Colossians 2:20
Why if you be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are you subject to ordinances,
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(20-23) In this and the succeeding section, St. Paul, starting from the idea of union with the Head, draws out the practical consequences of partaking of the death of Christ and the resurrection of Christ. In virtue of the former participation, he exhorts them to be dead to the law of outward ordinances; in virtue of the latter, to have a life hid with Christ in God.

(20) If ye be dead with Christ.—The whole idea of the death with Christ and resurrection with Him is summed up by St. Paul in Romans 6:3-9, in direct connection (as also here, see Colossians 2:12) with the entrance upon Christian life in baptism, “We are buried with Him by baptism unto death . . . we are dead with Christ . . . we are planted together in the likeness of His death . . . that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we also should walk in newness of life . . . planted together in the likeness of His resurrection . . . alive to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The death with Christ is a death unto “the life of the flesh.” But this may be (as in Romans 6:1-2; Romans 6:6-7; Romans 6:11) “the life of sin”; or it may be the outward and visible life “of the world.” The latter is the sense to be taken here. This outward life is under “ordinances” (see Colossians 2:1), under the “rudiments of the world” (see Colossians 2:8), or, generally, “under law.” Of such a life St. Paul says (in Galatians 2:19), “I through the Law died to the Law, that I might live unto God.” There (Galatians 4:9), as here, he brands as unspiritual the subjection to the “weak and beggarly elements” of mere ordinances. Of course it is clear that in their place such ordinances have their value, both as means to an end, and as symbols of an inner reality of self-devotion. The true teaching as to these is found in our Lord’s declaration to the Pharisees as to spiritual things and outward ordinances, “These things (the spiritual things) ought ye to have done, and not to leave the others (the outward observances) undone” (Matthew 23:23). In later times St. Paul declared with Judicial calmness, “The Law is good if a man use it lawfully” (1Timothy 1:8). But to exalt these things to the first place was a fatal superstition, which, both in its earlier and later phases, he denounces unsparingly.

