Colossians 2:1-23 . HIS STRIVINGS IN PRAYER FOR THEIR STEADFASTNESS IN CHRIST; FROM WHOM HE WARNS THEM NOT TO BE LED AWAY BY FALSE WISDOM.
12. Translate, "Having been buried with Him in your baptism." The past participle is here coincident in time with the preceding verb, "ye were (Greek) circumcised." Baptism is regarded as the burial of the old carnal life, to which the act of immersion symbolically corresponds; and in warm climates where immersion is safe, it is the mode most accordant with the significance of the ordinance; but the spirit of the ordinance is kept by affusion, where immersion would be inconvenient or dangerous; to insist on literal immersion in all cases would be mere legal ceremonialism ( Romans 6:3 Romans 6:4 ).
are risen--rather as Greek, "were raised with Him."
through the faith, &c.--by means of your faith in the operation of God; so "faith of," for "faith in" ( Ephesians 3:12 , Philippians 3:9 ). Faith in God's mighty operation in raising again Jesus, is saving faith ( Romans 4:24 , 10:9 ); and it is wrought in the soul by His same "mighty working" whereby He "raised Jesus from the dead" ( Ephesians 1:19 Ephesians 1:20 ). BENGEL seems to me (not as ALFORD understands him) to express the latter sense, namely, "Through the faith which is a work of the operation of God who," &c. Ephesians 1:19 Ephesians 1:20 accords with this; the same mighty power of God is exercised in raising one spiritually dead to the life of faith, as was "wrought in Christ when God raised Him literally from the dead." However, "faith of" usually is "faith in" ( Romans 3:22 ); but there is no grammatical impropriety in understanding it "the faith which is the effect of the operation of God" ( Ephesians 2:8 , 1 Thessalonians 2:13 ). As His literal resurrection is the ground of the power put forth in our spiritual resurrection now, so it is a pledge of our literal resurrection hereafter ( Romans 8:11 ).
13. you, being dead--formerly ( Ephesians 2:1 Ephesians 2:2 ); even as Christ was among the dead, before that God raised Him "from the dead" ( Colossians 2:12 ).
sins--rather as Greek is translated at end of this verse, "trespasses," literally, "failings aside" from God's ways; actual transgressions, as that of Adam.
uncircumcision of your flesh--your not having put off the old fleshly nature, the carnal foreskin, or original sin, which now by spiritual circumcision, that is, conversion and baptism, you have put off.
he quickened--GOD "quickened together with Him (CHRIST)." Just as Christ's resurrection proved that He was delivered from the sin laid on Him, so our spiritual quickening proves that we have been forgiven our sins ( 1 Peter 3:22 , 1 Peter 4:1 1 Peter 4:2 ).
forgiven you--So Vulgate and HILARY. But the oldest manuscripts read, "us," passing from the particular persons, the Colossians, to the general Church ( Colossians 1:14 , Ephesians 1:7 ).
all trespasses--Greek, "all our trespasses."
14. Blotting out--Greek, "Having wiped out"; coincident in time with "having forgiven you" ( Colossians 2:13 ); hereby having cancelled the law's indictment against you. The law (including especially the moral law, wherein lay the chief difficulty in obeying) is abrogated to the believer, as far as it was a compulsory, accusing code, and as far as "righteousness" (justification) and "life" were sought for by it. It can only produce outward works, not inward obedience of the will, which in the believer flows from the Holy Spirit in Him ( Romans 3:21 , Romans 7:2 Romans 7:4 , Galatians 2:19 ).
the handwriting of ordinances--rather, "IN ordinances" "the law of commandments contained in ordinances." "The handwriting" (alluding to the Decalogue, the representative of the law, written by the hand of God) is the whole law, the obligatory bond, under which all lay; the Jews primarily were under the bond, but they in this respect were the representative people of the world ( Romans 3:19 ); and in their inability to keep the law was involved the inability of the Gentiles also, in whose hearts "the work of the law was written" ( Romans 2:15 ); and as they did not keep this, they were condemned by it.
