David Bambrick 31/10/2022 -12/12/2022
Chapter Two: verses 1-23.
Continuing on from chapter 1 verse 29 and keeping in mind that the Bible was written without chapter separation (1300 ad) and verse numbering (1500 ad). Paul reiterates the striving and agonising he says, “on your behalf.” What does he mean “on your behalf?, is it prayer, witnessing to others on their behalf, or is it the edifying and encouraging letters Paul sends out?
There’s also a point to be made on the flip side, meaning that it may become laborious and or agonising to do that which the Lord wants us to do. I have found myself saying “Lord this is just too hard, it’s pointless.” Then with sorrow I say “Lord did I just say no to you.” So I guess it all comes to that scary word “willingness!”
Keep in mind also that the Lord supplies us with exactly what is needed alongside our willingness to accomplish what we have just said no to. It’s not our plan, it’s the Lord’s plan and we know from scripture that he equips us with everything we need, (2 Tim 3:17, Heb 13:21)
Notice what Paul says to believers he’s never met “FOr I wolde ye knewe what great fighting I have for your sakes, and for thẽ of Laodicea, and for as manie as have not sene my persone in the flesh,” (Geneva Bible).
Paul uses the same word in (Col 4:12) when he speaks about the prayers of Epaphras. This to me speaks of serious spiritual matters for saints everywhere but here particularly in Colossae and Laodicea. There’s no reason not to think that Hierapolis couldn’t be included here, “for as manie as have not sene my persone in the flesh.” This was Paul’s life, how he conducted himself every day.
- Can we minister to someone we haven’t met?
- Are we able to answer correctly from scripture a question relating to doctrine? If not what’s our next move?
- Genuine Christianity is not found in keeping rules, having experiences, or denying yourselves. If we are not careful about these things they may have a tendency to foster pride and have no value in keeping the flesh in check.
Paul had been debating false teaching with conviction. He knew intimately what it was all about. Like Paul we need to have a wide-eyed awareness of the appeal of error. We have no excuse for having our eyes closed to the existence of error, I mean the Bible is full of warnings (Rom. 16:17–18; Gal. 1:6–9; Acts 20:28–31; 1 Tim. 1:3–7; 6:3–5; 2 Tim. 4:3–4; 1 John 4:1), Paul isn’t striving or struggling because he may be in prison. His struggle is on behalf of believers in Colosse and all believers. Like Epaphras, Paul shared the same attitude as in (Col 4:13-14) “Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. For I testify for him that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis.”
Paul tells how to avoid being deceived. These verses contain three elements which add up to a loving, learning community. I think Paul’s idea is that believers be (1) encouraged in heart and in this context can only happen as they are (2) united in love, (3) and as they are settled in their understanding of the truth.
“That their hearts may be encouraged.” Encouraged can either mean “comfort, cheer up” or “encourage, strengthen.” They need strength to equip them to stand strong against any error that will come their way and it will come.
Being a believer doesn’t mean we are free from struggles (John 16:13). Obviously we don’t start with this truth when we witness but during the course of developing a relationship with someone, there’s no reason why we can’t acknowledge a struggle we may be having as long as it’s appropriate.
I found something interesting in (Eph 6:22, Col 4:8) Tychicus in Ephesians and Epaphras in Colossians. Almost word for word Paul’s intent is that the body of Christ be encouraged.
“Having been knit together in love.” Strengthening takes place as believers are united in love. United in love translates a Greek participle and could be rendered “by being united in love” (nasb) rather than “and united in love” (niv). The imagery of united is that of a body being held together by ligaments to make a strong unit. Unity and solidarity create strength. False teaching is naturally divisive. A person left alone, with no support, is much more vulnerable than a cohesive unit.
What creates unity? For one thing “there is strength in unity” Marriages are only as strong as the degree of unity first between husband and wife, then between the family. So what’s the catalyst for unity? Love! Concern for one another. Relating to one another as brothers and sisters, with loyalty and support. When we are united in love, we will be strengthened in heart. Then we will have assurance in understanding. That’s why there is so many insidious attacks on the family, meaning the family unit and the family of God.
A loving, learning community will produce believers who are settled in their understanding of the truth. Believers who connect themselves with fellow believers, who care for one another. Those who grow in their understanding of Jesus Christ will stand a good chance of remaining stable and confident.
Understanding has a very definite object: Jesus Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. In contrast to the false teachers at Colosse, who said that wisdom and knowledge were hidden away in mystical experience and higher knowledge, Paul says that all wisdom and knowledge are hidden, or deposited, in Christ. He is all we need. We will never mine all the treasure found in a full knowledge of Jesus Christ.
“I say this so that no one will delude you.” Delude or beguile you just as the serpent beguiled Eve in the garden. It’s a bit like statistics, you can have them present a glowing report to help any cause, but as my economics teacher always said “there’s lies, damn lies, then there’s statistics.” One Greek-English lexicon puts it this way:
- in keeping accounts, to misreckon, miscalculate.
