Colossians 2


The apostle shows his great concern for the Church at Colosse

and at Laodicea; and exhorts them to steadfastness in the

faith, and to beware of being seduced by specious and enticing

words, 1-5.

And to walk in Christ, as they had been taught, and to abound in

faith and holiness, 6, 7.

To beware of false teachers, who strove to pervert the Gospel,

and to lead their minds from him in whom the fulness of the

Godhead dwells; with whom they were filled; by whom they had

received spiritual circumcision; and into whom they were

baptized and were quickened, and raised from a death of sin to

a life of righteousness, 8-12.

He points out their former state, and the great things which

Christ had done for them, 13-15.

Warns them against particular tenets of the Judaizing teachers

relative to meats, drinks, holydays, festivals, and the

specious pretences of deceivers, 16-19.

And shows that all the things taught by these, though they had

a show of wisdom, yet perished in the using, and were the

commandments and doctrines of men, 20-23.


Verse 1. What great conflict] The word αγων, which we here

render conflict, is to be understood as implying earnest care and

solicitude, accompanied, undoubtedly, with the most fervent

application to the throne of grace in their behalf. The

αγωνιζομενος of the preceding verse gave the apostle occasion to

use the word αγων here. He agonized with God, and his agony was

for them.

Laodicea] A city of Asia Minor, on the borders of Caria,

Phrygia, and Lydia. It was originally called Diospolis, or the

city of Jupiter, and afterwards Rhoas; but obtained the name of

Laodicea from Laodice, the wife of Antiochus. It is now called

Ladik. It was formerly celebrated for its commerce, and the fine

black wool of its sheep. Colosse, or the city of the Colossians,

lay between it and Hierapolis. This Hierapolis was also a town of

Phrygia, famous for its hot baths: it is now called Bambukholasi.

As many as have not seen my face in the flesh] From this it has

been conjectured that St. Paul had never been at either Colosse or

Laodicea, and this, from the letter of the text, appears probable;

and yet, his having passed more than once through this country,

preaching and strengthening the Churches, renders it very

improbable. 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.

Verse 2. That their hearts might be comforted] That they might

have continual happiness in God, having constant affiance in him.

Being knit together in love] The word συμβιβασθεντων, or

συμβιβασθεντες, which is the true reading, but both of equal

import here, signifies being united, as the beams or the timbers

of a building, by mortices and pins. The visible Church of Christ

cannot be in union with God unless it have unity in itself, and

without love this unity is impossible.

Unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding] That is,

that they might have the most indubitable certainty of the truth

of Christianity, of their own salvation, and of the general design

of God to admit the Gentiles into his Church. This is the grand

mystery of God, which was now laid open by the preaching of the


And of the Father, and of Christ] These words are variously

written in different MSS., versions, and fathers: The mystery of

God-of God in Christ-of God who is in Christ-of God concerning

Christ-of God who is Christ-of the God Christ-of God and Christ-of

God the Father of Christ-of God the Father, and our Lord Christ-of

God and the Father of Christ-of God the Father, in Christ-of the

God Christ Jesus, Father and Lord, &c., &c., &c.

This great variety of versions leaves the strongest presumption

that the words in question are glosses which have crept into the

text, and are of no authority. Griesbach has left them out of the


Verse 3. In whom are hid] Or rather in which; referring to the

mystery mentioned above. In this glorious scheme of Christianity

all the treasures-the abundance and excellency, of wisdom and

knowledge are contained. No scheme of salvation, or Divine

knowledge, ever equalled in its depth and excellency the Gospel

plan. A scheme which the wisdom of God alone could devise, and

which his power and infinite mercy alone could accomplish.

Verse 4. Lest any man should beguile you] The word

παραλογιζηται means to deceive by sophistry or subtle reasoning,

in which all the conclusions appear to be fairly drawn from the

premises, but the premises are either assumed without evidence, or

false in themselves; but this not being easily discovered, the

unthinking or unwary are carried away by the conclusions which are

drawn from these premises. And this result is clearly intimated

by the term πιθανολογια, enticing words, plausible conclusions or

deductions from this mode of reasoning. The apostle seems to

allude to the Gentile philosophers, who were notorious for this

kind of argumentation. Plato and Socrates are not free from it.