Colossians 2:20-23. Wherefore — The inference begun Colossians 2:16 is continued. A new inference follows Colossians 3:1. If ye be dead with Christ — As by receiving the ordinance of baptism ye profess to be; from the rudiments, or elements, of the world — See on Colossians 2:8. From those ceremonies, which persons among the Gentiles or the Jews are apt to place so much dependance on; why, as though living in the world — In the manner you formerly did, and being still influenced by the spirit of the world, and associated with worldly people; are ye subject to ordinances — To mere human institutions, heathen or Jewish? Why receive ye or use ordinances, which Christ hath not enjoined, and from which he hath made his followers free? Or the sense may be, Since you professed yourselves at your baptism to be spiritually dead with Christ, and by his death to be freed even from the ceremonies of the law, (though of God’s own institution,) why should you submit to superstitious rites and ordinances of the like kind invented by men? Touch not — Any unclean thing; taste not — Any forbidden meat; handle not — Any consecrated vessel. Most commentators suppose that the Jewish ceremonies only are here referred to, and that this was directed to the Jewish converts at Colosse: but “as I have no doubt,” says Macknight, “that it was intended for the Gentiles, I think the ordinances of which the apostle speaks were the rules of the Pythagoreans respecting abstinence from animal food, and of the Platonists concerning the worshipping of angels, condemned Colossians 2:18, which it seems some of the church at Colosse had actually begun to follow; perhaps at the persuasion of the Judaizing teachers, who wished to subject them to all the rites of the law.” Which all are to perish in the using — All which things cannot be used, but they must perish in and by the use of them, being made merely for the body, and with it going to corruption, and having therefore no further use, no influence on the mind. The original expression, however, εις φθοραν τη αποχρησει, may be rendered, tend to corruption, in, or by, the abuse of them; and the word φθορα being often used by St. Peter, not for a natural, but a moral corruption, (see 2 Peter 1:4; 2 Peter 2:12; 2 Peter 2:19,) the meaning of the verse may be, that when these ceremonies are observed in compliance with the commands and doctrines of men as things necessary, they corrupt men who thus abuse them. Thus Doddridge: “All which things tend to the corruption of that excellent religion into which you have the honour to be initiated, by the abuse of them, according to the commandments and doctrines of mistaken and ill-designing men, who insist so eagerly upon them, as if they were essential to salvation.” Which things indeed have a show, a pretence, of wisdom — Of being an excellent doctrine, or wise institution, and are, in that view, gravely insisted upon, especially by the more rigorous sects; in will-worship — A worship, or service, which they themselves have devised. “The word εθελοθρησκεια nearly resembles the phrase found Colossians 2:18, θελων εν θρησκεια, delighting in the worship. But it can hardly be literally translated, so as to express the same idea. But the meaning is, a worship of human invention, consequently performed from one’s own will.” And in an affected humility and neglecting of the body — Greek, αφειδια σωματος, a not sparing of the body; namely, by subjecting it to much mortification, in denying it many gratifications, and putting it to many inconveniences. Not in any honour — Namely, of the body; or not of any real value, as τιμη may be rendered, namely, before God: to the satisfying of the flesh — Nor do they, upon the whole, mortify, but satisfy the flesh. They indulge man’s corrupt nature, his self-will, pride, and desire of being distinguished from others. Doddridge reads, to the dishonourable satisfying of the flesh; their severity to the body, rigorous as it seemed, being no true mortification, nor tending to dispose the mind to it. On the contrary, while it puffed men up with a vain conceit of their own sanctity, it might be said rather to satisfy the flesh, even while it seemed most to afflict it. 2:18-23 It looked like humility to apply to angels, as if men were conscious of their unworthiness to speak directly to God. But it is not warrantable; it is taking that honour which is due to Christ only, and giving it to a creature. There really was pride in this seeming humility. Those who worship angels, disclaim Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and man. It is an insult to Christ, who is the Head of the church, to use any intercessors but him. When men let go their hold of Christ, they catch at what will stand them in no stead. The body of Christ is a growing body. And true believers cannot live in the fashions of the world. True wisdom is, to keep close to the appointments of the gospel; in entire subjection to Christ, who is the only Head of his church. Self-imposed sufferings and fastings, might have a show of uncommon spirituality and willingness for suffering, but this was not in any honour to God. The whole tended, in a wrong manner, to satisfy the carnal mind, by gratifying self-will, self-wisdom, self-righteousness, and contempt of others. The things being such as carry not with them so much as the show of wisdom; or so faint a show that they do the soul no good, and provide not for the satisfying of the flesh. What the Lord has left indifferent, let us regard as such, and leave others to the like freedom; and remembering the passing nature of earthly things, let us seek to glorify God in the use of them.Wherefore - In view of all that has been said. If it be true that you are really dead to the world, why do you act as if you still lived under the principles of the world?

If ye be dead with Christ - If you are dead to the world in virtue of his death. The apostle here, as elsewhere, speaks of a very close union with Christ. We died with him; that is, such was the efficacy of his death, and such is our union with him, that we became dead also to the world; Notes, Romans 6:2, note, 4, note, 8, note, 11, note.

From the rudiments of the world - Margin, "elements." The elements or principles which are of a worldly nature, and which reign among worldly men; see the notes at Galatians 4:3.

Why, as though living in the world - Why do you allow them to influence you, as though you were living and acting under those worldly principles? They ought no more to do it, than the things of this world influence those who are in their graves.

Are ye subject to ordinances - The rites and ceremonies of the Jewish religion; see the notes at Galatians 5:1-4.

20. Wherefore—The oldest manuscripts omit "Wherefore."

if ye be dead—Greek, "if ye died (so as to be freed) from," &c. (compare Ro 6:2; 7:2, 3; Ga 2:19).

rudiments of the world—(Col 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 (Ga 6:14; 1Pe 4:1, 2).

are ye subject to ordinances—By do ye submit to be made subject to ordinances? Referring to Col 2:14: you are again being made subject to "ordinances," the "handwriting" of which had been "blotted out" (Col 2:14).

Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world: here the apostle doth further argue against all impositions of superstitious observances, obtruded as parts of Divine worship, whether in reviving those abrogated, or setting up new ones, upon supposition of their union with Christ their Head, and their being dead in him as to all beggarly elements from which he had freed them by his death, Romans 6:3,5 7:4,6 Ga 4:9,10,11, with Colossians 2:19; no uncommanded worship or way of worship being after Christ, Colossians 2:8, in whom they were complete, Colossians 2:10, being buried with him in baptism, Colossians 2:12, having nailed those ritual ordinances to his cross, as antiquated or out-dated, Colossians 2:14.