- to cheat out of a thing, to defraud of.
- to mislead by fallacious/deceptive reasoning, to be so misled.
“with persuasive argument.” Or fine sounding words, you know those words that just drip honey. See, it’s all about persuasive speech as opposed to actual demonstrating or “walk your talk not talk the talk. (Rom 16:18) says “For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.” Some people have this power of persuasion. It only has to sound plausible and once the interest is peaked.
Man’s philosophies are attractive. They give a show of wisdom and intelligence, and too often young Christians are “beguiled” by these “enticing words” (v. 4). How tragic it is when young people go off to secular schools and fall prey to man-made philosophies that deny Jesus Christ and the Bible. “Beware lest any man take you captive” (spoil you—v. 8), warns the apostle. How is the believer to overcome these philosophies?
“For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit.” I don’t think there is any reason to deduce that Paul is talking astral plaining or out of the body experiences. We have similar expressions today, for example “if I’m not there I’ll be with you in spirit” or if you turn up at some place and someone says “I’m glad you’re here,” and you say “only in body, I don’t know where the rest of me is,” (1 Cor 5:3) carries the same idea “For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present.”
“Rejoicing to see your good discipline (order).” Order is a military term meaning the order of descending rank with each soldier in their proper place.
“And the stability (steadfastness) of your faith in Christ.” Steadfastness pictures the soldiers in battle formation, presenting a solid front to the enemy. We as believers should be making progress in discipline and obedience, just as soldiers on the battlefield. Never forgetting that these battles, skirmishes, sorties, whatever you want to call them are happening all over the world, (1 Peter 5:9) says “But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.”
“Therefore,” continuing on from verse 5, “as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord.” The word received carries with it the idea of taking something with no inanimate object in mind, to take along, take with, so I’m guessing that because our relationship with Christ is a pilgrimage then He is all we need. I think about the Lord saying to the disciples not to take anything with them but the clothes on their back and the shoes on their feet, only because they shouldn’t go out naked. Jesus supplied everything they needed on the pilgrimage.
The Christian life is compared to a pilgrimage, as Mr Bunyan wrote about and it’s this pilgrimage were we learn to walk. Paul had already encouraged his readers to “walk worthy of the Lord” (Col 1:10), also in (Col. 3:7; 4:5). In Ephesians Paul used the same image several times (Eph. 2:2, 10; 4:1, 17; 5:2, 8, 15).
We are to walk in Christ the same way we originally received Christ, by faith. Throughout scripture false teachers wanted to introduce some “new truths” for Christian maturity, but Paul denounced them. “You started with Christ and you must continue with Christ,” I’m paraphrasing. “You started with faith and you must continue with faith. This is the only way to make spiritual progress.”
“Having been firmly rooted.” The word “firmly” is in the perfect tense, meaning perfectly rooted. In other words to be firmly planted in the ground, the tap root has taken and you can weather the storms, just like it says in (Ps 1:3) “He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.” Ever watched an old western? Christians are not to be tumbleweeds that have no roots and are blown about by “every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14). And I’m pretty sure we’re not to be uprooted and transplanted. Once we are rooted by faith in Christ, there is no need to change the soil! The roots draw up the nourishment so that the tree can grow. The roots also give strength and stability.
“(and now) being built up in Him.” First of all as (1 Cor 3:9) says “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.” Not only are we firmly planted but we are being built up stone by stone being held together in Christ, (Eph 2:20-22) “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” I have to confess, I cannot fathom the depth of those verses.
“Established (confirmed) in your faith.” The Lord Jesus will be the only one who is worthy to confirm our faith, (1 Cor 1:8) “who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“Just as you were instructed (schooled).” The Greek word is (didasko) where we get the word “didactic.” To be taught about life, a thing, or godliness. It is the Word of God that builds and strengthens us as believers. Epaphras had faithfully taught the Colossian believers the truth of the Word (Col. 1:7). But the false teachers were undermining that doctrine. It’s no different today, born again believers who study the Word become established in the faith and that means what others have gleaned. Commentaries, lexicons, concordance, word studies, Bible dictionaries etc. Not only Satan then have a difficult time deceiving the Bible-taught believer but we have a difficult time becoming a tumbleweed.
“Overflowing with gratitude.” The word “overflowing or abounding” paints a picture of a river overflowing its banks. When we first come to the Lord it’s drinking the water of life by faith, and He puts within us this well that keeps on overflowing. We have a lot of artesian bores out home that never stops flowing we’re like that, wells of living water (John 4:10–14). But that artesian well should become a “river of living water” (John 7:37–39) that grows deeper and deeper, wider and wider and ends up a gigantic lake out home. The image of the river flowing from the sanctuary in (Ezek. 47) getting deeper as it flows is quite possibly what Paul had in mind. Sad to say, many of us are making no progress, our lives are shallow trickles instead of mighty rivers. That’s why we need to lift them up.
