Colossians 2:1-19

 
The Double Threat Facing the Saints: Philosophy and Religion
Colossians 2:1-19
 
Colossians 2. We have the power of the cross in ch.2 – the work of Christ; whereas in ch.1 it was the Person of Christ that was primarily in view. Often in scripture the Person of Christ comes before the work of Christ. The subject of this chapter is the various challenges that the saints were facing. The two great forms of error, rationalism and ritualism, both have the same root; i.e. man’s will intruding into the things that belong to God. The apostle brings in a number of principles, connected with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, that would deliver us from these false notions.
 
 

Paul’s Desire that the Saints would be Established (2:1-3)

CHAPTER 2
For I would have you know what combat I have for you, and those in Laodicea, and as many as have not seen my face in flesh; v.1 Paul’s Conflict in Prayer. Evidently the state of the assemblies in Colosse and Laodicea was concerning to the Apostle Paul. They were facing grave dangers that were connected with doctrine. Hence his concern for them was connected with his never having visited either assembly; “and as many as have not seen my face in flesh”. What a tremendous benefit to have the apostle’s doctrine! Paul was engaged in a “combat” for these dear saints. Satan was opposing the spread of Paul’s doctrine. Everywhere Paul went, he was opposed. This would include a conflict of prayer, in which he interceded for the saints that they would not be turned aside by false teachers. It is interesting that in the letter to Laodicea (Rev. 3), they had grown completely independent from Christ. The root of that is exposed in this epistle; not holding the head.
 
Restraining prayer, we cease to fight;
Prayer makes the Christian's armour bright;
And Satan trembles when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees.1
 
2 to the end that their hearts may be encouraged, being united together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the full knowledge of the mystery of God; 3 in which are hid all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge. vv.2-3 Results of Paul’s Teaching. The outcome of Paul’s prayers being answered, of the saints being established in his teaching, was that “their hearts may be encouraged”. This encouragement would be on two accounts. First, the saints would be drawn together through realizing the unity of the body; “being united together in love”. Secondly, they would be enlightened with the truth of the mystery; “unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the full knowledge of the mystery of God”. Unfortunately some translations render the words “in which” as “in whom”, destroying the true sense of the passage. It actually refers to the previous subject, the mystery, rather than God. The term “the mystery of God” really refers to the same thing as “the mystery of God’s will” in Eph. 1:9-10. It is the broadest aspect of the mystery, encompassing the whole counsel and purpose of God. It is broader that the mystery of Christ and the church. If you fail to see the mystery, the rest of scripture will be “a mystery to you”. But when you do understand it, all of scripture is unlocked. Peter perhaps acknowledged the importance of it in his second epistle, when he spoke of the “wisdom” given to Paul, and that his epistles contained “some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures…” (2 Pet. 3:15-16). The “full assurance of understanding” is the assurance that all God has for man has been revealed in the truth of the mystery. It is assurance in a different sense than salvation. It is more like the assurance that we understand God’s program, and how we are to walk in keeping with that. The mystery encloses wisdom and knowledge, and once we get a hold of it, we have understanding (see Col. 1:9).
 

The Danger of Persuasive Speech (2:4-7)

4 And I say this to the end that no one may delude you by persuasive speech. v.4 Persuasive Speech. The Colossians were in danger of being “deluded” by false teachers who used “persuasive speech”. Humans in general tend to be easily control by clever language and strong orations. The false teachers were presenting their new ideas as an advance, an improvement, over the gospel they had heard and believed. Their words were compelling. To accept these new ideas sounded like a more godly and more spiritual way to live. But words can be deceiving. We cannot trust our own minds. We must compare everything we hear with the Word of God!
 
5 For if indeed in the flesh I am absent, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing and seeing your order, and the firmness of your faith in Christ. v.5 Paul with them in spirit. Even though Paul could not be with them in body, yet he could say “I am with you in spirit”. He was carefully observing their walk, rejoicing to see their “order” and “firmness” in faith. Embracing false teaching will eventually lead to a corruption of our practical walk! The Colossians had not yet broken ranks and strayed into heresy. They were still walking firm in their “faith in Christ”. But they were in danger of it.
 