Why, as though living in the world, are ye are subject to ordinances? Why should they, who held the Head, Colossians 2:19, as if they lived in the old world with those children in bondage, Galatians 4:3, before Christ came, be subject to ceremonial observances? q.d. It is most injurious that they should impose this yoke upon you, {Acts 15:10} ye are most foolish if ye submit your necks; for God would not have a ceremonial worship which he himself instituted to be abrogated, that a new one should be invented by men. If the Head of the church like not the reviving that worship he hath laid aside, be sure he will not approve of any new one which he never appointed. The apostle is not here speaking of the magistrates’ ordinances about things indifferent in their use, for the real good of the civil government, but of the way of worshipping God by religious abstinences, &c. Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ,.... Or "seeing ye are dead with Christ"; for these words do not signify any doubt about it, but suppose it, and press what is taken for granted. They were dead with Christ by virtue of union to him; they being one with him, and considered in him as their head and representative, died in him, and with him; they were crucified with him, as they are said to be buried with him, and risen with him; they were dead with him, by having communion with him in his death; they partook of the benefits of it, as redemption, pardon, justification, and reconciliation; and they were planted together with him in the likeness of his death, not merely partakers of his sufferings, or suffered with him, and were conformable unto his death, by undergoing such like things as he did, but as he died unto sin, and lived unto God, so did they; and through the virtue and efficacy of his death were dead to sin, so as that it was not imputed to them, so as to be freed and discharged from it, that it could not damn and destroy them; yea, so as that itself was crucified with him, and destroyed by him: and also to the law, to the moral law; not but that they lived according to it, as in the hands of Christ, in their walk and conversation, but did not seek for life, righteousness, and salvation by it; they were dead unto it as to justification by it, and even to obedience to it in a rigorous and compulsive way; and to all its terrors and threatenings, being moved to a regard to it from a principle of love to Christ; and to all its accusations and charges, its curses and condemnation, and as a ministration of death, fearing neither a corporeal, nor an eternal one: they were dead also to the ceremonial law, and were free

from the rudiments, or "elements"

of the world: the ordinances of a worldly sanctuary, the rites and ceremonies of the world, or state of the Jews, in opposition to, and distinction from, the Gospel dispensation, or times of the Messiah, called, and that by them, , "the world to come": these were like letters to a language, or like the grammar, which contains the rudiments of it; these were the first principles of the oracles of God, which led to Christ, and had their accomplishment and end in him; and so believers were dead unto them, and delivered from them, as they were also to the world, the Jewish state, and were entered into the world to come; and even to this present evil world, and to the men and things of it, being by Christ crucified to it, and that to them: upon all which the apostle thus reasons,

why, as though living in the world; since ye are dead unto it, and from the rudiments of it, why should ye be as though ye lived in it? his meaning is not, that they should not live in the world, nor among the men of it, for then they must needs go out of the world; saints may live in the world, though they are not of it, and among the inhabitants of it, though they do not belong to them, but to another and better country: nor does he suggest, that they lived according to the course of the world, as they did in their unregenerate state; but what he seems to blame them for, and reason with them about, was, that they acted as if they sought for life and righteousness in the rudiments of the world, or by their obedience to ceremonial rites, or human inventions: for he adds,

are ye subject to ordinances? not civil and political ones, which are for the better and more orderly government of kingdoms, states, and cities, for these the saints ought to be subject to, both for the Lord's sake, and conscience sake; nor Gospel ordinances, as baptism, and the Lord's supper, for such all believers ought to submit unto; but either legal ones, the weak and beggarly elements, the yoke of bondage, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, the handwriting of ordinances, which some were desirous of conforming to; or rather the ordinances and appointments of the Jewish fathers, the traditions of the elders, their constitutions and decrees, which are collected together, and make up their Misna, or oral law; and so the argument is from the one to the other, from the greater to the less, that if they were delivered by Christ from the burdensome rites of the ceremonial law, which were originally appointed by God, it must be great weakness in them to be subject to the ordinances of men; or both the institutions of the ceremonial law, and the decrees of the Jewish doctors about them, which were devised by them, and added to them, and imposed as necessary to be observed, may be intended; of which the apostle gives some particulars in Colossians 2:21.

