Summary: An exhortation and three warnings frame what might be another Christ hymn.
“YE ARE COMPLETE IN HIM”
I. The Apostle Paul is concerned that the Colossians should not be “beguiled with enticing words” - or “deluded with beguiling speech” (Colossians 2:4). Our enemy is subtle as a serpent, and would lure away even ‘the very elect, if that were possible’ (Matthew 24:24). No wonder, for he is quite capable of ‘masquerading as an angel of light’ (2 Corinthians 11:14).
The enemy was behind the party divisions in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:12-13). The enemy also bewitched the believers in Galatia into sliding back into the law (Galatians 1:6-9; Galatians 3:1-4). So, for the Colossians, Paul issues three WARNINGS relevant to their situation - and we also would do well to take heed.
1. Don’t let anyone “make a prey of you through philosophy and empty deceit” (Colossians 2:8). Philosophy has its place, and tradition has its place - but beware of a vain deceitful worldly tradition, or man-centred philosophy which denies Christ (Colossians 2:8). ‘The wisdom of this world is folly to God’ (1 Corinthians 3:19), and ‘He takes the wise in their own craftiness’ (Job 5:13).
2. Don’t let anyone “judge” you in food or drink, holydays, new moons and Sabbaths (Colossians 2:16). Such things were but shadows, “but the substance belongs to Christ” (Colossians 2:17). This is a subject taken up at length in Hebrews 7:23-28; Hebrews 8:4-6; Hebrews 10:11-12.
3. Don’t let anyone “defraud you of the prize” by tricking you into submission to his (or her) vain, puffed up, fleshy will (Colossians 2:18). Such “voluntary humility” and “worship of angels” is an intrusion into things which they have not seen, and therefore in which they have no authority (see also verses 20-23). This is to usurp the Headship of Christ in His church (Colossians 2:19).
II. In what seems to be another ‘Christ hymn’ (Colossians 2:9-15), the Apostle provides grounds which are relevant for all three areas of challenge. We were told in the first hymn, that ‘in Him all the fullness was pleased to (literally) take up dwelling’ (Colossians 1:19). Now we are told that “in Him dwells (present tense) the fullness of God” (Colossians 2:9) - and “ye (plural) are complete in Him” (Colossians 2:10)!
In effect, Paul’s answer to those who suggested that the young church in Colossae needed ‘something more’ - some ‘deeper knowledge’ than the gospel which they had first received through the preaching of their faithful minister - was that “we are filled with the fullness of life in Him” (Colossians 2:10). As with Scripture, so with Christ: there is nothing to be added, nothing taken away (Revelation 22:18-19). Never let us forget that Christ is the head, not only of the church (Colossians 1:18), but of “all principality and power” (Colossians 2:10) - and, recognising their origin, let us vanquish such intrusions.
The Apostle speaks of a spiritual ‘circumcision’ whereby we put off “the sins of the flesh” through the purification which Christ gives (Colossians 2:11). This is the equivalent of ‘rolling away the reproach of Egypt’ (Joshua 5:9), and illustrates the completeness of salvation in Christ Jesus. Then he speaks of the spiritual reality which lies behind baptism (Colossians 2:12): that our old self was buried with Christ; and our new self, by faith in the operation of God, raised with Him.
This is the heart of the gospel: that those who were dead in their sins, having been forgiven their trespasses, are made alive in Christ Jesus (Colossians 2:13; see also Ephesians 2:1; Ephesians 2:11-13). This is accomplished through the cross of Jesus (Colossians 2:14). There the powers that stand against us were finally, and fully, defeated (Colossians 2:15): and captivity itself was led away captive (Ephesians 4:8-10).
III. By way of application, I have left Paul’s EXHORTATION at the beginning of our passage until last (Colossians 2:6-7). Paul has already prayed that the ‘saints and brethren’ (Colossians 1:2) might ‘walk worthy’ and ‘be fruitful’ (Colossians 1:10). Now he bases his encouragement in what they have already received.
1. Did you once, as we say today, ‘receive Jesus into your heart’? Well, says Paul, live accordingly (Colossians 2:6). The knowledge that you received then does not so much need a supplement, as application in your life.
2. ‘Being rooted’ is the same word as ‘sinking a foundation’ (Colossians 2:7). So, says Paul, raise your edifice on Him, and what He has done for you. Seek to grow in the One “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).
3. Paul is no lover of re-laying the foundations (cf. Hebrews 6:1-3), but rather exhorts us to be established in the Faith which we have been taught (Colossians 2:7). The political slogan ‘back to basics’ then becomes the Christian principle ‘back to the Bible’. Not indeed in a grudging, routine manner: but rather with an overflowing, abounding “thanksgiving” for all that God has done for us.