Colossians Chapter 2
Analysis of the Chapter.
THIS entire chapter may be regarded as designed to guard the Colossians against the seductive influence of the false philosophy which tended to draw them away from the gospel. It is evident from the chapter that there were at Colosse, or in the vicinity, professed instructors in religion, who taught an artful and plausible philosophy, adapting themselves to the prejudices of the people, and inculcating opinions that tended to lead them away from the truths which they had embraced. These teachers were probably of Jewish origin, and had adopted many of the arts of a plausible rhetoric, from the prevailing philosophy in that region. See the Intro. _ 4. Against the seductive influences of this philosophy it is the design of this chapter to guard them; and though the apostle does not seem to have intended to pursue an exact logical order, yet the argument in the chapter can be conveniently regarded as consisting of two parts:-a statement of the reasons why they should be on their guard against the arts of that philosophy, and a specification of the particular errors to which they were exposed.
I. A statement of the reasons why they should not allow themselves to be drawn away by the influence of the prevalent philosophy, Colossians 2:1-15. This also consists of two parts.
(A.) The importance of the subject, Colossians 2:1-7.
(2.) All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge were in Christ, and it was, therefore, of the greatest importance to hold to the truth respecting him, Colossians 2:3.
(3.) They were in danger of being led astray by enticing words, Colossians 2:4.
(4.) Paul says that he was with them in spirit, and he exhorted them, therefore, to remain rooted and grounded in the doctrines which they had received respecting the Saviour, Colossians 2:5-7.
(B.) Reasons why they should be steadfast, and not drawn away by the influence of false philosophy, Colossians 3:8-15.
(1.) The danger of depending on traditions and worldly principles in religion; of being "spoiled" or robbed by philosophy, Colossians 2:8.
(3.) We have received through him the true circumcision-the putting away our sins, Colossians 2:11.
(4.) We have been buried with him in baptism, and have solemnly devoted ourselves to him, Colossians 2:12.
(5.) We have been quickened by him; our sins have been forgiven; and everything that hindered our salvation has been taken out of the way by him, and he has triumphed over our foes, Colossians 2:13-15.
II. Specification of particular errors to which they were exposed, or of particular things to be avoided, Colossians 2:16-23.
The chapter closes Colossians 2:20-23 with an earnest exhortation wholly to avoid these things; not to touch or taste or handle them. However plausible the pretences might be on which they were urged; whatever appearance of wisdom or humility there might be, the apostle assures them that there was no real honour in them, and that they were wholly to be avoided.
Verse 1. For I would that ye knew. I wish you knew or fully understood. He supposes that this would deeply affect them, if they understood the solicitude which he had had on their account.
What great conflict. Marg., fear, or care. The Greek word is agony αγωνα. It is not, however, the word rendered agony in Luke 22:44 αγωνια-though that is derived from this. The word is rendered conflict in Philippians 1:30; contention, 1 Thessalonians 2:2; fight, 1 Timothy 6:12, 2 Timothy 4:17 and race Hebrews 12:1. It properly refers to the combats, contests, struggles, efforts at the public games; the toil and conflict to obtain a victory. It refers here to the anxious care, the mental conflict, the earnest solicitude which he had in their behalf, in view of the dangers to which they were exposed from Judaizing Christians and pagan philosophy. This mental struggle resembled that which the combatants had at the public games. 1 Corinthians 9:25,27.
And for them at Laodicea. For Christians there, who were exposed to similar danger. Laodicea was the capital of Phrygia, in Asia Minor, and a little south of Colosse. See Intro. p. 1, 6. Colossians 4:16. There was a church early planted there—the "lukewarm" church mentioned in Revelation 3:14. Being in the vicinity of Colosse, the church there would be exposed to the same perils, and the rebuke, in Revelation 3:14, showed that the fears of Paul were well founded, and that the arts of the false teachers were too successful.