{20} Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, {e} as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,

(20) Now last of all he fights against the second type of corruptions, that is to say, against mere superstitions, invented by men, which partly deceive the simplicity of some with their craftiness, and partly with their foolish superstitions and to be laughed at: as when godliness, remission of sins, or any such like virtue, is put in some certain type of meat, and such like things, which the inventors of such rites themselves do not understand, because indeed it is not there. And he uses an argument taken of comparison. If by the death of Christ who established a new covenant with his blood, you are delivered from those external rites with which it pleased the Lord to prepare the world, as it were by certain rudiments, to that full knowledge of true religion, why would you be burdened with traditions, I know not what, as though you were citizens of this world, that is to say, as though you depended upon this life, and earthly things? Now this is the reason why before verse eight he followed another order than he does in the refutation: because he shows by this what degrees false religions came into the world, that is, beginning first by curious speculations of the wise, after which in process of time succeeded gross superstition, against which mischiefs the Lord set at length that service of the Law, which some abused in like sort. But in the refutation he began with the abolishing of the Law service, that he might show by comparison, that those false services ought much more to be taken away.

(e) As though your felicity stood in these earthly things, and the kingdom of God was not rather spiritual.

Colossians 2:20 f. After these warnings, Colossians 2:16-19, which were intended to secure his readers against the seduction threatening them, the apostle now returns for the same purpose once more to the two main foundations of the Christian life, to the fellowship with Christ in death (Colossians 2:20), and fellowship with Him also in resurrection (Colossians 3:1). His aim is to show, in connection with the former, the groundlessness and perversity of the heretical prohibitions of meats (Colossians 2:20-23), and to attach to the latter—to the fellowship of resurrection—the essence of Christian morality in whole and in detail, and there with the paraenetic portion of the Epistle (Colossians 3:1 to Colossians 4:6), the tenor of which thereby receives the character of the holiest moral necessity.

εἰ ἀπεθάνετε κ.τ.λ.] the legal abstinence required by the false teachers (see below) stands in contradiction with the fact, that the readers at their conversion had entered into the fellowship of the death of Christ, and thereby had become loosed from the στοιχεία τοῦ κόσμου (see on Colossians 2:8), i.e. from the ritual religious elements of non-Christian humanity, among which the legal prohibition of meats and the traditional regulations founded thereon are included. How far the man who has died with Christ has passed out of connection with these elementary things, is taught by Colossians 2:14, according to which, through the death of Christ, the law as to its debt-obligation has been abolished. Consequently, in the case of those who have died with Christ, the law, and everything belonging to the same category with it, have no further claim to urge, since Christ has allowed the curse of the law to be accomplished on Himself, and this has also taken place in believers in virtue of their fellowship of death with Him, whereby the binding relation of debt which had hitherto subsisted for them has ceased. Comp. Galatians 2:19; Galatians 4:3; Galatians 4:9; Romans 7:4, et al.

ἀποθνήσκειν, with ἀπό, meaning to die away from something, moriendo liberari a (Porphyr. de abstin. ab esu anim. i. 41), is only met with here in the N. T.; elsewhere it is used with the dative, as in Galatians 2:19, Romans 6:2, whereby the same thing is otherwise conceived in point of form. It is, moreover, to be observed, that Christ Himself also is by death released from the στοιχεία, since He was made under the law, and, although sinless, was destined to take upon Himself the curse of it; hence it was only by His death in obedience to the Father (Php 2:8; Romans 5:19), that He became released from this relation. Comp. on Galatians 4:4. Huther erroneously denies that such an ἀποθανεῖν can be predicated of Christ, and therefore assumes (comp. Schenkel and Dalmer) the brachylogy: “if, by your dying with Christ, ye are dead from the στοιχεία τοῦ κοσμοῦ.”

