Colossians 2




Paul’s Struggles for the Colossians (2:1-5)

1-3 Paul had never met the Christians in the cities of Colosse and Laodicea;5 nevertheless, he labored and struggled for them. Especially the Colossian believers were on his heart. He writes this letter as if he were their own pastor.

The purpose of Paul’s struggling is that these believers whom he has never met might be encouraged in heart and united in love, and that they might know the mystery of God, namely, Christ (verse 2).

The essence of the Christian religion is to know … Christ. We Christians are not followers of a religion; we are followers of a person, Jesus Christ. Our religion is not some philosophy or system of ideas; it is a person, Christ, whom we can know personally. If we do not know Christ personally, we cannot call ourselves Christians.

We can know Christ through faith. To the person without faith, Christ is only a mystery. But when we have faith, that “mystery” is disclosed. As soon as we believe, Christ’s Spirit (the Holy Spirit) enters our lives; then, through the Spirit, we experience a personal relationship with Jesus Himself.

When we know Christ, we receive all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, which are hidden in Him (verse 3). Thus, to know Christ is to know everything we’ll ever need to know!

4 Paul wants his readers to know Christ, so that they will not be deceived by false teachers. What kinds of things do false teachers teach? They teach that Christ is not the Son of God. Or they teach that we can obtain spiritual wisdom and knowledge with out knowing Christ. Such teachers use fine-sounding arguments; but their “wisdom” is not from God, it is from man (verse 8).

5  Paul cares so much for the Colossians that he feels almost as if he was present with them; and indeed Paul was with them in spirit. In the same way, when we love and care for other believers, we are with them in spirit even though we are many miles apart—and even though we have never met.


The Fullness of Life in Christ (2:6-23)

6-7 … just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him. Just as we received Christ through faith, so we must continue to live in him through faith.

Can we remember when we first received Christ as our Lord? What was it like? We were filled with joy, peace, and love, were we not? Now, says Paul, keep on living like that! Continue to live just as you received Christ.

We must continue to live rooted and built up in him (verse 7). Christ is the vine; we are the branches. If we become separated from Him, we shall die (see John 15:4-5 and comment).

Let us not be like rocky soil, where the seed (God’s word) that is sown springs up quickly, but soon dies because the soil is too shallow (see Mark 4:5-6,16-17 and comment). Or let us not be like thorny soil, where the seed grows rapidly, but then is choked by the thorns—that is, by the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires of other things (see Mark 4:7,18-19 and comment).

8 Paul mentions two kinds of knowledge here: first, the knowledge that comes from Christ; and second, the knowledge that comes from the world, from man. Human or worldly philosophy is all around us, but compared to the wisdom and knowledge that is in Christ, the philosophy of the world is hollow and deceptive. There are many kinds of so-called “Christian” philosophies, which are put forward by people who claim to be Christians but whose teaching is false. These people deny that Jesus is the Son of God, the one true incarnation of the living God. Even true Christians can be deceived by the hollow and deceptive philosophy of such people.

9  In this verse Paul tells us what it means to be the true incarnation of God: … in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. Jesus Christ is not an image of God. He is not a form or an example of God. He is not an ambassador or representative of God. He is none of these things. Jesus Christ is God Himself! In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives (see Colossians 1:19).

What is God’s fullness? It is all His qualities taken together—such as, love, light, truth, power, wisdom, holiness, etc. All of these qualities of God are also in Jesus Christ. Notice here that the fullness of God lives in Christ. God still lives in Christ. Christ continues to be God’s one true incarnation. Christ is the living God; He has existed from the beginning and He will exist forever.

10 We also, through faith in Christ, can share in that fullness (Ephesians 3:19). Through the Holy Spirit, we too can be filled with all the qualities of God. And if we are filled with God’s qualities, we shall be fulfilled and complete indeed! Compared with this, life apart from God and Christ is hollow and meaningless.

