Colossians Chapter 2

 by Matt Slick

(...continued)

Christ's preeminence

...in his church (1:24-2:3)

1 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf, and for
those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face 
Paul wanted the Colossians to know how much he was working on their behalf, even though they had never met.
2 that their hearts may be encouraged, having been |
knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself,

As a true disciple, he loved them and wanted them to be united in love.

This unity and love is based on a true knowledge of Jesus. All true knowledge is Christocentric. That is, all that you perceive around you is best understood in light of Jesus.

Jesus created the universe (Col. 1:15-17). He sustains it (Heb. 1:3). He is Lord of all.

In that knowledge of Him, there is safety. You know Him and you know that He is the creator.  You know that he is the sustainer not only of all creation, but of you as well.

As a church, are you knit together in love or are there divisions among you?

3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Wisdom is moral. Knowledge is intellectual. With knowledge comes the responsibility to act morally. With Jesus, morality and knowledge are always in balance.

Our Freedom in Christ
Freedom from false teachings (2:4-7)

4 I say this in order that no one may delude you with persuasive argument.

Paul does not want to Colossians to be deceived by clever sounding arguments.  Of course, the only way to avoid this is to know your Scriptures, know your doctrine, and know the person of Christ in truth.

"persuasive arguments" might be dealing with the issue of allowing women to be pastors and elders, allowing homosexuals to be pastors, that homosexuals can be ordained, or that Christ has already returned, or that we are supposed to be healthy and wealthy as Christians, etc.

We need to be very careful when hearing fine sounding arguments because we do not want our fellowship with Christ to be hindered.

5 For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.

Believe it or not, some new age groups use this verse to support astral projection by citing the term "absent in body".  Of course, Paul is not speaking about astral projection.  He is speaking about how he desires to be with them, that his heart is with them.

Paul further states that he desires that they be anchored in Christ and be stable in the teachings of Jesus as well as the doctrines concerning who he is.

6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,

Verses six and seven conclude what was spoken in the previous verses.  Paul therefore tells us that we should walk in Jesus because we have received Jesus.  In other words, we behave according to how we believe.  If we have received Christ, we have done so because we have believed and trusted in his atoning work and that he has delivered us from sin.  Therefore, we should walk accordingly.

7 having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

We are able to walk with Christ because we are firmly rooted in him and are being built up in him.  That is, we are learning and growing in a relationship with Jesus.

1 Cor. 1:9 is where God calls us into fellowship with Jesus.  It is in the heart of our relationship with Christ that we should manifest an overflowing gratitude and dedication to him.

Our Freedom in Christ
Freedom from false philosophy (2:8-10)

8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.

Paul of course is concerned that false teachers would take captive the minds and hearts of people through the false teachings found in philosophy, empty deception, the traditions of men, and the elementary principles of the world.

Philosophy means “love of wisdom.” But if you love a wisdom or teaching that is not of Christ, then you love an empty idol.

Catholicism is a good example of this with its empty philosophies of men that advocate unbiblical doctrines such as purgatory, penance, the mass, veneration of Mary, etc. These things are not based on Christ, on the Word of God.

My brother went to college and attended a philosophy class. He was taught enough human philosophy that he lost his faith in Christ.

When I was in college in a philosophy class, the teacher directly stated that Jesus was not God in flesh and that the Bible could not be trusted. They attack Christianity.

Do you have anything that you adhere to that is not based on or shaped by the word of God?

Philosophies of men: evolution; morality is relative; homosexuality is okay; take care of yourself first; etc.

If you do, then your life is being dragged down to the level of human kind.

It is God who says to love your neighbor as yourself, to give your life for another, to be sacrificial in your loving and giving.

9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,

This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. It is a common verse to show that Jesus is God in flesh and it is one I frequently use to refute various cults who deny that Jesus is God.

The word "deity" occurs only here in the entire text of the New Testament.  Paul is attributing to Christ a uniqueness:  divinity.

Such was the heresy at Colosae. The gnostics were teaching that Jesus was not God in flesh. They taught that He was merely an angel who appeared to us — much like the Jehovah’s Witnesses of today.