6 As therefore ye have received the Christ, Jesus the Lord, walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, and assured in the faith, even as ye have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. vv.6-7 Walking firm in Christ. Paul’s desire was that the saints would continue walking faithfully in “Christ Jesus the Lord”, in the same purity with which they had received Him. Christ was enough from the beginning. Spiritual growth is like the growth of a seed. Once you have the seed, you have the life itself. The growth of the plant is just the further development of the same life (the DNA code, if you will) that was already present in the seed. The same is true in Christianity. Once a person has Christ, they have it all. Further spiritual growth is matter of realizing more who Christ is, what He has done, our association with Him, and His place of glory according to the counsels of God. We must be “rooted in him” first, and then also “built up in him”. Like a tree, which needs to grow roots to drink in the rain, then branches and leaves to drink in the sun. Christ is the sun and He is the rain! There needs to be a balance between the enjoyment of Christ for refreshment (rain) and the learning doctrine (sunlight). If our roots aren’t strong enough, our tree will topple in a storm. The false teachers among the Colossians were seeking to build them up in philosophy and superstition. But this was really to tear them down. We ought to be “assured” in the faith, and “abound” in the faith. To abound is to grow. As we grow spiritually, the truth that we learned in the gospel should become even more sure to us, and we should become better acquainted with it. Our spirit in all of this should be with “thanksgiving”. The very first “fruit” on the tree is thanksgiving! This is in contrast to the attitude of dissatisfaction that is present in those who abandon the foundation of Christianity. If we ever tire of hearing the basics of Christianity, there is something wrong with us.
 
O Thou with love more strong than death,
Unquenched by deepest waves;
We need throughout the walk of faith
The same free grace that saves.
 
We would not take from falsehood’s fire,
Though glittering be the spark;
Thou only art our heart’s desire,
Art light where all is dark.2
 

The Danger of Rationalism (2:8)

8 See that there be no one who shall lead “you” away as a prey through philosophy and vain deceit, according to the teaching of men, according to the elements of the world, and not according to Christ. v.8 The Danger of Rationalism. The first of the two great dangers facing the Colossians was that of rational thought; “philosophy and vain deceit”. Philosophy is the study of the nature of knowledge, the universe, and being. The problem with philosophy is that it is independent from Divine revelation. Philosophy deals in the deductions of the rational mind of man. Paul’s isn’t saying that all philosophy is bad. Philosophy can be very useful, such as in the case of science, mathematics, and medicine. However, when philosophers postulate about such things as the nature of God, the origin of the universe, the origin of man, the ontology of man, or the destiny of man, he steps into a region where he has no business being. Man’s mind is incapable of rising up to God. Man can only reason about things; he says “if this, then that must be”. But God speaks in absolutes; “this is”. Man is only a creature; an effect. God is the Absolute; the cause of all. He is Jehovah, “I AM THAT I AM”; He exists from eternity without Himself being caused. Faith casts one totally upon the grace of God, but philosophy allows a place for man’s pride. For this reason it is “vain deceit”, because it tends to puff man up in pride. For men to philosophize about God, as the Gnostics were doing here, is complete foolishness. What can man know about God unless God has told him, whether in creation or the written word? Paul refers to this in 1 Tim. 6:20 as “profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called”. This philosophy wasn’t rooted in scripture; i.e. it wasn’t that the false teachers were reasoning out of the scriptures, as Paul often did (Acts 17:2; 18:4; 18:19). This philosophy was “according to the teaching of men”; i.e. it was rooted in the mind of man. Man was its source, not God. Probably, the specific philosophy referred to here would be that of ancient Greece. Not only was the source of this false teaching from man rather than God, but the character of it was “according to the elements of the world, and not according to Christ”. Secular philosophy denies the creation, the fall of man, God’s judgment on sin, the work of atonement, etc. All of these elements of scripture are incompatible with the elements of the world. Yet, incorporating philosophy into Christianity seems like a logical thing to do. Wouldn’t it be helpful to add reason as an avenue to God, in addition to faith? No. Reason – in the secular sense – approaches God on man’s terms; faith approaches God on God’s terms. Therefore, it is a trap that we must consciously avoid or else we will fall prey to the enemy.
 
