Colossians
1-5 All the Treasures of Wisdom and Knowledge 6-10 Brought To Fullness In Christ 11-15 In Him, With Him 16-23 Holding the Head
All the Treasures of Wisdom and Knowledge

1For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, 2that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and [attaining] 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], 3in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument. 5For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.

V11For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face,. For Paul it is important that the Colossians knew that he is fighting a great spiritual battle for them and for their neighbors at Laodicea. He adds: “And for all those who have not personally seen my face.” He expands the circle to all the children of God through the centuries. He wants everyone, including you, to realize that he has a great struggle for every believer. He struggles to make the believers understand that the church is one with the Head in glory. He desires that this full awareness works in their hearts.

He struggles for them because he saw the danger of false teachers, and as a result the Colossians could lose this awareness. He struggles in prayer for this in his imprisonment. He is not struggling against the heretics but for the believers. If believers live in accordance with what they have become and what they have received in Christ, false teachers cannot gain control over them. We should not underestimate the importance of prayer for each other as we struggle along with Paul.

V22that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and [attaining] 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],. It is good to tell someone that you are praying for him or her. It is an encouragement, a blessing for the heart of the other. They feel supported. Thus prayer is a great tool that God has given to us to comfort others. Even if you are someone who perhaps does not have a public service in the church you can be an instrument of comfort and encouragement. This service is open to every child of God, and can be done anywhere. Paul did it while he was imprisoned; you can do it in your room (Mt 6:66But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees [what is done] in secret will reward you.). You should not think little of consoling a heart as though it is something trivial. It is the fruit of a prayer battle.

Encouragement is needed when fear and discord arise due to emerging heresies; for encouragement provides the heart with strength and resistance. When someone’s heart is encouraged, it affects all aspects of his life, “for from it [flow] the springs of life” (Pro 4:2323Watch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it [flow] the springs of life.
).

There is one more fruit of this prayer struggle. The believers will be united against the upcoming enemies with their heresies; they will be firmly knit together, with the bond of “love” indeed. Welded together and interconnected believers who love each other form an impregnable fortress. Note that it is about a fellowship experience. We cannot experience this individually.

When you isolate yourself you can study the Bible and get spiritual insight, but it will not be possible for you to be strengthened by experience. Maybe you can explain what it means to be united in love, but it is quite different to experience it. You can never really understand something if you do not experience what it means. For example if you are not married you can know about it, but you can only really know it when you are married.

Believers who are knit together are not only protected from evil but they are also open to what is good. Paul comes still closer to the heart of this struggle. He wants to take the believers to the treasury of faith. That treasury is the Person of Christ. All the riches are to be found in Him. Paul wants them to understand this.

When you understand the mystery of God, you have complete security and you know for sure that nothing further can be added. But as long as there is a propensity for pagan philosophy or Jewish traditions, you lack the complete security. You are hurting yourself and above all you are hurting Christ. He is everything. He wants to be everything to you and He is not happy with anything less than that; neither are you, are you? That is why Paul is very anxious that you come to the knowledge of the mystery of God.

V33in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.. And where can this knowledge be found? In Christ. For in Him “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”. Christ is the great treasury of Divine riches. There is nothing apart from Him that can be complementary to this. Nobody can add something to Him. Everything is hidden in Him, which at the same time is inviting all to search for these treasures. All these treasures are accessible to all believers.

This however requires exertion. Treasures are hidden for their high value. They do not lie on the surface. You know however where you must dig: in Christ. The big question is: ‘How much is this treasure worth to you?’ Your appreciation will be determined by your efforts. Do you doubt its value? Look again closely: all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. The word ‘all’ does not allow any exception.

Job makes an impressive comparison of wisdom with the finest metals which can be obtained only with much strenuous effort, and concludes that even all these treasures are eclipsed by wisdom (see Job 28). Job wondered: “But where can wisdom be found?” (Job 28:1212“But where can wisdom be found?
And where is the place of understanding?
). Here is the answer: in Christ.

The wisdom of God in Christ is revealed in a special way by the existence of the church. The manifold wisdom of God is seen in the church (Eph 3:1010so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly [places].). Only the wisdom of God could think out a plan that Christ would connect with people who are sinners by nature and that they would share in His glory.

In Christ you can even know all there is to know about God. There is no true knowledge outside of Christ. People can have interesting ideas or express assumptions both about the origin of creation and about how man can come into contact with God. But whether it is about the origin of heaven and earth or about the church, only in Christ will you get to know both the one and the other.

