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Study Notes on Colossians 2

Updated: Apr 29

Colossians 2

1 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;

The word for conflict is elsewhere translated as “fight” or “contest” and it shows us how earnestly Paul desires their (see next verse) comfort and encouragement (παρακληθωσιν). To fight to be able to encourage other believers is not a way we typically speak in the 21st Century, but maybe it should be.

Some commentators think that this verse shows that Paul had never been to Colosse (not seen my face in the flesh), but as Adam Clarke remarks, “It is, therefore, most likely that we should understand the apostle as speaking collectively; that he had the most earnest concern, not only for the welfare of those Churches with which he was acquainted, such as Colosse and Laodicea, but also for those to whom he was not personally known.” This is my take as well.

2 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;

What a beautiful verse! As believers, our hearts should be “knit together in love” yet we often see incredible division and mistrust between Christians. Notice these verses are directed at churches, showing the unity that should exist within each church. We must have love for one another and also contend for true doctrine.

3 In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Read this again: In Christ are hid ALL the treasures of wisdom and knowledge! Don’t look to atheistic philosophers for wisdom; follow Christ instead. When someone claims knowledge while denying Christ, they are denying knowledge.

Proverbs 1:7, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

4 And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.

There's a very strong emphasis in this chapter (and the whole epistle) of exalting Christ, and warning against being deceived or beguiled. We see it in this verse then also in verses 8 & 18. Other verses in this chapter encourage remaining steadfast in the Lord as a defense against deception.

And this is perfectly clear: Why does Paul tell us that all wisdom and knowledge is in Christ? Because he doesn’t want us to be swayed and bothered by all the foolishness of the world that can lead people astray. It is so critically important that we accept and acknowledge the Bible as the SOLE authority for truth.

The Greek intellectuals with their philosophy were around at the time, and the judaizers were as well, seeking to bring people back under the Mosaic Law that Christ had fulfilled and replaced. And now, in 2021, there is an incredible flow of information with most of it being false. Don’t be deceived; read your Bible.

5 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.

6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:

From afar, Paul is enjoying their ordered status, as an army fully equipped.

If you have embraced the doctrine of Christ, continue to hold it fast, and don’t let any philosophy or fancy-sounding ideas turn you aside. Colossians 1:10 has a similar statement.

7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.

8 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.

Notice the emphasis on being firm in the Lord, and then the next verse on what to watch our for.

So let’s pause here for a second and realize the importance of all that’s being said. This is why Christians need to be unbending in doctrine. ALL knowledge and wisdom comes from Jesus Christ, and we must stay firm in His words, not being led astray by anything! We shouldn’t compromise the Bible with what we see on TV, with what any church says, or the false religions like Catholicism, Mormonism, etc. We shouldn’t compromise the Bible with what textbooks say or so-called experts in any area. If anything contradicts the Bible, that thing is flat out wrong.

Now looking at the text of this verse, the word for “spoil” συλαγωγών meaning to carry off like a predator with its prey, or to plunder by robbery. That’s what happens when we set aside the perfect Word of God and replace it with anything else!

Vain = empty, and that’s the very best that the sinful world has to offer: Emptiness. In contrast to that, we find fullness in Jesus!

9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

Jesus is God. It couldn’t be said in plainer terms.

10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:

11 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:

You are complete in Christ and have no need for anything else. You have no need for philosophy, for judaizing heresy of going back to the Mosaic Law, for anything else. Through the remainder of the chapter Paul elaborates and proves this point.

So what does this mean, what’s circumcision made without hands? That’s circumcision of the heart. As physical circumcision was to the Hebrews starting back in Genesis 17 to show that they were a people set apart, so we are set apart and devoted to God by what is called the circumcision of the heart.

Physical circumcision was a really big deal to the Jews back in the day and it still is to them, but it does absolutely nothing for us today. We are saved by faith. Period.

See Galatians 5:6 and Philippians 3:3.

The law required the circumcision of the flesh, the Gospel of Christ requires the circumcision of the heart. We are to be set apart for Christ.

12 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.

So these two rituals, circumcision and baptism, Paul here links together. Circumcision was part of the Old Testament Law, Baptism is a New Testament (or covenant) ordinance that we SHOULD follow, but neither provides salvation. See verse 10 above, you are COMPLETE in Him! So as circumcision was an outward sign of following God, the baptism of believers is an outward sign of our following God today just as Christ was buried and rose again, so we are “buried” under water in baptism to show our union with Christ, and we are alive by Faith!

Some see this verse as referring to the baptism of the Holy Spirit which happens when we are saved, much like circumcision of the heart mentioned above happens at the moment we are saved.

