Colossians 2
False philosophy; turning away from Christ for wisdom and mysteries
 1  For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;
 2  That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;
.3  In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 
  1 - I would that ye knew In modern English, "I would like for you to know." In this chapter, the apostle appeals to the Colossian believers to turn away from pagan religious practices. We aren't told the exact ideas but we can learn enough from what he wrote.
  1  - Not seen my face Paul's appeal was directed to more than those he had had opportunity to meet.
  2 - Mystery of God This, instead of the occult mysteries that were intriguing those addressed. All true knowledge was in the Father and Christ v3.
The picture of walking with Jesus is from a book prepared for use in Rwanda and Burundi. Artist, Harold Munson. Modified for use here. See v6.
 4  And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.
 5  For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ.
.6  As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
.7  Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
.8  Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
.9  For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
   4 - Enticing words Speakers who get us excited and have convincing ways are not always preaching truth.
   5 - Absent in flesh ... with you in spirit The simple situation in this chapter helps us understand texts like 2 Cor 5: 1-11 which some take to describe the soul leaving the body 2co05.
   6 - Received ... so walk This verse by itself helps us understand that after coming to Christ, behavior is still important. Receiving and walking are justification and sanctification. In the current context, Paul is facing a problem of his readers' turning into other paths.
   8 - Philosophy, deceit, tradition From the next verse, we assume that Paul was warning against teachings about achieving divine perfection.
   9 - All the fullness This remarkable statement which Paul wrote under inspiration tells us about the divinity of Christ (Also see v3 above). He has it all. If we seek knowledge in what has not been revealed de2929, we may expect to be answered by the father of lies. There is no God beyond our creator. Our security is in respecting this relationship ps10003.
 10  And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
.11  In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
 12  Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
  10 - Complete They don't need the philosophers. They are complete in Christ. And, as in baptism, they are forgiven. The handwriting has been removed, nailed to the Cross. Being complete they should not try to seek to please "principality and power" which are subordinate to Christ.
  11 - Circumcision of Christ Circumcision was the sign of the covenant ge1711 and an important element of the ceremonial law. The Colossian Christians had pledged to be faithful. For them baptism would replace circumcision.
  12 - Risen with him Part of being complete in Christ v10.
.13  And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened [made alive] together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
.14  Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
 14 having canceled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this he set aside, nailing it to the cross (RSV).
  13 - Having forgiven you all trespasses The blotting out (v14) describes this forgiveness which is for those who have died to their sins.
  14 - Blotting out the handwriting This verse must be understood in its context. You may wish to read the whole chapter go top. Following from verse 13, the blotting out is the forgiveness process or part of it. 
  14 - Of ordinances Actually "in ordinances" or "in decrees." For background on this verse See on ep0214f.
  14 - Out of the way Literally, "out of the middle." Our sins separate us from Christ is5901f. The debt was paid in Jesus Christ, nailed to the cross he0928, is5304f. Thus our sins are confessed and forgiven 1jo0109.
  The RSV translation (at the left) seems more accurate although less literal. We get the picture that the law accuses us and that the accusation or "bond" is removed. Of course, that is accomplished with the removal of the law which turns out to be the ceremonial law as clarified below. Let's not lose sight of the blessing of grace, bought at an infinite cost!
Notes of clarification for verse 14 
..In this chapter, which law is involved? the ceremonial law or the moral one? Let's look first at the moral law then at the ceremonial law or laws. The word "law" does not appear in the epistle although forgiveness of trespasses in v13 clearly implies a law.

Moral law, No
The Colossian believers to whom Paul wrote would have understood forgiveness to be for sins defined by the moral law of ten commandments ja0211.
Because the moral law defines sin 1jo0304, ro0707, which is declared forgiven in verse 13, it could not be seen as removed at the same time. Verse 14 could not follow from verse 13.
The idea of the moral law becoming invalid by being nailed to the cross is against other clear statements of Paul about its validity ro0331, ro0712f.

Ceremonial system of laws, Yes
In v11, we find "the circumcision of Christ." This indicates replacing the ceremonial practice of physical circumcision taking it out of the way.
Paul wrote a strong letter to the Galatians about the practice of the Jewish religion of the time ga0111. which had expanded on the ceremonial law.
The triumph over principalities and powers of darkness was by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross v15, he0214. The ceremonial sacrifices of the OT had pointed forward to the great sacrifice of the Lamb of God and so came to an end when our Lord was nailed to the cross.
Verses 16 and 17 follow the context with the idea that eating and drinking (ceremonial fastings) were no longer an issue because the shadow had become reality.

