|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
2:8-17 There is a philosophy which rightly exercises our reasonable faculties; a study of the works of God, which leads us to the knowledge of God, and confirms our faith in him. But there is a philosophy which is vain and deceitful; and while it pleases men's fancies, hinders their faith: such are curious speculations about things above us, or no concern to us. Those who walk in the way of the world, are turned from following Christ. We have in Him the substance of all the shadows of the ceremonial law. All the defects of it are made up in the gospel of Christ, by his complete sacrifice for sin, and by the revelation of the will of God. To be complete, is to be furnished with all things necessary for salvation. By this one word complete, is shown that we have in Christ whatever is required. In him, not when we look to Christ, as though he were distant from us, but we are in him, when, by the power of the Spirit, we have faith wrought in our hearts by the Spirit, and we are united to our Head. The circumcision of the heart, the crucifixion of the flesh, the death and burial to sin and to the world, and the resurrection to newness of life, set forth in baptism, and by faith wrought in our hearts, prove that our sins are forgiven, and that we are fully delivered from the curse of the law. Through Christ, we, who were dead in sins, are quickened. Christ's death was the death of our sins; Christ's resurrection is the quickening of our souls. The law of ordinances, which was a yoke to the Jews, and a partition-wall to the Gentiles, the Lord Jesus took out of the way. When the substance was come, the shadows fled. Since every mortal man is, through the hand-writing of the law, guilty of death, how very dreadful is the condition of the ungodly and unholy, who trample under foot that blood of the Son of God, whereby alone this deadly hand-writing can be blotted out! Let not any be troubled about bigoted judgments which related to meats, or the Jewish solemnities. The setting apart a portion of our time for the worship and service of God, is a moral and unchangeable duty, but had no necessary dependence upon the seventh day of the week, the sabbath of the Jews. The first day of the week, or the Lord's day, is the time kept holy by Christians, in remembrance of Christ's resurrection. All the Jewish rites were shadows of gospel blessings.
Verse 11. - In whom also ye were circumcised, with a circumcision not wrought by hands (Ephesians 2:11; Philippians 3:3; Galatians 5:2-6; Galatians 6:12-15; Romans 2:25-29; Romans 4:9-12; 1 Corinthians 7:18; Acts 15:l, 5; Deuteronomy 30:6). Circumcision was insisted on by the new "philosophical" teacher as necessary to spiritual completeness; but from a different standpoint, and in a manner different from that of the Pharisaic Judaizers of Galatia and of Acts 15:1. By the latter it was preached as matter of Law and external requirement, and so became the critical point in the decision between the opposing principles of "faith" and "works." By the philosophical school it was enjoined as matter of symbolic moral efficiency. So Philo speaks of circumcision ('On the Migration of Abraham,' § 16) as "setting forth the excision of all the pleasures and passions, and the destruction of impious vain opinion" (see also his treatise 'On Circumcision'). From this point of view, baptism is the Christian circumcision, the new symbolic expression of the moral change which St. Paul and his opponents alike deemed necessary, though they understood it in a different sense from him (see vers. 20-23). In this respect the Christian is already complete, for his circumcision took place in the stripping off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ (Colossians 3:5, 8, 9; Ephesians 4:22-25; Romans 6:6; Romans 7:18-25; Romans 13:12; 1 Peter 2:1; 1 Peter 4:1, 2). The inserted "of the sins" is an ancient gloss. Ἀπ(έκ(δυσις, a double compound, found only in this Epistle (see corresponding verb in ver. 15; Colossians 3:9), denotes both "stripping off" and "putting away." "The stripping off of the body" was the ideal of the philosophical ascetics (see note on "body," ver. 23, and quotations from Philo). The apostle adds "of the flesh;" i.e. of the body in so far as it was the body of the flesh (vers. Colossians 2:13, 18, 23; Colossians 3:5). "The flesh" (in Colossians 1:22 that which Christ had put on; here that which the Christian puts off: comp. Romans 8:3) is "the flesh of sin," of Romans 8:3; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 2:3, etc. "The body," while identified with this "flesh," is "the body of sin" and "of death" (Romans 6:6; Romans 7:24; see Meyer, Godet, or Beet); sin inhabits it, clothes itself with