Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;
Col 2:1-23. His Strivings in Prayer for Their Steadfastness in Christ; from Whom He Warns Them Not to Be Led Away by False Wisdom.
1. For—He explains in what respect he "labored striving" (Col 1:29). Translate as Greek, "I wish you to know how great a conflict (the same Greek word as in Col 1:29, "agony of a conflict" of fervent, anxious prayer; not conflict with the false teachers, which would have been impossible for him now in prison) I have for you."
them at Laodicea—exposed to the same danger from false teachers as the Colossians (compare Col 4:16). This danger was probably the cause of his writing to Laodicea, as well as to Colosse.
not seen my face in the flesh—including those in Hierapolis (Col 4:13). Paul considered himself a "debtor" to all the Gentiles (Ro 1:14). "His face" and presence would have been a "comfort" (Col 2:2; Ac 20:38). Compare Col 1:4, 7, 8, in proof that he had not seen, but only heard of the Colossians. Hence he strives by earnest conflict with God in anxious prayer for them, to make up for the loss of his bodily presence among them. Though "absent in the flesh, I am with you in the Spirit" (Col 2:5).
That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;
2. Translate, "That their hearts may be comforted." The "their," compared with "you" (Col 2:4), proves that in Col 2:1 the words, "have not seen my face in the flesh," is a general designation of those for whom Paul declares he has "conflict," including the particular species, "you (Colossians) and them at Laodicea." For it is plain, the prayer "that their hearts may be comforted," must include in it the Colossians for whom he expressly says, "I have conflict." Thus it is an abbreviated mode of expression for, "That your and their hearts may be comforted." Alford translates, "confirmed," or allows "comforted" in its original radical sense strengthened. But the Greek supports English Version: the sense, too, is clear: comforted with the consolation of those whom Paul had not seen, and for whom, in consequence, he strove in prayerful conflict the more fervently; inasmuch as we are more anxious in behalf of absent, than present, friends [Davenant]. Their hearts would be comforted by "knowing what conflict he had for" them, and how much he is interested for their welfare; and also by being released from doubts on learning from the apostle, that the doctrine which they had heard from Epaphras was true and certain. In writing to churches which he had instructed face to face, he enters into particular details concerning them, as a father directing his children. But to those among whom he had not been in person, he treats of the more general truths of salvation.
being—Translate as Greek in oldest manuscripts, "They being knit together."
in love—the bond and element of perfect knitting together; the antidote to the dividing schismatical effect of false doctrine. Love to God and to one another in Christ.
unto—the object and end of their being "knit together."
all riches—Greek, "all the riches of the full assurance (1Th 1:5; Heb 6:11; 10:22) of the (Christian) understanding." The accumulation of phrases, not only "understanding," but "the full assurance of understanding"; not only this, but "the riches of," &c., not only this, but "all the riches of," &c., implies how he desires to impress them with the momentous importance of the subject in hand.
acknowledgment—The Greek implies, "full and accurate knowledge." It is a distinct Greek word from "knowledge," Col 2:3. Alford translates, "thorough … knowledge." Acknowledgment hardly is strong enough; they did in a measure acknowledge the truth; what they wanted was the full and accurate knowledge of it (compare Notes, see on Col 1:9, 10; Php 1:9).
of God, and of the Father and of Christ—The oldest manuscripts omit "and of the Father, and of"; then translate, "Of God (namely), Christ." Two very old manuscripts and Vulgate read, "Of God the Father of Christ."
In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
3. Translate in the Greek order, "In whom (not as Alford, 'in which') mystery; Christ is Himself the 'mystery' (Col 2:2; 1Ti 3:16), and to Christ the relative refers) are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden." The "all" here, answers to "all" in Col 2:2; as "treasures" answer to the "riches"; it is from the treasures that the riches (Col 2:2) are derived. "Are" is the predicate of the sentence; all the treasures ARE in Him; hidden is predicated of the state or manner in which they are in Him. Like a mine of unknown and inexhaustible wealth, the treasures of wisdom are all in Him hidden, but not in order to remain so; they only need to be explored for you to attain "unto the riches" in them (Col 2:2); but until you, Colossians, press after attaining the full knowledge (see on Col 2:2) of them, they remain "hidden." Compare the parable, Mt 13:44, "treasure hid." This sense suits the scope of the apostle, and sets aside Alford's objection that "the treasures are not hidden, but revealed." "Hidden" plainly answers to "mystery" (Col 2:2), which is designed by God, if we be faithful to our privileges, not to remain hidden, but to be revealed (compare 1Co 2:7, 8). Still as the mine is unfathomable, there will, through eternity, be always fresh treasures in Him to be drawn forth from their hidden state.
wisdom—general, and as to experimental and practical truth; whence comes "understanding" (Col 2:2).
knowledge—special and intellectual, in regard to doctrinal truth; whence comes "the full knowledge" (Col 2:2).
