity of direct communion with Christ, the Head; by worshipping of angels.
neglecting of the body — Greek, “not sparing of the body.” This asceticism seems to have rested on the Oriental theory that matter is the source of evil. This also looked plausible (compare 1Co_9:27).
not in any honour — of the body. As “neglecting of the body” describes asceticism positively; so this clause, negatively. Not paying any of that “honor” which is due to the body as redeemed by such a price as the blood of Christ. We should not degrade, but have a just estimation of ourselves, not in ourselves, but in Christ (Act_13:46; 1Co_3:21; 1Co_6:15; 1Co_7:23; 1Co_12:23, 1Co_12:24; 1Th_4:4). True self-denial regards the spirit, and not the forms of ascetical self-mortification in “meats which profit not those occupied therein” (Heb_13:9), and is consistent with Christian self-respect, the “honor” which belongs to the believer as dedicated to the Lord. Compare “vainly,” Col_2:18.
to the satisfying of the flesh — This expresses the real tendency of their human ordinances of bodily asceticism, voluntary humility, and will-worship of angels. While seeming to deny self and the body, they really are pampering the flesh. Thus “satisfying of the flesh” answers to “puffed up by his fleshly mind” (Col_2:18), so that “flesh” is used in its ethical sense, “the carnal nature” as opposed to the “spiritual”; not in the sense, “body.” The Greek for “satisfying” implies satiating to repletion, or to excess. “A surfeit of the carnal sense is human tradition” [Hilary the Deacon, in Bengel]. Tradition puffs up; it clogs the heavenly perceptions. They put away true “honor” that they may “satiate to the full THE FLESH.” Self-imposed ordinances gratify the flesh (namely, self-righteousness), though seeming to mortify it.
Which things – Which scrupulous observance of the numerous precepts enjoining rites and ceremonies, the observance of days, and the distinctions between meats and drinks.
Have indeed a show of wisdom – Have a great appearance of piety and of regard for the will of God They have a show of “wisdom,” too, or of a deep acquaintance with divine things. They who insist on them appear to be learned in what constitutes religion, and to have a deep insight into its mysteries. Doubtless they who urged the obligation of these things laid claim to uncommon acquaintance with the nature of religion, and urged the observance of these things on the ground of their tendency to promote piety, just as they always do who insist much on the observance of religious rites and ceremonies.
In will-worship – Voluntary worship; i. e., worship beyond what God strictly requires-supererogatory service. Probably many of these things they did not urge as being strictly required, but as conducing greatly to piety. The plea doubtless was, that piety might be promot ed by service rendered beyond what was absolutely enjoined, and that thus there would be evinced a spirit of uncommon piety – a readiness not only to obey all that God required, but even to go beyond this, and to render him voluntary service. There is much plausibility in this; and this has been the foundation of the appointment of the fasts and festivals of the church; of penances and self-inflicted tortures; of painful vigils and pilgrimages; of works of supererogation, and of the merits of the “saints.” A large part of the corruptions of religion have arisen from this plausible but deceitful argument. God knew best what things it was most conducive to piety for his people to observe; and we are most safe when we adhere most closely to what he has appointed, and observe no more days and ordinances than he has directed. There is much apparent piety about these things; but there is much wickedness of heart at the bottom, and there is nothing that more tends to corrupt pure religion.
And humility – Notes, Col_2:18. There is a great show of reverence for divine things in the manner in which they pursue their investigations, and in their humble and meek compliance with painful rites and ceremonies; in fastings, abstinence, and penances.
And neglecting the body – Putting on sackcloth and ashes; subjecting it to painful fastings and penances; appearing in a form of squalid poverty, as if the body were not worth regarding, and as if the attention were so much engrossed by the nobler care of the soul, as to be entirely regardless of the body. Yet, we may observe,
(1) God made the body as well as the soul, and has shown his care of it by its” being fearfully and wonderfully made,” and by all the provision which he has made for all its needs.
(2) Religion pertains to the body as well as the soul, and should teach a man properly to regard it. Man is bound so to take care of the body, as to have the most health and the longest life possible in the service of his Creator, and so as to be able to employ it in the best manner. There is no religion in ragged or squalid clothing, in a dirty face, in offensive personal habits, in filth and defilement, and in setting at defiance the decencies of life.
(3) much affected sanctity may exist where there is a most proud and corrupt heart. A long face, a demure countenance, a studied disregard of the decencies of dress and the courtesies of life, as if they were unworthy of notice, may be the exponent of the most hateful pride, and of the basest purposes of the soul. A man should be on his guard always against one who, under pretence of extraordinary sanctity, professes to despise the ordinary dress and usages of society.
Not in any honour – That is, there is no real honor in these things; there is nothing to ennoble and elevate the soul; nothing that is to be commended.
To the satisfying of the flesh – The only effect is, to satisfy or please the flesh; that is, the carnal and corrupt nature, for so the word “flesh” is often used in the Scriptures. The effect of these observances, on which so much stress is laid as if they would promote piety, is merely to gratify pride, self-righteousness, the love of distinction, and the other carnal propensities of our nature. There seems to be a great deal of humility and piety in them; there is really little else than pride, selfishness, and ambition.
