|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 15. - Having stripped off the principalities and the dominions (Colossians 1:16; Colossians 2:10; Acts 7:38, 53; Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 1:5, 7, 14; Hebrews 2:2, 5; Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalm 68:17). Απεκδυσάμενος has been rendered, from the time of the Latin Vulgate, "having spoiled" (exspolians), a rendering which is "not less a violation of St. Paul's usage (Colossians 3:9) than of grammatical rule" (Lightfoot; so Alford, Ellicott, Wordsworth, Hofmann, Revisers). It is precisely the same participle that we find in Colossians 3:9, and the writer has just used the noun ἀπέκδυσις (ver. 11) in a corresponding sense (see note in loc. on the force of the double compound). He employs compounds of δύω in the middle voice seventeen times elsewhere, and always in the sense of "putting off [or, 'on'] from one's self;" and there is no sure instance in Greek of the middle verb bearing any other meaning. Yet such critics as Meyer, Eadie, Klopper, cling to the rendering of the Vulgate and our Authorized Version; and not without reason, as we shall see. The Revised margin follows the earlier Latin Fathers and some ancient versions, supplying "his body" as object of the participle, understanding "Christ" as subject. But the context does not, as in 2 Corinthians 5:3, suggest this ellipsis, and it is arbitrary to make the participle itself mean "having disembodied himself." Nor has the writer introduced any new subject since ver. 12, where" God" appears as agent of each of the acts of salvation set forth in vers. 12-15. Moreover, "the principalities and the dominions" of this verse must surely be those of ver. 10 and of Colossians 1:16 (compare the "angels" of ver. 18). We understand St. Patti, therefore, to say "that God [revealing himself in Christ; 'in him,' 15 b] put off and put away those angelic powers through whom he had previously shown himself to men." The Old Testament associates the angels with the creation of the world and the action of the powers of nature (Job 38:7; Psalm cir. 4), and with its great theophanies generally (Psalm 68:7; Deuteronomy 33:2; 2 Kings 6:17, etc.); and its hints in this direction were emphasized and extended by the Greek translators of the LXX. Acts 7:38, 53 (St. Stephen); Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:2, ascribe to them a special agency in the giving of the Law. Hebrews 1. and it. show how large a place the doctrine of the mediation of angels filled in Jewish thought at this time, and how it tended to limit the mediatorship of Christ. The mystic developments of Judaism among the Essenes and the Ebionites (Christian Essenes), and in the Cabbala, are full of this belief. And it is a cornerstone of the philosophic mysticism of Alexandria. In Philo the angels are the "Divine powers," "words," "images of God," forming the court and entourage of the invisible King, by whose means he created and maintains the material world, and holds converse with the souls of men (see quotation, ver. 10). This doctrine, we may suppose, was a chief article of the Colossian heresy. Theodoret's note on ver. 18 is apposite here: "They who defended the Law taught men to worship angels, saying that the Law was given by them. This mischief continued long in Phrygia and Pisidia." The apostle returns to the point from which he started in ver. 10. He has just declared that God has cancelled and removed the Law as an instrument of condemnation; and now adds that he has at the same time thrown off and laid aside the veil of angelic mediation under which, in the administration of that Law, he had withdrawn himself. Both these acts take place "in Christ." Both are necessary to that "access to the Father" which, in the apostle's view, is the special prerogative of Christian faith (Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 3:12; Romans 5:2), and which the Colossian error doubly barred, by its ascetic ceremonialism and by its angelic mediation. (See, on this passage, Alford; also Peirce's 'Paraphrase and Notes,' 2nd edit., 1729; Robertson Smith, on 'Christ and the Angels,' Expositor, second series, vol. 1:138, etc.; A. Sabatier's 'L'Apotre Paul,' p. 220, 2nd edit., 1881.) We are compelled, with all deference to its high authority, to reject the view of the Greek Fathers, to which Ellicott, Lightfoot, and Wordsworth have returned, according to which "Christ in his atoning death [in it; 'the cross,' ver. 15 b] stripped off from himself the Satanic powers." For it requires us to bring in, without grammatical warrant, "somewhere" (Lightfoot), "Christ" as subject; it puts upon" the principalities and the dominions" a sense foreign to the context, and that cannot be justified by Ephesians 6:12, where the connection is wholly different and the hostile sense of the terms is most explicitly defined; and it presents an idea harsh and unfitting in itself, the incongruity of which such