Verse 5. For though I be absent in the flesh] It is hardly

possible that such words as these in this verse could have been

used to perfect strangers; they argue a considerable knowledge of

the people, and a knowledge founded on personal acquaintance. The

original is exceedingly soft and musical:-




The whole verse shows that this Church was sound in doctrine,

and strict in discipline. They had steadfast faith in Christ,

and regular order or discipline among themselves.

Verse 6. As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus] Many

persons lay a certain stress on the words as and so, and make

various fine heads of discourses from them; viz. As ye received

Christ in a spirit of humility, so walk in him; as ye received him

in a spirit of faith, so walk in him, &c., &c. This may be all

proper in itself; but nothing of the kind was intended by the

apostle. His meaning is simply this: Seeing ye have embraced the

doctrine of Christ, continue to hold it fast, and not permit

yourselves to be turned aside by sophistical or Judaizing


Verse 7. Rooted and built up in him] It is not usual with the

apostle to employ this double metaphor, taken partly from the

growth of a tree and the increase of a building. They are to be

rooted; as the good seed had been already sown, it is to take

root, and the roots are to spread far, wide, and deep. They are

to be grounded; as the foundation has already been laid, they are

to build thereon. In the one case, they are to bear much fruit;

in the other, they are to grow up to be a habitation of God

through the Spirit. See the notes on Eph 2:21, 22; 3:17.

Abounding therein with thanksgiving.] No limitation is ever set

to the operations of God on the soul, or to the growth of the soul

in the knowledge, love, and image of God. Those who are brought

into such a state of salvation should abound in gratitude and

loving obedience, as they grow in grace.

Verse 8. Beware lest any man spoil you] The word συλαγωγων,

from συλη, prey, and αγειν, to lead or carry away,

signifies to rob, or spoil of their goods, as if by violence or

rapine. Their goods were the salvation they had received from

Christ; and both the Gentile and Jewish teachers endeavoured to

deprive them of these, by perverting their minds, and leading them

off from the truths of Christianity.

Philosophy and vain deceit] Or, the vain or empty deceit of

philosophy; such philosophizing as the Jewish and Gentile teachers

used. As the term philosophy stood in high repute among the

Gentiles, the Jews of this time affected it; and both Philo and

Josephus use the word to express the whole of the Mosaic

institutions. So the former: οικαταμωσηνφιλοσοφουντες. "Those

who embraced the philosophy of Moses;" PHIL., De Nomin. Mutand.

And the latter; τριαπαραιουγαιοιςειδηφιλοσοφειται. "There are

three systems of philosophy among the Jews," (Bell. Jud., lib. ii.

cap 8, sec. 2,) meaning the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes, as

immediately follows. The Jewish philosophy, such as is found in

the Cabala, Midrashim, and other works, deserves the character of

vain deceit, in the fullest sense and meaning of the words. The

inspired writers excepted, the Jews have ever been the most

puerile, absurd, and ridiculous reasoners in the world. Even

Rabbi Maymon, or Maimonides, the most intelligent of them all, is

often in his master piece (the Moreh Nevochim, the Teacher of the

Perplexed) most deplorably empty and vain.

After the rudiments of the world] According to the doctrine of

the Jewish teachers; or, according to the Mosaic institutions, as

explained and glossed by the scribes, Pharisees, and rabbins in

general. We have often seen that haolam hazzeh, this

world, of which τουκοσμουτουτου is a literal translation, is

frequently used to express the Jewish system of rites, ceremonies,

and institutions in general; what the apostle calls the tradition

of men, namely, what men, unauthorized by God, have taught as

doctrines received from him. Our Lord frequently refers to and

condemns these traditions.

Not after Christ.] Not according to the simple doctrine of

Christ, viz.: HE died for our offences; believe on the Lord Jesus,

and thou shalt be saved.

Verse 9. For in him dwelleth all the fulness] This is opposed

to the vain or empty doctrine of the Gentile and Jewish

philosophers: there is a fulness in Christ suited to the empty,

destitute state of the human soul, but in the philosophy of the

Jews and Gentiles nothing like this was found; nor indeed in the

more refined and correct philosophy of the present day. No

substitute has ever been found for the grace of the Lord Jesus,

and those who have sought for one have disquieted themselves in


By the Godhead or Deity, θεοτης, we are to understand the

state or being of the Divine nature; and by the fulness of that

Deity, the infinite attributes essential to such a nature.

