Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world…
The one thought around which we may let the many, varied, and some of them strange ideas of this paragraph gather, is the conception of the complete man. The words teach us -
I. THAT THE COMPLETE MAN IS NOT LED AWAY BY ERROR IN THOUGHT OR BY EVIL IN LIFE. Any one who is so led is incomplete. And the apostle is here warning his readers to be on their guard, test, having once been emancipated from such captivity, they should be insidiously captured again and taken away as prey into such slavery. His words here show:
1. How error in thought and evil in life are closely connected. (Vers. 8, 18.)
2. The two common causes of such error and evil. "Traditions of men," mere superstitions, are the "rudiments of the world " - mere beginnings of knowledge. All such are to be condemned when they are not "after Christ;" that is, when they are not
(1) doctrines of which he is the Teacher, or
(2) doctrines of which he is the ultimate Theme.
II. THE COMPLETE MAN DERIVES HIS COMPLETENESS FROM CHRIST. "Ye are complete in him," or we might paraphrase it, "Ye are filled up from him." This paragraph shows what Christ has done for such a man.
1. By Christ he is separated from evil. (Vers. 11, 12.) Circumcision was the great symbol of the separation of the Jews; baptism of the separation of the Christians. The complete man is as one "circumcised without hands" by Christ, baptized as in a burial by Christ.
2. By Christ he is made alive to goodness and to God. (Vers. 12, 13). Such a man is "risen with Christ." He is a man marked by pre-eminent livingness.
(1) The type of his livingness is here: the risen Christ; he who was gloriously alive.
(2) The means of his livingness are here: through faith in the mighty power of God, which was triumphantly manifested in the raising of Jesus.
3. By Christ he is emancipated from guilt. (Vers. 14, 15.) Most vivid and full are the metaphors describing emancipation from the guilt and from the power of sin. "Blotting out handwriting," etc. And all this work of Christ was consummated on Calvary. He like a conqueror nailed to his cross "the writings" that were against us; on his cross he openly triumphed over evil.
III. CHRIST THUS MAKES MEN COMPLETE BECAUSE OF WHAT HE IS IN HIMSELF. The life of God must be wafted in upon man; borne in upon him. Whence? From Christ, "in whom dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." There are three thoughts here about Christ.
1. All the fulness of God is in him; he is not a mere emanation of God; not a mere flash of the light, but its Brightness; not a mere tone of the truth, but the Word.
2. All the fulness of God is permanent in Christ. In him "dwelleth." He is a reservoir whose waters never fail; he does not say he has bread or he has water to bestow, but he is the Bread of life, he is the Water of life; the Holy Ghost abode on him.
3. All the fulness of God was incarnate in his humanity. It dwelt in him "bodily." The purity, righteousness, wisdom, compassion, love, of God was gathered up in that human life. He was Immanuel, and from his fulness, thus complete, lasting, human, we are fed. - U.R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.