illustrations as those of the Nessus robe and Joseph's garment only make more apparent. It is one thing to say that the powers of evil surrounded Christ and quite another thing to say that he wore them as we have worn "the body of the flesh" (ver. 11; Colossians 3:9). He made a show (of them) openly, having led them in triumph in him; or, it (Ephesians 1:21, 22; Philippians 2:10; 1 Peter 3:22; Hebrews 1:5, 6; John 1:52; Matthew 25:31; Matthew 26:53; Revelation 19:10; Revelation 22:9). In this, as in the last verse, we have a finite verb between two participles, one introductory ("having stripped off"), the other explanatory, Δειγματίζω, to make a show or example, occurs in the New Testament besides only in Matthew 1:17, where it is compounded with παρα (Revised Text), giving it a sinister meaning of not belonging to the simple verb. With the angelic "principalities," etc., for object, the verb denotes, not a shameful exposure, but "an exhibition of them in their true character and position," such as forbids them to be regarded superstitiously (ver. 18). God exhibited the angels as the subordinates and servants of his Son (ver. 10: camp. Luke 1:26; Luke 2:10, 13; Mark 1:13; Luke 22:43; Matthew 28:2, etc.). "Openly" ( ἐν παρρησίᾳ: literally, in freedom of speech, a favourite word of St. Paul s) implies the absence of reserve or restraint, rather than mere publicity (comp. Ephesians 6:19; Philippians 1:20). Θριαμβεύσας ("having triumphed;" 2 Corinthians 2:14 only other instance of the verb in the New Testament; its use in classical Greek confined to Latinist writers, referring, historically, to the Roman triumph) presents a formidable difficulty in the way of the interpretation of the verse followed so far. For the common acceptation of the word "triumph" compels us to think of the "principalities," etc., as hostile (Satanic); and this, again, as Meyer strongly contends, dictates the rendering "having spoiled" for ἀπεκδυσάμενος. So we are brought into collision with two fixed points of our former exegesis. If we are bound lexically to abide by the reference to the Roman military triumph, then the angelic principalities must be supposed to have stood in a quasi-hostile position to "the kingdom of God and of Christ," in so far as men had exaggerated their powers and exalted them at Christ's expense, and to have been now robbed of this false pre-eminence. The writer however, ventures to question whether, on philological grounds, a better, native Greek sense cannot be found for this verb. The noun thriambos ("triumph"), on which it is based, is used, indeed, in the Latin sense as early as Polybius, a writer on Roman history (). But it is extant in a much earlier classical fragment as synonymous with dithyrambos, denoting "a festal song;" and again in Plutarch, contemporary with St. Paul, it is a name of the Greek god Dionysus, in whose honour such songs were sung, and whose worship was of a choral, processional character. This kinder triumph was, one may imagine, familiar to the eyes of St. Paul and of his readers, while the spectacle of the Roman triumph was distant and foreign (at least when he wrote 2 Corinthians). We suggest that the apostle's image is taken, beth here and in 2 Corinthians 2:14, from the festal procession of the Greek divinity, who leads his worshippers along as witnesses of his power and celebrants of his glory. Such a figure fittingly describes the relation and the attitude of the angels to the Divine presence in Christ. Let this suggestion, however, be regarded as precarious or fanciful, the general exposition of the verse is not thereby invalidated. (For further elucidation, see the Expositor, first series, vol. 10. pp. 403-421; 11. p. 78. On "triumph," in 2 Corinthians, see Mr. Waite's Additional note in 'Speaker's Commentary.') The Revisers omit the marginal "in himself" of the Authorized Version, which correctly, as we think, refers the final ἐν αὐτῷ to Christ (ver. 10), though incorrectly implying "Christ" as subject of the verse. It was not only "in the cross" that God unveiled himself, dispensing with angelic theophanies, but in the entire person and work of his Son (Colossians 1:15; 2 Corinthians 4:4; John 1:14, 18; John 14:9). "Which veil" (for here we may apply the words of 2 Corinthians 3:14) "is done away in Christ." So the whole passage (vers. 10-15) ends, as it begins, "in him:" "We are complete in him" - in our conversion from sin to holiness set forth in baptism, and our resurrection from death to life experienced in forgiveness (vers. 11-13); and in the removal at once of the legal bar which forbade our access to God (ver. 14), and of the veil of inferior and partial mediation which obscured his manifestation to us (ver. 15).