The elements of the world. The elements of the world are the principles that the world operates on. The world operates on the principle of works, not grace; e.g. in the world you need to have a contract to get paid for your work. The world also operations the principle of self-exaltation (Matt. 20:25), by survival of the fittest. Those principles are “weak and beggarly” (Gal. 4:8-9); we have far higher motivations in Christianity. Note that in Galatians 4:3 the bondage of Judaism and in Galatians 4:9 the bondage of Pagan idolatry are both called called the “principles of the world”. The bondage of the world is on the same principle as the bondage of the law, only in a different form. When souls drift away from Christ, they often go toward one of the two errors; legality or worldliness. But the truth about it is that both are the elements of the world. The elements of the world are principles suited to to “a worldly sanctuary” (Heb. 9:1). This is the same root error as we have here in Col. 2:8; philosophy is also after “the rudiments of the world”. It is possible to take up Christianity in a rational, intellectual way without ever having genuine faith in God. And it is equally possible to take up Christianity in a religious, superstitious way without ever having genuine faith in God.
 

Seven Principles That Will Preserve Us From Error (2:9-15)

The Cure for Philosophy, and also Superstition. In the following verses we have several things that, if we learn them well, will preserve us from the dangers of philosophy and superstition.
 
9 For in him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily; v.9 Know that the fullness of God dwells in Christ as a Man. The first thing we must realize is that all the full glories of the Godhead were pleased to dwell in Christ as a man. This is a stupendous truth! He was not a mere man whom whom God acted through like a proxy. Instead the fullness of the Godhead dwelled in Him permanently. It is said in the present tense; it is still true today, and forever! How could an infinite God become man? Human wisdom would argue that Christ surely gave up something of the Godhead fullness in becoming man. But no, Christ as a man on earth lacked nothing of all the fullness of the Godhead. Surely then, if we have Christ, we have every good thing there is to have! Nothing can be added to Christ! The Gnostics were trying to do the opposite. Note that it would also be correct to say that “all the fullness of the Godhead dwells” in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But “dwells bodily could only be said of the Incarnate Son of God!
 
10 and ye are complete in him, who is the head of all principality and authority, v.10 Know that the believer is completed by Christ. The next point Paul would have us to know is that we, the saints, “are complete in him”. In Ephesians 1:23 we read that the church “is his body, the fulness of him Christ who fills all in all”. That means that, just as a natural body complements the head, so the Church is the complement of Christ. But in Colossians we have the other side of it. Christ completes us! Not only does He complete the church collectively, but more specific, Christ completes each of us as individuals! The false teachers were asserting that the saints needed to worship angels (v.18), but we have the One “who is the head of all principality and authority”. If nothing can be added to Christ (v.9), and He is our fulfillment, then there is nothing more that we need! We have everything in Christ! This is exactly the point Paul wanted the saints to get hold of.
 
11 in whom also ye have been circumcised with circumcision not done by hand, in the putting off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of the Christ; v.11 Know that the flesh has been cut off in God’s sight: circumcision. Having already shown that nothing of man can add anything to our portion in Christ, Paul proceeds to show why it is positively wrong to bring it in. He compares the death of Christ to circumcision; our Lord was “cut off” in death. It is in contrast to the external rite of circumcision; note that Paul is transitioning to include the second form of error, that of outward religion. The external rite of circumcision was the cutting off of the physical flesh, but it did nothing to deal with the spiritual flesh; i.e. the sin nature. The expression “the body of the flesh” refers to the flesh as a whole, not merely the individual deeds of the flesh.3 When we believed the gospel, we were “circumcised” in a spiritual sense; “with circumcision not done by hand”. God has brought an end, morally speaking, to man in the flesh at the cross. We are associated with the death of Christ, such that His death is applied to our fallen human nature. In the language of Romans, “reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin?” (Rom. 6:11).4 This act of passing judgment on the flesh is pictured in the circumcision of Israel which took place in Gilgal, once Israel had entered the land of Canaan. For those who have accepted the cross as the cutting off of the flesh, it is the end of all of man’s philosophy and religion.
 