To this, Paul uses the Greek word “pleroma”, fullness, to state that the very quality and nature of God dwells in Jesus in bodily form.

Only in Jesus can you have the fullness of life.

10 and in Him you have
been made complete, and
He is the head over all rule and authority;

Everything that we have and need is in Christ.  In him we are complete.

This completeness is coupled with a statement that Christ is the head over all rule and authority.  This is interesting in that it demonstrates Christ's superiority over all things.  Therefore, since we are complete in Christ and he is the head over all rule and authority, we need to look to him alone for all of our spiritual needs.

Freedom from false judgments of Men (2:11-17)

11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ;

Paul speaks of a spiritual circumcision, a circumcision done by Christ, not by people.

Circumcision represented the Law in the Old Testament it was a covenant sign.  Gen. 17:10, "This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised."  But, the Christian is not under the law. The Christian has died to the law:  Rom. 7:6, "But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter."

Col. 3:3, "For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God."

Rom. 2:29, "But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God."

It involved the shedding of blood and was, in a sense, representative of the true covenant of Christ's blood that was then future. This removal of the body of flesh speaks of our sinful nature.

In Adam, all died, but in Christ, also are made alive ( 1 Cor. 15:22). Because we are in Christ, we are seen as having our sinful natures done away with. Though, we know it is not yet fully accomplished, it is something that is guaranteed. This is hinted at in Rom. 8:30, "and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified."

Notice that each of these verbs are in the past tense.  Further notice that the last verb, "glorified" is also in the past tense.  Our glorification, our resurrection, is not yet accomplished but is viewed as already having happened.  This is how sure it is in Christ.

Notice the phrase "removal of the body of the flesh." It corresponds to the process of circumcision where the foreskin is physically removed. This Old Testament circumcision was a representation of the removal of the sinful nature, accompanied with the shedding of blood, which was ultimately to be fulfilled in the sacrifice of Christ.

Paul tells us what this circumcision is made without hands. Let's look at the next verse to see how...

 

 
12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

Paul equates Old Testament circumcision with New Testament baptism. Notice the phrase "raised up." This is a strong allusion to the act of being dunked in water and thereby participating in the spiritual resurrection of Christ.  This baptism symbolizes our death to the law as well as the death of our carnal natures -- the putting off of the carnal flesh even as circumcision was also the putting off of flesh.

Our resurrection in baptism is through faith.

The resurrection of Christ by the Father is a demonstration that the sacrifice of Christ was acceptable to God the father.

 

13 And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,

Paul is consistent as we see elsewhere in Scripture.  In Eph. 2:1 he says, "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins."  This is the natural result of sin.  It brings death.  Rom. 6:23 says, "the wages of sin is death."

But where we were dead, we have been made alive and this is accomplished in and with the forgiveness of our sins.

 

 

14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

The Greek says "having blotted out." This means that our debt to God has been canceled. The debt is death.  This death is separation from God.

1 Cor. 15:56, "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law."

The decrees spoken of here are found in the Old Testament law.  The law is interesting.  It brings about the opposite of what it requires.  It says be holy, but demonstrates where we are not holy.  It requires perfection, but demonstrates where we are imperfect.  It gives life if you follow it perfectly, but brings death when you fail in a single point.

Nailed the certificate to the cross.  This is speaking about the crucifixion of Christ.  The Bible tells us that he bore our sins in his body on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24) and that he became sin on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21).

 

15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities,
He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.

In the crucifixion of Christ, we see the victory over the enemy.  The devil and his fallen Angels have been disarmed.  That is, the destruction of their power has been publically display in Christ's death, burial, and resurrection.  This is how The dark forces were defeated, via the triumph of the cross where God's people receive forgiveness of sins.

 

16 Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect
to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—

Because we have been set free in Christ, no one has the right to judge us in regard to keeping the law.  We are not required to follow it in order to please God or be right with him.

Paul uses three references dealing with dietary customs (Lev. 11; 17; Deut. 14), with festivals (which were yearly events), new moons (which were monthly events), and Sabbath days (which were weekly events).