Again, Paul mentioned “thanksgiving” (see Col. 1:3, 12). A thankful spirit is a mark of Christian maturity. When a believer is abounding in thanksgiving, he is really making progress! By reviewing these pictures of spiritual progress, we see how the growing Christian can easily defeat the enemy and not be led astray. If his spiritual roots are deep in Christ, he will not want any other soil (temple of the Holy Spirit). If Christ is our “sure foundation,” then we will never be uprooted. If he is studying and growing in the Word, he will not be easily enticed by false doctrine (sister). And if his heart is overflowing with thanksgiving, he will not even consider turning from the fullness he has in Christ. A grounded, growing, grateful believer will not be led astray. My AWOL was nothing but rebellion. Even through that I never not believed that Jesus was who He said He was.
Our seed has fallen on the good soil. So if we are firmly rooted in that soil we desire no other soil, meaning the soil of the world.
“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception.”
- How might we be captivated today?
- What kind of philosophies, empty deceptions (tricks, fraud) are used today?
- We know one thing, that they are according to the traditions of men.
I think the Bible couldn’t be any more clearer with the warnings from the Lord and the apostles about being deceived (Eph 5:6) says “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”
Paul tells Timothy in (1 Tim 6:20-21) to “guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”— which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith. Grace be with you.” Later on in verse 23 of this chapter Paul gives a logical conclusion to this matter of the lengths that some people go through and the lies that are perpetrated.
“According to the elementary (rudimentary) principles of the world.” What are “elementary principles?” We know the dictionary definition of elementary which is (relating to the basic elements of a subject or straightforward and uncomplicated). If anyone is a Basil Rathbone (Sherlock Holmes) fan you’ll know that he uses this word frequently (elementary dear Watson).
The effect of these “elementary principles” of thought was undermining basic Christian doctrines of creation and of the incarnation and mediation of Christ. For if God and the material world cannot come into direct relation, the world cannot be God’s immediate handiwork, the Divine Word could not really have become flesh, and communication between God and man, in both directions, must be carried on through an indefinite series of intermediaries. These intermediaries, frequently viewed as the archons (Archons are, in Gnosticism and religions closely related to it, the builders of the physical universe. The archons are rulers, each related to one of seven planets; they prevent souls from leaving the material realm). They are lords of the seven planetary spheres,appear to be further identified in this section of the epistle with the “rudiments” or elemental powersserved by those who have not yet exchanged legal bondage for the freedom that is found in Christ. The Colossians and Galatians had this in common, read (Heb 5:12-14).
“8c, rather than according to Christ. 9, For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,” Is that talking about the person of Jesus, if so does that mean there’s (pleroma) meaning “the sum of the qualities of deity” in a human glorified body sitting on the throne?
I said in chapter one that there were no hints, so to speak, about false teachers. Here in chapter two is where the idea of false teaching and therefore false teachers is implied. So, with this implied attack on the Biblical doctrine, the many forms it takes, Paul has already insisted that the universe was brought into being through the solitary agency of Christ. Against the enticing claim that a higher wisdom was offered by the new teaching, he has emphasized that all the treasures, wisdom and knowledge are stored up in Christ.
These archons with some sort of authority or elemental powers should receive some worship from men who must approach God through them, Paul says that these powers have all been conquered by Christ and have no claim over man whatsoever. I think this teaching which the Colossians were being urged to accept was just an old idea with new Jewish and pagan trimmings. The Lord Jesus has done away with all this rubbish, He has made them obsolete. Anything outside of scripture should receive any attention from those who had died with Christ and risen with Him to newness of life.
Paul encourages the Colossians and us to be firmly anchored in Christ and His teaching.
- How far can we actually go with the Lord’s teaching?
Paul warns us not to shift positions with anything that even remotely sounds plausible until we have either tested the spirits or verified it with scripture or both. If we like the Colossians embraced it, we and they would be the losers. It all sounds good, anything that plausible I mean, it appeals to natural instincts especially in religious matters, but there was nothing in this for Christians. It was not a teaching “according to Christ” meaning in accordance with the tradition handed down from Him to the apostles. It was all mixed up with these weird and strange elemental spirits of the kosmos.
“and in Him you have been made complete (full).” Back in chapter one verse 19 it says “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him,” Now Paul is indicating that we have been made full as he stated in (Eph 3:19) “and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” The words fullness and complete are from the same root word. I guess what Paul is saying is that we share in the life (fullness) of Christ.
- Does that not open more questions? (physical sense or spiritual sense?)
Being in Christ is not an easy concept to come to an absolute conclusion unless it’s considered/meditated on. One commentator describes being in Christ this way:
- In wisdom needed to guide us.
- In atonement needed for sin.
- By merit in which a sinner is justified.
- A grace needed to sustain us.
So, in Christ we have the fullness of what we need in order to meet these and all other spiritual challenges. We need only to fix our eyes on Jesus.