Paul writes many times that Christ is the head, the master, the Lord. Christ is supreme; He is over every power and authority (see Ephesians 1:20-22; Philippians 2:9-11 and comments). Many people mistakenly think that Christ is just one of many imagined incarnations of God, or that He is just another religious leader like Buddha or Mohammed. Still others mistakenly think that Christ is only a great teacher, a great prophet. But Paul says that Christ is above all; there is no power or authority like Christ’s; all things are under his feet (Ephesians 1:22). He cannot be compared to any other (see Mark 8:27-29 and comment).

11 In him (Christ) you were also circumcised. CIRCUMCISION is the cutting off of the excess skin at the end of the penis. According to Jewish law, all males must be circumcised on the eighth day of life. In Paul’s time, circumcision was the special outward sign of being a Jew (Genesis 17:9-14).

Here Paul uses circumcision as an illustration for the “cutting away” of our sinful nature,6 or sinful flesh.7 To be circumcised by Christ is to be spiritually “circumcised,” to be made holy in our hearts (see Jeremiah 4:4; Romans 2:28-29 and comment).

12  Not only is the believer circumcised in Christ; he is also buried with him (Christ) in BAPTISM. Baptism signifies the washing away of our sins. In baptism, we are cleansed of sin through faith; we are made pure.

Thus Paul is using the examples of circumcision and baptism to describe the “cutting” or “washing away” of our old nature and its sins, so that we can begin a new life in Christ.

In the context of this verse, baptism has a second and related meaning: it signifies the “death” of our old self. Believers are buried … in baptism. Thus we see that before we can enter into new life in Christ, we must not only be cleansed; we must also die! Only when our old sinful self is dead can we receive new spiritual life. Our old self must be “buried with Christ” before our new self can rise with Him (see Romans 6:3-6,8; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 4:2224 and comments).

Thus we see here the true meaning of spiritual conversion. We see why no one is ever “born” a Christian. For to become a Christian, one must first die, and then be born again (see John 3:3,5 and comment).

Having been buried with Christ in baptism, Paul then says that we are raised with him through … faith in the power of God. The same power of God that raised Jesus from the dead will also raise us from spiritual death into new life. And this will happen through our faith.

13  Before we believed in Christ we were spiritually dead. We were dead in [our] sins and in the uncircumcision of [our] sinful nature. The uncircumcision of [our] sinful nature is the condition we were in before our sinful nature was “circumcised“ or “cut away” by Christ. Then, by His grace, God made [us] alive and forgave us all our sins. By His grace, through faith, we have received new life, eternal life (see Ephesians 2:1-2,4-6,8 and comment).

14 The written code mentioned in this verse is the Jewish law, which is written in the Old Testament.8 According to this law, if anyone broke even one of its regulations, he was to be considered guilty of breaking the whole law (James 2:10). Such a man was condemned; the law did not forgive him.

But God, because of His great mercy and love for us, canceled the written code—that is, He canceled the penalty and the condemnation of the Jewish law. Just as Christ was nailed to the CROSS, so that written code and its condemnation have been “nailed to the cross”—that is, canceled, rendered void.

But the law couldn’t simply be canceled; someone had to pay the penalty that the law demanded; someone had to receive the condemnation for man’s sin. And someone did—and that someone was Jesus Christ. Thus when He was nailed to the cross, the law was nailed to the cross with Him. He took our punishment upon Himself. The law can now no longer condemn us (see Romans 8:1 and comment).

15 When Christ rose from the dead, He disarmed and overcame all powers and authorities. These powers and authorities are Satan and his evil spirits (Ephesians 6:12). We were once their prisoners; now that Christ has overcome them, we have been set free from their control. When we were under Satan’s control, we were spiritually dead. But on the cross Jesus overcame death (Romans 6:9; 2 Timothy 1:10), and in so doing He also saved us from spiritual death. In this way, Christ made a public spectacle of Satan and his evil spirits—of these powers and authorities. In other words, He put them to shame.

16-17 The Jewish law had two main parts: the “moral law” (such as the ten commandments); and the “ceremonial law,” which consisted of all the regulations concerning sacrifices, purification rituals, and the proper observance of Jewish festivals. The ceremonial law contained hundreds of these regulations (see Mark 7:1-4; Ephesians 2:15 and comments).

Christ canceled this ceremonial law and all its regulations (verse 14). However, some of the believers at Colosse were still observing these regulations. Not only that, they were judging and condemning those in the church who were not observing them. They were teaching that unless a person observed all these regulations, he could not be saved.