The issue at stake
People who believe that the law was nailed to the cross also believe that nine of the ten commandments (ex20) were not affected. The one which commemorates creation and begins with "Remember" they would like to forget! Many who thus lean on Paul's words here love the Lord and are unaware of the implications of their teachings mr0706f. Their logic seems to be that the ceremonial laws were the ones nailed to the cross. Then they see the fourth commandment as ceremonial. This runs into problems like chopping out one part out of the tables of stone written by the finger of God at Sinai ja0210f, de0522, re1412c, re2218f. The fourth commandment is the only one in which God declares His sovereignty His authority as law giver because He is creator ex2008. Compare ps11989, mt0517f, mr0227. Also the Sabbath points back to creation, not forward to the cross as do the ceremonial laws.
   Turning to the beautiful meaning of our text we realize that the forgiveness made possible by the sacrifice of Christ clears our record of guilt, uniting us with our Lord and the salvation He offers!

 15  And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.   Principalities and powers We see these as the supposed cosmic forces ep0612, although human forces could also be seen considering v16 tt0301. How did Christ triumph over them? By victory over Satan consummated on the cross and made apparent in the resurrection jn1430.
  Shew [show] ... openly At the cross it became clear to the universe that the forces of darkness were not to be trusted. Reasonable humans could also understand mt1539.
.16 ¶ Let no man therefore judge you in meat [food], or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
 17  Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

  Let no man therefore judge There needed be no fear that Jewish officials would find them deficient in some point of the multitude of rules that they had added to the ceremonial laws mr0707. A better view may be to not worry about being judged for laying off traditions that had come to the Jews.
  In meat or in drink Or "in eating or in drinking." In the old system, people would bring freewill offerings of food and drink for the priests nu0615. Various teachers of the time may also have promoted certain fasts mr0218 and note with that chapter. Could the verse justify ignoring the health principles of clean and unclean food from le11. See the note for that chapter? No, for two reasons: (1) Our context is of ceremonies pointing forward to the cross. (2) Clean and unclean animals were known before the laws in Leviticus ge0702..
  Holyday This could be a synonym of "sabbath days" but more likely includes holidays that the word of God does not require such as Purim es0926 or other days that the Jewish leaders had set a part.
  New moon The first day of each month. See nu1010, nu2811. Compare 1sa2005, is6623.
  Sabbath days Greek sabbata a plural form of sabbaton or it could be a transliteration of the Aramaic sabbata which is singular. The conclusion here does not depend on the word being singular or plural. In general, the word sabbath applies ether to the weekly day of rest or to a feast day sabbath. You can see the distinction in reading through the first part of  le23. Here it cannot be the day of rest because in the next verse it is a "shadow" or a feast-day symbol pointing to the cross. Remembering that there was no punctuation on the Greek manuscripts, we have "the sabbath days which are a shadow...."
  Shadow of things to come How could they be a shadow of things to come when Christ had already been sacrificed? Paul may have been thinking of pagan practices that were apparently popular he could have been taking the viewpoint of the time of the OT when the ceremonies were clarified and practiced. The advice is to not listen to those who promote the Jewish ceremonies and what had been added to them. Involved are practices of specific times for fasting, resting from work, other "holy" days and times of the new moon. We have to remember that Paul didn't know he was writing for you and me. Conclusions we draw must be constrained by the limit of the information in the text. Counsel from Paul and others would not have justified seeing these two verses as license to consider whatever day we wish as holy or to eat anything we please. ex2008ff, 1co1031, 1co0619f.
.18  Let no man beguile [cheat] 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,
 19  And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.
 20  Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,
  18 - Worship of angels This is becoming a temptation for modern Christians, although they do not recognize it as such. See re2208. The Hebrew Christians apparently faced the same temptation he0104.
  18 - Intruding into ... vainly puffed up The supernatural displayed by the forces of darkness is intriguing. It promises secret information and power.
  19 - Not holding the head That is, Christ ep0415. The philosophy at Colossae taught denial of Christ.
  19 - Knit together The truth of Christ is a system that has no place for angel worship or other pagan practices.
.21  (Touch not; taste not; handle not;
 22  Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?
 23  Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.
  22 - Touch not Reference to dietary taboos. v8, v16, 1ti0403. Also see the ceremonial laws at le12-15, nu1911.
  20 - Subject to ordinances Notice that these regulations are included in "the basic principles of the world" and "according to the commandments and doctrines of men." v22. Paul is saying that keeping the Jewish ceremonial laws was like following the detailed do's and don'ts of the pagans v21.
Colossians home
Commentary home