Remember that the false teaching that threatened the Colossian church was made up of several elements: Oriental mysticism, astrology, philosophy, and Jewish legalism. It is the latter element that Paul dealt with in this section of his letter. Apparently, the false teachers insisted that their converts submit to circumcision and obey the Old Testament Law.
Gnostic legalism was not quite the same as the brand of legalism practiced by the Judaizers whom Paul refuted in his Epistle to the Galatians. The Jewish teachers that Paul attacked in Galatians insisted that circumcision and obedience to the Law were necessary for salvation. (read Acts 15 for some background on this problem).
Gnostic legalism said that the Jewish Law would help the believers become more spiritual. If they were circumcised, and if they watched their diets and observed the holy days, then they would become part of the “spiritual elite” in the church. Unfortunately, we have people with similar ideas in our churches today.
Paul made it clear that the Christian is not subject in any way to the Old Testament legal system, nor can it do him any good spiritually. Jesus Christ alone is sufficient for our every spiritual need, for all of God’s fullness is in Him. We are identified with Jesus Christ because He is the Head of the body (Col. 1:18) and we are the members of the body (1 Cor. 12:12–13). Paul explained our fourfold identification with Jesus Christ that makes it not only unnecessary, but sinful for us to get involved in any kind of legalism.
Circumcised in Him (v. 11). Circumcision was a sign of God’s covenant with the Jewish people (Gen. 17:9–14). Though it was a physical operation, it had a spiritual significance. The trouble was that the Jewish people depended on the physical and not the spiritual.
A mere physical operation could never convey spiritual grace (Rom. 2:25–29). Often in the Old Testament, God warned His people to turn from their sins and experience a spiritual circumcision of the heart (Deut. 10:16; 30:6; Jer. 4:4; 6:10; Ezek. 44:7). People make the same mistake today when they depend on some religious ritual to save them, such as baptism or the Lord’s Supper. It is not necessary for the believer to submit to circumcision, because he has already experienced a spiritual circumcision through his identification with Jesus Christ. But there is a contrast here between Jewish circumcision and the believer’s spiritual circumcision in Christ.
The false teaching common in Paul’s day and which has been built upon today is still as insidious then as it is now.
“and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands.” (Mark 14:58, 2 Cor 5:1, Heb 9:11, 24). We know according to scripture that circumcision is for the Jews. We also know that according to (Eph 2:11) that Gentiles were uncircumcised and excluded from the nation of Israel at one time. Now we know that anyone that comes to Christ is circumcised in the heart, by the Spirit not by the Law and not only that but we have received praise from God (Rom 2:28-29).
“in the removal (Gr; putting off) of the body of the flesh.” This fleshly body, in its unforgiven state is put off in repentance and baptism as the seal of regeneration by faith in Christ. In circumcision Paul is alluding to the foreskin being put off. In regeneration however, “the body of the flesh” is spiritually put off. I think Paul is trying to tell us not to live in the shadow but in the substance.
Circumcision was a sign of God’s covenant with the Jewish people (Gen. 17:9–14). Yes it was a physical operation, but it also had a spiritual significance. The trouble was that the Jewish people depended on the physical and not the spiritual. A mere physical operation could never convey spiritual grace (Rom. 2:25–29). Often in the Old Testament, God warned His people to turn from their sins and experience a spiritual circumcision of the heart (Deut. 10:16; 30:6; Jer. 4:4; 6:10; Ezek. 44:7).
People make the same mistake today when they depend on some religious ritual to save them, such as baptism or the Lord’s Supper. It is not necessary for the believer to submit to circumcision, because he has already experienced a spiritual circumcision through his identification with Jesus Christ. But there is a contrast here between Jewish circumcision and the believer’s spiritual circumcision in Christ.
“having been buried with Him in baptism,” (Rom 6:4-5) says “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection,”
“in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” When Jesus Christ died and rose again, He won a complete and final victory over sin. He not only died for our sins (salvation), but what else is involved? Did He die for our sanctification? (read Rom 6:10ff). What the Law (or anything else) could not do, Jesus Christ accomplished for us. The old nature (“the body of the sins of the flesh”) was put off, made inoperative, so that we don’t have to be slaves again. The old sinful nature is not eradicated, for we can still sin (1 John 1:5–2:6). But the power has been broken as we yield to Christ and walk in the power of the Spirit. Peter says in (2 Peter 2:22) quoting (Prov 26:11) “It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A dog returns to its own vomit,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.”
Here Paul used the illustration of baptism. Keep in mind that in the New Testament, the word baptize has both a literal and a figurative meaning. The literal meaning is “to dip, to immerse.” The figurative meaning is “to be identified with.” For example, the Jewish nation was “baptized unto Moses” when they went through the Red Sea (1 Cor 10:1–2). There was no water involved in this baptism, because they went over on dry land. In this illustration, the nation was identified with Moses.