And for as many as have not seem face in the flesh. That is, evidently, in that region. He had, doubtless, a general solicitude for all Christians, but his remark here has reference to those in the neighbourhood of the church at Colosse, or in that church. On the question which has been raised, whether this proves that the apostle Paul had never been at Colosse or Laodicea, see Intro. p. 2, 4. This passage does not seem to me to prove that he had not been there. It may mean that he had great solicitude for those Christians there whom he knew, and for all others there, or in the vicinity, even though he was not personally acquainted with them. He may refer (1.) to some churches in the neighbourhood formed since he was there; or
(2.) to strangers who had come in there since he was with them; or
(3.) to those who had been converted since he was there, and with whom he had no personal acquaintance. For all these he would feel the same solicitude, for they were all exposed to the same danger. To "see one's face in the flesh" is a Hebraism, meaning to become personally acquainted with him.
(*) "great conflict" "fear" or "care"
(*) "Laodicea, and for" Revelation 3:14
Verse 2. That their hearts might be comforted. Like all other Christians in the times of the apostles, they were doubtless exposed to trials and persecutions.
Being knit together in love. The same word which is here used, συμβιβαζω occurs in Ephesians 4:16, and is rendered compacted. Ephesians 4:16. In Acts 9:22, it is rendered proving; Acts 16:10, assuredly gathering; 1 Corinthians 2:16 instruct; and here, and in Colossians 2:19, knit together. It means, properly to make to come together, and hence refers to a firm union, as where the hearts of Christians are one. Here it means that the way of comforting each other was by solid Christian friendship, and that the means of cementing that was love. It was not by a mere outward profession, or by mere speculative faith; it was by a union of affection.
And unto all riches. On the meaning of the word riches, as used by the apostle Paul, Romans 2:4. There is a great energy of expression here. The meaning is, that the thing referred to-" the full understanding" of the "mystery" of religion-was an invaluable possession, like abundant wealth. This passage also shows the object for which they should be united. It should be in order that they might obtain this inestimable wealth. If they were divided in affections, and split up into factions, they could not hope to secure it.
Of the full assurance of understanding. This word (πληροφορια) means, firm persuasion, settled conviction. It occurs only here and in 1 Thessalonians 1:6, Hebrews 6:11, 10:22; and is rendered by assurance, or full assurance, in every instance. See the verb, however, in Luke 1:1, Romans 4:21, 14:5, 2 Timothy 4:5,17. It was the desire of the apostle that they might have entire conviction of the truth of the Christian doctrines.
To the acknowledgment. So as fully and openly to acknowledge or confess this mystery.
The mystery. On the meaning of this word, Romans 11:25; Ephesians 1:9. The meaning is, the doctrine respecting God, which had before been concealed or hidden, but which was now revealed in the gospel. It does not mean that there was anything unintelligible or incomprehensible respecting this doctrine when it was made known. That might be as clear as any other truth.
Of God. Of God as he actually subsists. This does not mean that the mere fact of the existence of God was a "mystery," or a truth which had been concealed, for that was not true. But the sense plainly is, that there were truths now made known in the gospel to mankind, about the mode of the Divine existence, which had not before been disclosed; and this "mystery" he wished them to retain, or fully acknowledge. The "mystery," or the hitherto unrevealed truth, related to the fact that God subsisted in more persons than one, as "Father," and as "Christ."
And of the Father. Or, rather, "even of the Father;" for so the word και (and) is often used. The apostle does not mean that he wished them to acknowledge the hitherto unrevealed truth respecting "God" and another being called "the Father;" but respecting "God" as the "Father," or of God "as "Father" and as "Christ."
And of Christ. As a person of the Godhead. What the apostle wished them to acknowledge was the full revelation now made known respecting the essential nature of God, as the "Father," and as "Christ." In relation to this, they were in special danger of being corrupted by the prevalent philosophy, as it is in relation to this that error of Christian doctrine usually commences. It should be said, however, that there is great variety of reading in the MSS. on this whole clause, and that many critics (see Rosenmuller) regard it as spurious. I do not see evidence that it is not genuine; and the strain of exhortation of the apostle seems to me to demand it.
(*) "love, and unto" Colossians 3:14
(*) "mystery of God" 1 John 5:7
(*) "and" "even"
Verse 3. In whom. Marg., wherein. The more correct translation is, "in whom." The reference is doubtless to Christ, as his name is the immediate antecedent, and as what is affirmed here properly appertains to him.