V44I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument.. Paul says all this because the right view is the great protection against misleading teachings. Knowledge of the mystery will keep you from being receptive to errors. You will not be impressed when people approach you with persuasive speech and give the best of their nice rhetoric. A beautiful and smooth speech and fiery argument are no guarantee that the truth is spoken. Paul himself did not make use of persuasive words. The power of God was palpable in him (1Cor 2:4-54and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,5so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.).

People who lure away believers from the faith are conspicuous by their arguments based on probabilities, and their training system is based on derivatives of conjecture. The truth, on the other hand, does not require evidence. One does not need to defend the truth. Speak the truth and the truth will defend itself.

V55For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.. Although Paul and the Colossians had never seen each other, Paul was always busy with these believers. He took upon himself the responsibility for them, because they belonged to the church and he was a minister of the church. His deep concern for the churches came upon him daily (2Cor 11:2828Apart from [such] external things, there is the daily pressure on me [of] concern for all the churches.). The evidence of this concern is seen firstly in the fact that he constantly prayed for them, secondly that he wrote this letter, and thirdly that he sent Tychicus to them.

Worries apart, before he speaks about the seducers further, he points out some things that he saw in the Colossians he was happy about. Their good order and the steadfastness of their faith in Christ were presented to him so alive that he could see them with his spiritual eyes. Besides their external order there was also an inner steadfastness which consisted of faith in Christ. Christ was the object of their faith. Outer order and inner steadfastness are mutually reinforcing. They are both necessary to prevent your faith from being torn apart.

But be on your guard! The enemy can also try other ways to undermine the steadfastness of your faith. When he cannot take away anything from you he would like to add something that apparently deepens your faith. In reality however he wants to scoop out your faith and make it powerless. This is illustrated by the verses following.

Now read Colossians 2:1-5 again.

Reflection: What treasures have you discovered in Christ?


Brought To Fullness In Christ

6Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, [so] walk in Him, 7having been firmly rooted [and now] being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, [and] overflowing with gratitude. 8See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. 9For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority,

The enemy is tirelessly busy attacking the nature of believers, namely the nature of their faith. He wants to inflict as much damage as possible upon their faith in God. He will try to make you doubt certain truths of the faith. For example, he tries to persuade you that God did not mean all that. If you reject his arguments and repel his attacks, he will try a different way. When he does not succeed in taking away something from you he will try to add something to your faith. He offers some appealing motivation. Do you want to believe more and better, and deepen your faith? Then he has the exact solution for it.

V66Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, [so] walk in Him,. To avoid yielding to this danger, the enrichment by additions to your faith, Paul takes you back to the beginning. You have received Christ and accepted Him; is there anything else that you accepted besides Christ? Indeed you were not saved – nor were the Colossians – by the Jewish or Greek wisdom or by Christ plus additional wisdom. It is clear and must be strongly emphasized that Christ is sufficient for our salvation. He is also sufficient for your walk as a Christian. All that is required for salvation comes from Him.

Further you have accepted Him as “the Lord”. You have accepted Him as the absolute sovereign Ruler of your life. There were no negotiations. As it was when you first accepted Him, it should be so even today.

“So walk in Him” is a commandment and that means other ways of walk are forbidden. Walk in Him means that you put into practice what you know of Him, and that you are doing His will in your life.

V77having been firmly rooted [and now] being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, [and] overflowing with gratitude.. You draw your life force from Him, and not from any philosophy, because you are “rooted … in Him”. That way you are standing firm like a tree that withstands the storms. Rooted in Him reminds you of what happened at your conversion. Christ is presented here as the soil in which you were rooted at your conversion. From then on you get your entire food from Him. Therefore it is important to be firmly rooted and your roots penetrate deeper and deeper into Him.

“Built up in Him” makes us think of a house. Here you see Christ as the corner stone on which you build your life’s house. The structure of the house is dependent on Him; the construction is done in Him. Therefore you must align yourself with Him so that He can show you the plan and process of building.

When you are deeply rooted in Him, orientating yourself to Him for the building up of your faith life, you will be strengthened in the faith. Faith is the truth of faith that you believe. Faith finds its center in Christ. Faith affects Him. Confirmed in faith means to be confirmed in Christ. You can see that it is all about Him. Even in your life of faith all things are from him, through Him and for Him.

