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Warnings Against False Theories
Summary —Paul's Conflict for the Churches. Present with Them in Spirit. Exhortation to be Rooted and Grounded in Christ. Warning Against Vain Philosophy. The True Circumcision. The Baptismal Burial. The Handwriting of Ordinances Removed. Keeping Sabbath Days. Angel Worship Forbidden.
1–3. What great conflict. Anxiety. For you. The brethren at Colosse. At Laodicea. A sister church only a few miles away. See Introduction. Laodicea was one of the Seven Churches of Revelation. See Rev. 3:14. Have not seen my face. This seems to imply that he had never visited either of these churches in person. The reasons of his anxiety are revealed in this chapter. They were assailed by false teachings. 2. That their hearts. He was deeply anxious that they might be comforted, … knit together in love, and enjoy the full assurance of understanding, a clear insight that would lead them to know the mystery of God. This knowledge would make them proof against the arts of false teachers. For “mystery,” see notes on 1:26, 27. 3. In whom. In Christ all the treasures, etc., are hidden, and mysteries until revealed. The gospel reveals them and those in Christ know them.
4–8. Lest any man should beguile you. Had they full knowledge (verse 2) this would not be possible. 5. For though absent, yet he was present in spirit. He was either present in spirit by having them in mind, being fully informed of their state by Epaphras, which I think is more in harmony with the whole tenor of the New Testament, or he was enabled by divine power to look upon them and behold them. The latter is the view of most commentators. If this view is correct, why does he say (1:7) that he learned their state from Epaphras? 6. Walk ye in him. Continue to live in, obey and believe upon Christ as he was first preached to you. 7. Rooted. Your life growing out of Christ as a tree out of the soil. As ye have been taught. The point of the exhortation is to cling to the gospel as it 230has been taught them. 8. Spoil you through philosophy. Make spoil of you and carry you off as booty through some philosophical speculation, or empty deceit. After the tradition of men. By appealing, not to the Scriptures, but to human traditions. These traditions probably referred mainly to the matters spoken of in verse 18 below. Rudiments of the world. Paul uses this expression elsewhere of Jewish ordinances (Gal. 4:3). Verse 16 below shows what it refers to.
9–12. For in him dwelleth all the fulness, etc. You must not be drawn from Christ. He is all in all. In him is the divine fullness (all divine power). In him as revealed was God in bodily form. Compare John 1:14. 10. Ye are complete in him. You need nothing more. He supplies every want. Head of all principality and power. He is over and ruler of those ranks of angels that some are trying to lead you to worship. 11. In whom ye are circumcised. Are there those who say that you ought to be circumcised? In him is the true circumcision, not done by hands, not the cutting off of a little flesh, but the putting off of the entire body of the sins of the flesh. 12. Buried with him in baptism. See notes on Rom. 6:4. Paul teaches that we must re-enact the tragedy of the cross: The agony of the garden, the complete submission to the divine will, confession of Christ, crucifixion (Gal. 2:20; Rom. 6:5), death (Rom. 6:3), burial (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12), rising with Christ (Rom. 6:5; Col. 2:12; 3:1); nay, we must ascend and reign with him (Eph. 2:4–6). Let it be noted that “the putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh” (verse 11) is associated with baptism (verse 13). Wherein ye were also raised with him (Revision). We are raised from the burial as he was raised from the grave, and we rise to a new life through faith, etc.
13–15. Being dead in your sins. He that is dead in sins is without spiritual or eternal life. To be dead to sin is to be delivered from its power. The uncircumcision of your flesh. “The body of the sins of the flesh” not having been put off. See verse 11. Hath he quickened. By the power of the gospel. We are buried with Christ, quickened with him, rise with him. Having forgiven. The gospel comes with the offer of forgiveness. See Acts 2:38. 14. Blotting out the handwriting. The Revision says, “The bond.” That is, the written law of ordinances; the law of Jewish rites. This was “blotted out,” erased, removed. Against us. Especially in the sense that they made Gentiles aliens and strangers to the covenant, and without God and hope. Nailing it to his cross. When the Jews nailed Jesus to the cross they drove the nails into their own law. The old dispensation was ended; the blood of the new covenant was shed from the wounds of the nails. 15. Having put off from himself 231the principalities (Revision). Christ overcame and disarmed the spirits of darkness, the evil angels. He triumphed over Satan and all his powers. Made a show of them. Put them to an open shame by triumphing over them in his resurrection and ascension.
16–19. Let no man therefore judge you. As the law was nailed to the cross (verse 14), let no man compel you to keep its ordinances. In meat, or in drink. By requiring you to eat only what the Jewish law prescribes (Lev. 7:10–27). See Rom. 14:17; 1 Cor. 8:8; Heb. 9:10. Compare 1 Tim. 4:3. Or in respect of a holy day. Such as the Passover, Pentecost, etc. Or of the new moon. The monthly observances (Num. 28:11). Or of the Sabbath day. The Jewish Sabbath had passed away with the law. 17. Which are a shadow of things to come. The body, or substance, which casts the shadow is Christ. We are to pay no attention to the shadows since Christ has come, but to observe what we find in him and the gospel. 18. Let no man beguile you. Rob you of your reward by his guile. He will do so if you become unworthy of it by a voluntary humility. By a humility that is willed, and therefore is affected rather than real. It is probable that the false teachers made a great pretence of humility, and taught a self-abasement, like that of monks clad in sackcloth, or who go barefoot. And worshiping of angels. One feature of the heresy against which Paul warned them was angel worship. See Rev. 19:10. Angel worship, the worship of saints, dead or living, of pope, or any created thing, is forbidden. “Worship God,” said the angel before whom John bowed. Church history states that at a later period Michael the archangel was worshiped. Dwelling in the things which he hath seen (Revision). Claiming special revelations. He refers to “no man.” 19. Not holding the Head. Not clinging to Christ the Head, from whence the whole body, the church, derives its nourishment and increase.
20–23. Wherefore. Ye died with Christ, died to the world, and to its rudiments, or fleshly ordinances. See note on verses 8 and 12. Why, then, as though belonging to the world, should you be subject to obsolete Jewish ordinances? 21. Touch not, etc. Why are you subject to prohibitions of food and drink which command you to “touch not?” etc. 22. Which all are to perish. The prohibition applies to “things all of which perishing in the using;” i. e., to food and drink. After the commandments. These ordinances, whether Jewish traditions, or those of ascetics, are dependent upon the 232commands and teachings of men. 23. Which things. The doctrines just condemned. Have a show of wisdom. But only a show. In will-worship. Self-imposed, arbitrary worship. And humility. Ostentatious humility. And severity to the body. By starving it and refusing proper food. This implies that these teachers demanded mortifications of the flesh, such as have been always commended in the Romish church. But are not of any value. They have no efficacy in overcoming the lusts of the flesh. In the first verse of the next chapter we are told the only way of overcoming the flesh. In this chapter can be discovered traces of the ascetic spirit which a few centuries later became so dominant in the church. It is well to note that it is placed under the condemnation of the Holy Spirit. 232
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