Are hid. Like treasures that are concealed or garnered up. It does not mean that none of those "treasures" had been developed; but that, so to speak, Christ, as Mediator, was the great treasure-house where were to be found all the wisdom and knowledge needful for men.
All the treasures. It is common to compare anything valuable with "treasures" of silver or gold. The idea here is, that in reference to the wisdom and knowledge needful for us, Christ is what abundant treasures are in reference to the supply of our wants.
Wisdom. The wisdom needful for our salvation. 1 Corinthians 1:24.
And knowledge. The knowledge which is requisite to guide us in the way to life. Christ is able to instruct us in all that it is desirable for us to know, so that it is not necessary for us to apply to philosophy, or to the teachings of men.
(*) "In whom" "wherein"
Verse 4. And this I say. Respecting the character and sufficiency of the truth revealed in Christ.
Lest any man should beguile you. Deceive you, lead you away from the truth.
With enticing words. Artful words, smooth and plausible arguments, such as were employed by the Greek sophists and rhetoricians.
(*) "with enticing" Mark 13:22
Verse 5. For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit. That is, I seem to see you; I feel as if I were there, and were looking upon you; and I have the same solicitude as if I were there, and saw all the danger which exists that your beautiful order and harmony should be disturbed by the influence of false philosophy. 1 Corinthians 5:3. The word "spirit" here does not refer to the Holy Spirit, or to any inspiration by which the apostle was enabled to see them; but it is equivalent to what we mean when we say, "My heart is with you. He seemed to be beholding them.
Joying and beholding your order. That is, I rejoice as if I saw your order. He had such confidence that everything would be done among them as became Christians, that he could rejoice as if he actually saw it.
Verse 6. As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord. Have received him by faith as your Saviour, or as you were instructed respecting his rank, character, and work. The object here is to induce them not to swerve from the views which they had of Christ when he was made known to them. They had at first probably received their ideas of the Saviour from the apostle himself, (see the Intro.;) and, at any rate, the apostle designs to assure them that the views which they had when they "received him" were founded in truth.
So walk ye in him. Continue in those views of Christ; live in the maintenance of them; let them regulate your whole conduct. The word walk, in the Scriptures, is used to denote the manner of life; and the sense here is, that they should live and act wholly under the influence of the conceptions which they had of the Saviour when they first embraced him. The particle "so" is supplied by our translators, and rather weakens the sense. No stress should be laid on it, as is often done. The meaning is, simply, "Since you have received Christ as your Lord as he was preached to you, hold fast the doctrine which you have received, and do not permit yourselves to be turned aside by any Jewish teachers, or teachers of philosophy."
(*) "walk ye in him" 1 John 2:6
Verse 7. Rooted-in him. As a tree strikes its roots deep in the earth, so our faith should strike deep into the doctrine respecting the Saviour. See the phrase here used explained in the parallel place in Ephesians 3:17.
And stablisheth in the faith, as ye have been taught. To wit, by the founders of the church, and by those faithful ministers who had succeeded them. Colossians 1:7.
Abounding therein with thanksgiving. Expressing overflowing thanks to God that you have been made acquainted with truths so precious and glorious. If there is anything for which we ought to be thankful, it is for the knowledge of the great truths respecting our Lord and Saviour.
(*) "rooted" Ephesians 3:17
(*) "and stablished" John 15:4,5
Verse 8. Beware lest any man spoil you. The word spoil now commonly means, to corrupt, to cause to decay and perish, as fruit is spoiled by keeping too long, or paper by wetting, or hay by a long rain, or crops by mildew. But the Greek word here used means to spoil in the sense of plunder, rob, as when plunder is taken in war. The meaning is, "Take heed lest any one plunder or rob you of your faith and hope by philosophy." These false teachers would strip them of their faith and hope, as an invading army would rob a country of all that was valuable.
Through philosophy. The Greek philosophy prevailed much in the regions around Colosse, and perhaps also the Oriental or Gnostic philosophy. See the Intro. They were exposed to the influences of these plausible systems. They consisted much of speculations respecting the nature of the Divine existence; and the danger of the Colossians was, that they would rely rather on the deductions of that specious reasoning, than on what they had been taught by their Christian teachers.