The Spiritual Application of Circumcision. There are actually two kinds of circumcision. Paul speaks in Eph. 2:11 "the circumcision in the flesh made by hands" and in Col. 2:11 of "the circumcision made without hands". The former refers to that which outwardly identified the Jew; i.e. a physical mark in the flesh. The latter refers to the spiritual position that we have been brought into through Christ. Although literal circumcision has nothing to do with Christianity, and should not be practiced for religious purposes, yet it does represent something spiritual. As literal circumcision was physically the "cutting off" of the flesh, so it morally represents the believer passing judgment on the flesh. In Colossians circumcision is applied to the believer in this way. In Col. 2:11 it is viewed as something that a believer does when they believe the gospel; "In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ". But then we find in Col. 3 that there is an ongoing need to pass judgment on the flesh as well. We find the same thing in Philippians 3; "For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." This is how circumcision is applied to the believer in the New Testament.
 
12 buried with him in baptism, in which ye have been also raised with him through faith of the working of God who raised him from among the dead. v.12 Know that we are dead, buried, and raised with Christ. The application of circumcision to the death of Christ, and of our identification with Him, is confirmed in v.12. Yet there is an advance. Not only has death been applied to us, but burial with Christ, and resurrection with Christ.  Baptism is the formal acknowledgment that we are no longer on the ground of Adam, but on the ground of Christ. Our old associations are broken by the waters of baptism. Baptism is linked with death and burial, but never with live-giving; “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death” (Rom. 6:4). Perhaps this is because personal faith may not be necessarily involves with the ordinance of baptism. But when it comes to resurrection, faith is necessarily involved. These two truths are pictured in Israel’s crossing of the Jordan river. Joshua instructed the men to build two memorials: one in Gilgal and the other in the river bed. The twelve stones in the midst of Jordan are a memorial to death; they speak of us, dead with Christ. The stones are placed where the ark had gone down. Later, the water closed over them and they were put out of sight forever, although forever in that place. Christ went out of sight – made sin, forsaken of God – in order that I might go out of sight in death with him. But I do not remain out of sight… the stones in Gilgal are set up, so I am created anew in Christ Jesus. The twelve stones in Gilgal represent our being risen with Christ! When God takes the old away, He gives us something infinitely better. But it says of the stones in Jordan, “they are there unto this day”. Picture in your mind the mighty Jordan closing back over those stones. It is as much as to say, “I am dead. All that I was in Adam is left under the judgment of God.” Then turn, and look up the bank at the twelve stones in Gilgal and say “My life is hid with Christ in God” (read Col. 3:3). 
 
Development of truth. In Romans we have the truth of v.11; God’s judgment on the flesh. For example, in Romans 6 we see our identification with the death of Christ, such that we have died with Christ unto sin. This corresponds to the typical meaning of Israel’s crossing the Red Sea; it was what brought them finally outside the dominion of Pharaoh. In Colossians we have an advance upon Romans. We get the believer’s death and resurrection with Christ. This corresponds to the typical meaning of Israel’s crossing the Jordan. It isn’t only that we are dead with Christ to sin, but dead with Christ period. In other words, all that we were by nature is put away in God’s sight, and we stand before God in a new creation, in Christ’s place, on resurrection ground. But Ephesians gives us something further, that is, our being even now seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. This progression is very helpful to distinguish the lines of truth in each epistle.
 
