Setting

Having expounded on the preeminence of Christ, Paul now urges the Colossians to maintain their faith in Christ. Challenges arise from those who would deceive with enticing words and the teachings of men. But the believers must guard themselves and let no one take away their reward.

Key Verse

(2:10)

Did You Know...?

1. Basic principles of the world (2:8): The Greek word soicheia is translated as either 1) “elementary principles,” meaning the basic elements of learning (the ABCs) or 2) “elemental spirits,” referring to angelic powers.

2. Handwriting of requirements (2:14): “A business term, meaning a certificate of indebtedness in the debtor’s handwriting. Paul uses it as a designation for the Mosaic law, with all its regulations, under which everyone is a debtor to God.” [ref]

Outline

  • Being Rooted in Christ
    (2:4-7)
  • Made Complete in Christ
    (2:8-15)
  • Futility of False Religion
    (2:16-23)

General Analysis

  • 1a.

    Can you find the three verses in Chapter 2 where Paul warns against being deceived?

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    2:4—… deceive you with persuasive words.
    2:8— … cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
    2:18—… cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels.

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  • 1b.

    What seems to be the root of the danger?

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    False teachings that attack the completeness and sufficiency of Christ (see 2:9-10).

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  • 2.

    What are the specific heresies that attack the completeness and sufficiency of Christ?

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    1. The insistence on keeping the requirements of the Law of Moses (2:14). Read also 2:16,17 and 2:20-22.
    2. The worship of angels and false humility (2:18,23; This heresy probably taught that the worship of angels rather than God was an act of humility).
    3. Unnecessary asceticism, i.e., punishment of the body as a means to higher spirituality (2:23).
    Points 2 and 3 fall under the heresy of the Gnostics. Gnosticism is one of the so-called philosophies in the first ages of Christianity, which claimed a true philosophical interpretation of the Christian religion. Their system combined Oriental theology and Greek philosophy with the doctrines of Christianity. They held that all natures, intelligible, intellectual, and material, are derived from the Deity by successive emanations, which they called Eons.
    Source: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.
    Remark: An agnostic does not deny the existence of God and heaven, for example, but rather holds that one cannot know for certain if they exist or not. The term agnostic was fittingly coined by the 19th-century British scientist Thomas H. Huxley, who believed that only material phenomena were objects of exact knowledge. He made up the word from the prefix a-, meaning “without, not,” as in amoral, and the noun Gnostic. Gnostic is related to the Greek word gnosis, “knowledge,” which was used by early Christian writers to mean “higher, esoteric knowledge of spiritual things”; hence, Gnostic referred to those with such knowledge. In coining the term agnostic, Huxley was considering as “Gnostics” a group of his fellow intellectuals, “ists,” as he called them who had eagerly embraced various doctrines or theories that explained the world to their satisfaction. Because he was a “man without a rag of a label to cover himself with,” Huxley coined the term agnostic for himself, its first published use being in 1870.
    Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition
    Gnostics hold that Christ in the form of flesh cannot be God but is instead an emanation of God. Besides, being in the form of flesh, he is inferior even to the angels. See an answer to this in Heb 2:6-9.

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  • 3.

    How does Paul argue for the completeness and sufficiency of Christ?

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    1. In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (2:2,3).
    2. In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (2:9). Godhead – the essential being or the nature of God (Easton’s Bible Dictionary).
    3. He is the head of all principality and power (2:10).
    4. He has abolished the handwriting of requirements that was against us. He has triumphed over principalities and powers (2:14,15).
    5. He is the Head, from whom all the body nourished and knit together, grows with the increase that is from God (2:19).

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Segment Analysis

  • 2:4-7

    1.

    What does Paul teach the Colossians to do in order to guard against deception?

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    1. Walk in Christ (6).
    2. Be rooted and built up in Him (7).
    3. Be established in the faith, as they have been taught (7).
    4. Abound in the faith with thanksgiving (7).

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  • 2:8-15

    2.

    According to verse 8, what is the source of false and deceptive teachings?

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    Tradition of men and the basic principles of the world. The basic principles of the world refers to rituals or observances through which men endeavor to reach God without Christ (cf. Gal 4:3,9-10).

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  • 3.

    What is the ‘Godhead’ (2:9)?

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    Tradition of men and the basic principles of the world. The basic principles of the world refers to rituals or observances through which men endeavor to reach God without Christ (cf. Gal 4:3,9-10).

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  • 4.