And vain deceit. Mere fallacy. The idea is, that the doctrines which were advanced ill those systems were maintained by plausible, not by solid arguments; by considerations not fitted to lead to the truth, but to lead astray.
After the tradition of men. There appear to have been two sources of danger to which the Christians at Colosse were exposed, and to which the apostle in these cautions alludes, though he is not careful to distinguish them. The one was that arising from the Grecian philosophy; the other from Jewish opinions. The latter is that to which he refers here. The Jews depended much on tradition, Matthew 15:2;) and many of those traditions would have tended much to corrupt the gospel of Christ.
After the rudiments of the world. Marg., elements. See this explained Galatians 4:3.
And not after Christ. Not such as Christ taught.
(*) "rudiments" "elements"
Verse 9. For in him dwelleth. That is, this was the great and central doctrine that was to be maintained about Christ, that all the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in him. Every system which denied this was a denial of the doctrine which they had been taught; and against everything that would go to undermine this, they were especially to be on their guard. Almost all heresy has been begun by some form of the denial of the great central truth of the incarnation of the Son of God.
All the fulness. Colossians 1:19.
Of the Godhead. Of the Divinity, the Divine nature θεότης. The word is one that properly denotes the Divine nature and perfections. Robinson, Lex. It occurs nowhere else in the New Testament.
Bodily. σωματικως. This word also is found nowhere else in the New Testament, though the adjective bodily—σωματικῶς—occurs twice: Luke 3:22, "in a bodily shape;" and 1 Timothy 4:8, "for bodily exercise profiteth little." The word means, "having a bodily appearance, instead of existing or appearing in a spiritual form;" and the fair sense of the phrase is, that the fairness of the Divine nature became incarnate, and was indwelling in the body of the Redeemer. It does not meet the case to say, as Crellius does, that the "whole Divine will was in him," for the word θεοτης godhead does not mean the will of God; and it is as certainly true that the inspired prophets were under the control of the Divine will, as that the Saviour was. Nor can it mean, as Socinus supposes, that the fulness of Divine knowledge dwelt in him, for this is not the proper meaning of the word θεοτης godhead; nor can it mean, for the same reason, that a fairness of Divine gifts was entrusted to him. The language is such as would be obviously employed on the supposition that God became incarnate, and appeared in human form; and there is no other idea which it so naturally expresses, nor is there any other which it can be made to express without a forced construction. The meaning is, that it was not any one attribute of the Deity that became incarnate in the Saviour; that he was not merely endowed with the knowledge, or the power, the wisdom of God; but that the whole Deity thus became incarnate, and appeared in human form. Comp. John 14:9, 1:18. No language could, therefore, more clearly demonstrate the divinity of Christ. Of what mere man—of what angel—could it be used?
(*) "dwelleth" Colossians 1:19
Verse 10. And ye are complete in him. Having no need, for the purposes of salvation, of any aid to be derived from the philosophy of the Greeks, or the traditions of the Jews. All that is necessary to secure your salvation is to be found in the Lord Jesus. There is a completion, or a filling up, in him, so as to leave nothing wanting. This is true in respect
(1.) to the wisdom which is needful to guide us;
(2.) the atonement to be made for sin;
(3.) the merit by which a sinner can be justified; and
(4.) the grace which is needful to sustain us in the trials, and to aid us in the duties of life. 1 Corinthians 1:30. There is no necessity, therefore, that we should look to the aid of philosophy, as if there was a defect in the teachings of the Saviour; or to human strength, as if he were unable to save us; or to the merits of the saints, as if those of the Redeemer were not sufficient to meet all our wants. The sentiment advanced in this verse would overthrow the whole papal doctrine of the merits of the saints, and, of course, the whole doctrine of papal "indulgences."
(*) "complete in him" Hebrews 5:9
(*) "head of all" 1 Peter 3:22 on Eph. i. 21, 22.
Verse 11. In whom. In connexion with whom, or in virtue of whose religion.
Ye are circumcised. You have received that which was designed to be represented by circumcision-the putting away of sin. Philippians 3:3.
