In Colossians 2:8-15, the Apostle Paul says this:
“Take heed lest there shall be any one that maketh spoil of you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ: for in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and in him ye are made full, who is the head of all principality and power: in whom ye were also circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in the putting off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with him in baptism, wherein ye were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, being dead through your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, you, I say, did he make alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses; having blotted out the [certificate of debt] written in [decrees] that was against us, which was [hostile] to us: and he hath taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross; having [disarmed] the principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in [Him].”
In this passage, Paul commands his audience to live in light of the fact that Christ is the standard by seeing to it that they are not imprisoned by philosophy and empty deception. Then, he gives them 6 main reasons to obey this command:
- Christ is the Son of God
- Christians are the satisfied
- Christ is the Supreme Authority
- Christians have been set free
- Christians have been saved
- Christ slaughtered deceivers
In verse 8, Paul commands his audience to see to it that no one imprisons them through philosophy and empty deception, which are according to human tradition, which is according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. So, there are two things that they are to not be imprisoned by: philosophy and empty deception. The philosophy here is not just academic philosophy, but philosophy of any kind that is according human tradition and the elementary principles of the world. The empty deception is deceiving information that is worthless. The elementary principles of the world, being that they belong to the world, are closely related to the things in the world — the desire of the natural human, the evil desire of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life. Why does Paul command his audience to see to it that they are no imprisoned by philosophy and empty deception? Because they are not according to Christ, and Christ is the standard of truth.
In verse 9, Paul gives his first reason that his audience ought to see to it that they are not imprisoned by philosophy and empty deception: Christ is the Son of God. He expresses this truth by saying that in Christ “all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (NASB). In other words, Christ is both God (all the fullness of Deity), and is also a man (in bodily form). Paul’s audience ought not to be imprisoned through philosophies and empty deception that are not according to the God-man, Christ.
In the first part of verse 10, Paul gives his second reason that his audience ought to see to it that they are not imprisoned by philosophy and empty deception: Christians are the satisfied. He expresses this truth by saying that, as spiritually united with Christ, his audience have been made complete. In other words, they lack nothing, and all their eternal needs have been satisfied. Therefore, they ought not to look to philosophy or empty deception to satisfy them, but rather recognize that they have everything they will ever need because they are spiritually united with Christ.
In the second part of verse 10, Paul gives his third reason to not let oneself be imprisoned by philosophy and empty deception: Christ is the Supreme Authority. He expresses this truth by saying that Christ is “the Head over all rule and authority . . .” (NASB). No matter how much philosophies and empty deceptions rule and have authority, Christ is Head over them. Also, no matter how much philosophers or deceivers rule or have authority, He is also Head over them. Therefore, rather than recognize the rule and authority of philosophies and empty deceptions, we ought to recognize the supreme authority over Christ over all reigns and authorities.
In verses 11-12, Paul gives the fourth reason to not let oneself be imprisoned by philosophy and deception: Christians have been set free. He expresses this truth by saying that, being spiritually united to Christ, his audience was spiritually circumcised through the removal of the body of their evil human nature by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which they were also raised up with Him through faith in the work of God, who raised Him from the dead.
So, how have Christians been set free?
- by being spiritually united to Christ
- by having the body of their evil human nature removed by Christ
- by being buried with Him in baptism
- by being raised up with Him in baptism
- through faith in God’s work, who raised Christ from the dead
Because Christians have been set free from the body of their flesh, Paul implies, they ought not to let people imprison them through philosophy and empty deception.
Let me take a moment to point the importance of this passage for our understanding of baptism. If we don’t understand what baptism symbolizes, then we will be obeying Christ’s command to baptize people without knowledge of its purposes. The main purpose that is explained in this passage is to give an experiential aid in understanding their new spiritual condition in relation to the gospel. When someone is baptized, they are immersed in water, and then raised out of the water. These two aspects of baptism symbolize, if they are believers in the gospel, that they have been buried with Christ, or crucified with Him, and that they have been raised from the dead with Him. In other words, the body of flesh that Paul mentions has died with Christ, and the new creature has been raised from spiritual death with Christ. Baptism also serves as the biblical profession or confession of faith to others, serving as evidence of someone’s salvation, so that the church may determine who is in the church (those who have been baptized by the church), and those who are not a part of the church (those who have not been baptized by the church).