13 And you, being dead in offences and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he has quickened together with him, having forgiven us all the offences; v.13 Know that we dead in sins, but then given life in Christ Jesus. Paul would bring to mind our past condition. He speaks of our unconverted state under two figures: as “dead in offenses” and “in the uncircumcision of your flesh”. The first expression has to do with our helpless condition as “dead” or completely unresponsive toward God, with no power or capacity to apprehend God. It was for this reason that Jesus told Nicodemus that “Ye must be born again” (John 3). The second expression, “in the uncircumcision of your flesh”, reveals the fallen state of man; i.e. living “in the lusts of our flesh, doing what the flesh and the thoughts willed to do” (Eph. 2:3). Both of these issues have been dealt with by God; “quickening” gives us life, and “forgiveness” deals with our sins. The fact that we are quicked “with Him” shows that He has forgiven our sins; God wouldn’t give us that place with Christ unless “all” our offenses were removed. Notice that he says “you”, speaking to the Colossians who were Gentiles. This in in contrast with “us” in v.14, as Paul was a Jew. Spiritual deadness is usually applied to the unconverted state of those who were Gentiles by birth.5
 
14 having effaced the handwriting in ordinances which stood out against us, which was contrary to us, he has taken it also out of the way, having nailed it to the cross; v.14 Know that any obligation to the law has been taken away. Paul now speaks of a particular difficulty for the Jew; i.e. his obligation to the law. This is why he says “you” in v.13 and “us” in v.14. The Gentile was never under law. The “handwriting in ordinances” is a reference to a legal obligation, much like a person’s signature would make a contract binding. The Jew had his obligation to the law, which he had not kept. The law was scrupulous in its requirements, hence “ordinances” are mentioned. From the ten commandments all the way down to dietary restrictions, the Jew was responsible to keep it. “And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient” (Ex. 24:7). The law and its ordinances became therefore an enemy of the Jew (“which was contrary to us”), although the law itself is “holy, just, and good” (Rom. 7:12). The Jew’s obligation to keep the law stood in their way, condemning them as sinful, and disobedient. But the blessed Lord Jesus took that obligation6 “out of the way, having nailed it to the cross”. In Galatians 3 Paul explains that “as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse” but “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us” (Gal. 3:10, 13). By bearing the consequences of a broken law, Christ “effaced” or “erased” the signatures of those who were obligated to keep it. He didn’t destroy the law, but rather took the responsibility of the Jews’ obligation to it. The law was given for, and has its application even today, for man in the flesh. But we as Christians are dead and buried with Christ, and not seen as “in the flesh” any longer. The obvious conclusion of this fact for the Colossians is that, for them as a Gentiles, to trifle with Judaism and its ordinances was very foolish. It says “ordinances”, not commandments, although it includes the ten commandments which were ordinances. The false teachers were especially bringing in the ceremonial law. But in Galatians Paul shows that bringing in the ceremonial law makes you a debtor to do the whole law. The Colossians were in danger of bringing back what Christ had taken out of the way! Not only is toying with the law dangerous, but it dishonors Christ who has set us free, and sets aside His finished work. Notice the word “also”. It combines the Gentile offenses of v.13 and the Jewish transgressions of v.14; all of it has been taken out of the way! “Nailed it to the cross” is a figure of speech that goes back to the Roman practice of crucifixion. On the cross over the condemned criminal, the soldiers would nail a written plaque displaying the various crimes of which the victim was accused. This is referred to in the gospels as “the superscription of his accusation” (Mark 15:26), and in Jesus’ case it simply identified Him, “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews”. The Jews were furious about this because there was no crime written there! But Paul shows us here the reason why Jesus had to suffer; it was our sins – whether Jew or Gentile – that Jesus bore on the cross. Christ had no sins of His own to bear, but the offsenses and transgressions of sinners saved by grace.
 