These were not new things for the Colossians. They had already been taught them. I wonder if it is so with you too. In any case you have the touchstone in your hand to test the teachings that you received at your conversion and thereafter. You might discover some things in your life that need to be changed, also your view of things. You will also have the desire to apply them and do them as it is said here. After you have received the right teachings and accepted them you will surely overflow with gratitude.

There is much reason to give thanks if you let what you have become in Christ and what you have received in Christ to work in you, and consider how this is quite enough for now and forever. Thankfulness to God is at the same time a protection against temptation to doubt the faith delivered to the saints once and for all. When your heart is full of the wonderful truths of the gospel your giving thanks will ascend to God. Giving thanks is a very effective antidote to the poison of false teachers.

V88See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.. “See to it” Paul insists. Do not think you are immune to the wiles of the enemy. He prowls around and considers every believer a prey. He plans even to carry you away as loot from the Lord Jesus. Two means he uses are philosophy and empty deceit.

Philosophy is as old as the world, but it has never saved a man from misery and sorrow caused by sin. The reason is the world’s philosophy ignores sin and pretends sin doesn’t exist. That is the reason every solution philosophy offers is empty deceit. This cannot be otherwise, because philosophy is a product of the tradition of men, and it is seamlessly woven with the basic principles of the world. In the basic principles of the world you can think of all the individual parts that make up the world’s system. God has no place in this system.

When the tradition of men, that is the tradition besides Christ, gains any value over the knowledge of God, it is in contradiction to the Scripture (Mt 15:3-93And He answered and said to them, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?4For God said, ‘HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER,’ and, ‘HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH.’5But you say, ‘Whoever says to [his] father or mother, “Whatever I have that would help you has been given [to God],”6he is not to honor his father or his mother.’ And [by this] you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.7You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you:
8‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS,
BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.
9‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME,
TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’”
). When you begin to favor the traditions instead of the Bible, it means that doubt replaces the security. Traditions are from men and not from God. Where traditions get room, the door to the basic principles of the world is open.

In many ways they have crept into the service to God. People recognize traditions because outward appearance is the measure of the spiritual content of the service. The Spirit of God is suppressed by an order that is made by men. For example consider situations where only qualified, eloquent people should preach, and where altar, cloth, music and icons decorate the whole event.

Paul sets the whole system aside with one stroke of the brush or better with one name: Christ. The twofold danger, philosophy and human tradition, is contrary to Christ. He who has Him has everything.

V99For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,. What do you need more than that you have Him, in Whom all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily? This is almost the same expression we find in chapter 1 (Col 1:1919For it was the [Father’s] good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him,). There he refers to the time when Christ was on the earth to fulfill the counsels of God. Today (verse 99For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,) He is in heaven as the result of the finished work of redemption.

In both the expressions you can see what Christ was when He came to earth and what He still is and will remain in eternity. He took a body then and has always had a body since, although now He has a glorified body. He became Man in order to stay so in eternity. The dwelling of the fullness of the Godhead bodily is a present and an ongoing dwelling of the fullness of the Godhead in the glorified Son of God at the right hand of God.

It is not that only certain aspects of the Godhead dwell in Christ, but the complete and total volume of all the essence and attributes of God, for He is God Himself. He does not share His Divine power and majesty with any single creature. The body He has is imperishable and that is forever.

V1010and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority,. The conclusion Paul draws from this, of course is breath-taking. He says that you are in Him, in whom all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily, and brought to completion. You lack nothing. In Him you are perfect before God.

On the one hand you see that God is presented in Him in all His fullness (verse 99For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,); on the other hand you possess in Him the completion and perfection of God. You lack nothing in terms of your position before God. There is nothing and no one who can take place between you and Christ, because you are in Him. Philosophy and tradition can add nothing to this perfect position. On the contrary anything you take from them will drive you far from God. Do you want that? Please note that He is not only greater than all men but also greater than all the angelic powers He created. You are perfect in this Person. What more do you want?

Now read Colossians 2:6-10 again.

Reflection: What contrasts do you find in these verses?


In Him, With Him

11and 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; 12having 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. 13When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.

V1111and 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;. It is really amazing that you are perfect in Him. Now therefore it is understandable that the question arises: ‘How did I come in Him?’ Paul explains this in the verses we have before us now. You have become one with the Lord Jesus in His death and resurrection. By faith you must know that what happened to Him when He died and rose again has happened at the same moment with you too.

