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THIS entire chapter may be regarded as designed to guard the Colossians against the seductive influence of the false philosophy which tended to draw them away from the gospel. It is evident from the chapter that there were at Colosse, or in the vicinity, professed instructors in religion, who taught an artful and plausible philosophy, adapting themselves to the prejudices of the people, and inculcating opinions that tended to lead them away from the truths which they had embraced. These teachers were probably of Jewish origin, and had adopted many of the arts of a plausible rhetoric, from the prevailing philosophy in that region. See the Intro. § 4. Against the seductive influences of this philosophy it is the design of this chapter to guard them; and though the apostle does not seem to have intended to pursue an exact logical order, yet the argument in the chapter can be conveniently regarded as consisting of two parts:—a statement of the reasons why they should be on their guard against the arts of that philosophy, and a specification of the particular errors to which they were exposed.

I. A statement of the reasons why they should not allow themselves to be drawn away by the influence of the prevalent philosophy, Col 2:1-15. This also consists of two parts.

(A.) The importance of the subject, Col 2:1-7.

(1.) The apostle felt great solicitude for them, and for all whom he had not seen, that they might hold the truth in reference to the Divine existence and perfections, Col 2:1,2.

(2.) All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge were in Christ, and it was, therefore, of the greatest importance to hold to the truth respecting him, Col 2:3.

(3.) They were in danger of being led astray by enticing words, Col 2:4.

(4.) Paul says that he was with them in spirit, and he exhorted them, therefore, to remain rooted and grounded in the doctrines which they had received respecting the Saviour, Col 2:5-7.

(B.) Reasons why they should be steadfast, and not drawn away by the influence of false philosophy, Col 3:8-15.

(1.) The danger of depending on traditions and worldly principles in religion; of being "spoiled" or robbed by philosophy, Col 2:8.

(2.) All that we need to desire is to be found in Christ, Col 2:9,10.

(3.) We have received through him the true circumcision—the putting away our sins, Col 2:11.

(4.) We have been buried with him in baptism, and have solemnly devoted ourselves to him, Col 2:12.

(5.) We have been quickened by him; our sins have been forgiven; and everything that hindered our salvation has been taken out of the way by him, and he has triumphed over our foes, Col 2:13-15.

II. Specification of particular errors to which they were exposed, or of particular things to be avoided, Col 2:16-23.

The chapter closes Col 2:20-23 with an earnest exhortation wholly to avoid these things; not to touch or taste or handle them. However plausible the pretences might be on which they were urged; whatever appearance of wisdom or humility there might be, the apostle assures them that there was no real honour in them, and that they were wholly to be avoided.

Verse 1. For I would that ye knew. I wish you knew or fully understood. He supposes that this would deeply affect them, if they understood the solicitude which he had had on their account.

What great conflict. Marg., fear, or care. The Greek word is agony agwna. It is not, however, the word rendered agony in Lu 22:44 agwnia—though that is derived from this. The word is rendered conflict in Php 1:30; contention, 1 Th 2:2; fight, 1 Ti 6:12; 2 Ti 4:17 and race Heb 12:1. It properly refers to the combats, contests, struggles, efforts at the public games; the toil and conflict to obtain a victory. It refers here to the anxious care, the mental conflict, the earnest solicitude which he had in their behalf, in view of the dangers to which they were exposed from Judaizing Christians and pagan philosophy. This mental struggle resembled that which the combatants had at the public games. See Barnes "1 Co 9:25,27".


And for them at Laodicea. For Christians there, who were exposed to similar danger. Laodicea was the capital of Phrygia, in Asia Minor, and a little south of Colosse. See Intro. p. 1, 6. See Barnes "Col 4:16.

There was a church early planted there—-the "lukewarm" church mentioned in Re 3:14. Being in the vicinity of Colosse, the church there would be exposed to the same perils, and the rebuke, in Re 3:14, showed that the fears of Paul were well founded, and that the arts of the false teachers were too successful.

And for as many as have not seem face in the flesh. That is, evidently, in that region. He had, doubtless, a general solicitude for all Christians, but his remark here has reference to those in the neighbourhood of the church at Colosse, or in that church. On the question which has been raised, whether this proves that the apostle Paul had never been at Colosse or Laodicea, see Intro. p. 2, 4. This passage does not seem to me to prove that he had not been there. It may mean that he had great solicitude for those Christians there whom he knew, and for all others there, or in the vicinity, even though he was not personally acquainted with them. He may refer (1.) to some churches in the neighbourhood formed since he was there; or

(2.) to strangers who had come in there since he was with them; or

(3.) to those who had been converted since he was there, and with whom he had no personal acquaintance. For all these he would feel the same solicitude, for they were all exposed to the same danger. To "see one's face in the flesh" is a Hebraism, meaning to become personally acquainted with him.

{1} "great conflict" "fear" or "care" {a} "Laodicea, and for" Re 3:14

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