Thoughts about Colossians 2:1-3
Paul writes about his concern for the people in the churches at Colossae and Laodicea. He wanted his letter to be read in Laodicea as well as in Colossae (Colossians 4:16). Laodicea was just a short distance away from Colossae. Paul did not find these churches, and many of these people had not seen his face.
Paul says that he struggles or strains for them. The verb gives a picture of an athlete seeking victory in an athletic contest. Paul struggled in many ways, enduring hardships of all kinds. Here, however, he refers mainly to the spiritual burden he carried for their spiritual well-being.
Paul states the purposes of his struggle. First, he strained in order “that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love (verse 2). The love of the saints for each other made it possible for them to collectively, as well as individually, grow in Christ. Paul wanted them to be encouraged.
Second, Paul struggles so that they will attain “to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (verses 2-3). Paul declares that God’s mystery is Christ Himself. Before Christ dwelt among men, much wisdom and knowledge concerning Him were concealed. Since He came to earth, wisdom and knowledge were revealed to those who believe in Him.
There are two points for us to consider. One, we should be eternally grateful that God has revealed Jesus to our hearts. We are blessed that our knowledge of Him includes the treasures of wisdom and knowledge that are stored up in Him. Second, as ministering disciples of Jesus, we can identify with Paul and his struggles to help the saints stay true to God and grow in Christ. We struggle on behalf of the body of Christ.
More Thoughts about Colossians 2:1-7
Paul has expressed his desire to encourage the Colossians. Also, He wants them to have the wisdom and knowledge that comes from knowing God’s mystery, which is Christ. True knowledge and wisdom come from knowing Christ and putting our faith in Him.
In verse 4, Paul gives another reason for what he has said. He desires to keep the Colossians from being deluded with persuasive arguments. Indeed, many regard the rise of heresy as the occasion for his letter. With all that Paul has written about Christ up to this point in his letter, he has provided a basis for countering the false teaching.
Paul acknowledges to the Colossians that he has been absent from them in body, but he rejoices in their good discipline and the stability of their faith in Christ (verse 5). No doubt Paul would have been happy to see them face-to-face. They are under spiritual attack, but their faith is holding firm. Paul’s letter will support them in their faith.
The Colossians have received Christ Jesus as the Lord (verses 6-7). Christ Jesus is the One who is the Lord. Having done this, they need to walk in Him. They have been firmly rooted in Christ and are continuing to be built up in Him. They are being established in “the faith” (NIV). The faith is the Christian faith. Given all this, they should be overflowing with gratitude.
We can apply this passage to our lives in two ways. One way is to apply Paul’s teaching to our own lives. As believers in Christ, we must keep growing in our spiritual experience. We must grow in the faith and avoid false teaching. Another way is to follow Paul’s example as a teacher and leader. We must maintain our love, hope, and concern for the people that we teach and lead.
More thoughts about Colossians 2:8-10
One of the reasons, if not the main reason, that Paul wrote to the Colossians was to lift up Christ and to counter the false teachings that had arisen there. In chapter two Paul gives some information about the erroneous teachings, but he does not answer every question. However, the truth about Christ is the answer to every kind of empty deception.
Paul warns, in verse 8, against being taken captive through philosophy and empty deception. Any philosophy that diminishes Christ is empty deception. These ideas accorded with the traditions of men and the elementary principles of the world. Just what Paul meant by “elementary principles” is widely discussed and debated. What is not debated is that all these teachings were not “according to Christ.”
Paul opposes the false teachings by lifting up Christ and His teaching. In verses 9-10, he declares that the fullness of deity dwells in Christ in bodily form. Jesus Christ is fully God. All of the attributes of God dwell in Him. In addition, God dwells in Christ in bodily form. This statement points to His humanity. This same Christ Jesus is the head over all rule and authority, whether in heaven or on the earth.
Speaking of believers, Paul says that we have been made complete in Him. Concerning our position in Christ, we are complete. Yet, we have to grow and realize that position in our experience. The growth toward experiential completeness is hugely important. Paul gives us this exhortation:
“12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13 NAS).
Our growth toward maturity needs to include arming ourselves against the advances of false teaching. Some of these advances are blatant, while others are quite subtle. The subtle teaching may be more dangerous to our faith. Because some advances are subtle, we may not notice that they are creeping into our worldview. At the bottom, the false teachings of the world deny the divine-human nature of Christ and His unique redemptive powers. We must continue to lift up Christ and proclaim His teachings.