The word “circumcision” refers to a practice of the people of Israel in the Old Testament. God placed this as the sign of the covenant He made with Abraham and his descendants (Gen 17:9-14,23-279God said further to Abraham, “Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations.10This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised.11And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you.12And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a [servant] who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants.13A [servant] who is born in your house or who is bought with your money shall surely be circumcised; thus shall My covenant be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.14But an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”23Then Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all [the servants] who were born in his house and all who were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s household, and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the very same day, as God had said to him.24Now Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.25And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.26In the very same day Abraham was circumcised, and Ishmael his son.27All the men of his household, who were born in the house or bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.). What happened then does not happen here again literally (“made without hands”) but it has a spiritual meaning. This circumcision took place "in the removal of the body of the flesh" and indeed at the very moment when “the circumcision of Christ” took place.

Circumcision means that something is cut off thoroughly. For the people of Israel that was the cutting away of the foreskin. Spiritually it means the body – a generic term for all that serves the sinful flesh to express itself – is totally cut off. This cutting away happened through the judgment the Lord Jesus suffered on the cross.

The circumcision of Christ has nothing to do with the literal circumcision that happened on the eighth day after His birth (Lk 2:2121And when eight days had passed, before His circumcision, His name was [then] called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.). That circumcision happened with hands indeed. But the spiritual significance of circumcision is the judgment of the flesh. God in Christ condemned sin in the flesh (Rom 8:33For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God [did]: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and [as an offering] for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,).

You are also circumcised in Him. In the judgment He met, you see the judgment that you received. That He bore this judgment in your stead does not change the fact that it was executed on you. When God judged you, you were in Him.

V1212having 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.. Your being one with Him does not stop with that. Death is followed by burial. Burial is the confirmation and the validation of death. Your burial in fact is the signature which certifies this statement. When you get baptized you declare publicly the truth that Christ bore the judgment for you. You show outwardly what happened in you inwardly. You draw the full consequences of your being one with Him by breaking all ties with the world at the very moment of your baptism. One cannot think of a more radical break with the world than being dead and buried. When you think of it, it will keep you from returning to the world and from its influences.

Through your conversion and baptism, and through your death and burial, you are no longer for the world. This marks the end of your old life and at the same time the beginning of a new life in a new world. You have entered into this new world “through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead”. The fact that God raised the Lord Jesus from the dead is proof that the work is done perfectly.

Everything is in order. Whether you feel that now or not the fact remains the same. The question now is not whether you feel, but whether you believe. As good as you see your own judgment in His judgment you may see your resurrection in His resurrection through God. Are you aware of how far reaching the consequences of your own connection with Christ are?

V1313When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,. Well you know now how you came to be in Him. But, how does it look now with all the things that you were, with all the sins you have committed before this time? Can they be held against you again? There is a sufficient answer to this question. That answer silences everything that exalts itself against your perfection in Christ.

You fully agree that you were “dead in your transgressions”. Dead in this instance means the total absence of any movement towards God. Also in this death there is nothing that is in tune with the benevolent desire of God. You were dead to God and thereby you were not concerned about God’s commandments, but you trespassed them. That was because you were dead in the uncircumcision of your flesh. You followed the affections of your sinful, unjudged flesh (Rom 8:6-76For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,7because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able [to do so],).

God brought life to you who belonged in this state of death and its evil way of life and mentality; and He brought you into relationship with His Son. God found perfect satisfaction in His work. He proved the fact that He raised the Lord Jesus from the dead. His resurrection and the fact that you have been made alive with Him is the assurance of the forgiveness of your sins. All sins are forgiven without exception.

The life of the Son and your life in Him give no room for a single question that can be raised regarding any sin that you ever committed. When you are made alive with Him all your sins are forgiven. Possession of life proves that sin is put away because it is the resurrection life. Sin cannot enter the area of resurrection.

V1414having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.. At the end of verse 1313When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, Paul changes from ‘you’ to ‘us’. He now says something that is primarily intended for the Jews. It does not mean that it is not written for you. You will see that you received freedom in addition to life and forgiveness. But to understand the power of his words, it is important to bear in mind whereof he speaks in the first place.

The “certificate of debt” is written in the debtor’s own hand. That is exactly what Israel had done. When the Lord gave them the law (here called “decrees”) on Mount Sinai they declared: “All that the LORD has spoken we will do” (Exo 19:88All the people answered together and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do!” And Moses brought back the words of the people to the LORD.; 24:3,73Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the LORD and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the LORD has spoken we will do!”7Then he took the book of the covenant and read [it] in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!”). Soon this declaration became their adversary. Very quickly it became clear that the conduct of their life was completely contrary to the statutes they wanted to keep. The law was an unbearable yoke (Acts 15:1010Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?). Their debt was still more burdensome and prohibitively large to pay.