With the circumcision made without hands. That made in the heart by the renunciation of all sin. The Jewish teachers insisted on the necessity of the literal circumcision in order to salvation, (comp. Ephesians 2:11;) and hence this subject is so often introduced into the writings of Paul, and he is at so much pains to show that, by believing in Christ, all was obtained which was required in order to salvation. Circumcision was an ordinance by which it was denoted that all sin was to be cut off or renounced, and that he who was circumcised was to be devoted to God and to a holy life. All this, the apostle says, was obtained by the gospel; and, consequently, they had all that was denoted by the ancient rite of circumcision. What Christians had obtained, moreover, related to the heart; it was not a mere ordinance pertaining to the flesh.
In putting off the body of the sins of the flesh. That is, in renouncing the deeds of the flesh, or becoming holy. The word "body," here, seems to be used with reference to circumcision. In that ordinance, the body of the FLESH was subjected to the rite; with Christians, it is the body of sin that is cut off.
By the circumcision of Christ. Not by the fact that Christ was circumcised, but that we have that kind of circumcision which Christ established-to wit, the renouncing of sin. The idea of the apostle here seems to be, that since we have thus been enabled by Christ to renounce sin, and to devote ourselves to God, we should not be induced, by any plausible arguments, to return to an ordinance pertaining to the flesh, as if that were needful for salvation.
(*) "Buried with him" Romans 6:4,5
(*) "operation of God" Ephesians 1:19
Wherein also. In which ordinance, or by virtue of that which is signified by the ordinance.
Through the faith of the operation of God. By a firm belief on the agency of God in raising him up; that is, a belief of the fact that God has raised him from the dead. The resurrection of Christ is often represented as the foundation of all our hopes; and, as he was raised from the grave to die no more, so, in virtue of that, we are raised from the death of sin to eternal spiritual life. The belief of this is shown by our baptism, whatever be the mode in which that ordinance is performed, and as well shown in one mode as another.
(*) "Buried" Romans 6:4,5
(*) "operation of God" Ephesians 1:19
And the uncircumcision of your flesh. That is, Gentiles, and giving unrestrained indulgence to the desires of the flesh. They lived as those who had not by any religious rite or covenant brought themselves under obligations to lead holy lives.
Hath he quickened. Ephesians 2:1.
Together with him. In virtue of his being restored to life. That is, the resurrection of the Lord Jesus was the means of imparting to us spiritual life.
Verse 14. Blotting out the handwriting. The word rendered handwriting means something written by the hand, a manuscript; and here, probably, the writings of the Mosaic law, or the law appointing many ordinances or observances in religion. The allusion is probably to a written contract, in which we bind ourselves to do any work, or to make a payment, and which remains in force against us until the bond is cancelled. That might be done either by blotting out the names, or by drawing lines through it, or, as appears to have been practised in the east, by driving a nail through it. The Jewish ceremonial law is here represented as such a contract, binding those under it to its observance, until it was nailed to the cross. The meaning here is, that the burdensome requirements of the Mosaic law are abolished, and that its necessity is superseded by the death of Christ. His death had the same effect, in reference to those ordinances, as if they had been blotted from the statute-book. This it did by fulfilling them, by introducing a more perfect system and by rendering their observance no longer necessary, since all that they were designed to typify had been now accomplished in a better way. Ephesians 2:15.
Of ordinances. Prescribing the numerous rites and ceremonies of the Jewish religion.
That was against us. That is, against our peace, happiness, comfort; or, in other words, which was oppressive and burdensome. Comp. Acts 15:10. Those ordinances bound and lettered the soul, restrained the expansive spirit of true piety which seeks the salvation of all alike, and thus operated as a hinderance to the enlarged spirit of true religion. Thus they really operated against the truly pious Jew, whose religion would lead him to seek the salvation of the world; and to the Gentile, since he was not in a situation to avail himself of them, and since they would be burdensome if he could. It is in this sense, probably, that the apostle uses the word "us," as referring to all, and as cramping and restraining the true nature of religion.