that was against us . . . contrary to us--Greek "adversary to us"; so it is translated, Hebrews 10:27 . "Not only was the law against us by its demands, but also an adversary to us by its accusations" [BENGEL]. TITTMANN explains the Greek, "having a latent contrariety to us"; not open designed hostility, but virtual unintentional opposition through our frailty; not through any opposition in the law itself to our good ( Romans 7:7-12 Romans 7:14 , 1 Corinthians 15:56 , Galatians 3:21 , Hebrews 10:3 ). The "WRITING" is part of "that which was contrary to us"; for "the letter killeth"
and took it--Greek, and hath taken it out of the way" (so as to be no longer a hindrance to us), by "nailing it to the cross." Christ, by bearing the curse of the broken law, has redeemed us from its curse ( Galatians 3:13 ). In His person nailed to the cross, the law itself was nailed to it. One ancient mode of cancelling bonds was by striking a nail through the writing: this seems at that time to have existed in Asia [GROTIUS]. The bond cancelled in the present case was the obligation lying against the Jews as representatives of the world, and attested by their amen, to keep the whole law under penalty of the curse ( Deuteronomy 27:26 , Nehemiah 10:29 ).
15. ALFORD, ELLICOTT, and others translate the Greek to accord with the translation of the same Greek, Colossians 3:9 , "Stripping off from Himself the principalities and the powers: " GOD put off from Himself the angels, that is, their ministry, not employing them to be promulgators of the Gospel in the way that He had given the law by their "disposition" or ministry ( Acts 7:53 , Galatians 3:19 , Hebrews 2:2 Hebrews 2:5 ): God manifested Himself without a veil in Jesus. "THE principalities and THE powers" refers back to Colossians 2:10 , Jesus, "the Head of all principality and power," and Colossians 1:16 . In the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, God subjected all the principalities, &c., to Jesus, declaring them to be powerless as to His work and His people ( Ephesians 1:21 ). Thus Paul's argument against those grafting on Christianity Jewish observances, along with angel-worship, is, whatever part angels may be supposed to have had under the law, now at an end, God having put the legal dispensation itself away. But the objection is, that the context seems to refer to a triumph over bad angels: in 2 Corinthians 2:14 , however, Christ's triumph over those subjected to Him, is not a triumph for destruction, but for their salvation, so that good angels may be referred to ( Colossians 1:20 ). But the Greek middle is susceptible of English Version, "having spoiled," or, literally [TITTMANN], "having completely stripped," or "despoiled" for Himself (compare Romans 8:38 , 1 Corinthians 15:24 , Ephesians 6:2 ). English Version accords with Matthew 12:29 , Luke 11:22 , Hebrews 2:14 . Translate as the Greek, "The rules and authorities."
made a show of them--at His ascension confirming English Version of this verse).
openly-- John 7:4 , 11:54 , support English Version against ALFORD'S translation, "in openness of speech."
in it--namely, His cross, or crucifixion: so the Greek fathers translate. Many of the Latins, "In Himself" or "in Him." Ephesians 2:16 favors English Version, "reconcile . . . by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby." If "in Him," that is, Christ, be read, still the Cross will be the place and means of God's triumph in Christ over the principalities ( Ephesians 1:20 , 2:5 ). Demons, like other angels, were in heaven up to Christ's ascension, and influenced earth from their heavenly abodes. As heaven was not yet opened to man before Christ ( John 3:13 ), so it was not yet shut against demons ( Job 1:6 , 2:1 ). But at the ascension Satan and his demons were "judged" and "cast out" by Christ's obedience unto death ( John 12:31 , 16:11 , Hebrews 2:14 , Revelation 12:5-10 ), and the Son of man was raised to the throne of God; thus His resurrection and ascension are a public solemn triumph over the principalities and powers of death. It is striking that the heathen oracles were silenced soon after Christ's ascension.