15 having spoiled principalities and authorities, he made a show of them publicly, leading them in triumph by it. v.15 Know that Christ has triumphed over every other power. While it is hard not to think that this speaks of the resurrection, I think the word “it” in v.25 shows that it refers to the cross. In Ephesians the resurrection, ascension, and glorification of Christ are viewed as His triumph over the forces of evil (Eph. 1:20-21; Eph. 4:8). But in Colossians is is the cross. The “principalities and powers” are the spiritual beings that are allied with Satan. They originated from the heavenly host, but evidently followed Satan in his fall. They lurk in darkness, but when Christ came, they were drawn out into the open. We see the beginnings of this in the temptation, and further in the Lord’s discourse with Legion, etc. But at the cross, the full powers of darkness came out into the open, like an army mobilizing for battle.78 “But this is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:53). On the cross, the powers of darkness were defeated. How so? “That through death he might destroy [annul] him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). The actual victory was accomplished on the cross, but the formal witness of its accomplishment is seen in the resurrection and ascension. Here in Colossians it is the actual victory that is in view; i.e. His annulling the forces of evil, and triumphing over them. Christ “made a show of them publicly” though His humility. By taking a lowly path, and being obedient unto death, the forces of evil were drawn into public, and there totally defeated by Christ, who rendered Satan powerless by going into death. Satan had power over every other man through death. But Jesus defeated Satan in a way he never expected; by taking the cup of judgment from the Father’s hand in perfect submission (Luke 22:42; 23:46). But there is something more; the cross of Christ laid the moral basis for the eventual casting out of Satan and his host of high ones. Jesus said in John 12:31, “now shall the prince of this world be cast out”, referring to the cross.
 
The Cross Removing Obstacles. We see that Christ, by His cross, has removed the obstacles that stood in the way of man’s blessing. The offenses have been forgiven (v.13), the obligation to the law of ordinances have been taken out of the way (v.14), and the principalities and powers have been triumphed over (v.15). 
 

The Danger of Ritualism, in the form of Judaism (2:16-17)

16 Let none therefore judge you in meat or in drink, or in matter of feast, or new moon, or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. vv.16-17 The Danger of Judaism, and Legality. Paul next addresses the dangers of ritualism in vv.16-19, and first under the form of Judaism. There are a number of elements of Judaism that the false teachers among them were pressing on the Colossians: “meat or in drink” (dietary restrictions), or “in matter of feast, or new moon, or sabbaths” (holy days). Notice that these were the same categories of things that those who were “weak in the faith” were struggling with in Romans 14. Notice the difference in how Paul speaks in Col. 2 compared with Romans 14. In Romans it was the extra-biblical convictions of Jewish converts, and Paul exhorts the strong to be patient with the weak. But here in Colossians it was Judaizing teachers seeking to bring the saints into bondage, and Paul repudiates it. These things, dietary restrictions and holy days, are found in the Old Testament, but the Jews had added to those ordinances and developed an elaborate system of traditions that went far beyond scripture. However, the Judaizing teachers could point to Old Testament scriptures for at least the origin of those things. Paul explains that those ordinances in the Old Testament were but “a shadow of things to come”. That is, they were types of things that are now revealed in the New Testament. He says “but the body is of Christ” referring to the substance, the object that casts a shadow. Christ is the One those types looked forward to! How foolish then to worship the shadow, when we have the Person of Christ! The law is but “a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things” (Heb. 10:1). Paul is addressing a serious error known as legality, in which the soul is placed in a “yoke of bondage”, whereby the soul’s security or acceptance is made to depend on their own works, especially under a series of ordinances that address the outward behavior and appearance. In legality, the soul is “judged” by others who are considered superior, as to how they measure up to the legal standard. Hence, “let none therefore judge you in meat or in drink”, etc. They were not to bow to the influence of the Judaizers.
 
Judaizing teachers are mentioned in many of the Epistles: they had made inroads among the Corinthians (2 Cor. 11:22), the Philippians (Phil. 3:2), the Colossians (Col. 2:18), but nowhere with as much success as among the Galatian assemblies. The tendency towards natural religion has been the bane of Christianity. They were those of whom Paul wrote, "desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm" (1 Tim. 1:7). They were of Jewish ethnicity, but had come under the umbrella of Christianity. They found some benefit to being among Christians. Their primary motive was to gain a following after themselves, and perhaps to profit financially. They claimed to be closely connected to the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, but they could not prove their genealogy as Paul could (Phil. 3). Paul was raised up as a suited vessel to deal with the Judaizers, because he himself had been one!
 