Which was contrary to us. Operated as a hinderance, or obstruction, in the matter of religion. The ordinances of the Mosaic law were necessary, in order to introduce the gospel; but they were always burdensome. They were to be confined to one people; and if they were continued, they would operate to prevent the spread of the true religion around the world. 2 Corinthians 3:7,9. Hence the exulting language of the apostle in view of the fact that they were now taken away, and that the benefits of religion might be diffused all over the world. The gospel contains nothing which is "against," or "contrary to," the true interest and happiness of any nation or any class of men.
And took it out of the way. Gr., "Out of the midst;" that is, he wholly removed it. He has removed the obstruction, so that it no longer prevents union and harmony between the Jews and the Gentiles.
Nailing it to his cross. As if he had nailed it to his cross, so that it would be entirely removed out of our way. The death of Jesus had the same effect, in regard to the rites and institutions of the Mosaic religion, as if they had been affixed to his cross. It is said that there is an allusion here to the ancient method by which a bond or obligation was cancelled, by driving a nail through it, and affixing it to a post. This was practised, says Grotius, in Asia. In a somewhat similar manner, in our banks now, a sharp instrument, like the blade of a knife, is driven through a check, making a hole through it, and furnishing to the teller of the bank a sign or evidence that it has been paid. If this be the meaning, then the expression here denotes that the obligation of the Jewish institutions ceased on the death of Jesus, as if he had taken them and nailed them to his own cross, in the manner in which a bond was cancelled.
(*) "Blotting out" Ephesians 2:15,16
Verse 15. And having spoiled. Plundered; as a victorious army does a conquered country. Colossians 2:8. The terms used in this verse are all military; and the idea is, that Christ has completely subdued our enemies by his death. A complete victory was achieved by his death, so that everything is now in subjection to him, and we have nothing to fear.
Principalities and powers. Ephesians 1:21; Ephesians 6:12. The "principalities and powers" here referred to, are the formidable enemies that had held man in subjection, and prevented his serving God. There can be no doubt, I think, that the apostle refers to the ranks of fallen, evil spirits which had usurped a dominion over the world. John 12:31; Ephesians 2:2. The Saviour, by his death, wrested the dominion from them, and seized upon what they had captured, as a conqueror seizes upon his prey. Satan and his legions had invaded the earth, and drawn its inhabitants into captivity, and subjected them to their evil reign. Christ, by his death, subdues the invaders, and recaptures those whom they had subdued.
He made a show of them openly. As a conqueror, returning from a victory, displays in a triumphal procession the kings and princes whom he has taken, and the spoils of victory. This was commonly done when a "triumph" was decreed for a conqueror. On such occasions, it sometimes happened that a considerable number of prisoners were led along amidst the scenes of triumph. 2 Corinthians 2:14. Paul says that this was now done "openly"-that is, it was in the face of the whole universe; a grand victory; a glorious triumph over all the powers of hell. It does not refer to any public procession or display on the earth; but to the grand victory as achieved in view of the universe, by which Christ, as a conqueror, dragged Satan and his legions at his triumphal car. Comp. Romans 16:20.
Triumphing over them in it. Marg., "or, himself." Either "by the cross," or "by himself." Or, it may mean, as Rosenmuller suggests, that "God Colossians 2:12 triumphed over these foes in him; i.e., in Christ." The sense is substantially the same, that this triumph was effected by the atonement made for sin by the Redeemer. See the word triumph explained in the 2 Corinthians 2:14. The meaning of all this is, that since Christ has achieved for us such a victory, and has subdued all the foes of man, we should not be led captive, but should regard ourselves as freemen. We should not be made again the slaves of custom, or habit, or ritual observances, or superstitious rites, or anything whatever that has its origin in the kingdom of darkness. We are bound to assert and to use our freedom, and should not allow any hostile power, in the form of philosophy or false teaching of any kind, to plunder or "spoil" us, Colossians 2:8. The Christian is a freeman. His great Captain has subdued all his enemies, and we should not allow them again to set up their dark empire over our souls. The argument of the apostle in these verses Colossians 2:13-15 is derived from what Christ has done for us. He mentions four things.