And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.
4. And—"Now." Compare with "lest any man," &c. Col 2:8, 16, 18. He refers to the blending of Judaism with Oriental philosophy, and the combination of this mixture with Christianity.
enticing words—plausible as wearing the guise of wisdom and humility (Col 2:18, 23).
For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ.
5. For—argument against their suffering themselves to be beguiled, drawn from a regard to his personal authority as though he were present.
joying and beholding—beholding with joy.
order—your good order; answering to "knit together" (Col 2:2) as a well-organized body; the same Greek as that for knit together, is used of the body" of the Church compacted," in Eph 4:16. Compare 1Co 14:33, 40.
steadfastness—Greek, "the firm (or 'solid') foundation." As "order" expresses the outward aspect of the Church; so "steadfastness" expresses the inner basis on which their Church rested. The Greek literally implies not an abstract quality, but the thing in the concrete; thus their "faith" here is the solid thing which constituted the basis of their Church.
As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
6. "As therefore ye received (once for all; the aorist tense; from Epaphras) Jesus the Christ as your Lord (compare 1Co 12:3; 2Co 4:5; Php 3:8), so walk in Him." He says not merely, "Ye received" the doctrine of Christ, but "Jesus" Himself; this is the essence of faith (Joh 14:21, 23; Ga 1:16). Ye have received once for all the Spirit of life in Christ; carry into practice that life in your walk (Ga 5:25). This is the main scope of the Epistle.
Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
7. Rooted—(Eph 3:17).
built up—Greek, "being builded up." As "rooted" implies their vitality; so "builded up," massive solidity. As in the Song of Solomon, when one image is not sufficient to express the varied aspects of divine truth, another is employed to supply the idea required. Thus "walking," a third image (Col 2:6), expresses the thought which "rooted" and "built," though each suggesting a thought peculiar to itself, could not express, namely, onward motion. "Rooted" is in the past tense, implying their first conversion and vital grafting "in Him." "Built up" is present (in the Greek), implying their progressive increase in religion by union with Him. Eph 2:20 refers to the Church; but the passage here to their individual progress in edification (Ac 20:32).
abounding therein with thanksgiving—advancing to fuller maturity (compare Col 2:2) in the faith, "with thanksgiving" to God as the gracious Author of this whole blessing.
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
8. Translate, "Beware (literally, 'Look' well) lest there shall be (as I fear there is: the Greek indicative expresses this) any man (pointing to some known emissary of evil, Ga 1:7) leading you away as his spoil (not merely gaining spoil out of you, but making yourselves his spoil) through (by means of) his philosophy," &c. The apostle does not condemn all philosophy, but "the philosophy" (so Greek) of the Judaic-oriental heretics at Colosse, which afterwards was developed into Gnosticism. You, who may have "the riches of full assurance" and "the treasures of wisdom," should not suffer yourselves to be led away as a spoil by empty, deceitful philosophy: "riches" are contrasted with spoil; "full" with "vain," or empty (Col 2:2, 3, 9).
tradition of men—opposed to, "the fulness of the Godhead." Applied to Rabbinical traditions, Mr 7:8. When men could not make revelation even seem to tell about deep mysteries which they were curious to pry into, they brought in human philosophy and pretended traditions to help it, as if one should bring a lamp to the sundial to find the hour [Cauations for Times, p. 85]. The false teachers boasted of a higher wisdom in theory, transmitted by tradition among the initiated; in practice they enjoined asceticism, as though matter and the body were the sources of evil. Phrygia (in which was Colosse) had a propensity for the mystical and magical, which appeared in their worship of Cybele and subsequent Montanism [Neander].
rudiments of the world—(See on Ga 4:3). "The rudiments" or elementary lessons "of the (outward) world," such as legal ordinances; our Judaic childhood's lessons (Col 2:11, 16, 20; Ga 4:1-3). But Neander, "the elements of the world," in the sense, what is earthly, carnal and outward, not "the rudiments of religion," in Judaism and heathenism.
not after Christ—"Their" boasted higher "philosophy" is but human tradition, and a cleaving to the carnal and worldly, and not to Christ. Though acknowledging Christ nominally, in spirit they by their doctrine deny Him.