16. therefore--because ye are complete in Christ, and God in Him has dispensed with all subordinate means as essential to acceptance with Him.
meat . . . drink--Greek, "eating . . . drinking" ( Romans 14:1-17 ). Pay no regard to any one who sits in judgment on you as to legal observances in respect to foods.
holyday--a feast yearly. Compare the three, 1 Chronicles 23:31 .
the sabbath--Omit "THE," which is not in the Greek (compare Note, SABBATHS" (not "the sabbaths") of the day of atonement and feast of tabernacles have come to an end with the Jewish services to which they belonged ( Leviticus 23:32 Leviticus 23:37-39 ). The weekly sabbath rests on a more permanent foundation, having been instituted in Paradise to commemorate the completion of creation in six days. Leviticus 23:38 expressly distinguished "the sabbath of the Lord" from the other sabbaths. A positive precept is right because it is commanded, and ceases to be obligatory when abrogated; a moral precept is commanded eternally, because it is eternally right. If we could keep a perpetual sabbath, as we shall hereafter, the positive precept of the sabbath, one in each week, would not be needed. Hebrews 4:9 , "rests," Greek, "keeping of sabbath" ( Isaiah 66:23 ). But we cannot, since even Adam, in innocence, needed one amidst his earthly employments; therefore the sabbath is still needed and is therefore still linked with the other nine commandments, as obligatory in the spirit, though the letter of the law has been superseded by that higher spirit of love which is the essence of law and Gospel alike ( Romans 13:8-10 ).
17. things to come--the blessings of the Christian covenant, the substance of which Jewish ordinances were but the type. Compare "ages to come," that is, the Gospel dispensation ( Ephesians 2:7 ). Hebrews 2:5 , "the world to come."
the body is of Christ--The real substance (of the blessings typified by the law) belongs to Christ ( Hebrews 8:5 , 10:1 ).
18. beguile--Translate, "Defraud you of your prize," literally, "to adjudge a prize out of hostility away from him who deserves it" [TRENCH]. "To be umpire in a contest to the detriment of one." This defrauding of their prize the Colossians would suffer, by letting any self-constituted arbitrator or judge (that is, false teacher) draw them away from Christ," the righteous Judge" and Awarder of the prize ( 2 Timothy 4:8 , 1:12 , 1 Peter 5:4 ), to angel-worship.
in a voluntary humility--So "will-worship" ( Colossians 2:23 ). Literally, "Delighting ([WAHL]) in humility"; loving (so the Greek is translated, Mark 12:38 , "love to go in long clothing") to indulge himself in a humility of his own imposing: a volunteer in humility [DALLÆUS]. Not as ALFORD, "Let no one of purpose defraud you," &c. Not as GROTIUS, "If he ever so much wish" (to defraud you). For the participle "wishing" or "delighting," is one of the series, and stands in the same category as "intruding," "puffed up," "not holding"; and the self-pleasing implied in it stands in happy contrast to the (mock) humility with which it seems to me, therefore, to be connected. His "humility," so called, is a pleasing of self: thus it stands in parallelism to "his fleshly mind" (its real name, though he styles it "humility"), as "wishing" or "delighting" does to "puffed up." The Greek for "humility" is literally, "lowliness of mind," which forms a clearer parallel to "puffed up by his fleshly mind." Under pretext of humility, as if they durst not come directly to God and Christ (like the modern Church of Rome), they invoked angels: as Judaizers, they justified this on the ground that the law was given by angels. This error continued long in Phrygia (where Colosse and Laodicea were), so that the Council of Laodicea (A.D. 360) expressly framed its thirty-fifth canon against the "Angelici" (as AUGUSTINE [Heresies, 39], calls them) or "invokers of angels." Even as late as THEODORET'S time, there were oratories to Michael the archangel. The modern Greeks have a legend that Michael opened a chasm to draw off an inundation threatening the Colossian Christians. Once men admit the inferior powers to share invocation with the Supreme, the former gradually engrosses all our serious worship, almost to the exclusion of the latter; thus the heathen, beginning with adding the worship of other deities to that of the Supreme, ended with ceasing to worship Him at all. Nor does it signify much, whether we regard such as directly controlling us (the pagan view), or as only influencing the Supreme in our behalf (the Church of Rome's view); because he from whom I expect happiness or misery, becomes the uppermost object in my mind, whether he give, or only procure it [Cautions for Times]. Scripture opposes the idea of "patrons" or "intercessors" ( 1 Timothy 2:5 1 Timothy 2:6 ). True Christian humility joins consciousness of utter personal demerit, with a sense of participation in the divine life through Christ, and in the dignity of our adoption by God. Without the latter being realized, a false self-humiliation results, which displays itself in ceremonies and ascetic self-abasement ( Colossians 2:23 ), which after all is but spiritual pride under the mock guise of humility. Contrast "glorying in the Lord" ( 1 Corinthians 1:31 ).