The Danger of Ritualism, in the form of Mysticism (2:18-19)

18 Let no one fraudulently deprive you of your prize, doing his own will in humility and worship of angels, entering into things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by the mind of his flesh, 19 and not holding fast the head, from whom all the body, ministered to and united together by the joints and bands, increases with the increase of God. vv.18-19 The Danger of Mysticism. Paul then speaks of another form of ritualism, sometimes called mysticism. The result of this error would be that the saints would lose their reward or crown, because they would be taken off the path into error. It would be like finishing a race, only to find that you had been tricked into going out of bounds, and thereby disqualified for the prize. Mysticism has to do with man intruding into the unseen world; “entering into things which he has not seen”.

Worshipping angels is a religious practice that many consider to be “super-spiritual”. For instance, they would argue that, since we are to worship God, it stands to reason that we should also worship the angels, even though God hasn’t told us to. It is a false show of “humility”; based on the idea that worshipping angels puts man lower. But this practice is really sin; man “doing his own will”. To insist on praying to a mediator other than the Lord Jesus Christ is idolatry! God’s angels don’t seek worshippers (see Rev. 19:10; 22:9), but Satan and his angels do (Matt. 4:9). To worship angels is to seek a relationship with heavenly beings that God has not revealed to us, and meanwhile to neglect a relationship with the Son who came from heaven to reveal God! The angles are occupied with our care (Heb. 1:14), but we are not to be occupied with them. See Mary's example, who didn’t seem occupied with the angels (John 20:12-13). 

 Mysticism is really just an alternate form of philosophy – a different result from the same root – when the mind of man becomes unmoored from the Word of God. It is a form of spiritual pride; “vainly puffed up by the mind of his flesh”.
 
Those who fall into this error, do so by “not holding fast the head”. The “head” here refers to Christ, the head of the body, the church; “from whom” the nourishment and direction flows to the members of the body. To not “hold the head” is to act independently of the mind of Christ. In this case, it was to insert a mediator between the head and the body. How foolish for the arms and legs to act as if they had a mind of their own! It would be like a paralyzed or a dyskinetic person. When it comes to direction, the members need to look to the Head in heaven, rather than intrude into things we have not seen. But we all can serve as “joints and bands”, helping to encourage and support the members. Each member needs to function (e.g. Col. 4:17). This is where ministry comes in; yet the gifts are not distinguished here as in Ephesians 4. Only by holding the head will the body increase “with the increase of God”. Trying to grow through meddling with the unseen world will not benefit the body. True increase of God comes from holding the head. No matter how difficult things get, we can still look to Christ our head, in whom all fullness dwells!
 
  1. Cowper, William. Exhortation To Prayer. Cowper’s Poems, Sheldon & Company, New York
  2. Bowley, Mary. Still in a land of drought and dearth. Little Flock Hymnbook #191.
  3. With one gleam of faith one is entirely freed from sin looked at as a whole. This passage does not refer to practical life. It shews a moral condition, which is, in fact, when we receive Christ by faith. Note here, it does not say, “the sins of the body,” but “the body of the sins” – sin being looked at as a principal characteristic of the body. – Darby, J.N. The Epistle to the Colossians.
  4. The circumcision of Christ exists in the fact that we are constituted dead to sin. – Darby, J.N. The Epistle to the Colossians.
  5. God in quickening us pardons our offences; with one act He does the two things. The knowledge of our sins does not prevent Him from quickening us. In this case the quickening brings of itself the pardon of our sins. If, for example, my child is being punished, and I come and take him for a walk, it is clear he is forgiven. – Darby, J.N. The Epistle to the Colossians.
  6. The handwriting should be, “the obligation” – the obligation that existed in ordinances. An ordinance is all that is given to one in the flesh to accomplish: Peter calls it a yoke that neither we nor our fathers could bear. – Darby, J.N. The Epistle to the Colossians.
  7. Jesus has, as it were, drawn the enemy into a public scene. – Darby, J.N. The Epistle to the Colossians.
  8. Here [Colossians 2] we hear of what was done on the cross, the power of the cross; but there [Ephesians 4] it is the public manifestation of the victory, in ascending up on high. The great battle was won. Christ had forever defeated the powers of evil for the joint heirs. This ascending up on high, and leading captivity captive, is the witness that they are powerless against the Christian. – Kelly, William. The Epistle to the Colossians.