Bodily.] συματικως signifies truly, really; in opposition to

typically, figuratively. There was a symbol of the Divine

presence in the Hebrew tabernacle, and in the Jewish temple; but

in the body of CHRIST the Deity, with all its plenitude of

attributes, dwelt really and substantially: for so the word

σωματικως means; and so it was understood by the ancient Greek

fathers, as is fully shown by SUICER, in his Thesaurus, under the


"The fulness of the Godhead dwelt in Christ 'bodily,' as opposed

to the Jewish tabernacle, or temple; truly and really, in

opposition to types and figures; not only effectively, as God

dwells in good men, but substantially or personally, by the

strictest union, as the soul dwells in the body; so that God and

man are one Christ." See Parkhurst.

Verse 10. And ye are complete in him] καιεστεεναυτω

πεπληρωμενοι. And, ye are filled with him. Our word complete

quite destroys the connection subsisting in the apostle's ideas.

The philosophy of the world was empty, κενη, but there was a

πληρωμα, or fulness, in Christ; the Colossians were

empty-spoiled and deprived of every good, while following the

empty philosophy and groundless traditions of Jewish and Gentile

teachers; but since they had received Christ Jesus they were

πεπληρωμενοι, filled with him. This is the true meaning of the

word, and by this the connection and assemblage of ideas in the

apostle's mind are preserved. No fanciful completeness in Christ,

of a believer, while incomplete in himself, is either expressed or

intended by St. Paul. It is too bad a doctrine to exist in the

oracles of God.

The head of all principality] See the notes on Col 1:16, 17.

Verse 11. In whom also ye are circumcised] All that was

designed by circumcision, literally performed, is accomplished in

them that believe through the Spirit and power of Christ. It is

not a cutting off of a part of the flesh, but a putting off the

body of the sins of the flesh, through the circumcision of Christ;

he having undergone and performed this, and all other rites

necessary to qualify him to be a mediator between God and man;

for, being made under the law, he was subject to all its

ordinances, and every act of his contributed to the salvation of

men. But by the circumcision of Christ, the operation of his

grace and Spirit may be intended; the law required the

circumcision of the flesh, the Gospel of Christ required the

circumcision of the heart. The words τωναμαρτιων, of the sins,

are omitted by ABCD*EFG, several others, by the Coptic, AEthiopic,

Armenian, Vulgate, and Itala; and by Clement, Athanasius, Basil,

Cyril, and several others. Griesbach has omitted them.

Verse 12. Buried with him in baptism] Alluding to the

immersions practised in the case of adults, wherein the person

appeared to be buried under the Water, as Christ was buried in the

heart of the earth. His rising again the third any, and their

emerging from the water, was an emblem of the resurrection of the

body; and, in them, of a total change of life.

The faith of the operation of God] They were quickened,

changed, and saved, by means of faith in Christ Jesus; which faith

was produced by the operation or energy of God. Believing is the

act of the soul; but the grace or power to believe comes from God


Verse 13. And you, being dead in your sins]

See Clarke on Eph 2:1:, &c.

The uncircumcision of your flesh] This must refer to that part

of the Colossian Church which was made up of converted heathens,

for the heathens alone were uncircumcised.

Verse 14. Blotting out the hand-writing of ordinances] By the

hand-writing of ordinances the apostle most evidently means the

ceremonial law: this was against them, for they were bound to

fulfil it; and it was contrary to them, as condemning them for

their neglect and transgression of it. This law God himself has

blotted out.

Blotting out the hand-writing is probably an allusion to

Nu 5:23, where the curses written in the book, in the case of the

woman suspected of adultery, are directed to be blotted out with

the bitter waters. And there can be little doubt of a farther

allusion, viz., to the custom of discharging the writing from

parchment by the application of such a fluid as the muriatic acid,

which immediately dissolves those ferruginous calces which

constitute the blackening principle of most inks. But the East

India inks, being formed only of simple black, such as burnt

ivory, or cork, and gum water, may be wiped clean off from the

surface of the paper or parchment by the application of a wet

sponge, so as to leave not one legible vestige remaining: this I

have often proved.

Nailing it to his cross] When Christ was nailed to the cross,

our obligation to fulfil these ordinances was done away. There

may be another reference here to some ancient mode of annulling

legal obligations, by nailing them to a post; but I do not

recollect at present an instance or example. Antiquated laws are

said to have been thus abrogated.