In verses 13-14, Paul gives the fifth reason to not allow people to imprison oneself through philosophy and empty deception: Christians have been saved. He conveys this truth by telling his audience that, when they were dead in their sins and the spiritual uncircumcision of their evil human nature, God made them alive together with Christ, having forgiven them all their sins, having canceled out the certificate of debt with decrees against them, which was hostile to them; and He took it out of existence, having nailed it to the cross.
According to these verses, what have Christians been saved from?
- being dead in sins
- being dead in the spiritual uncircumcision of their evil human nature
- God holding their sins against them
- their sin debt to God
- God’s hostility
- spiritual and eternal death
According to these verses, how have Christians been saved?
- God made them alive together with Christ
- God forgave them all their sins
- God cancelled out the certificate of debt with its legal demands
- God took the certificate of debt out of the way by nailing it to the cross
From these verses, Paul is implying that, since Christians are spiritually alive with Christ, have been forgiven by God, have had their sin debt to God permanently erased, and have had their sins nailed to the cross in Christ, they ought not to be imprisoned by philosophy and empty deception that can add nothing to those things.
Finally, in verse 15, Paul gives the sixth reason that his audience ought not to let people imprison them with philosophy and empty deception: Christ slaughtered deceivers. Paul expresses this by saying that, when God had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them by triumphing over them through Christ. Through Christ, God disarmed and triumphed over the rulers and authorities, so those who have triumphed over them in Christ ought not to let them or their philosophies and empty deceptions take them captive.
So, are you seeing to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ?
Have you been made complete in Christ?
Have you been circumcised with a circumcision made without hands in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which were you also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead?
Are you dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, or has God made you alive together with Christ, having forgiven you all your transgressions, having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against you, which was hostile to you; and do you know if He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross?
Do you understand how God could cancel out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against them, which was hostile to them? The Apostle Paul wrote about it this way:
“. . . I make known unto you brethren, the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye received, wherein also ye stand, by which also ye are saved, if ye hold fast the word which I preached unto you, except ye believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures; and that he appeared to Cephas; then to the twelve; then he appeared to above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain until now, but some are fallen asleep; then he appeared to James; then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to the child untimely born, he appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-9
This is what the Apostle John said about the gospel in John 1:1-18:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness apprehended it not. There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light. There was the true light, even the light which lighteth every man, coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and they that were his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth. John beareth witness of him, and crieth, saying, This was he of whom I said, He that cometh after me is become before me: for he was before me. For of his fulness we all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”
This is what Christ Himself said about the gospel:
“. . . God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” John 3:16-20
John the Baptist said this: “. . . he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on [stays directed toward] him.” – John 3:36
The Apostle Paul said this in Romans 2:4-16 and 1:18-32:
“. . . despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? but after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up for thyself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his works: to them that by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and incorruption, eternal life: but unto them that are factious, and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, shall be wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that worketh evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Greek; but glory and honor and peace to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek: for there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without the law shall also perish without the law: and as many as have sinned under the law shall be judged by the law; for not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified; (for when Gentiles that have not the law do by nature the things of the law, these, not having the law, are the law unto themselves; in that they show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness therewith, and their thoughts one with another accusing or else excusing them); in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men, according to my gospel, by Jesus Christ.”
“. . . the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousnessof men, who hinder the truth in unrighteousness; because that which is known of God is manifest in them; for God manifested it unto them. For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse: because that, knowing God, they glorified him not as God, neither gave thanks; but became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts unto uncleanness, that their bodies should be dishonored among themselves: for that they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile passions: for their women changed the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another, men with men working unseemliness, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was due. And even as they refused to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up unto a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, hateful to God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, unmerciful: who, knowing the ordinance of God, that they that practise such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but also consent with them that practise them.”
Speaking of those that practice sin, the Apostle Paul uses this quote:
“. . . There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none that understandeth, There is none that seeketh after God; They have all turned aside, they are together become unprofitable; There is none that doeth good, no, not so much as one: Their throat is an open sepulchre; With their tongues they have used deceit: The poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness . . .” – Romans 3:10-14
This is my appeal to you, as written by the Apostle Paul:
“. . . we beseech you on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God. Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” – 2 Corinthians 5:20b-21
This is how you become reconciled to God:
“. . . if thou shalt confess [acknowledge] with thy mouth Jesus as Lord [Greek: kurios, or Supreme in Authority], and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich unto all that call upon him [depend upon Him]: for, Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord [who He is, what He has done, and what He can do] shall be saved.” Romans 10:9-13