Colossians 2 Commentary

2:6-3:4 FALSE VIEWS LEAD TO BONDAGE

Freedom through Christ (2:6-15)

Again Paul reminds the believers that receiving Christ is only the beginning of the Christian life.

There must be continual growth through building the life on him (6-7).

The Colossians know that God has freed them from the powers of evil (see 1:13). If, then, they turn and accept a religion powered by the unseen spiritual forces of evil, they are placing themselves in bondage once again (8). Christ needs no angelic powers to help him, for the fulness of God’s nature exists in him in its totality. Those in Christ likewise need no angelic powers to help him, for they are already complete in him (9-10).

 

Paul gives an illustration that likens Christian salvation to the common Jewish rite of circumcision. Circumcision was literally a cutting away of the flesh. Salvation through Christ is also a cutting away of the flesh, though in this case ‘flesh’ refers not to part of the physical body but to sinful human nature.

Christians have been freed from the power of the old nature (11).

A second illustration likens salvation to the rite of baptism. Union with Christ means the death and burial of the old life, and the rising again to new life (12). The Colossian believers had once been spiritually dead. Being Gentiles they did not even have the Jewish covenant sign of circumcision to give them hope of better things to come. Yet God forgave them their sins (13).

The law of God shows up human sinfulness and demands death as the punishment. It is like a book that records sinners’ debts, then demands their death because they cannot pay those debts. But God forgave the sins and wiped out the debts, because Christ paid the full penalty on behalf of repentant sinners. He destroyed the power of the law – as if he took that book with its record of sins and debts and nailed it to the cross with himself. Therefore, believers need no longer fear the power of the law (14). Nor need they fear the power of the spiritual forces of evil, for Christ has conquered them, taken away their power and displayed his victory over them (15).

Christian freedom in practice (2:16-3:4)

In view of the freedom that Christ has won for them, the Colossian believers must not listen to those who try to force them to obey the rules and regulations of the Israelite law. Practices taught in the law may be compared to shadows. They are not solid or permanent, but their existence enables the viewer to know that there is some real object that casts the shadows. That real object is Jesus Christ. Now that he has come, the shadows are of no further interest. The ceremonies of the law have no further use (16-17).

Neither should Christians listen to those who want to show their ‘superior’ knowledge by mixing their own philosophies with the gospel. Christian life and growth come from God through a direct relationship between the believer and Christ. There is no scale of angelic beings forming a ladder to link Christians with God (18-19).

Having been set free from the bondage of sin through Christ’s death, Christians should not get into bondage again by becoming slaves of religious regulations that people want to impose upon them. To make laws to live by is the way of the worldly person, not the way of the Christian. No matter how clever and religious those laws may appear, they will not succeed in controlling the desires of the body (20-23).

Because they have died to sin, Christians are not in bondage to things of the world as the Gnostics are. Christians have been raised with Christ to new life in a higher world, where their desires and conduct are like Christ’s (3:1-2). Through Christ they have life directly in God. In contrast to the Gnostics, they do not try to climb a ladder of countless intermediate spirit beings. Neither the Gnostics nor any other unbelievers can understand this life, because the life is ‘in Christ’ and therefore is hidden from their view. Its true character will be fully shown on the day when Christ’s glory is revealed (3-4).

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