But Paul says: Do not listen to those who teach such falsehood! Man is saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone. Christ has canceled these regulations; these rules have no more meaning. They are a shadow of the things that were to come (verse 17); that is, they are nothing but a “shadow” of Christ. We have only one rule, one law, and that is to obey Christ Himself.

In this we can see the great difference between Christianity and all other religions. Other religions have many rules and rituals. The followers of these religions believe that by obeying such rules they can reach heaven. In other words, for them these rules are like a road to heaven.

But in the Christian religion, such rules are not the important thing: only Christ is important. Christ Himself is the way to heaven (see John 14:6 and comment). Man does not reach heaven by following rules, but only by following Christ. Apart from Christ, there is no other way a man can be saved (Acts 4:12).

18 Some of the false teachers at Colosse were saying that in order to be saved it was necessary to do some special penance or to undergo some special hardship or humiliation. Along with that, these teachers said it was necessary to worship ANGELS; the angels, they claimed, acted as mediators between God and man. These teachers also claimed to have had special visions and ecstatic experiences, and they looked down on those who had not had such experiences.

But Paul says that such teaching and such behavior is wrong. Man is not saved by false humility, the worship of angels, and special spiritual experiences. Man is saved only by believing in Christ. Angels are not mediators between God and man; there is only one mediator between God and man, and that is Jesus Christ (see 1 Timothy 2:5; 1 John 2:1 and comments). Let us not be deceived. Let us not take our faith away from Christ and put it on these false and worthless things. If we do, we shall be in danger of losing our reward, our salvation.

19 False teachers, such as Paul has described in verse 18, have lost connection with the Head, that is, Christ. They are following after idle notions (verse 18). False teachers like this do great harm in the church. The church is like a body; it is essential, therefore, that each member remains under the control of the head, Christ. Otherwise, the members of the body cannot work together, and the body will not grow (Ephesians 4:15-16).

20-21 In New Testament times, there were many slaves. These slaves had no freedom at all; they were owned by their masters, and they were required to serve their masters for life. In fact, there was only one way they could gain their “freedom,” and that way was to die! Once they died, they were “free” of their masters.

Here Paul uses this condition of slaves to illustrate what was happening to the Colossians spiritually. Paul says to them: “You have died with Christ (verse 20); therefore, you are now free from your old master, Satan. You are free from the world, from the kingdom of Satan.9 Therefore, why are you still making yourselves slaves of Satan? You have been freed from the basic principles of this world—that is, the law and all its rules. Therefore, why do you continue to submit to its rules?” (see Romans 6:6-7; 7:4-6; 8:1-2; Galatians 4:8-11 and comments).

Many people, even after they have believed in Christ, still find it hard to give up all the rules and rituals of their old religion. They say they believe in Christ, but they do not leave their old ways. But it is impossible to have faith both in Christ and in one’s old religion at the same time. Once we have become Christians, we must put away the basic principles of this world. That is, we must stop trusting in our old religious laws and rituals as a means of getting to heaven.

22 The traditions and regulations of men have to do with perishable things like food, things which do not last. And neither do these traditions and regulations last; they will all pass away. Only God’s word will remain forever.

The Jewish leaders tried to condemn Jesus and His disciples, because they did not follow all the Jewish religious rules and regulations. But Jesus said to the Jews: “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men” (Mark 7:8).

23 When we look at holy men, monks, and pilgrims, we sometimes think: “How religious they are!” They humble themselves; they do good works; they discipline their bodies; they follow very strict rules. Surely they must be very holy and wise, we think. But they have only the appearance of holiness, the appearance of wisdom. Their practices are not spiritual; rather, they are based on human commands and teachings (verse 22).

Furthermore, their practices are of no value in restraining sensual indulgence; that is, they are of no value in overcoming our sinful nature. They are of no value in obtaining salvation. If we rely on our own efforts and good works to be saved, we shall become either very discouraged or very proud; in either case we shall be relying on something worthless. Only by relying on Christ and on His righteousness will we be able to overcome our sinful nature and obtain salvation.