    What is Paul’s main point in 11-15?

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    We have been made complete in Christ, and Christ has triumphed over principalities and powers. Therefore, we should not be enslaved by the principles of this world and hope to obtain righteousness through human regulations.

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  • 5a.

    Discuss how circumcision prefigures baptism (2:11-13).

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    1. Circumcision is a token of the covenant between God and Abraham (Gen 17:11). Likewise, the blood of Christ is a token of the new covenant between God (Jesus Christ) and man (Mt 26:28). The blood of Christ is present in baptism to wash away sins (Acts 22:16; 1Jn 1:7; 1Jn 5:6,8).
    2. Circumcision was a necessity to belong to the family of Abraham (Gen 17:14). Likewise, baptism is a necessity to belong to the extended family of Abraham through Christ (Gal 3:26-29).
    3. Infants born in Abraham’s house were to be circumcised (Gen 17:12). Likewise, Infants of believers are to be baptized (see Acts 16:15,33).
    4. Only the circumcised could partake of the passover (Ex 12:47, 48). Likewise, only the baptized can partake of the Holy Communion (1Cor 10:16,17). There being a distinction between those who are called brethren and “those outside” can be seen in 1Cor 5:6-13.

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  • 5b.

    What does “the circumcision of Christ” refer to?

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    Baptism. Through baptism, we receive the circumcision of Christ (11-12).

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  • 5c.

    What are the effects of baptism?

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    1. Removal of sins (11).
    2. Burial and resurrection with Christ (12; cf. Rom 6:3-4). The forgiveness of sins results in spiritual resurrection (13). Thus, when our sins are forgiven during baptism, we also receive a new life. That is why baptism is also known as the washing of regeneration (Tit 3:5; Jn 3:3-5).

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  • 6.

    Why do Christians not have to keep the rules and regulations in the Law of Moses (2:13-17,20-23)?

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    Firstly, the Law of Moses (Torah), and its interpretations by the rabbis (Talmud), was never intended to be permanent (Gal 3:22-25) and it was burdensome and ‘contrary to us’ (2:14). Christ’s death fulfilled all the requirements of the law (Mt 5:17,18; Heb 2:14 and many other parts of Hebrews) and ushered in the new law of faith. This is the true expression of God’s covenant with Abraham which the Law of Moses given 430 years after the covenant with Abraham was not meant to be (Gal 3:17-19). Thus the physical aspects and the interpretations by the rabbis of the Law of Moses need not be kept anymore because with Christ, we are dead from the rudiments of the world (2:20-23).

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  • 2:16-23

    7.

    Does 2:16 mean that Christians need not observe the Sabbath anymore?

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    What has been abolished is “the handwriting of requirements that was against us” (14), which refers to the ordinances regarding meat, drink, a holy day, the new moon and the sabbath (2:16). The passage does not speak of abolishing food, drink, festivals, new moons, and the sabbath, for otherwise, we would, for example, not be allowed to eat or drink! Thus, the difficult restrictions imposed by the law on the sabbath such as not plucking grain (Mk 2:23,24) or not travelling beyond a certain distance, called a ‘sabbath day’s journey’ (Acts 1:12), have been abolished. Instead, in the new covenant, we do good and enjoy the sabbath as the sabbath was made for man and the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath (Mk 2:27,28; Jn 5:8-17; 7:21-24). Finally, the fulfillment of the requirements of the law by Christ did not annul the Ten Commandments which is the unalterable core of the law (Mt 22:36-40; Mt 19:16-19; Jas 2:8-12). Thus, the Ten Commandments is sometimes called the moral law. By virtue of being the fourth Commandment, observance of the sabbath cannot be abolished.

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  • 8.

    How do the regulations concerning food, drink, festival, new moon, or sabbaths relate to Christ?

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    They are a shadow that points to Christ, who is the substance (17; cf. Gal 3:19-23).

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  • 9.

    According to this paragraph, what was the motivation of those who follow and teach false teachings?

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    Those who adhere to human regulations and the worship of angels seek only an appearance of wisdom (23). They take delight in false humility and are puffed up in their mind rather than hold fast to Christ the Head (18-19). In short, they are driven by pride and are interested only in an outward appearance of piety.

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  • 10.

    In what sense have the believers “died with Christ from the basic principles of the world” (20)?

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    They have been set free from the bondage of worldly principles. Instead of depending on observances of traditions, they now fully trust Christ for justification.

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