(1.) He has given us spiritual life;
(2.) he has forgiven all our trespasses;
(3.) he has blotted out or abolished the "ordinances" that were against us; and
(4.) he has triumphed over all our foes. From all this he infers Colossians 2:16, seq. that we should not be made captive or subdued by any of the rights of superstition, or any of the influences of the kingdom of darkness.
(*) "in it" "himself"
Verse 16. Let no man therefore judge you. Romans 14:10,13. The word judge here is used in the sense of pronouncing a sentence. The meaning is, "since you have thus been delivered by Christ from the evils which surrounded you; since you have been freed from the observances of the law, let no one sit in judgment on you, or claim the right to decide for you in those matters. You are not responsible to man for your conduct, but to Christ; and no man has a right to impose that on you as a burden from which he has made you free."
In meat. Marg., for eating and drinking. The meaning is, "in respect to the various articles of food and drink." There is reference here, undoubtedly, to the distinctions which the Jews made on this subject, implying that an effort had been made by Jewish teachers to show them that the Mosaic laws were binding on all.
Or in respect of an holyday. Marg., part. The meaning is, "in the part, or the particular of a holyday; that is, in respect to it." The word rendered "holyday"—ἑορτή—means, properly, a feast or festival; and the allusion here is to the festivals of the Jews. The sense is, that no one had a right to impose their observance on Christians, or to condemn them if they did not keep them. They had been delivered from that obligation by the death of Christ, Colossians 2:14.
Or of the new moon. On the appearance of the new moon, among the Hebrews, in addition to the daily sacrifices, two bullocks, a ram, and seven sheep, with a meat-offering, were required to be presented to God, Numbers 10:10, 28:11-14. The new moon in the beginning of the month Tisri (October) was the beginning of their civil year, and was commanded to be observed as a festival, Leviticus 23:24,25.
Or of the sabbath days. Gr, "of the sabbaths." The word Sabbath in the Old Testament is applied not only to the seventh day, but to all the days of holy rest that were observed by the Hebrews, and particularly to the beginning and close of their great festivals. There is, doubtless, reference to those days in this place, as the word is used in the plural number, and the apostle does not refer particularly to the Sabbath properly so called. There is no evidence, from this passage, that he would teach that there was no obligation to observe any holy time, for there is not the slightest reason to believe that he meant to teach that one of the ten commandments had ceased to be binding on mankind. If he had used the word in the singular number—"THE Sabbath"—it would then, of course, have been clear that he meant to teach that that commandment had ceased to be binding, and that a sabbath was no longer to be observed. But the use of the term in the plural number, and the connexion, show that he had his eye on the great number of days which were observed by the Hebrews as festivals, as a part of their ceremonial and typical law—and not to the moral law, or the ten commandments. No part of the moral law—no one of the ten commandments —could be spoken of as "a shadow of good things to come." These commandments are, from the nature of moral law, of perpetual and universal obligation.
(*) "in meat" "for eating and drinking"
(*) "in respect" "part"
(*) "holyday" "feast"
But the body is of Christ. The reality, the substance. All that they signified is of or in Christ. Between those things themselves which are in Christ, and those which only represented or prefigured them, there is as much difference as there is between a body and a shadow-a solid substance and a mere outline. Having now, therefore, the thing itself, the shadow can be to us of no value; and that having come which was prefigured, that which was designed merely to represent it, is no longer binding.
(*) "shadow of things" Hebrews 8:5
Verse 18. Let no man beguile you of your reward. Marg., judge against you. The word here used—καταβραβεύω—occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It is a word which was employed with reference to the distribution of prizes at the Grecian games, and means, to give the prize against any one, to deprive of the palm. Hence it means to deprive of a due reward; and the sense here is, that they were to be on their guard lest the "reward"-the crown of victory to which they looked forward-should be wrested from them by the arts of others. That would be done if they should be persuaded to turn back, or to falter in the race. The only way to secure the prize was to hold on in the race which they were then running; but if they yielded to the philosophy of the Greeks, and the teachings of the Jews, they would be defrauded of this reward as certainly as a racer at the games would if the crown of victory should be unjustly awarded to another. In this case, too, as real injustice would be done, though the apostle does not say it would be in the same manlier. Here it would be by art-in the case of the racer it would be by a wrong decision; but in either case the crown was lost. This exhortation has the more force from this consideration. Against an unjust judge we could have no power; but we may take care that the reward be not wrested from us by fraud.