For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
9. For—"Because." Their "philosophy" (Col 2:8) is not "after Christ," as all true philosophy is, everything which comes not from, and tends not to, Him, being a delusion; "For in Him (alone) dwelleth" as in a temple, &c.
the fulness—(Col 1:19; Joh 14:10).
of the Godhead—The Greek (theotes) means the ESSENCE and NATURE of the Godhead, not merely the divine perfections and attributes of Divinity (Greek, "theiotes"). He, as man, was not merely God-like, but in the fullest sense, God.
bodily—not merely as before His incarnation, but now "bodily in Him" as the incarnate word (Joh 1:14, 18). Believers, by union with Him, partake of His fulness of the divine nature (Joh 1:16; 2Pe 1:4; see on Eph 3:19).
And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
10. And—And therefore; and so. Translate in the Greek order, "Ye are in Him (by virtue of union with Him) filled full" of all that you need (Joh 1:16). Believers receive of the divine unction which flows down from their Divine Head and High Priest (Ps 133:2). He is full of the "fulness" itself; we, filled from Him. Paul implies, Therefore ye Colossians need no supplementary sources of grace, such as the false teachers dream of. Christ is "the Head of all rule and authority" (so the Greek), Eph 1:10; He, therefore, alone, not these subject "authorities" also, is to be adored (Col 2:18).
In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
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).
Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
12. Translate, "Having been buried with Him in your baptism." The past participle is here coincident in time with the preceding verb, "ye were (Greek) circumcised." Baptism is regarded as the burial of the old carnal life, to which the act of immersion symbolically corresponds; and in warm climates where immersion is safe, it is the mode most accordant with the significance of the ordinance; but the spirit of the ordinance is kept by affusion, where immersion would be inconvenient or dangerous; to insist on literal immersion in all cases would be mere legal ceremonialism (Ro 6:3, 4).
are risen—rather as Greek, "were raised with Him."
through the faith, &c.—by means of your faith in the operation of God; so "faith of," for "faith in" (Eph 3:12; Php 3:9). Faith in God's mighty operation in raising again Jesus, is saving faith (Ro 4:24; 10:9); and it is wrought in the soul by His same "mighty working" whereby He "raised Jesus from the dead" (Eph 1:19, 20). Bengel seems to me (not as Alford understands him) to express the latter sense, namely, "Through the faith which is a work of the operation of God who," &c. Eph 1:19, 20 accords with this; the same mighty power of God is exercised in raising one spiritually dead to the life of faith, as was "wrought in Christ when God raised Him literally from the dead." However, "faith of" usually is "faith in" (Ro 3:22); but there is no grammatical impropriety in understanding it "the faith which is the effect of the operation of God" (Eph 2:8; 1Th 2:13). As His literal resurrection is the ground of the power put forth in our spiritual resurrection now, so it is a pledge of our literal resurrection hereafter (Ro 8:11).
And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
13. you, being dead—formerly (Eph 2:1, 2); even as Christ was among the dead, before that God raised Him "from the dead" (Col 2:12).
sins—rather as Greek is translated at end of this verse, "trespasses," literally, "failings aside" from God's ways; actual transgressions, as that of Adam.
uncircumcision of your flesh—your not having put off the old fleshly nature, the carnal foreskin, or original sin, which now by spiritual circumcision, that is, conversion and baptism, you have put off.
he quickened—God "quickened together with Him (Christ)." Just as Christ's resurrection proved that He was delivered from the sin laid on Him, so our spiritual quickening proves that we have been forgiven our sins (1Pe 3:22; 4:1, 2).
forgiven you—So Vulgate and Hilary. But the oldest manuscripts read, "us," passing from the particular persons, the Colossians, to the general Church (Col 1:14; Eph 1:7).
all trespasses—Greek, "all our trespasses."
Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
14. Blotting out—Greek, "Having wiped out"; coincident in time with "having forgiven you" (Col 2:13); hereby having cancelled the law's indictment against you. The law (including especially the moral law, wherein lay the chief difficulty in obeying) is abrogated to the believer, as far as it was a compulsory, accusing code, and as far as "righteousness" (justification) and "life" were sought for by it. It can only produce outward works, not inward obedience of the will, which in the believer flows from the Holy Spirit in Him (Ro 3:21; 7:2, 4; Ga 2:19).
the handwriting of ordinances—rather, "IN ordinances" (see on Eph 2:15); "the law of commandments contained in ordinances." "The handwriting" (alluding to the Decalogue, the representative of the law, written by the hand of God) is the whole law, the obligatory bond, under which all lay; the Jews primarily were under the bond, but they in this respect were the representative people of the world (Ro 3:19); and in their inability to keep the law was involved the inability of the Gentiles also, in whose hearts "the work of the law was written" (Ro 2:15); and as they did not keep this, they were condemned by it.
that was against us … contrary to us—Greek "adversary to us"; so it is translated, Heb 10:27. "Not only was the law against us by its demands, but also an adversary to us by its accusations" [Bengel]. Tittmann explains the Greek, "having a latent contrariety to us"; not open designed hostility, but virtual unintentional opposition through our frailty; not through any opposition in the law itself to our good (Ro 7:7-12, 14; 1Co 15:56; Ga 3:21; Heb 10:3). The "WRITING" is part of "that which was contrary to us"; for "the letter killeth" (see on 2Co 3:6).
and took it—Greek, and hath taken it out of the way" (so as to be no longer a hindrance to us), by "nailing it to the cross." Christ, by bearing the curse of the broken law, has redeemed us from its curse (Ga 3:13). In His person nailed to the cross, the law itself was nailed to it. One ancient mode of cancelling bonds was by striking a nail through the writing: this seems at that time to have existed in Asia [Grotius]. The bond cancelled in the present case was the obligation lying against the Jews as representatives of the world, and attested by their amen, to keep the whole law under penalty of the curse (De 27:26; Ne 10:29).
And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
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.
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
16. therefore—because ye are complete in Christ, and God in Him has dispensed with all subordinate means as essential to acceptance with Him.
meat … drink—Greek, "eating … drinking" (Ro 14:1-17). Pay no regard to any one who sits in judgment on you as to legal observances in respect to foods.
holyday—a feast yearly. Compare the three, 1Ch 23:31.
the sabbath—Omit "THE," which is not in the Greek (compare Note, see on Ga 4:10). "Sabbaths" (not "the sabbaths") of the day of atonement and feast of tabernacles have come to an end with the Jewish services to which they belonged (Le 23:32, 37-39). The weekly sabbath rests on a more permanent foundation, having been instituted in Paradise to commemorate the completion of creation in six days. Le 23:38 expressly distinguished "the sabbath of the Lord" from the other sabbaths. A positive precept is right because it is commanded, and ceases to be obligatory when abrogated; a moral precept is commanded eternally, because it is eternally right. If we could keep a perpetual sabbath, as we shall hereafter, the positive precept of the sabbath, one in each week, would not be needed. Heb 4:9, "rests," Greek, "keeping of sabbath" (Isa 66:23). But we cannot, since even Adam, in innocence, needed one amidst his earthly employments; therefore the sabbath is still needed and is therefore still linked with the other nine commandments, as obligatory in the spirit, though the letter of the law has been superseded by that higher spirit of love which is the essence of law and Gospel alike (Ro 13:8-10).
Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
17. things to come—the blessings of the Christian covenant, the substance of which Jewish ordinances were but the type. Compare "ages to come," that is, the Gospel dispensation (Eph 2:7). Heb 2:5, "the world to come."
the body is of Christ—The real substance (of the blessings typified by the law) belongs to Christ (Heb 8:5; 10:1).
Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,
18. beguile—Translate, "Defraud you of your prize," literally, "to adjudge a prize out of hostility away from him who deserves it" [Trench]. "To be umpire in a contest to the detriment of one." This defrauding of their prize the Colossians would suffer, by letting any self-constituted arbitrator or judge (that is, false teacher) draw them away from Christ," the righteous Judge" and Awarder of the prize (2Ti 4:8; Jas 1:12; 1Pe 5:4), to angel-worship.
in a voluntary humility—So "will-worship" (Col 2:23). Literally, "Delighting ([Wahl]) in humility"; loving (so the Greek is translated, Mr 12:38, "love to go in long clothing") to indulge himself in a humility of his own imposing: a volunteer in humility [Dallæus]. Not as Alford, "Let no one of purpose defraud you," &c. Not as Grotius, "If he ever so much wish" (to defraud you). For the participle "wishing" or "delighting," is one of the series, and stands in the same category as "intruding," "puffed up," "not holding"; and the self-pleasing implied in it stands in happy contrast to the (mock) humility with which it seems to me, therefore, to be connected. His "humility," so called, is a pleasing of self: thus it stands in parallelism to "his fleshly mind" (its real name, though he styles it "humility"), as "wishing" or "delighting" does to "puffed up." The Greek for "humility" is literally, "lowliness of mind," which forms a clearer parallel to "puffed up by his fleshly mind." Under pretext of humility, as if they durst not come directly to God and Christ (like the modern Church of Rome), they invoked angels: as Judaizers, they justified this on the ground that the law was given by angels. This error continued long in Phrygia (where Colosse and Laodicea were), so that the Council of Laodicea (A.D. 360) expressly framed its thirty-fifth canon against the "Angelici" (as Augustine [Heresies, 39], calls them) or "invokers of angels." Even as late as Theodoret's time, there were oratories to Michael the archangel. The modern Greeks have a legend that Michael opened a chasm to draw off an inundation threatening the Colossian Christians. Once men admit the inferior powers to share invocation with the Supreme, the former gradually engrosses all our serious worship, almost to the exclusion of the latter; thus the heathen, beginning with adding the worship of other deities to that of the Supreme, ended with ceasing to worship Him at all. Nor does it signify much, whether we regard such as directly controlling us (the pagan view), or as only influencing the Supreme in our behalf (the Church of Rome's view); because he from whom I expect happiness or misery, becomes the uppermost object in my mind, whether he give, or only procure it [Cautions for Times]. Scripture opposes the idea of "patrons" or "intercessors" (1Ti 2:5, 6). True Christian humility joins consciousness of utter personal demerit, with a sense of participation in the divine life through Christ, and in the dignity of our adoption by God. Without the latter being realized, a false self-humiliation results, which displays itself in ceremonies and ascetic self-abasement (Col 2:23), which after all is but spiritual pride under the mock guise of humility. Contrast "glorying in the Lord" (1Co 1:31).
intruding into … things which he hath not seen—So very old manuscripts and Vulgate and Origen read. But the oldest manuscripts and Lucifer omit "not"; then translate, "haughtily treading on ('Standing on' [Alford]) the things which he hath seen." Tregelles refers this to fancied visions of angels. But if Paul had meant a fancied seeing, he would have used some qualifying word, as, "which he seemed to see," not "which he hath seen." Plainly the things were actually seen by him, whether of demoniacal origination (1Sa 28:11-20), or phenomena resulting from natural causation, mistaken by him as if supernatural. Paul, not stopping to discuss the nature of the things so seen, fixes on the radical error, the tendency of such a one in all this to walk by SENSE (namely, what he haughtily prides himself on having SEEN), rather than by FAITH in the UNSEEN "Head" (Col 2:19; compare Joh 20:29; 2Co 5:7; Heb 11:1). Thus is the parallelism, "vainly puffed up" answers to "haughtily treading on," or "setting his foot on"; "his fleshly mind" answers to the things which he hath seen," since his fleshliness betrays itself in priding himself on what he hath seen, rather than on the unseen objects of faith. That the things seen may have been of demoniacal origination, appears from 1Ti 4:1, "Some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils" (Greek, "demons"). A warning to modern spiritualists.
puffed up—implying that the previous so called "humility" (Greek, "lowliness of mind") was really a "puffing up."
fleshly mind—Greek, "By the mind of his own flesh." The flesh, or sensuous principle, is the fountain head whence his mind draws its craving after religious objects of sight, instead of, in true humility as a member, "holding fast the (unseen) Head."
And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.
