Center of My Belief
Col. 2:8-23 Feb. 19 2012
“Philosophy” (2:8). Hollow and deceptive philosophy depends on human tradition. The whole system presented by the false teachers in Colossians was mere “basic principles of this world”—an ignorant child’s play with ABC’s—not the advanced truth they claimed.
“Fullness” (2:9). Earlier too Paul spoke of Christ possessing the fullness (pleroma) of God. In this chapter Paul means simply that all God can be and is for us is summed up in Jesus. We don’t need a “better way” because relationship with Jesus provides us with all of God.
Real circumcision (2:9-15). Jewish elements in the “deceptive philosophy” of the false teachers emphasized circumcision—an external rite. But faith unites us with Jesus, and this baptism accomplishes a circumcision which “puts off” the sinful nature. This is the “fullness” we have been given in Christ and find only in Him.
“The Cross” (2:14). The phrase is frequently used in the N.T. as a term for the Gospel.
“Canceled the written code” (2:14). Because we could not meet the Law’s demands it was “against us.” But it is no longer. The Gk. word means to “wipe out’’ or “wipe away.” The blood of Jesus washed all that was written against us off the bill of indictment, and we are free.
“Powers and authorities” (2:15). The reference is to hostile angelic or supernatural powers.
“Worship of angels” (2:18-19). Developed Gnosticism supposed that a long row of angels stood between the material universe and the immaterial God. The most powerful angels were the furthest from the material. Many worshiped and sought to contact these angels.
Asceticism (2:20-23). Paul says do’s and don’ts are of no “value in restraining sensual indulgence.” People who “don’t” get proud, and condemn folks who “do.” And these sins are as much an expression of the flesh, or sin nature, as the action the person is proud of refusing!
1. He cautions against the errors of heathen philosophy; also against Jewish traditions, and rites which had been fulfilled in Christ. (Col 2:8-17)
Col 2:8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.
There is a philosophy which rightly exercises our reasonable faculties; a study of the works of God, which leads us to the knowledge of God, and confirms our faith in him. But there is a philosophy which is vain and deceitful; and while it pleases men’s fancies, hinders their faith: such are curious speculations about things above us, or no concern to us. Those who walk in the way of the world, are turned from following Christ. We have in Him the substance of all the shadows of the ceremonial law. All the defects of it are made up in the gospel of Christ, by his complete sacrifice for sin, and by the revelation of the will of God. To be complete, is to be furnished with all things necessary for salvation. By this one word “complete,” is shown that we have in Christ whatever is required. “In him,” not when we look to Christ, as though he were distant from us, but we are in him, when, by the power of the Spirit, we have faith wrought in our hearts by the Spirit, and we are united to our Head. The circumcision of the heart, the crucifixion of the flesh, the death and burial to sin and to the world, and the resurrection to newness of life, set forth in baptism, and by faith wrought in our hearts, prove that our sins are forgiven, and that we are fully delivered from the curse of the law. Through Christ, we, who were dead in sins, are quickened. Christ’s death was the death of our sins; Christ’s resurrection is the quickening of our souls. The law of ordinances, which was a yoke to the Jews, and a partition-wall to the Gentiles, the Lord Jesus took out of the way. When the substance was come, the shadows fled. Since every mortal man is, through the hand-writing of the law, guilty of death, how very dreadful is the condition of the ungodly and unholy, who trample under foot that blood of the Son of God, whereby alone this deadly hand-writing can be blotted out! Let not any be troubled about bigoted judgments which related to meats, or the Jewish solemnities. The setting apart a portion of our time for the worship and service of God, is a moral and unchangeable duty, but had no necessary dependence upon the seventh day of the week, the sabbath of the Jews. The first day of the week, or the Lord’s day, is the time kept holy by Christians, in remembrance of Christ’s resurrection. All the Jewish rites were shadows of gospel blessings.
2. Against worshipping angels; and against legal ordinances.
Col 2:18 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.
20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— 21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22 which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.
It looked like humility to apply to angels, as if men were conscious of their unworthiness to speak directly to God. But it is not warrantable; it is taking that honour which is due to Christ only, and giving it to a creature. There really was pride in this seeming humility. Those who worship angels, disclaim Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and man. It is an insult to Christ, who is the Head of the church, to use any intercessors but him. When men let go their hold of Christ, they catch at what will stand them in no stead. The body of Christ is a growing body. And true believers cannot live in the fashions of the world. True wisdom is, to keep close to the appointments of the gospel; in entire subjection to Christ, who is the only Head of his church. Self-imposed sufferings and fastings, might have a show of uncommon spirituality and willingness for suffering, but this was not “in any honour” to God. The whole tended, in a wrong manner, to satisfy the carnal mind, by gratifying self-will, self-wisdom, self-righteousness, and contempt of others. The things being such as carry not with them so much as the show of wisdom; or so faint a show that they do the soul no good, and provide not for the satisfying of the flesh. What the Lord has left indifferent, let us regard as such, and leave others to the like freedom; and remembering the passing nature of earthly things, let us seek to glorify God in the use of them.
Paul prays constantly that the believers in Colossae and Laodicea may really understand what they have in Christ, who is the storehouse where God has placed all the “treasures of wisdom and knowledge” . Gnostics claim access to a superior knowledge, but the secret of the Christian’s life is to remain rooted in the Lord . Paul then lists a series of warnings. Spiritual reality is not to be found in “deceptive philosophy,” but in union with a Christ in whom all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form . Spiritual reality is not found in legalism , in the worship of angels , or in an asceticism which makes a person look good, but has no value in restraining expressions of one’s sin nature .