Then Christ came. He paid the debt and wiped them out. He cleared the mortgage note and tore it up. One clears something which hinders his pathway or his work. This literally means to make something disappear completely so it doesn’t matter anymore. This is what happened on the cross. There you see that it did not happen by nailing something to the cross but by nailing Someone to the cross. The same word nail comes again to point out the print of the nails which was visible in His hands after His resurrection (Jn 20:2525So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”).

It must be clear to every Jew who believes in Christ that the death of Christ made the very requirement of the law powerless. How easier it is for him to breath now! The threat that comes from the law is over. He is made alive with Christ and therefore he should know by experience what kind of life he has received in Him – the kind of life that can be received in no other way.

What foolishness it would be to give it up and prefer to come under the law again? If you are not a Jew you never were under the law. But it is applicable to you also. What a folly it would be when you subject yourself again to what has been cleared away by Christ, even if the intention behind it could be out of gratitude!

V1515When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.. You are freed from the law because you are dead. You are saved from death because you have been made alive with Christ. And you are also saved from the power of satan and all his demons because the cross is the victory over the forces of evil. Life, liberty and victory are your portion in Christ. By going through death straight away He disarmed the one who had the power over death (Heb 2:1414Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,). He achieved victory before all eyes. The enemy is not only shut out but also humiliated.

There is not a single reason to pay him any honor. Honor belongs only to Him who was crucified in all weakness and overcame in this way. What is weaker and more humiliating than to hang on the cross? But thus He gained complete victory. The triumph is complete.

Now read Colossians 2:11-15 again.

Reflection: Count everything by which you are made one with Christ and what He has done for you. Give thanks to Him for it.


Holding the Head

16Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— 17things which are a [mere] shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. 18Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on [visions] he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, 19and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God. 20If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21“Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22(which all [refer to] things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, [but are] of no value against fleshly indulgence.

V1616Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—. Paul has made your position clear in Christ. You have life. God’s purpose is that you live this life of freedom and that is a life of victory. Outsiders will evaluate your life. That is alright. But sometimes there are outsiders who want to tell you that you have to adhere to certain statutes. You should not yield to them an inch. Remember religious statutes have no authority over those associated with Christ.

Do you know what it means if you allow these things in your life? You deny the perfection of the work of Christ and its glorious consequences for you personally. The enemy indeed is disarmed; but certainly his cunning strategy is not over yet. His greatest weapon, death, is no longer a threat. However he wants to devastate your life of faith. He knows how effective Jewish and other religious statutes are. He is successful, if only he can make you comply with them.

The five things that are named are the marks of the religious system which the false teachers hold on to. None of them is spiritual; it is all material and earthly. There is nothing wrong in eating and drinking; but when a religious significance is added to it, it is a corruption of the true worship to God. In Israel dietary laws had their place, specifically for annual festivals, the monthly new moon, and the weekly sabbath. When these things are brought over into the Christian era, the true meaning of Christendom is lost.

V1717things which are a [mere] shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.. The covenant observances of the Old Testament were shadows of the reality that was to come. The reality is Christ (Jn 5:4646For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me.). Christ is the fulfillment of all the Old Testament shadows. He is our true food and our true drink indeed. He is the fulfillment of everything that is presented in the various festivals. To implement parts of this shadow in Christendom is to cast a shadow on Christ.

This is like viewing the photo of a person while the person himself is physically present. The one who is satisfied with the photo and ignores the person rejects the person himself. Whoever changes his attention between the photo and the person himself offends the person because he says thereby that the person himself is not sufficient. The desire to mix the shadows with reality means that Christ is not enough.

Currently there is a discussion about keeping the sabbath. There are voices which want to make the sabbath, in some form or other, an integral part of the Christian life. A discussion on this subject in the light of what is presented here is completely useless and even dangerous. Of all the twenty-one letters in the New Testament this is the only occasion where sabbath is mentioned. To keep it? No, on the contrary to abandon it. Is that not instructive?

V1818Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on [visions] he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind,. In verses 16-1716Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—17things which are a [mere] shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. Paul points to the threatening danger from the Jewish side namely the observances of the laws and covenants. In the verses following he points out the danger falsely called knowledge in the form of mysticism. Maybe you know of people who claim to have had visions. They drive hard to impress that they have seen things others have not seen.

