In our study of Colossians chapter two, we will continue to look at Paul's letter to the believers in Colosse and apply it to our lives today. This church was being challenged by the introduction of five different errors concerning faith and Paul addressed them and the answer in each case came down to Christ. Jesus is the answer for the head as well as for the heart of men and we will see that here.
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I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally.
Paul starts this section by letting the believers know how his heart aches for them. Paul constantly prayed for the church and all the believers because he knew of the struggles that they faced and he knew the answer to those struggles was only found in Christ.
My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ,
This verse speaks to the fact that we are all to be knitted together as a beautiful quilt in Christ. This is only possible through love and love is only possible through Christ. This is so that we can fully understand the mystery of how we are made alive in Christ. The mystery is that, even in the beginning of time, God had a plan to bring us Gentiles (non-Jews) into a right relationship with Him and that plan was to send His Son to the cross to pay for our sins.
in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Do you want wisdom and knowledge? They are only found in Christ! He is the answer to all things as He knows all and shares all with us through the Word and the Spirit.
I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.
Now, Paul begins to address the first challenge that faced them and even faces the church of today. The word "deceive" here actually means victimize. There are many ministers of the gospel that want to share a lot of words that seem to make since but they never get down to sharing the Word of God. They may have a college degree and all kinds of training in how to speak but they don't know much about Christ and following Him. This in turn produces Christians who don't understand the calling they have or the power that is within them.
For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.
Paul commends the believers in the fact that they are not being victims of the enticing words. He uses military terms to describe their faith. The term "orderly" speaks of a line of soldiers standing shoulder to shoulder to put up a united defense. The term "firm" talks about the fact that this line of soldiers for Christ is immovable and cannot be broken. We too are called to be soldiers for Christ in this manner by working with other believers to build each other up in the faith.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
Paul urges the believers to continue to follow Christ just as they were taught. Jesus is the Living Word (see John 1:1) and he urges them to remain rooted in that Word and built up in their faith as they continue to learn more about God and His ways. The more we know of God and what He has done for us, the more thankful we will be and it will be displayed in our lives. The word "rooted" reminds us of a tree and the fact that a tree is not easily moved or blown over when its roots are dug into the ground. Being "built up" reminds us of taking that tree and using the lumber to build a house (life) that honors God.
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
The Greek that is translated into "see to it" actually is closer to the word "beware" as Paul is trying to convey the danger associated with man's philosophies and traditions. This is the second challenge that faced the believers there and it seems that this is one of the biggest challenges facing the church today. When we put our traditions above the very Word of God, we are making our traditions into idols. These philosophies and traditions lead to division as it separates Christians into groups based on following or not following a system of rules. Division is of the devil and is how he attacks the body of Christ today. Instead, we need to focus on the message of Christ crucified for our sins and raised to new life so that we may share in His glory.
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.
Jesus Christ is fully God. That is hard for many to accept and for us to comprehend but He is in charge of everything and the highest authority. We too have been made complete in Christ and share in that power and authority.
In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ,
Circumcision of the flesh is the process of cutting off excess skin that is not necessary and indeed can be harmful to cleanliness. The process was done by a priest as prescribed by God in the Old Testament. Paul brings this up to address the third challenge that had got into the church which was legalism. Here, he reminds the believers that our circumcision is not of man's rules but by the very Spirit of God. We all go through a process of cutting out the flesh from our lives when we come to Christ. The old self (flesh) is removed just as with the Israelites but it is accomplished through the Holy Spirit and not man or man's laws.
having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
Our circumcision is accomplished by faith as our old self dies and is buried (baptized) and we are raised again just as Jesus was to a new life.
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.
We all at some point were dead men walking as we went about our lives in sin. We followed the ways of the flesh (sinful nature) and were headed in the direction of death because that is the penalty for sin. But, when we were powerless to help ourselves, God sent His Son to bring us new life.
He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.
God forgave us of our sins but many times we fail to understand exactly what that means. When we forgive someone, we usually still remember the offense and many times it comes out again in the heat of a disagreement. When God forgives us, He purposely forgets about the offense and it is like it never even happened. Not only did God forgive us but He even "canceled" the law that we were breaking and took it away to where it does not even apply to us anymore. So, if you are in Christ, the Mosaic Law does not apply to you no matter how much people want to try to put you back under that legal system. You are saved by the grace (gift) of God and nothing else!
And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Jesus not only nailed the law to the cross but also the power of sin and death. He soundly defeated them with the sacrifice on the cross and with His resurrection in triumph. Because of these facts, we can live the life of victory as they do not have any power over us if we are in Christ.
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.
We are in Christ and the religious laws do not apply to us but many people just can't let go of the law and try to add it to grace. Paul makes it clear that we are not to let anyone try to apply the Law to us in dealing with salvation. That is the same message that he gave to the Ephesian believers (see Ephesians 2:8 &9).
These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
A shadow does not have substance and here Paul explains that the religious laws did not have the ability to bring salvation. The reality is that nobody could be saved by their following of religious routines. That salvation is only available through faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Even today, many get confused with the traditions of a group of believers and forget that our faith is only in Jesus and not what our ancestors may or may not have done.
Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions.
Now, Paul introduces the fourth error that had gotten into the church which is mysticism. This speaks of the religious people who only had an outward appearance of godliness. They left Christ out of their faith and took great pride in themselves and their "spiritual" walk but they are not walking with Jesus. This false system of religion will be judged as we see in Revelation 17.
He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.
Without being connected to the head a body may flop around for awhile but it will not last and will accomplish nothing. That is how Paul describes these mystics as they flop around without the direction of God through the Holy Spirit. The ligaments and sinews speaks to action as without them, nothing can be done physically. When we were babies, we all had to learn how to operate these bodies that God gave us and the same applies to our walk with the Lord. By following Christ's leading through the Spirit, we will be able to put our faith into action and, as we grow, He will show us how to use our bodies to their true potential for God's glory. This is true for each of us individually as well as for churches (groups of believers). If a group of believers is being taught and led by one that does not understand how to use the power that God has given (by listening to the Spirit), we can't expect much to happen in their lives or the life of that local group.
Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 'Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!'
Paul now addresses the fifth error that had crept into the church and that is following the latest fad in religion. As we see here, they would try to add a few rules to grace and this list of rules causes division. The list would change with the times and the wisdom of men and the same thing is happening even more today. There are so many denominations and divisions in the body of Christ simply because of men not completely embracing the grace of God. Paul reminded the Colossians (and us today) that we have nothing to do with religious law as we were freed from religion at the cross of Christ.
These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
Paul concludes with the fact that none of these rules have any value because they do not have the power to save as that was accomplished only through the blood of Jesus Christ. There are those who grab ahold of the latest teaching as if it was going to save the world but, as we see here, they are all destined to fade when the next latest greatest teacher comes along.