Summary: Exposition of Col. 2:8–15
Remaining Free in Christ
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Col. 2:8–15).
How can we remain free in Christ?
Scripture clearly teaches that he who the Son has set free is free indeed (John 8:36). As followers of Christ, we have been set free from slavery to sin, the world, and the devil. We are not the same; there was a very real change at our conversion. He who is in Christ is a new creation, old things have passed away, all things have become new (2 Cor. 5:17).
However, Scripture also teaches that it is entirely possible for a Christian to again come under a yoke of slavery. Romans 6:16 says,
Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?
A Christian can be enslaved to some sin or addiction by continually obeying the urges to do it. Paul even says that a Christian can be taken captive by the devil. Second Timothy 2:25–26 says,
Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
Some believe this is referring to unbelievers, but the reality is that unbelievers are already children of the devil (1 John 3:10) and sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:2). There is no need to capture them. They are by nature followers of the devil. Paul seems to be clearly referring to believers.
A person can even be enslaved to an object like money. Matthew 6:24 says, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”
Whomever you submit to, you can become enslaved to, either to God, someone else, or something else in the world. Certainly this is true of false teaching as well. A Christian can be deceived and become enslaved to various forms of false doctrine or the person teaching false doctrine. Paul said,
They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak–willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth (2 Tim. 3:6–7).
It is possible for a believer to be brought back into a state of slavery to sin, the world, the devil, or even false teaching. The only difference between the slavery of an unbeliever and a believer is that an unbeliever is a slave by nature (cf. Eph. 2:1–4), but the Christian is a slave contrary to nature because he is truly free in Christ.
A believer can become a prisoner of war—a POW. There are many POWs in the church: slaves of lust, depression, or anger. However, the primary slavery Paul is referring to in this text is false doctrine. Look at what he says: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy” (Col. 2:8).
“See to it that no one takes you captive.” The Colossian church was being attacked by a cult who had an especially dangerous form of false teaching that was enslaving the people. Paul essentially says, “Watch out!” The word “captive” is a picture of somebody being taken into slavery against their will. As mentioned previously, people who are drawn into cults are often slaves to the doctrine and slaves to the leaders of the cults.