intruding into . . . things which he hath not seen--So very old manuscripts and Vulgate and ORIGEN read. But the oldest manuscripts and LUCIFER omit "not"; then translate, "haughtily treading on ('Standing on' [ALFORD]) the things which he hath seen." TREGELLES refers this to fancied visions of angels. But if Paul had meant a fancied seeing, he would have used some qualifying word, as, "which he seemed to see," not "which he hath seen." Plainly the things were actually seen by him, whether of demoniacal origination ( 1 Samuel 28:11-20 ), or phenomena resulting from natural causation, mistaken by him as if supernatural. Paul, not stopping to discuss the nature of the things so seen, fixes on the radical error, the tendency of such a one in all this to walk by SENSE (namely, what he haughtily prides himself on having SEEN), rather than by FAITH in the UNSEEN "Head" ( Colossians 2:19 ; compare John 20:29 , 2 Corinthians 5:7 , Hebrews 11:1 ). Thus is the parallelism, "vainly puffed up" answers to "haughtily treading on," or "setting his foot on"; "his fleshly mind" answers to the things which he hath seen," since his fleshliness betrays itself in priding himself on what he hath seen, rather than on the unseen objects of faith. That the things seen may have been of demoniacal origination, appears from 1 Timothy 4:1 , "Some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils" (Greek, "demons"). A warning to modern spiritualists.
puffed up--implying that the previous so called "humility" (Greek, "lowliness of mind") was really a "puffing up."
fleshly mind--Greek, "By the mind of his own flesh." The flesh, or sensuous principle, is the fountain head whence his mind draws its craving after religious objects of sight, instead of, in true humility as a member, "holding fast the (unseen) Head."
19. Translate, "Not holding fast the Head." He who does not hold Christ solely and supremely above all others, does not hold Him at all [BENGEL]. The want of firm holding of Christ has set him loose to (pry into, and so) "tread haughtily on (pride himself on) things which he hath seen." Each must hold fast the Head for himself, not merely be attached to the other members, however high in the body [ALFORD].
from which--rather, "from whom."
the body--that is, all the members of the body ( Ephesians 4:16 ).
joints--the points of union where the supply of nourishment passes to the different members, furnishing the body with the materials of growth.
bands--the sinews and nerves which bind together limb and limb. Faith, love, and peace, are the spiritual bands. Compare "knit together in love" ( Colossians 2:2 , Colossians 3:14 , Ephesians 4:3 ).
having nourishment ministered--that is, supplied to it continually. "Receiving ministration."
knit together--The Greek is translated, "compacted," Ephesians 4:16 : implying firm consolidation.
with the increase of God--( Ephesians 4:16 ); that is, wrought by God, the Author and Sustainer of the believer's spiritual life, in union with Christ, the Head ( 1 Corinthians 3:6 ); and tending to the honor of God, being worthy of Him, its Author.
20. Wherefore--The oldest manuscripts omit "Wherefore."
if ye be dead--Greek, "if ye died (so as to be freed) from," &c. (compare Romans 6:2 , Romans 7:2 Romans 7:3 , Galatians 2:19 ).
rudiments of the world--( Colossians 2:8 ). Carnal, outward, worldly, legal ordinances.
as though living--as though you were not dead to the world like your crucified Lord, into whose death ye were buried ( Galatians 6:14 , 1 Peter 4:1 1 Peter 4:2 ).
are ye subject to ordinances--By do ye submit to be made subject to ordinances? Referring to Colossians 2:14 : you are again being made subject to "ordinances," the "handwriting" of which had been "blotted out" ( Colossians 2:14 ).