More Thoughts about Colossians 2:11-12
Paul has lifted up Christ as the Savior of the world. In 2:9-10 he teaches that Christ is fully God, and we are full or complete in Him. In verses 11-12, he talks about how we as believers are made full in Christ. He states:
“11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”
Some of the false teaching in Colossae had to do with the physical and outward ceremony of circumcision. The temptation concerning all ceremonies is to maintain that it is the ceremony itself, rather than what it symbolizes, that brings about spiritual transformation.
Paul’s response to this error was to point out that the saints were “circumcised with a circumcision made without hands.” This circumcision resulted in the removal of the body of the flesh. Here, the flesh refers to their sinful nature. They had undergone a spiritual operation that resulted in the putting off of the sinful nature. Only Christ could perform this operation. This was done positionally when they put their faith in Christ and were made sons of God.
Next, Paul explains that the believers are identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. The ceremony of baptism is symbolic of what has happened. It is not the ceremony that saves and transforms us; it is the inner working that God does when we have faith in His work.
While we should not attribute saving virtue to the ceremony of baptism itself, we must also recognize that baptism should be a moment of great spiritual blessing. When we think about what it symbolizes, our Lord will wonderfully meet with us. It is also a moment when we witness boldly what God has done.
More Thoughts about Colossians 2:13-15
Without faith in Christ, people are spiritually dead in their transgressions of God’s law. They are uncircumcised concerning their flesh. Here, the term flesh refers to their moral nature. True circumcision is a matter of the heart. Spiritually uncircumcised people cannot rise above their sinful state. Spiritually dead people do not win spiritual victories.
The way out of our spiritually dead condition is through faith in Jesus Christ. When we believe in Jesus, God forgives our transgressions. His justice demanded that a penalty for sin be paid, and Jesus paid that penalty. When Jesus was crucified, He nailed our sins to the cross.
God “canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us.” The certificate of debt was hostile to us. There are many ideas concerning what Paul meant by a certificate of debt. Metaphors are very flexible. Probably, he meant the law as it was being used and interpreted by certain teachers in Colossae.
When we put our faith in Jesus, God makes us alive in Him. The transformation is a matter of the heart. Paul declares: “and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God” (Romans 2:29 NAS). True spiritual circumcision makes us alive spiritually.
When Jesus nailed our sins to the cross, He disarmed the “rulers and authorities.” This may refer to evil spirit beings, but Jesus has disarmed all who would set themselves up against Him. Paradoxically, in His death upon a cross, He made a public display of them.
Today, we can be wonderfully thankful that Jesus has canceled our spiritual debt. Sin did not go unpunished, but we were set free. Our hearts are deeply moved when we “survey” Jesus dying on the cross. Moreover, we are amazed when He comes forth from His grave and soon rises to be seated at the right hand of the Father. There He intercedes for us.
More Thoughts About Colossians 2:16-23
Earlier (2:8) in this chapter, Paul said: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception.” The terms philosophy and empty deception include a broad range of items. Now, in verses 16-23, Paul spells out some of his concerns about false teaching and his exhortation to guard their freedom in Christ.
- F. Bruce writes an excellent introductory statement about these verses. He states: “Since the new teaching involved an ascetic discipline which combined food restrictions and calendar regulations with a form of angel worship, Paul goes on to warn the Colossian Christians of the necessity of guarding on those particular fronts the freedom which is theirs in Christ.”
In verses 16-18 Paul exhorts the Colossians to not let anyone judge them regarding food and drink and concerning special days, including the Sabbath. These things are a mere shadow of spiritual reality. True reality belongs to Christ. In addition, Paul warns them about the worship of angels, taking their stand on visions they have seen, and getting inflated in their minds without cause.
Paul continues this line of thought in verses 19-23. In contrast to the path that some teachers would have the Colossians follow, Paul declares that the entire body of Christ is held together by the joints and ligaments, and it grows with a growth that is from God. The body of Christ is under Christ as the head, and it is held together by the joints and ligaments.
Paul is not preaching a doctrine of sin that grace might increase. Paul asks and answers this question: “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means.” (Romans 6:15) However, he does warn against trying to work our way to salvation through legalistic rules that are irrelevant to spiritual well-being.
We can be grateful for our freedom in Christ. When we are properly related to Christ, we will be rightly motivated, will honor His name, and will live with the edification of the body of Christ in mind.
George M. Flattery, Ph.D., is the founder of Global University and Network211.