Mark 1:8, I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.

Romans 6:4, Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;

If you are in Christ, your sins are all forgiven. As the Father views Christ, so He views us!

Psalm 103:12, As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

See Ephesians 2 for a similar statement and similar subjects as this chapter.

Hebrews 10:16-17, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.

14 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;

Ok so this is a very important verse and it clears up a very confusing area of Scripture for many people, and is a big theme of this chapter. Listen, the handwriting of ordinances was the Old Testament law. When Christ was nailed to the cross, He nailed those ordinances to the cross as well and blotted them out. He fulfilled the demands of the Law and took its prescribed punishment upon Himself that we deserve. The civil law, the ceremonial law, even the moral law was never meant to endow righteousness in us, it couldn’t! Why? Because we couldn’t keep it! That’s why—as this verse says—it was contrary to us. Christ is the end of the law to those that believe.

Paul discusses specifically the moral aspect of the Mosaic Law in Romans 7 and that its purpose was to show it is contrary to us because we violate it - it highlights our sin and shows us the need for a Savior.

Romans 7:6-7, But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.

But does that mean we are free to sin? Absolutely not, read Romans 6. We are free to serve Christ! Don’t forget the two greatest commandments. James calls “love thy neighbor as thyself” the Royal Law.

We could stay on this topic a long time, but for now let’s look at 2 Corinthians 3 to further establish this point and verses 7-11: But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious. Amazing.

"Not only were our personal sins forgiven at the Cross, but those rules that condemned us have also been removed by the death of Christ." - Thomas Nelson Study Bible

15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

Considering the plainer meaning of these phrases in Ephesians 6, this verse is primarily talking about Christ’s victory against spiritual evil, demonic forces. His death was victory over sin.

1 Corinthians 15:56-57, The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

16 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:

Paul continues to drive the point home so we can reasonably conclude that the Judaizers (see Acts 15:10-11) were really trying hard to subvert this church with their false teachings. This covers all the dietary restrictions, all the feasts and festivals and ceremonies, sacrifices on the new moon, or of the sabbath days. In your KJV this is the only time that the Sabbath is mentioned outside of the Gospels and the book of Acts, and it is only mentioned to say that we need not obey the Sabbath commandments from the Law. We Sabbath (rest) in the finished work of Christ.

Holy Days were annual, the new moon was monthly, and the sabbath was weekly.

So why did we have the Law? Look at the next verse.

17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

It all pointed to Christ. Hebrews 8, 9, & 10 all talk about this. Now that Christ is come we follow Him and not the shadow. As we read in Galatians the law was our schoolmaster, or pedagogue (παιδαγωγόν), to point us to Christ. Why follow a shadow, when the reality of what the shadow pointed to has come?

18 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,

The legalism condemned above was primarily a heresy coming from Jews. However there were also various forms of mysticism which came from paganism that is now warned against. Also looking down to verse 23 we see what is likely a reference to the Jewish sect of the Essenes and/or Greek asceticism. Regardless of the source of heresy being dealt with here, Paul is continuing to prove that believers are complete in Christ and there is nothing more they need to seek out.

We can be tricked out of rewards, and in this case by a voluntary humility, meaning acts that appear more pious or humble but really elevate ourselves. People do this all the time when they pretend to follow Old Testament law as if that makes them better. It's pride because it's done to be seen of others.

Worship of angels is another thing that might appear humble, as in we are so humble we don't go directly to God but to His messengers, but worship of angels is expressly forbidden in Scripture (see Revelation 22:9).

This is a difficult verse but some certainties we can draw from it are, Don’t worship angels, and Don’t be puffed up or arrogant about things you don’t know anything about.

Michael Heiser is a great example of someone who pretended to be a bible scholar by inserting his imagination into the spiritual realm.

19 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.

Not holding the Head, meaning not honoring Christ as Savior. Christ is the head of the church, those in each church are the body. See at Ephesians 1:22 and Ephesians 4:15-16.

20 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,

21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not;

22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?

If Christ fulfilled the law and blotted it out, why would we be burdened with that yoke? It doesn’t make sense.

Many of the Jewish laws of that time, as well as today, are simply made up tradition. They are doctrines of men that the Pharisees used to control people and elevate themselves.

23 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.

Following the law may look wise or noble or pious but they are of no value and entirely vain. Submit to God, allow the Holy Spirit to work in your life, seek first the Kingdom of God.

Avoiding food can have a show of wisdom, but again, it's pride.

This whole chapter covers the sufficiency of Jesus Christ – We don’t need to add anything to Him, we are complete in Him!


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