Paul used the word baptism in a figurative sense. No amount of material water could bury a person with Christ or make him alive in Christ. Water baptism by immersion is a picture of this spiritual experience. When a person is saved, he is immediately baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12–13) and the obvious progression is that we are then identified with Jesus the Head of all. This identification means that whatever happened to Christ also happened to us. When He died, we died with Him. When He was buried, we were buried. When He arose again, we arose with Him, and if you think about it we too just like the Lord’s burial clothes we left behind, so were our graveclothes of the old life that is left behind (Col 3:1–14).
All of this took place “through the faith of the working (operation) of God” (Col. 2:12). It was the power of God that changed us, not the power of water. The Spirit of God identified us with Jesus Christ, and we were buried with Him, raised with Him, and made alive with Him! (The Greek verbs are very expressive: co-buried, co-raised, and co-made alive). It’s because God raised His Son from the dead, that we have eternal life.
The practical application is clear: since we are identified with Christ, and He is the fullness of God, what more do we need? We have experienced the working of God through faith in Christ, in other words LIFE, so why covet death, why covet the Law, why covet idolatry? God has forgiven us all our trespasses (Col 2:13b) so that we have a perfect standing before Him.
“when you were dead in your transgressions (sins).” This idea of “dead” is spiritually dead, not physical. Yes we are physically born and the word “transgressions (sin)” is imputed to us because of Adam (Rom 5:12-19). In other words the state in which we were born, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” It is by the Grace of God that we have been offered freedom from the penalty (Rom 6:23). Not only that but in (2 Cor 5:21) says another incredible fact “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
“and the uncircumcision of your flesh.” Before the circumcision of the heart “while we were in this state Christ died for us.” In other words “He made us alive together with Him,” (Eph 2:5). Paul is obviously talking predominately to Gentiles having not been circumcised the eighth day after birth.
“He made you alive together with Him.” “alive” is doing away with spiritual death, in other words spiritual life is restored.
“Having cancelled out the certificate of debt,” what certificate and what debt? In order for us to be fulfilled we would need total forgiveness, the cancellation of that debt we could never pay. Didn’t God forgive us all our sins. In verse 14, Paul speaks of a written indictment with lots of regulations, which stands against us, points its finger at us and is opposed to us. The word Paul used here referring to a certificate of indebtedness is like a signed confession of guilt. It was a perpetual witness against the us, only we weren’t aware till the Holy Spirit revealed it.
two things make up this certificate of indebtedness: the regulations of the law and our offenses. Both of these stand against us and flash neon. What does God do with this signed confession of guilt? He cancels the debt (draw the stone tablets). The word canceled also means “to wipe out, wash over, or erase.” God erases the document and cancels the debt.
How can he do that? Doesn’t that make the law cheap when guilty people are set free without having to pay for their crimes? Absolutely not. God himself paid the debt when his Son died on the cross. God upheld the holiness of his own law when Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sin. God not only erased the document, but he also took it away, by nailing it to the cross. When Jesus died, the condemning document was destroyed. We are fully forgiven. Grace upon Grace upon Grace. (touch on Lev 18:5 if necessary).
“When He had disarmed,” what do you think of when you hear the word disarmed? The Greek has a much broader definition, but it also carries with it the idea of doing something that is willingly done on another’s behalf even though they don’t know or are not aware of what is done. The Gr for “disarm” is (apekdyomai, meaning “put off” or “strip off”) Ellicott put it this way, “He unclothed Himself to make a show of principalities and powers.” It’s akin to (Col 3:9) “Laid aside.” We know that Jesus was not sin in the flesh like us but according to (Rom 8:3) He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh. Don’t misunderstand here, Jesus could not put off the old man because He didn’t have the old man. Jesus was sinless.
This is about Christ covering our nakedness. Have a look at (Gen 2:25), this has to do with the fall of man. Then have a look at (Ex 20:24-26 ) immediately after the ten commandments God said… why?
“The rulers and authorities.” What rulers and authorities is Paul referring to? How much power and authority do these rulers and principalities have? Christ had a job to perform and part of that job was as (1 John 3:8) puts it “The one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.” So what’s our problem, why do we keep doing the wrong thing? I think it’s because we fail to make faith choices. I think (John 12:31) is the Lord speaking of His crucifixion from verse 27 all the way to verse 50? Verse 31, “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.” (The glorious appearing not the blessed hope is when the Lord will come in that triumphal march when the 1000 year reign ends and Satan is finally cast into the lake of fire).
“He made a public display of them.” One commentator said that there are three victories won here by Jesus”
- “He spoiled principalities and powers.” Stripped them of their weapons. It’s only when we stop watching and praying (as Peter did Matt 23) that Satan weapons can be used against us. So when Jesus disarmed the powers and authorities. He broke their power and stripped them of their controlling influence over humanity.
- “He made a show of them openly.” Exposing Satan’s deceit and vileness.
“Having triumphed over them through Him.”
- This victory is in the word “triumph” When a general won a victory, a triumphal procession made its way through the streets, with the successful general leading the way. His army followed, singing songs of conquest and reveling in their victory. Bringing up the rear would be the defeated king and his warriors, subjected to public ridicule and paraded for all to see.