Verse 15. And having spoiled principalities and powers] Here

is an allusion to the treatment of enemies when conquered: they

are spoiled of their armour, so much the word απεκδυειν implies;

and they are exhibited with contumely and reproach to the

populace, especially when the victor has the honour of a triumph;

to the former of which there is an allusion in the words

εδειγματισενενπαρρησια, making a public exhibition of them;

and to the latter in the words θριαμβευσαςαυτους, triumphing over

them. And the principalities and powers refer to the emperors,

kings, and generals taken in battle, and reserved to grace the

victor's triumph. It is very likely that by the αρχαςκαι

εξουσιας, principalities and powers, over whom Christ triumphed,

the apostle means the nesioth and roshoth, who

were the rulers and chiefs in the Sanhedrin and synagogues,

and who had great authority among the people, both in making

constitutions and explaining traditions. The propagation of

Christianity in Judea quite destroyed their spiritual power and

domination; just as the propagation of Protestantism, which was

Christianity revived, destroyed, wherever it appeared, the false

doctrine and domination of the pope of Rome.

In it.] The words εναυτω refer rather to Christ, than to the

cross, if indeed they be genuine; of which there is much reason to

doubt, as the versions and fathers differ so greatly in quoting

them. Griesbach has left them out of the text.

Verse 16. Let no man-judge you in meat, or in drink] The

apostle speaks here in reference to some particulars of the

hand-writing of ordinances, which had been taken away, viz., the

distinction of meats and drinks, what was clean and what

unclean, according to the law; and the necessity of observing

certain holydays or festivals, such as the new moons and

particular sabbaths, or those which should be observed with more

than ordinary solemnity; all these had been taken out of the way

and nailed to the cross, and were no longer of moral obligation.

There is no intimation here that the Sabbath was done away, or

that its moral use was superseded, by the introduction of

Christianity. I have shown elsewhere that, Remember the Sabbath

day, to keep it holy, is a command of perpetual obligation, and

can never be superseded but by the final termination of time. As

it is a type of that rest which remains for the people of God, of

an eternity of bliss, it must continue in full force till that

eternity arrives; for no type ever ceases till the antitype be

come. Besides, it is not clear that the apostle refers at all to

the Sabbath in this place, whether Jewish or Christian; his

σαββατων, of sabbaths or weeks, most probably refers to their

feasts of weeks, of which much has been said in the notes on the


Verse 17. Which are a shadow] All these things were types, and

must continue in force till the Christ, whom they represented,

came; the apostle therefore says that the body-the substance or

design of them was of Christ-pointed him out, and the excellent

blessings which he has procured. The word σκια, shadow, is often

used to express any thing imperfect or unsubstantial; while the

term σωμα, body, was used in the opposite sense, and expressed any

thing substantial, solid, and firm. The law was but the shadow

or representation of good things to come; none should rest in it;

all that it pointed out is to be sought and obtained in Christ.

Verse 18. Let no man beguile you] μηδειςυμαςκαταβραβευετω.

Let no man take the prize from you which the βραβευς, brabeus, or

judge in the contests, has assigned you, in consequence of your

having obtained the victory. This any reader will see, is an

allusion to the Olympic and Isthmian games, and to the prizes

assigned to these who had obtained the victory in one or more of

the contests which there took place. The Colossians had fought

and conquered under the direction of Christ, and he, as the sole

judge in this contest, had assigned to them the prize; the false

teachers, affecting great modesty, humility, and sanctity,

endeavoured to turn them aside from the Gospel, and to induce them

to end in the flesh who had begun in the Spirit. Against these

the apostle warns them.

In a voluntary humility and worshiping of angels] This is a

difficult passage, and in order to explain it, I shall examine the

meaning of some of the principal terms of the original. The word

θελειν, to will, signifies also to delight; and

ταπειμοφροσυνη signifies not only lowliness or humility of mind,

but also affliction of mind; and ταπεινουντηνψυχην,

Le 16:20, 31,

and in many other places, signifies to afflict the soul by

fasting, and self-abnegation; and θρησκεια signifies reverence

and modesty. Hence the whole passage has been paraphrased thus:

Let no man spoil you of the prize adjudged to you, who delights in

mortifying his body, and walking with the apparent modesty of an

angel, affecting superior sanctity in order to gain disciples;

intruding into things which he has not seen; and, notwithstanding

his apparent humility, his mind is carnal, and he is puffed up

with a sense of his superior knowledge and piety. It is very

likely that the apostle here alludes to the Essenes, who were

remarkably strict and devout, spent a principal part of their time

in the contemplation of the Divine Being, abstained from all

sensual gratifications, and affected to live the life of angels

upon earth. With their pretensions all the apostle says here

perfectly agrees, and on this one supposition the whole of the

passage is plain and easy. Many have understood the passage as

referring to the adoration of angels, which seems to have been

practised among the Jews, who appear (from Tobit, xii. 15; Philo,

in lib. de Somn.; Josephus, War. lib. ii. cap. 8, sec. 7) to have

considered them as a sort of mediators between God and man;

presenting the prayers of men before the throne; and being, as

Philo says, μεγαλουβασιλεωςοφθαλμοικαιωτα, the eyes and ears

of the great King. But this interpretation is not so likely as

the foregoing.

Verse 19. And not holding the Head] Not acknowledging Jesus

Christ as the only Saviour of mankind, and the only Head or chief

of the Christian Church, on whom every member of it depends, and

from whom each derives both light and life. For a farther

explanation of these words See Clarke on Eph 4:16, where

the figures and phraseology are the same.

Verse 20. If ye be dead with Christ] See the notes on

Ro 6:3, 5.

From the rudiments of the world] Ye have renounced all hope of

salvation from the observance of Jewish rites and ceremonies,

which were only rudiments, first elements, or the alphabet, out of

which the whole science of Christianity was composed. We have

often seen that the world and this world signify the Jewish

dispensation, or the rites, ceremonies, and services performed

under it.

Why, as though living in the world] Why, as if ye were still

under the same dispensation from which you have been already

freed, are ye subject to its ordinances, performing them as if

expecting salvation from this performance?

Verse 21. Touch not; taste not; handle not] These are forms of

expression very frequent among the Jews. In Maccoth, fol. xxi. 1:

"If they say to a Nazarite, Don't drink, don't drink; and he,

notwithstanding, drinks; he is guilty. If they say, Don't shave,

don't shave; and he shaves, notwithstanding; he is guilty. If

they say, Don't put on these clothes, don't put on these clothes;

and he, notwithstanding, puts on heterogeneous garments; he is

guilty." See more in Schoettgen.

Verse 22. Which all are to perish with the using] These are

not matters of eternal moment; the different kinds of meats were

made for the body, and go with it into corruption: in like manner,

all the rites and ceremonies of the Jewish religion now perish,

having accomplished the end of their institution; namely, to lead

us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

After the commandments and doctrines of men?] These words

should follow the 20th verse, Col 2:20 of which they form a

part; and it appears from them that the apostle is here speaking

of the traditions of the elders, and the load of cumbrous

ceremonies which they added to the significant rites prescribed by


Verse 23. Which things have indeed a show of wisdom] All these

prescriptions and rites have indeed the appearance of wisdom, and

are recommended by plausible reasons; but they form a worship

which God has not commanded, and enjoin macerations of the body,

accompanied with a humiliation of spirit, that are neither

profitable to the soul, nor of any advantage to the body; so that

the whole of their religion is nothing worth.

WHAT is here termed will-worship, εθελοθρησκεια, signifies

simply a mode of worship which a man chooses for himself,

independently of the revelation which God has given. The whole

system of Deism is an εθελοθρησκεια, a worship founded in the will

or caprices of man, and not in the wisdom or will of God; and it

is just as profitable to body and soul as that of which the

apostle speaks. God will be served in his own way; it is right

that he should prescribe to man the truths which he is to believe,

and the ordinances which he is to use. To refuse to receive his

teaching in order to prefer our own fancies, is to light a

farthing candle as a substitute for the noonday sun. From the

beginning of the world God has prescribed the worship which was

best pleasing to himself, and never left a matter of such moment

to man. The nations which have either not had a revelation, or

refused to receive that which God has given, show, by their

diversity of worship, superstition, absurdity, and in many cases

cruelty, what the state of the whole would have been, had not God,

in his infinite mercy, blessed it with a revelation of his will.

God has given directions concerning his worship; and he has

appointed the seventh day for the peculiar exercises of spiritual

duties: other times he has left to man's convenience; and they

abuse the text who say that the appointment of particular times

and places for religious service is will-worship. God prescribes

the thing, and leaves it to man, except in the case of the

Sabbath, to appoint the time and the place; nor is it possible to

be too frequent in God's worship, any more than to be too fervent.

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