τί ὡς ζῶντες κ.τ.λ.] why are ye, as though ye were still alive in the world, commanded: Touch not, etc. Such commands are adapted to those who are not, like you, dead, etc. As ἀποθανόντες σὺν Χ. ἀπὸ τ. στοιχ. τ. κόσμ., ye are no longer alive in the domain of the non-Christian κόσμος, but are removed from that sphere of life (belonging to the heavenly πολίτευμα, Php 3:20). The word δογματίζειν, only found here in the N. T., but frequently in the LXX. and Apocrypha, and in the Fathers and decrees of Councils (see Suicer, Thes. I. p. 935), means nothing more than to decree (Diod. Sic. iv. 83; Diog. L. iii. 51; Anth. Pal. ix. 576. 4; Arrian. Epict, iii. 7; Esther 3:9; Esther 3 Esdr. 6:34; 2Ma 10:8; 2Ma 15:36; 3Ma 4:11), and δογματίζεσθε is passive: why are ye prescribed to, why do men make decrees for you (vobis)? so that it is not a reproach (the censure conveyed by the expression affects rather the false teachers), but a warning to those readers (comp. Colossians 2:16; Colossians 2:18) who were not yet led away (Colossians 1:4, Colossians 2:5), and who ought not to yield any compliance to so absurd a demand. That the readers are the passive subject, is quite according to rule, since the active has the dative along with it, δογματίζειν τινι (2Ma 10:8); comp. also Hofmann and Beza. The usual rendering takes δογματ. as middle, and that either as: why do ye allow commands to be laid down for you (Huther), rules to be imposed upon you, (de Wette), yourselves to be entangled with rules (Luther)? and such like;[130] or even: why do ye make rules for yourselves (Ewald)? comp. Vulgate: decernitis. This, however, would involve a censure of the readers, and ὡς ζῶντες ἐν κόσμῳ would express the unsuitableness of their conduct with their Christian standing—a reproach, which would be altogether out of harmony with the other contents of the Epistle. On the contrary, Ὡς ΖῶΝΤΕς ἘΝ Κ. indicates the erroneous aspect in which the Christian standing of the readers was regarded by the false teachers, who took up such an attitude towards them, as if they were not yet dead from the world, which nevertheless (comp. Colossians 2:11 f.) they are through their fellowship with Christ (Colossians 3:3; Galatians 2:19 f.; 2 Corinthians 5:14 f.). The ὡς ζῶντες ἐν κόσμῳ, moreover, is entirely misunderstood by Bähr: “as if one could at all attain to life and salvation through externals.” Comp., on the contrary, the thought of the εἶναι ἐν τῇ σαρκί in Romans 7:5 and Galatians 6:14. Observe, further, that this ΖῆΝ ἘΝ ΚΌΣΜῼ is not one and the same thing with εἷναι ὑπὸ τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου (Hofmann, by way of establishing his explanation of ΣΤΟΙΧΕῖΑ in the sense of the material things of the world); but the ζῆν ἐν κ. is the more general, to which the special εἶναι ὑπὸ τ. στοιχεῖα τ. κ. is subordinate. If the former is the case, the latter also takes place by way of consequence.

μὴ ἅψῃ κ.τ.λ.] a vivid concrete representation of the ΔΌΓΜΑΤΑ concerned, in a “compendiaria mimesis” (Flacius). The triple description brings out the urgency of the eager demand for abstinence, and the relation of the three prohibitions is such, that μηδέ both times means nor even; in the second instance, however, in the sense of ne quidem, so that the last point stands to the two former together in the relation of a climax: thou shalt not lay hold of, nor even taste, nor once touch! What was meant as object of this enjoined ἀπέχεσθαι (1 Timothy 4:3) the reader was aware, and its omission only renders the description more vivid and terse. Steiger’s view, that the object was suppressed by the false teachers themselves from fear and hypocrisy, is quite groundless. From the words themselves, however (γεύσῃ), and from the subsequent context (see Colossians 2:23), it is plain that the prohibitions concerned certain meats and drinks (comp. Colossians 2:16); and it is entirely arbitrary to mix up other things, as even de Wette does, making them refer also to sexual intercourse (θιγγάνειν γυναικός, Eur. Hipp. 1044, et al.; see Monck, ad Eur. Hipp. 14; Valckenaer, ad Phoen. 903), while others distinguish between ἅψῃ and ΘΊΓῌς in respect of their objects, e.g. Estius: the former refers to unclean objects, such as the garments of a menstruous woman, the latter to the buying and selling of unclean meats; Erasmus, Zanchius: the former concerns dead bodies, the latter sacred vessels and the like; Grotius: the former refers to meats, the latter to the “vitandas feminas,” to which Flatt and Dalmer, following older writers, make ἅψῃ refer (1 Corinthians 7:1). Others give other expositions still; Böhmer arbitrarily makes ΘΊΓῌς refer to the oil, which the Essenes and other theosophists regarded as a labes. That Paul in ἅψῃ and ΘΊΓ. had no definite object at all in view, is not even probable (in opposition to Huther), because γεύσῃ stands between them, and Colossians 2:23 points to abstinence from meats, and not at the same time to anything else.