it, and presents itself to us in its form; and this being the normal condition of unregenerate human nature, the sinful principle is naturally called the flesh. So "the (bodily) members" become "the members that are upon the earth," employed in the pursuit of lust and greed, till they become practically one with these vices (Colossians 3:5, see note; also Romans 7:5, 23). Yet "the body" and "the (sinful) flesh," while in the natural man one in practice, are in principle distinguishable (ver. 23: comp. Colossians 1:22], and separable (Romans 6:12). The deliverance from the physical acts and habits of the old sinful life, experienced by him who is "in Christ" (ver. 10; Romans 8:1-4; 2 Corinthians 5:17), is "the circumcision according to the Christ," or here more pointedly "of Christ" - a real and complete, instead of a partial and symbolic, putting away of the organic life and domination of sin which made the body its seat and its instrument. The genitive" of Christ "is neither objective ("undergone by Christ"), nor subjective ("wrought by Christ"), but stands in a mere general relation - "belonging to Christ," "the Christian circumcision." The occasion of this new birth in the Colossians was their baptism -
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
In whom also ye are circumcised,.... This is said to prevent an objection that might be made to the perfection of these Gentile believers, because they were not circumcised; for the Jews thought that perfection lay in circumcision, at least that there could be no perfection without it:
"great is circumcision (say they (x)), for notwithstanding all the commands which Abraham our father did, he was not called perfect until he was circumcised; as it is written, Genesis 17:1; "walk before me, and be thou perfect:"
which objection the apostle anticipates, by observing, that they were circumcised in Christ their head, who is made unto them sanctification; and by him as the meritorious and efficient cause of their regeneration and conversion, or internal circumcision, the antitype and perfection of circumcision in the flesh; for the former, and not the latter, is here meant: these believers were circumcised in Christ, or by him; not with external circumcision, which was peculiar to the Jews, the natural seed of Abraham, prefigured Christ, and had its accomplishment in him, the body and substance of all the shadows of the ceremonial law; and so was now nothing, either to Jew or Gentile: as for the Gentiles, they never were obliged unto it; and as for the Jews, it was an insupportable yoke to them, binding them to keep the whole law of Moses, which they could not do, and so it made nothing perfect; but Christ the substance of that, and the end of the whole law, has, the head of the body the church, in whom all the members of it are complete, and are circumcised:
with the circumcision made without hands: which is that of the heart, in the spirit; every man, though he may be circumcised in the flesh, is uncircumcised in heart, until he is circumcised by Christ and his Spirit; which is done, when he is pricked to the heart, and thoroughly convinced of sin, and the exceeding sinfulness of it; when the callousness and hardness of his heart is taken off and removed, and the iniquity of it is, laid open, the plague and corruption in it discerned, and all made naked and bare to the sinner's view; and when he is in pain on account of it, is broken and groans under a sense of it, and is filled with shame for it, and loathing and abhorrence of it: now this is effected not "by the hand of man", as the Ethiopic version reads it, as outward circumcision was; this is not done by any creature whatever; not by angels, who rejoice at the repentance of sinners, but cannot produce it; nor by ministers of the Gospel, who at most are but instruments of regeneration and conversion; nor by men themselves; this is not by might or power of man, by the strength of his free will, but by the Spirit of God: for though men are sometimes exhorted to circumcise themselves, as in Deuteronomy 10:16, in order to convince them of the corruption of their nature, and the need they stand in of spiritual circumcision; yet whereas there is an utter disability in them to effect it, and they need the power and grace of God for that purpose, the Lord has graciously promised his people to do it himself for them, Deuteronomy 30:6; so that this circumcision is in the name sense made without hands, as the human nature of Christ is said to be a tabernacle not made with hands, that, is of men, but of God, being what God has pitched, and not man; and it stands opposed to circumcision in the flesh, which was made with hands, Ephesians 2:11; and by some instrument, as a sharp knife or stone:
in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh. The Vulgate Latin version leaves out the word "sins", and so the Alexandrian copy and some others; and the Syriac version the word "body": by "the flesh" is meant corrupt nature, which is born of the flesh, and propagated in a carnal way, and is the source and spring of all sin; by "the sins" of it are intended the works of the flesh, the inward motions of sin in the members, and the outward actions of it: these are said to be a "body", because sin consists of various parts and members, as a body does; and these united together, and which receive frequent and daily additions; and which are committed and yielded to by the members of the natural body; and which body and bulk of sins arising from the corruption of nature are compared to a garment, and a very filthy one it is; in the putting off of which lies spiritual circumcision: this is done several ways; partly by Christ's wrapping himself in the sins of his people, bearing them in his body, and becoming a sacrifice for them, whereby the old man was crucified, and the body of sin destroyed; and by an application of his blood, righteousness, and sacrifice, to the consciences of his people, whereby their iniquities are caused to pass from them, and they are clothed with change of raiment; and by the power of his Spirit, laying sin under the restraints of grace, not suffering it to have dominion, but causing grace to reign through righteousness; and by the saints themselves, under the influence of grace, who put off the old man with his deeds, according to the former conversation:
by the circumcision of Christ; not that with which Christ was circumcised at eight days old, that he might appear to be truly man, and a son of Abraham, and under the law, and to fulfil all the righteousness of it, but that which he by his Spirit is the author of, and what is before expressed,
(x) Misn. Nedarim, c. 3. sect. 11.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
11. Implying that they did not need, as the Judaizers taught, the outward rite of circumcision, since they had already the inward spiritual reality of it.
are—rather, as the Greek, "Ye were (once for all) circumcised (spiritually, at your conversion and baptism, Ro 2:28, 29; Php 3:3) with a (so the Greek) circumcision made without hands"; opposed to "the circumcision in the flesh made by hands" (Eph 2:11). Christ's own body, by which the believer is sanctified, is said to be "not made with hands" (Mr 14:58; Heb 9:11; compare Da 2:45).
in putting off—rather as Greek, "in your putting off"; as an old garment (Eph 4:22); alluding to the putting off the foreskin in circumcision.
the body of the sins of the flesh—The oldest manuscripts read, "the body of the flesh," omitting "of the sins," that is, "the body," of which the prominent feature is fleshiness (compare Ro 8:13, where "flesh" and "the body" mutually correspond). This fleshly body, in its sinful aspect, is put off in baptism (where baptism answers its ideal) as the seal of regeneration where received in repentance and faith. In circumcision the foreskin only was put off; in Christian regeneration "the body of the flesh" is spiritually put off, at least it is so in its ideal conception, however imperfectly believers realize that ideal.
by—Greek, "in." This spiritual circumcision is realized in, or by, union with Christ, whose "circumcision," whereby He became responsible for us to keep the whole law, is imputed to believers for justification; and union with whom, in all His vicarious obedience, including His circumcision, is the source of our sanctification. Alford makes it explanatory of the previous, "a circumcision made without hands," namely, "the circumcision brought about by your union with Christ." The former view seems to me better to accord with Col 2:12; 3:1, 3, 4, which similarly makes the believer, by spiritual union with Christ, to have personal fellowship in the several states of Christ, namely, His death, resurrection, and appearing in glory. Nothing was done or suffered by our Mediator as such, but may be acted in our souls and represented in our spirits. Pearson's view, however, is that of Alford. Joshua, the type (not Moses in the wilderness), circumcised the Israelites in Canaan (Jos 5:2-9) the second time: the people that came out of Egypt having been circumcised, and afterwards having died in the wilderness; but those born after the Exodus not having been so. Jesus, the Antitype, is the author of the true circumcision, which is therefore called "the circumcision of Christ" (Ro 2:29). As Joshua was "Moses' minister," so Jesus, "minister of the circumcision for the truth of God" unto the Gentiles (Ro 15:8).
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