Remarks On Colossians 2
4. Our views of the “mystery of God” – of the divine nature, and especially of the rank and character of Christ, will determine all our views of theology; Col_2:2. This has been so in all ages; and however it may be accounted for, the fact is undoubted, that if at any time we can ascertain what are the prevalent views of Christ we can easily see what is the prevailing character of the theology of that age. The influence of this will be felt on the views which are held of the native character of man: of regeneration, the divine purposes, the nature of holiness, and the retributions beyond the grave. Hence, the reason why the apostle Paul insisted so much on this, and urged so earnestly the importance of adhering to just views of the Saviour.
5. Christ has laid us under the highest obligations to love and serve him; Col_2:11-15. He has enabled us to put off our sins; he has raised us from spiritual death to spiritual life; he has removed the old ordinances that were against us, and has made religion easy and pleasant; he has subdued our enemies, and triumphed over them. He achieved a glorious victory over “principalities and powers,” and has led our great enemy captive. He met the enemy of man when on earth, and overcame his power of temptation; expelled him from the bodies of men; laid the foundation for a permanent victory over him on the cross, and triumphed over him when he rose and ascended to heaven. Satan is now an humbled foe. His power is broken and limited, and the Lord Jesus will yet completely triumph over him. He will return from heaven; raise all the dead; and reascend, in the face of the universe, to his native skies, with all his ransomed hosts – the “spoils” of victory. We should not then fear what Satan can do to us; nor should we fear that the great enemy of the church will ever be triumphant:
6. No individual has a right to appoint ceremonies and ordinances in the church to be binding on the consciences of others; nor is this authority intrusted to any body of men; Col_2:16. What God has enjoined is to be obeyed. What man enjoins beyond that, is of no binding force on the conscience: and it is the solemn and sacred duty of all Christians to resist all such attempts to make ceremonial observances binding on the conscience. Christ has appointed a few ordinances of religion – and they are enough. They are simple, easily observed, and all adapted to promote piety. He appointed baptism and the Lord’s supper; but he appointed no stated festivals or fasts; no days in commemoration of the saints, or of his own birth or death; he enjoined no rites of religion but those which are most simple and which are easily observed. He well knew how those observances would be abused to the purposes of superstition, and obscure the great doctrine of justification by faith. He knew how ready men would be to rely on them rather than on the merits of the great Sacrifice, and hence he appointed no ordinance where that danger could exist.
7. Pride is often united with apparent humility; Col_2:18. It is easy to assume the appearance of humility in the outer deportment, but no such assumed appearance reaches the heart. That remains the same, whatever external appearance is assumed, until it is renewed by the grace of God.
8. A meek, modest, and candid demeanor is consistent with great boldness and daring in speculation; Col_2:18. The most daring speculators in religion; they who make the most reckless attacks on the truth, are often, to appearance, eminently candid, and even put on the aspect of angelic devotion. Yet they are bold “where angels fear to tread;” and they declaim with confidence on subjects which must be forever beyond the grasp of the human mind.
9. We should not infer, because a man is modest and humble, and because he appears to be endued with uncommon meekness and piety, that, therefore, he is a good man or a safe guide; Col_2:18. The teachers in Colossae, against whom Paul warned the Christians there, appear to have been men just of this stamp; and this is commonly assumed by those who would lead their fellow men into error. “Satan is often transformed into an angel of light.”
10. We should not attempt to penetrate into those things which lie beyond the grasp of the human mind; Col_2:18. We should not “intrude into those things which are unseen.” There is an outer limit to our investigations on all subjects, and we soon reach it. In life we are to act chiefly on facts; not on the reason why those facts exist. When we have ascertained or established a fact, our feet stand on a solid rock; and there we shall stand securely. We act safely and wisely if we act in view of that fact; we do not act safely or wisely if we disregard that, and act on theory or imagination.
11. Many real Christians are in danger of being “beguiled of the reward” which they might obtain; Col_2:18. They are allured by the world; they are drawn into error by the arts of philosophy; they obscure the lustre of their piety by conformity to the world, and thus they lose the high recompense which they might have obtained in heaven. For the rewards of heaven will be strictly in proportion to the measure of our religion here – the zeal, and faith, and love which we evince in the cause of our Master.
12. Many persons are in danger of losing the “reward” altogether – for the “reward” of a life of piety is set before all; Col_2:18. Heaven is offered freely to all, and there is no one who might not obtain it. But, alas! how many there are who are drawn aside by the allurements of error and of sin; who are led to defer to a future time the great subject of preparation for death; who spend their lives in disregard of the commands of God and the invitations of mercy, until it is too late to seek salvation, and they sink down to final ruin. Every impenitent sinner is in imminent danger of losing his soul. The great deceiver is endeavoring to blind him and decoy him down to death, and a thousand snares on every side are spread for his feet, into which he is in constant danger of falling. In a world of allurements, where the work of death from the beginning has been carried on chiefly by deception, with what solicitude should man guard himself lest he be “beguiled of heaven” and sink to a world where heaven will be offered no more!