21. Compare Colossians 2:16 , "meat . . . drink." He gives instances of the "ordinances" ( Colossians 2:20 ) in the words of their imposers. There is an ascending climax of superstitious prohibitions. The first Greek word (hapse) is distinguished from the third (thiges), in that the former means close contact and retention: the latter, momentary contact (compare 1 Corinthians 7:1 , John 20:17 , Greek, "Hold me not"; cling not to me"). Translate, "Handle not, neither taste, nor even touch." The three refer to meats. "Handle not" (a stronger term than "nor even touch"), "nor taste" with the tongue, "nor even touch," however slight the contact.
22. Which--things, namely, the three things handled, touched, and tasted.
are to perish--literally, "are constituted (by their very nature) for perishing (or 'destruction by corruption') in (or 'with') their using up (consumption)." Therefore they cannot really and lastingly defile a man ( Matthew 15:17 , 1 Corinthians 6:13 ).
after--according to. Referring to Colossians 2:20 Colossians 2:21 . All these "ordinances" are according to human, not divine, injunction.
doctrines--Greek, teachings." ALFORD translates, "(doctrinal) systems."
23. have--Greek, "are having"; implying the permanent characteristic which these ordinances are supposed to have.
show of wisdom--rather, "a reputation of wisdom" [ALFORD].
will-worship--arbitrarily invented worship: would-be worship, devised by man's own will, not God's. So jealous is God of human will-worship, that He struck Nadab and Abihu dead for burning strange incense ( Leviticus 10:1-3 ). So Uzziah was stricken with leprosy for usurping the office of priest ( 2 Chronicles 26:16-21 ). Compare the will-worship of Saul ( 1 Samuel 13:8-14 ) for which he was doomed to lose his throne. This "voluntary worship" is the counterpart to their "voluntary humility" ( Colossians 2:18 ):both specious in appearance, the former seeming in religion to do even more than God requires (as in the dogmas of the Roman and Greek churches); but really setting aside God's will for man's own; the latter seemingly self-abasing, but really proud of man's self-willed "humility" (Greek, "lowliness of mind"), while virtually rejecting the dignity of direct communion with Christ, the Head; by worshipping of angels.
neglecting of the body--Greek, "not sparing of the body." This asceticism seems to have rested on the Oriental theory that matter is the source of evil. This also looked plausible (compare 1 Corinthians 9:27 ).
not in any honour--of the body. As "neglecting of the body" describes asceticism positively; so this clause, negatively. Not paying any of that "honor" which is due to the body as redeemed by such a price as the blood of Christ. We should not degrade, but have a just estimation of ourselves, not in ourselves, but in Christ ( Acts 13:46 , 1 Corinthians 3:21 , 6:15 , 7:23 , 1 Corinthians 12:23 1 Corinthians 12:24 , 1 Thessalonians 4:4 ). True self-denial regards the spirit, and not the forms of ascetical self-mortification in "meats which profit not those occupied therein" ( Hebrews 13:9 ), and is consistent with Christian self-respect, the "honor" which belongs to the believer as dedicated to the Lord. Compare "vainly," Colossians 2:18 .
to the satisfying of the flesh--This expresses the real tendency of their human ordinances of bodily asceticism, voluntary humility, and will-worship of angels. While seeming to deny self and the body, they really are pampering the flesh. Thus "satisfying of the flesh" answers to "puffed up by his fleshly mind" ( Colossians 2:18 ), so that "flesh" is used in its ethical sense, "the carnal nature" as opposed to the "spiritual"; not in the sense, "body." The Greek for "satisfying" implies satiating to repletion, or to excess. "A surfeit of the carnal sense is human tradition" [HILARY THE DEACON, in BENGEL]. Tradition puffs up; it clogs the heavenly perceptions. They put away true "honor" that they may "satiate to the full THE FLESH." Self-imposed ordinances gratify the flesh (namely, self-righteousness), though seeming to mortify it.