Following the more forcible ἍΨῌ, lay hold of, the more subtle θίγῃς, touch, is in admirable keeping with the climax: the object was to be even ἄθικτον (Soph. O. C. 39). Comp. on the difference between the two words, Xen. Cyrop. i. 3. 5: ὅταν μὲν τοῦ ἄρτου ἅψῃ, εἰς οὐδὲν τὴν χεῖρα ἀποψώμενον (σὲ ὁρῶ), ὅταν δὲ τούτων (these dainty dishes) ΤΙΝῸς ΘΊΓῌς, ΕὐΘῪς ἈΠΟΚΑΘΑΊΡῌ ΤῊΝ ΧΕῖΡΑ ΕἸς ΤᾺ ΧΕΙΡΌΜΑΚΤΡΑ, also v. 1. 16. In an inverted climax, Eur. Bacch. 617: οὔτʼ ἔθιγεν οὔθʼ ἥψαθʼ ἡμῶν. See also Exodus 19:12, where the LXX. delicately and aptly render נְגֹעַ בְּקָעֵהוּ, to touch the outer border of the mountain, by the free translation θίγειν τι αὐτοῦ, but then express the general הַנֹגֵעַ בָּהָר by the stronger ὁ ἁψάμενος τοῦ ὄρους. Hofmann erroneously holds that ἅπτομαι expresses rather the motion of the subject grasping at something, θιγγάνω rather his arriving at the object. In opposition to this fiction stands the testimony of all the passages in the Gospels (Matthew 8:3; Matthew 9:20; John 20:17, and many others), in which ἅπτεσθαι signifies the actual laying hold of, and, in Paul’s writings, of 1 Corinthians 7:1, Colossians 2:20. The Apostle, recalling them to the time of their conversion, points out how inconsistent with a death to the elemental spirits any submission to ordinances belonging to their sphere would be. The death of the believer with Christ is a death to his old relations, to sin, law, guilt, the world. It is a death which Christ has Himself undergone (Romans 6:10). Here it is specially their death to the angels, who had ruled their old life, and under whose charge the Law and its ceremonies especially stood. They had died with Christ to legalism, how absurd then for ordinances to be imposed upon them.—εἰ ἀπεθάνετε σὺν Χριστῷ: “if, as is the case, you died in union with Christ”. The aorist points to the definite fact, which took place once for all. It was in union with Christ, for thus they were able to repeat Christ’s own experience.—ἀπὸ τῶν στοιχείων τοῦ κόσμου. The use of ἀπὸ with ἀποθν. expresses more strongly than the dative (as in Romans 6:2) the completeness of the severance, and adds the idea of escape from the dominion of the personal powers. On στ. τ. κ. see note on Colossians 2:8.—ὡς ζῶντες ἐν κόσμῳ. For the death of the Christian with Christ includes his crucifixion to the world (Galatians 6:14). The world is ruled by these angels; but Christians belong to the world to come (cf. τ. μελλόντων, Colossians 2:17), which, as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews tells us, has not been made subject to the angels. Since they were still living in the physical world κός. has evidently an ethical sense.—δογματίζεσθε may be middle, “subject yourselves to ordinances,” or passive. Since Paul nowhere says that the readers had accepted the false teaching, the latter is better: “Why are ye prescribed to?” (Mey., Winer, Hofm., Findl., Haupt.) Alford also takes it as a passive, but thinks it implies a keener rebuke than the middle. The middle asserts rather that they had submitted, the passive need only imply, not their submission, but that their resistance might have been more energetic. If there is blame it seems to be slighter. The verb δογματ. is chosen with reference to τοῖς δόγμασιν in Colossians 2:14.20. Wherefore] The word is certainly to be omitted on documentary evidence. A new and separate theme is now in view, the doctrines of the intruding teachers about duty and morals.

if ye be dead] Lit. and better, with R.V., if ye died. See on Colossians 2:11-12.—“If” assumes the “death” as a fact.

with Christ] To whom they were vitally joined, through faith, sealed by baptism, for all the purposes of His redeeming work.

from the rudiments of the world] See above on Colossians 2:8.

living in the world] Not merely “being,” but “living;” having your life-power and life-interests of and in the world. Their true “life was hid with Christ” (Colossians 3:3), and so could not be truly thus conditioned.