In a voluntary humility. Marg. "being a voluntary in humility." Tindal renders this, "Let no man make you shoot at a wrong mark, which, after his own imagination, walketh in the humbleness of angels." The word used here (ταπεινοφροσύνη) means, lowliness of mind, modesty, humbleness of deportment; and the apostle refers, doubtless, to the spirit assumed by those against whom he would guard the Colossians-the spirit of modesty or of humble inquirers. The meaning is, that they would not announce their opinions with dogmatic certainty, but they would put on the appearance of great modesty. In this way, they would become really more dangerous-for no false teachers are so dangerous as those who assume the aspect of great humility, and who manifest great reverence for Divine things. The word rendered "voluntary" here—θέλων—does not, properly, belong to the word rendered "humility." It rather appertains to the subsequent part of the sentence, and means that the persons referred to were willing, or had pleasure in attempting, to search into the hidden and abstruse things of religion. They were desirous of appearing to do this with an humble spirit-even with the modesty of an angel-but still they had pleasure in that profound and dangerous kind of inquiry.
And worshipping of angels. θρησκείᾳ τῶν ἀγγέλων. This does not mean, as it seems to me, that they would themselves worship angels, or that they would teach others to do it—for there is no reason to believe this. Certainly the Jewish teachers, whom the apostle seems to have had particularly in his eye, would not do it; nor is there any evidence that any class of false teachers would deliberately teach that angels were to be worshipped. The reference is rather to the profound reverence—the spirit of lowly piety—which the angels evinced, and to the fact that the teachers referred to would assume the same spirit, and were, therefore, the more dangerous. They would come professing profound regard for the great mysteries of religion, and for the incomprehensible perfections of the Divinity, and would approach the subject professedly with the awful veneration which the angels have when they "look into these things," 1 Peter 1:12. There was no bold, irreverent, or confident declamation, but the danger in the case arose from the fact that they assumed so much the aspect of modest piety; so much the appearance of the lowly devotion of angelic beings. The word here rendered worship—θρησκεία—occurs in the New Testament only here, in Acts 26:6, James 1:26,27, in each of which places it is rendered religion. It means here the religion, or the spirit of humble reverence and devotion which is evinced by the angels; and this accords well with the meaning in James 1:26,27.
Intruding into those things which he hath not seen. Or, inquiring into them. The word used here (εμβατευων) means, to go in, or enter; then to investigate, to inquire. It has not, properly, the meaning of intruding, or of impertinent inquiry, (see Passow,) and I do not see that the apostle meant to characterize the inquiry here as such. He says that it was the object of their investigations to look, with great professed modesty and reverence, into those things which are not visible to the eye of mortals. The "things" which seem here to be particularly referred to, are the abstruse questions respecting the mode of the Divine subsistence; the ranks, orders, and employments of angelic beings; and the obscure doctrines relating to the Divine government and plans. These questions comprised most of the subjects of inquiry in the Oriental and Grecian philosophy, and inquiries on these the apostle apprehended would tend to draw away the mind from the "simplicity that is in Christ." Of these subjects, what can be known more than is revealed?
Vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind. Notwithstanding the avowed "humility," the modesty, the angelic reverence, yet the mind was full of vain conceit, and self-confident, carnal wisdom. The two things are by no means incompatible—the men apparently most meek and modest being sometimes the most bold in their speculations, and the most reckless in regard to the great landmarks of truth. It is not so with true modesty, and real "angelic veneration," but all this is sometimes assumed for the purpose of deceiving; and sometimes there is a native appearance of modesty which is by no means an index of the true feelings of the soul. The most meek and modest men in appearance are sometimes the most proud and reckless in their investigations of the doctrines of religion.
(*) "shadow of things" Hebrews 8:5
Verse 19. And not holding the Head. Not holding the true doctrine respecting the Great Head of the church, the Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:22. This is regarded here as essential to the maintenance of all the other doctrines of religion. He who has just views of the