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And having spoiled principalities and powers,.... Principalities of hell, the infernal powers of darkness, the devil that had the power of death, the accuser of the brethren, who often objected their debts, with all his works and posse: these Christ has divested of their armour, wherein they trusted to have ruined men, as sin, the law, and death; he has ransomed his people from him that was stronger than they, and taken the prey out of the hands of the mighty; he has bruised the serpent's head, demolished his works, destroyed him himself, and all his powers, and defeated all their counsels and designs against his elect: some render the word "having put off", or "unclothed": and which some of the ancient writers apply to the flesh of Christ, and understand it of his putting off the flesh by death, whereby he gave the death blow to Satan and his powers, Hebrews 2:14, to which sense agrees the Syriac version, which renders the words, , "and by the putting off of his body, he exposed to shame principalities and powers": but it may be better interpreted of unclothing, or stripping principalities and powers of their armour, with which they were clothed; as is usually done to enemies, when they fall into the hands of their conquerors: unless rather this is to be understood of Christ's taking away the power and authority of the Jewish ecclesiastical rulers and governors, by abolishing the ceremonial law, and the ordinances of it; declaring himself to be the alone King and Lawgiver in his house, and requiring subjection to his institutions and appointments, which sense agrees with the context:
he made a show of them openly; when being raised from the dead, he ascended on high, and led captivity captive; he led Satan and his principalities and powers captive, who had led others, as he passed through the air, the territories of the devil, in the sight of God and the holy angels:
triumphing over them in it; which some understand of the cross, as if where and by what he got the victory, there he triumphed; the cross, where his enemies thought to make a show of him, expose him to public scorn and contempt, and to triumph over him, was as it were the triumphant chariot, in which he triumphed over all the powers of hell, when he had conquered them by it: but the words may be rendered "in himself", as they are by the Vulgate Latin and Syriac versions; and the sense be, that as he by himself got the victory, his own arm brought salvation to him, so he alone shared the glory and honour of the triumph: or it may be rendered "in him", and the whole in this and the preceding verse be applied to God the Father, who, as in Colossians 2:12; is said to raise Christ from the dead, to quicken sinners dead in sins, and to forgive all their trespasses; so he may be said to blot out the handwriting of ordinances, and to spoil principalities and powers, expose them to public view and shame, and triumph over them, "in him", in and by his Son Jesus Christ: the whole is an allusion to the victories, spoils, and triumphs, of the Roman emperors, who when they had obtained a victory, a triumph was decreed for them by the senate; in which the emperor was drawn in an open chariot, and the captives being stripped of their armour, and their hands tied behind them, were led before him and exposed to public view and disgrace; while he was shouted and huzzaed through the city of Rome, and had all the marks of honour and respect given him (b): now all that is said in the preceding verses show how complete the saints are in and by Christ; and stand in no need of the philosophy of the Gentiles, or the ceremonies of the Jews; nor have anything to fear from their enemies, sin, Satan, and the law, for sin is pardoned, the law is abolished, and Satan conquered,
(b) Vid. Lydium de re Militari, l. 6. c. 3.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
15. Alford, Ellicott, and others translate the Greek to accord with the translation of the same Greek, Col 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 (Ac 7:53; Ga 3:19; Heb 2:2, 5): God manifested Himself without a veil in Jesus. "The principalities and THE powers" refers back to Col 2:10, Jesus, "the Head of all principality and power," and Col 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 (Eph 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 2Co 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 (Col 1:20). But the Greek middle is susceptible of English Version, "having spoiled," or, literally [Tittmann], "having completely stripped," or "despoiled" for Himself (compare Ro 8:38; 1Co 15:24; Eph 6:2). English Version accords with Mt 12:29; Lu 11:22; Heb 2:14. Translate as the Greek, "The rules and authorities."
made a show of them—at His ascension (see on Eph 4:8; confirming English Version of this verse).
openly—Joh 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." Eph 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 (Eph 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 (Joh 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 (Joh 12:31; 16:11; Heb 2:14; Re 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.
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