are ye subject to ordinances?] R.V. “do ye subject yourselves to ordinances?” Lightfoot, “are ye overridden with precepts, ordinances?” The latter rendering is slightly too strong; but both indicate the main point of the Greek. The religion of the Colossians was becoming one of mechanical rule and measure, a round of ordered “practices,” imposed by directors, to expiate or purify by their performance. The life of faith and love was giving way to an arbitrary discipline, far different from the obedience of the heart to the will of God in Christ.Colossians 2:20. Εἰ, if) The inference, begun at Colossians 2:16, is continued; and at ch. Colossians 3:1, a new inference follows.—ἀπεθάνετε ἀπὸ, ye are dead from) An abbreviated expression, i.e. dead, and so set free from the elements, etc.—ἀπὸ τῶν στοιχείων, from the elements) Colossians 2:8.—δογματίζεσθε) in the Middle voice, you receive (take up) dogmas, ordinances.Verses 20-23. - The apostle's fourth and last warning is directed against ascetic rules of life. Verse 20. - If ye died with Christ from the rudiments of the world (vers. 8, 10-13; Colossians 3:3; Romans 6:1-11; Romans 7:1-6; 2 Corinthians 5:14-17). "Therefore" is struck out by the Revisers on the best authority. It would imply a logical dependence of this verse upon the last, which does not exist. This warning, like those of vers. 16, 18, looks back to the previous section, and especially to vers. 8, 10, 12. It is a new application of St. Paul's fundamental principle of the union of the Christian with Christ in his death and resurrection (see notes, vers. 11, 12). Accepting the death of Christ as supplying the means of his redemption (Colossians 1:14, 22), and the law of his future life (Philippians 3:10; 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15; Galatians 2:20), the Christian breaks with and becomes dead (to and) from all other, former religious principles; which appear to him now but childish, tentative gropings after and preparations for what is given him in Christ (comp. Galatians 2:19; Galatians 3:24; Galatians 4:2, 3; Romans 7:6). On "rudiments," see note, ver. 8. There these "rudiments of the world" appear as general ("philosophical") principles of religion, intrinsically false and empty; here they are moral rules of life, mean and worthless substitutes for "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus." (For the Pauline idiom, "died from (so as to be separate, or free from)," comp. Romans 7:2, 6; Acts 13:39.) Why, as (men) living in (the) world, are you made subject to decrees (Galatians 4:9; Galatians 5:1; Galatians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 5:17). To adopt the rules of the new teachers is to return to the worldly, pre-Christian type of religion which the Christian had once for all abandoned (Galatians 4:9). "World" bears the emphasis rather than "living" ("having one's principle of life:" comp. 1 Timothy 5:6; Luke 12:15). Standing without the article, it signifies "the world as such," in its natural character and attainments, without Christ (ver. 8; Ephesians 2:12; 1 Corinthians 1:21). Δογματίζεσθε (the verb only here in the New Testament) is passive rather than middle in voice (Winer, p. 326; see Meyer in loc.); literally, why are yon being dogmatized, overridden with decrees? Compare "spell" (ver. 8), "judge" (ver. 16), for the domineering spirit of the false teacher. The "dogmas" or "decrees" of ver. 14 (see note) are those of the Divine Law; these are of human imposition (vers. 8, 22), which their authors, however, seem to put upon a level with the former. In each case the decree is an external enforcement, not an inner principle of life. Ye be dead (ἀπεθάνετε)

Rev., more correctly, ye died; the aorist tense indicating a definite event. Paul uses the word died in many different relations, expressing that with which death dissolves the connection. Thus, died unto sin, unto self, unto the law, unto the world.

Rudiments of the world

Elementary teachings and practices the peculiar sphere of which is the world. World (κόσμου) has its ethical sense, the sum-total of human life in the ordered world, considered apart from, alienated from, and hostile to God, and of the earthly things which seduce from God. See on John 1:9.

Are ye subject to ordinances (δογματίζεσθε)

Only here in the New Testament. Rev., subject yourselves. Better passive, as emphasizing spiritual bondage. Why do ye submit to be dictated to? See on 1 Corinthians 1:22, where the imperious attitude of the Jews appears in their demanding credentials of the Gospel as sole possessors of the truth. The ordinances include both those of the law and of philosophy.

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