We have our own God given weapons which we sometimes forget about in (Eph 6:10-18).
“Therefore, no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink.” (food or drink) The dietary laws of Lev chapter 1. It’s quite ok to experience different Jewish feasts if that’s what you want to do but never embrace it as something you would like to do on a regular basis then whoever judges you is vindicated. An example of how wrong and dangerous it is to get involved in practices under the Law (Ishmaelites (other Arab people) à kid in mother’s milk (is a pagan practice) à the whole system of Kosher Law is built on this one verse.
Although we do it, no one is to act as judge of what Jesus has declared you’re free to do. If someone is acting as judge in this respect, wouldn’t it mean that they are intending for you to do the same as they’re doing? (read Rom 14:1-17). Most of Paul’s epistles contain warnings, (read 1 Tim 4:1-5) but Christ disarmed them. Even the Lord used the term “beware” in Mattew, Mark and Luke. Have you ever thought, given the context of warning signs, why we have so many and why we have to have them everywhere?
“or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath days.” (festivals, new moon, sabbaths) Lev 23. All of these things are but shadows, which makes me think that these had nothing to do with Israel perse but everything to do with the anticipation of Messiah. All the Jews did was observe them.
For example, there is no commandment in the NT that establishes the sacredness of the first day of the week. In fact the NT has little to say on worshipping on Sunday. I can only find three references (Acts 20:5-12, 1 Cor 16:1-2, Rev 1:10).
- Who thinks that the Sabbath was a memorial of the creation?
- So why Sunday. Was it to distinguish between Christians and orthodox Jews?
- Does that mean there was some antisemitism?
History records that Constantine (321 AD) moved the capitol from Rome to Byzantine and declared Sunday to be an “imperial rest day.” Christians, slaves etc were given a free day. We can honour the Sabbath but should never keep the Sabbath.
Are born again believers bound to strict observance of diets and days? No. Two passages of Scripture make this clear (Heb. 9:10; Gal. 4:8–11). Right here in Colossians 2:17, Paul tells us that rule keeping is just a shadow (skia; meaning “is only an image cast by an object which represents it’s form.)” Where we get our word photograph), in other words, intrinsically there is no real spiritual substance. The reality of all of this is found in Christ. For example, take Melchizedek. God promised in him an eternal royal priesthood (Ps 110:4). Melchizedek was a king of righteousness and king of Salem (peace) and had a royal priesthood. He came from know where went back to know where, only a couple of facts are known about him and no details really but there is an eternity about Melchizedek. So he was a type or shadow of the priesthood of Christ (Heb 7:16-17) “who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life. For it is attested of Him, “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.” And (Heb 7:24-25) “but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”
- Prophet (Is 42:6-7).
- King (Ps 2:6-8).
- (Is 50:5-7). While I was reading Isaiah.
Again and again, whatever the topic, Paul always brings believers back to Christ.
The AV 1873 says it this way “Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.”
That word “beguile/defrauding/disqualify” Gr; katabrabeuo) means “to judge against you.” All these warnings Paul gives throughout the chapter and other epistles is highlighting the fact that these false teachings in all there various forms diminishes the sovereignty and how unique our Saviour is. The roots of Gnosticism began about here and grew over the next couple of centuries. You also have mysticism, sexual immorality to the tenth degree, science, astrology and the list goes on.
freedom means that believers don’t have to be drawn into the search for exciting or magical experiences. If there were false teachers and there’s no reason to doubt it then they would be telling the believers at Colosse that mystical visions and deeper experiences were necessary to make them truly spiritual. Once again, Paul brings the issue back to Christ.
Two things we know in this world: Science with it’s tunnel vision and how immoral our society is. So where does science and a bankrupt society go? More often than not they turn to the supernatural. I mean how many “is there anyone out there” movies have been made, commonly called Sci-Fi? How many documentaries have been produced where people have believed they have died, gone to heaven or hell and came back to tell the story? Mind you, this will continue till the end of the age. Supernatural visions are pretty well commonplace today. The Colossians were being told that if they really wanted to reach new levels of spirituality they needed to engage in these kinds of experiences. The mystical journey was intended to restore a lost dimension to spiritual experience.
This quest for the super spiritual experience, like the legalism Paul talks about in the previous verses. This seeker person kind of gets caught up in false humility and after a while becomes addicted to feel good experiences. Believers may have spiritual experiences of varying kinds. Experiences themselves are not evil. When we try to make our experience the standard for our faith and the standard for all believers or when we measure our own or someone else’s spirituality on the basis of that experience, we’re being arrogant and unspiritual, just as Paul said in verses 16 and 18. Christ is central. Not rules and regulations. Not super spiritual experiences, but Christ and Christ alone.
All this stuff causes so much dissention and confusion, and its roots go back to the first and second centuries when Judaism had to be redefined. Paul wrote in (1 Cor 4:6) “Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.”