Thus they present themselves as more spiritual than others and view themselves as a kind of mediator. You must visit them to learn specific things about God. They are very humble in their behavior as though they do not seek their own glory. But they worship angels because they maintain that these creatures are in the immediate presence of God, and again they think that they can learn more about God through them.

When you open yourself to such people and their ideas you run the risk of losing the prize. And that means that after your Christian race you will be robbed of your crown. The only angels who want the adoration of humans are evil angels. Holy angels decline this worship (Rev 19:1010Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he *said to me, “Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”; 22:99But he *said to me, “Do not do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God.”). Another pernicious form of worship is that of Mary as the mediator, as though she is necessary to draw near to God or to the Lord Jesus. This is not the humility with which one seeks the honor of God. It is a false humility and the worship of a creature.

Paul exposes these people by saying that their ideas come out of their own depraved thinking, the thinking of the sinful flesh. There is absolutely no basis for this.

V1919and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.. Whoever accepts such ideas no longer holds on firmly to Christ the Head. You are – this is true of every member of the church – personally connected to the Head, and without any intermediate person of whatever kind. Your growth results from this direct connection with the Head, Christ Jesus, without any intermediary. God has ordained it thus. Growing this way is growing with the increase that is from God.

Do not let anything or anyone come in between you and Christ. Each member of the body is in direct contact with the Head to fulfill its own function. Through the Head you are connected with all the other members of the body and you grow up together. Do you realize that if you give in to false teachings and traditions of men, not only your own growth is disturbed but that of other members too?

V2020If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as,. You are again directed to the death of Christ in order to escape from the dangers of the Jewish and philosophical systems. What to die with Christ means is that you are dead to the systems of this world and to its elements. Then how can you subject yourself to certain specific statutes. If you have died then you cannot continue to live as though you still belonged to that system.

All laws and regulations and other things are no longer applicable to you because you are dead. Is there anything that could still exercise power over the dead? Can a dead man respond? Can we expect any action from him? Christendom is not keeping all sorts of commands and taboos. You are freed from all those because you died with Christ. A renewed attention to these things means that you go back to the world to which you died.

V21-2221“Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!”22(which all [refer to] things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men?. In summary, the decrees “do not handle”, “do not taste”, “do not touch” are earthly and material things. They are like any laws in connection with decrees (Mk 7:1-161The Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered around Him when they had come from Jerusalem,2and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed.3(For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, [thus] observing the traditions of the elders;4and [when they come] from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.)5The Pharisees and the scribes *asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?”6And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS,
BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.
7‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME,
TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’
8Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”9He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.10For Moses said, ‘HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER’; and, ‘HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER, IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH’;11but you say, ‘If a man says to [his] father or [his] mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given [to God]),’12you no longer permit him to do anything for [his] father or [his] mother;13[thus] invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”14After He called the crowd to Him again, He [began] saying to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and understand:15there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man.16<If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”>
). They are not applicable to you. It would also be foolish to get involved in them. They are also things that have absolutely no lasting value; they all perish after they are used. This is because they are according to the commandments and doctrines of men. What is devised by man will not last long; only what is conceived by God will last forever (1Pet 2:24-2524and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.25For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.).

V2323These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, [but are] of no value against fleshly indulgence.. Sometimes what is invented by man appears to have great value; nevertheless it is only apparent, and the reality is hollow. Their talk sounds wise; but the content is foolish. Self-will is dominating. The ‘I’ stands in the center. It does not bend before God and His Word. They bend indeed and appear to be very humble, but that is not their real attitude towards God. It is their attitude towards creatures which they look up to, perhaps to exceptionally gifted men or even angels.

In the realm of the spirit they worship those who are superior to them, but in the realm of matter created by God there is no respect. Thus the body was regarded by the Greeks as a prison in which the spirit was trapped – just dust and irrelevant. While the spirit develops and unfolds, the body is punished with fasting and mortification. The needs of the body cannot be resisted. The pride of man wants to dominate everything, even the God created bodily needs. This effort is nothing more than the satisfaction of the sinful flesh.

If you are conscious that you died with Christ the enemy will try in vain to gain entry into you with his errors.

Now read Colossians 2:16-23 again.

Reflection: In this passage on ‘commandments and teachings of men’ did you detect anything in your faith life? What will you do about them?


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