Note the OT reference:  1 Chron. 23:31 says, "and to offer all burnt offerings to the Lord, on the sabbaths, the new moons and the fixed festivals in the number set by the ordinance concerning them, continually before the Lord."

Note:  Of the Ten Commandments, the commanded to keep the Sabbath is not repeated in the New Testament.   Furthermore, the New Testament church began to meet on Sundays, the Lord's Day.

Acts 20:7, "And on the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to depart the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight."

1 Cor. 16:1-2, "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. 2 On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come."

See also, Rom. 14:1-12

17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

These Old Testament dietary laws and calendar laws, etc. were a mere shadow of what was to come.  The substance is found in Christ.  That is, the fulfillment of the Old Testament types and representations and even those items spoken of in the law, are ultimately found it to be fulfilled in Jesus.

Freedom from false worship (2:18-19)

18 Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind,

Paul speaks of how the Colossians were not to be robbed through improper false humility, the improper worship of angels, and the improper education and reliance on visions.

Notice that these things represent the problems that were then affecting the Colossians.  Today, the issues are similar, but are also different.  There are undo forms of legalism, liberal thought, and false teachings in the Christian church that rob people of their freedom in Christ.  We are not under a yoke of slavery.  We are free from the requirements of the law and we are free to follow Christ in truth, not in the deception of the New Age, of Cults, or aberrant TV evangelists.

False doctrine's bring bondage.  This is why Paul is warning the Colossians not to be defrauded by following false doctrines.  Instead, take a stand on Christ as found in the scriptures, not subjective experiences.

19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.

Paul goes on to tell the Colossians that this defrauding is due in part to their not holding fast to Jesus and that the Colossians need to understand that their strength is found in Christ and also in his body, the church.

As Christians, we are not to forsake the gathering together of the people of Christ in the form of the church meeting (Heb. 10:25).  This  does not mean that if you don't go to church you are in heinous sin.  It means that we need to need the strength and fellowship in the body of Christ and that we need to fellowship of other believers through whom the Spirit of God can and does work.

Freedom from the false doctrines of Men (2:20-23)

20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit
yourself to decrees,
such as,

Our identification with Christ is so strong that we are said to have died with Jesus.

Paul says in Romans 6:2 that we have died to sin.  In Colossians 3:3, Paul says, "For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God."

We have died to the elementary principles of the world.  These elementary principles are the cardinal, sinful, and false teachings of the world.  In addition, we can see from the context that Paul is dealing with legalism which he again deals with the next verses.

21 "Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!"

Some of the issues of legalism are don't handle, don't taste, don't touch.  Unfortunately, some believe that our holiness before God is dependent on our behavior.  It is not, our holiness before God is dependent upon the work of Christ.  But this does not mean it's okay to sin.  We are to avoid ungodliness.  But we have to make sure that our avoiding ungodliness is not done so that we might maintain our position of salvation with God (legalism).  Instead, it should be motivated out of our desire to honor God and bring glory to him -- because we already are secure in him through the work of Christ.

Paul does not want them to go back under the law.

22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with the using)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men?

Legalism is a product of human teaching.  When we properly understand our position with God through Christ, we understand that we are not obligated to keep God's law in order to please God so as to keep salvation.  Again, all the we have and need is found in the person of Jesus.

23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.

Man made legalism has the appearance of wisdom but it is not wisdom.  I'm reminded of the "word of wisdom" in Mormonism which warns its members to stay away from hot and caffeinated drinks (appearance of wisdom in self-made religion).  I'm also reminded of certain Christian groups that advocate no dancing, no movies, no TV, etc. so they might retain their standing with God.  This is legalism and bondage.

Of course, I  do not want to appear to advocate going out to bars, ungodly movies, and watching TV shows that are sinful.  The point is that it is not these things that make us right before God.  The person who wants to abstain from these things should do so out of a desire to honor God, not because they desire to maintain their position with him -- and we should want to honor God in our lives and practices.

 
 

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.