There’s always a danger that an unbiblical habit will rob us of reward and glory tomorrow. I guess what Paul had in mind here was some kind of mysticism, the belief that a person can have an immediate experience with the spiritual world, completely apart from the Word of God or not needing the Holy Spirit to illuminate. The false teachers in Colossae obviously had visions and made contact with angels, completely skipping over the Word of God and the Spirit of God, they were opening themselves to all kinds of demonic activity, because Satan knows how to give counterfeit experiences to people (2 Cor 11:13–15).
The word translated “intruding” was a technical term used by the mystical religions of that day. It meant “to set foot in the inner shrine, to be fully initiated into the mysteries of the religion.” No born again believer has to go through any initiation ceremony to get into the presence of God. We already have complete access as (Heb 10:19) Says “Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh,” Also we may “come boldly unto the throne of grace” (Heb. 4:16). And as for worshiping angels, they are our servants! The angels are “all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation” (Heb 1:14).
Of course, all of this mystical ceremony was wrapped up in a false humility that was actually an expression of pride. “I am not good enough to come directly to God,” the gnostic would say, “so I will start with one of the angels and work my way up.”
Trying to reach God the Father through anyone or anything other than His Son, Jesus Christ, is nothing short of wickedness. I always thought the Lord Jesus is the one and only Mediator between God and man (John 14:6; 1 Tim 2:5). Anything else, any other way is not submitting to the authority of God’s Word. As again verse 18 “His unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions.”
In the Torah occult practices were strictly prohibited. Why? Because it takes away from God. Paul used a word “epignosis (super-knowledge)” to describe the occultists. But used when referring to the fullness of God in Jesus Christ verse 19.
“and not holding fast to the head” To my mind this has two meanings or two examples. Which is, holding fast to the head, that is Christ Jesus (Eph 1:22). Secondly, stepping out of line or rather out of alignment with the body. Some of us know what it feels like when any part of the body is out of joint, it’s painful and unable to function. So not only holding fast to the head in all matters of Christianity, which is kind of wrapped up in (John 15:1-5). Not only that but there is also a huge loss if you are working outside the body of Christ. You would then be considered “out of joint” (1 Cor 12:14-27). These two passages in Corinthians and John work together in relation to verse 19.
“If (since) you have died with Christ” a statement of fact. “To the elementary (rudimentary) principles of the world.” The word “elementary/rudimentary” is (stoicheia) in the Greek. In Greece it also meant the elemental spirits of the universe. Spirits with demonic powers that have influence in the world. Those that Paul talks about in verse 15. It can also refer to angelic beings.
“Why as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourselves to decrees.” This concept of the dog returning to its vomit or the sow after being cleansed goes back and wallows in the mud is not peculiar to the epistle of Colossians. In (Gal 4:9) for example Paul talks about the bond we now have in Christ after being cleansed and not wanting for anything.
“Such as, do not handle, do not taste, do not touch etc.” This kind of thing is asceticism which is also not peculiar to Colossians. In (1 Tim 4:3) for example Paul talks about this forbidding things that God has declared acceptable.
As Christians, we admit that physical discipline is needed in our lives. Some of us eat too much and are overweight. Some of us drink too much coffee or cola drinks and are nervous and upset. We believe that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19–20), yet sometimes we do not care for our bodies as we should. “Physical training is of some value,” Paul wrote (1 Tim 4:8). Paul disciplined his own body and kept it under control (1 Cor 9:27). So there is a place in our Christian lives for proper care of our bodies.
But the ascetic hopes to sanctify the soul by his discipline of the body, and it is this heresy that Paul attacked. Just as days and diets have no sanctifying value, neither does fleshly discipline. In this section Paul gave several arguments to warn the Christian against carnal religious asceticism.
The Christian’s spiritual position (v. 20). Asceticism has to do with the principles of the world and not the riches of the kingdom. Earlier we saw the word rudiments and learned that it meant “the fundamentals or ABCs of something” (Col. 2:8). In this case, “the rudiments of the world” refers to rules and regulations about foods. As Christians, we are dead to all of this because of our union with Jesus Christ in death, burial, and resurrection (see Rom. 6; Col. 2:12–15). Though we are in the world physically, we are not of the world spiritually (John 17:15–16). We have been transferred into God’s kingdom (Col. 1:13), and therefore we govern our lives by His laws and not the rules of men.
This is not to suggest that Christians are lawless. A student in a Christian school once told me it was “unspiritual” for him to obey the rules! I reminded him that Christians always respect the authority of those over them (1 Peter 2:11ff), and that he knew the rules before he arrived on campus. If he did not like them, he should have stayed home! Paul was not counseling us to be rebels, but he was warning us not to think we are spiritual because we obey certain rules and regulations that pertain to the body.