19. Translate, "Not holding fast the Head." He who does not hold Christ solely and supremely above all others, does not hold Him at all [Bengel]. The want of firm holding of Christ has set him loose to (pry into, and so) "tread haughtily on (pride himself on) things which he hath seen." Each must hold fast the Head for himself, not merely be attached to the other members, however high in the body [Alford].
from which—rather, "from whom."
the body—that is, all the members of the body (Eph 4:16).
joints—the points of union where the supply of nourishment passes to the different members, furnishing the body with the materials of growth.
bands—the sinews and nerves which bind together limb and limb. Faith, love, and peace, are the spiritual bands. Compare "knit together in love" (Col 2:2; Col 3:14; Eph 4:3).
having nourishment ministered—that is, supplied to it continually. "Receiving ministration."
knit together—The Greek is translated, "compacted," Eph 4:16: implying firm consolidation.
with the increase of God—(Eph 4:16); that is, wrought by God, the Author and Sustainer of the believer's spiritual life, in union with Christ, the Head (1Co 3:6); and tending to the honor of God, being worthy of Him, its Author.
Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,
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).
(Touch not; taste not; handle not;
21. Compare Col 2:16, "meat … drink." He gives instances of the "ordinances" (Col 2:20) in the words of their imposers. There is an ascending climax of superstitious prohibitions. The first Greek word (hapse) is distinguished from the third (thiges), in that the former means close contact and retention: the latter, momentary contact (compare 1Co 7:1; Joh 20:17, Greek, "Hold me not"; cling not to me"). Translate, "Handle not, neither taste, nor even touch." The three refer to meats. "Handle not" (a stronger term than "nor even touch"), "nor taste" with the tongue, "nor even touch," however slight the contact.
Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?
22. Which—things, namely, the three things handled, touched, and tasted.
are to perish—literally, "are constituted (by their very nature) for perishing (or 'destruction by corruption') in (or 'with') their using up (consumption)." Therefore they cannot really and lastingly defile a man (Mt 15:17; 1Co 6:13).
after—according to. Referring to Col 2:20, 21. All these "ordinances" are according to human, not divine, injunction.
doctrines—Greek, teachings." Alford translates, "(doctrinal) systems."
Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.
23. have—Greek, "are having"; implying the permanent characteristic which these ordinances are supposed to have.
show of wisdom—rather, "a reputation of wisdom" [Alford].
will-worship—arbitrarily invented worship: would-be worship, devised by man's own will, not God's. So jealous is God of human will-worship, that He struck Nadab and Abihu dead for burning strange incense (Le 10:1-3). So Uzziah was stricken with leprosy for usurping the office of priest (2Ch 26:16-21). Compare the will-worship of Saul (1Sa 13:8-14) for which he was doomed to lose his throne. This "voluntary worship" is the counterpart to their "voluntary humility" (Col 2:18): both specious in appearance, the former seeming in religion to do even more than God requires (as in the dogmas of the Roman and Greek churches); but really setting aside God's will for man's own; the latter seemingly self-abasing, but really proud of man's self-willed "humility" (Greek, "lowliness of mind"), while virtually rejecting the dignity of direct communion with Christ, the Head; by worshipping of angels.
neglecting of the body—Greek, "not sparing of the body." This asceticism seems to have rested on the Oriental theory that matter is the source of evil. This also looked plausible (compare 1Co 9:27).
not in any honour—of the body. As "neglecting of the body" describes asceticism positively; so this clause, negatively. Not paying any of that "honor" which is due to the body as redeemed by such a price as the blood of Christ. We should not degrade, but have a just estimation of ourselves, not in ourselves, but in Christ (Ac 13:46; 1Co 3:21; 6:15; 7:23; 12:23, 24; 1Th 4:4). True self-denial regards the spirit, and not the forms of ascetical self-mortification in "meats which profit not those occupied therein" (Heb 13:9), and is consistent with Christian self-respect, the "honor" which belongs to the believer as dedicated to the Lord. Compare "vainly," Col 2:18.
to the satisfying of the flesh—This expresses the real tendency of their human ordinances of bodily asceticism, voluntary humility, and will-worship of angels. While seeming to deny self and the body, they really are pampering the flesh. Thus "satisfying of the flesh" answers to "puffed up by his fleshly mind" (Col 2:18), so that "flesh" is used in its ethical sense, "the carnal nature" as opposed to the "spiritual"; not in the sense, "body." The Greek for "satisfying" implies satiating to repletion, or to excess. "A surfeit of the carnal sense is human tradition" [Hilary the Deacon, in Bengel]. Tradition puffs up; it clogs the heavenly perceptions. They put away true "honor" that they may "satiate to the full THE FLESH." Self-imposed ordinances gratify the flesh (namely, self-righteousness), though seeming to mortify it.