“In accordance with the commands and teachings of men.” The futility of ascetic rules (vv. 21–22). To begin with, these rules did not come from God; they were the inventions of men. In (Matt 15:1-14) the Lord himself outlined the hypocrisy of rules made without God by worldly wise men and gave a piercing truth in verses 7-9 of Matthew 15. God “giveth us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17). Foods have been “created to be received with thanksgiving” (1 Tim. 4:3). But the “commandments and doctrines” of the false teachers replaced the inspired Word of God (see Mark 7:6–9). The doctrines were what the false teachers believed; the commandments were the regulations they gave in applying their doctrines to practical daily life.
God gave foods to be used, and they “perish with the using” (Col. 2:22). Jesus explained that food went into the stomach, not the heart (Mark 7:18ff). The man who refuses certain foods because they will defile him does not understand what either Jesus or Paul taught: “I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself” (Rom. 14:14).
Many of us are quick to criticize the ancient monks, the Oriental mystics, and the Hindu or Muslim fakirs; but we fail to see this same error in our own churches. While there are automatic connections between physical discipline and health, there is no connection between such discipline and holiness. If we deliberately abstain from some food or drink to keep from hurting a weaker Christian (Rom. 14:13ff), that is one thing. But we must not say that our abstinence makes us more spiritual than another brother who partakes of that food and gives thanks to God (Rom. 14:6).
The people who practice asceticism have a “reputation” for spirituality, but the product does not live up to the promotion. I am amazed at the way educated people in America flock to see and hear gurus and other Eastern spiritual leaders whose teachings cannot change the human heart. This “self-imposed worship” is not the true worship of God, which must be “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Their humility is false, and their harsh disciplines accomplish nothing for the inner man. While it is certainly better to exercise self-control than to yield to the physical appetites of the body, we must not think that such self-control is necessarily spiritually motivated. The ascetics of many non-Christian religions give evidence of remarkable self-control. The stoics and their ascetic philosophy were well known in Paul’s day. Their adherents could duplicate any discipline that the gnostic teachers cared to present.
The power of Christ in the life of the believer does more than merely restrain the desires of the flesh: it puts new desires within him. Nature determines appetite. The Christian has the very nature of God within (2 Peter 1:4), and this means he has godly ambitions and desires. He does not need law on the outside to control his appetites because he has life on the inside! The harsh rules of the ascetics “lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence” (Col. 2:23). If anything, they eventually bring out the worst instead of the best. In the closing two chapters of this letter, Paul explained how the new life functions in the believer to give him purity and victory.
This section closes the second chapter of Colossians in which the emphasis was on danger. Paul defended the preeminence of Jesus Christ, and he refuted the false doctrines of legalism, mysticism, and asceticism. It now remains for us to believe what he wrote and practice these spiritual principles. The answer to legalism is the spiritual reality we have in Christ. The answer to mysticism is the spiritual union with Christ, the Head of the church. The answer to asceticism is our position in Christ in death, burial, and resurrection. We put all of this into daily practice as we fellowship with Christ through worship, the Word, and prayer. As we yield to the indwelling Spirit, we receive the power we need for daily living.
It is in our fellowship with other believers that we contribute spiritually to the growth of the body, the church, and the other members of the body contribute to us. What a wonderful way to live!
Is Christ preeminent in your life? Are you drawing on His spiritual power, or depending on some man-made “religious” substitute.
How does this apply to us or rather how is this worked out in our lives. I’m glad you asked:
- Involve yourself in a local assembly where you can learn and grow in Christ with fellow believers. (V19).
- Reflect on a regular basis the essential truths that will keep Jesus central, things like Jesus is fully God. Nothing needs to be added to him and we have fullness in him so nothing needs to be added to you.
- Be on the alert for false teaching. Don’t be naive and think it was just a first-century problem.
- Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated by those who tell you that you need something more. Just keep growing in your walk with Christ.
Spirituality is not a matter of knowing more Bible facts or having all the doctrinal wrinkles ironed out. Spirituality is not a matter of conformity to a code of rules. Spirituality is not a matter of exciting experiences. Knowledge, rules, and experiences all foster pride. Finally, spirituality is not a matter of recipes: “Do these three things two times a day and you’ll be spiritual.” Spirituality is not mechanical. These things seem so spiritual but are nothing more than distractions.
What then is genuine spirituality?
An Attitude: Trust
An attitude of trust means that I confidently rely on, put my weight on, Jesus Christ. Whatever life throws at me, I trust him. In my business practices, do I trust God rather than manipulate? Can I trust that he will provide and reward me even if I do what others think foolish? Can I trust him when things don’t go my way?
A Behavior: Obedience
“If you love me, keep my commandments,” Jesus said. Spirituality is loving obedience to Jesus Christ, not legalistic conformity to a man-made code. It’s loving obedience to the Word of God, not chasing the flash and pizzazz of experiences. Simple, loving obedience.
Spirituality is an attitude of trust and a behavior of obedience. Life is challenging; and as we face it, God simply wants us to trust and obey. Spirituality is not a matter of rules or experiences but a relationship with, and obedience to, Jesus Christ. Let’s keep our eye on the ball.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”