VERSE15:  Triumph over Powers
{And} having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.”
The terms used in this verse are all military; and the idea is, that Christ has completely subdued our enemies by His death.

He Spoiled Them

{And} having spoiled principalities and powers,”
Literally:  “Having stripped the rulers, and the authorities”—The powers of darkness, of which Satan is the leader. Compare Eph. 6:12–“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

         These our Lord overcame by His death and resurrection. John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11. “The principalities and the powers” refers back to v. 10, Jesus, “the Head of all principality and power,” and 1:16.
         In the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, God subjected all the principalities, etc., to Jesus, declaring them to be powerless as to His work and His people (Eph. 1:21). Thus Paul's argument against those grafting onto Christian observances Jewish observances, along with angel-worship, is, whatever part angels may be supposed to have had under the law, now at an end, God having put the legal dispensation itself away.

        SPOILED:  (Grk.–apekdusamenos)-Literally: “put away from.”  This is a military term referring to beating back or defeating an enemy.  Plundered; as a victorious army does a conquered country.

Paul is alluding to the treatment of enemies when conquered: they are spoiled of their armor; and they are exhibited with reproach to the populace, especially when the victor has the honor of a triumph; making a public exhibition of them taken in battle, and reserved to grace the victor's triumph.  A complete victory was achieved by the death of Christ on the cross, so that everything is now in subjection to Him, and we have nothing to fear. 

        PRINCIPALITIES…RULERS:  (Grk.–archas…exousias)–The evil angels, of their usurped dominion.  The formidable enemies that had held man in subjection, and prevented his serving God. There can be no doubt, I think, that the apostle refers to the ranks of fallen, evil spirits which had usurped a dominion over the world,.

Paul may be referring to the nesioth and roshoth who were the rulers and chiefs in the Sanhedrin and synagogues, and who had great authority among the people, both in making constitutions and explaining traditions.  The propagation of Christianity in Judea quite destroyed their spiritual power and domination; just as the propagation of Protestantism, which was Christianity revived, destroyed, wherever it appeared, the false doctrine and domination of the pope of Rome.

        PRINCIPALITIES:  (Grk.–archas)–This word literally means, “the beginning;” and then, “the first, the first place, power, dominion, pre-eminence, rulers, magistrates, etc.”  It may refer here to any rank and power, whether among men or angels, and the sense is, that Christ is exalted above all.

         There can be no doubt here that Paul is referring to evil spirits. Like good angels, they were regarded as divided into ranks and orders, and were supposed to be under the control of one mighty leader. It is probable that the allusion here is to the ranks and orders which they sustained before their fall, something like which they may still retain. The word principalities refers to principal rulers, or chieftains.
        The general sense is, that the Lord Jesus was exalted to the highest conceivable dignity and honor. In this beautiful and most important passage, Paul labors for words to convey the greatness of his conceptions, and uses those which denote the highest conceivable dignity and glory. The main idea is, that God had manifested great power in thus exalting the Lord Jesus, and that similar power was exhibited in raising up the sinner from the death of sin to the life and honor of believing. The work of religion throughout was a work of power; a work of exalting and honoring the dead, whether dead in sin or in the grave; and Christians ought to know the extent and glory of the power thus put forth in their salvation.
        Christ was not merely above the ranks of the heavenly beings, as the Head; He was not one of their own rank, placed by office a little above them; rather, He was infinitely exalted over them. How could this be if He were a mere man, or if He were an angel Himself?

        RULERS:   (Grk.–exousias)– Those who had power, or to whom the name of powers was given. Milton represents Satan as addressing the fallen angels in similar language.

        It is not easy to distinguish between the exact meaning of the words which Paul here uses. The general idea is, that Christ is elevated above ALL ranks of creatures, however exalted, and by whatever name they may be known. Some of the Jewish rabbis reckon four, others ten orders of angels, and they presume to give them names according to their different ranks and power. But all this is evidently just the result of mere fancy. The Scriptures do hint, in several places, at a difference of rank among the angels, but the sacred writers do not go into any detail.
         Jesus, by His death, wrested the dominion from these creatures, and seized upon what they had captured as a conqueror seizes upon his prey. Satan and his legions had invaded the earth and drawn its inhabitants into captivity, and subjected them to their evil reign. Christ, by His death and resurrection, subdues the invaders and recaptures those whom they had subdued.

He Displayed Them

“He made a show of them openly,”
Literally:  “He made a show {of them} in public”–He did this at His ascension, when He led captivity free in a victory parade into Heaven (see Eph. 4:8).  He led them in triumph, as a conqueror would do with his captives.

        As a conqueror, returning from a victory, displays in a triumphal procession of the kings and princes whom he has taken, and the spoils of victory. This was commonly done when a “triumph” was decreed for a conqueror. On such occasions, it sometimes happened that a considerable number of prisoners were led along amidst the scenes of triumph. Paul says that this was now done “openly”–that is, it was in the face of the whole universe; a grand victory; a glorious triumph over all the powers of hell. It does not refer to any public procession or display on the earth; but to the grand victory as achieved in view of the universe, by which Christ, as a conqueror, dragged Satan and his legions at his triumphal car.
        When Christ was raised from the dead, He ascended on high, and led captivity captive.  He led Satan and his principalities and powers captive, who had led others, as He passed through the air, the territories of the devil, in the sight of God and the holy angels.  He put them to an open shame by triumphing over them in his resurrection and ascension.

He Triumphed over Them

“triumphing over them in it.”
Literally:  “Triumphing {over} them in it”– Either
“by the cross,” or by Himself.” The meaning of all this is, that since Christ has achieved for us such a victory, and has subdued all the foes of man, we should not be led captive, but should regard ourselves as freemen.

We should not again be made the slaves of custom, habit,  ritual observances, or superstitious rites, or anything whatever that has its origin in the Kingdom of Darkness. We are bound to assert and to use our freedom, and should not allow any hostile power, in the form of philosophy or false teaching of any kind, to plunder or “spoil” us, (v. 8). The Christian is a freeman. His great Captain has subdued all His enemies, and we should not allow them again to set up their dark empire over our souls. The argument of Paul’s in these verses 13-15 is derived from what Christ has done for us. He mentions four things.
1.       He has given us spiritual life;
2.       He has forgiven all our trespasses;
3.       He has blotted out or abolished the “ordinances” that were against us; and He has triumphed over all our foes.
From all this Paul infers (v. 16f), that we should not again be made captive or subdued by any of the rights of superstition, or any of the influences of the kingdom of darkness

        TRIUMPH:  (Grk.–thriambeuō)–This refers to a triumph; or a triumphal procession. Originally the word meant a hymn which was sung in honor of Bacchus; then the tumultuous and noisy procession which constituted the worship of the god of wine; and then any procession of a similar kind.

        It was particularly applied, among both the Greeks and the Romans, to a public and solemn honor conferred on a victorious general on a return from a successful war, in which he was allowed a magnificent entrance into the capital. In these triumphs, the victorious commander was usually preceded or attended by the spoils of war; by the most valuable and magnificent articles which he had captured; and by the princes, nobles, generals, or people whom he had subdued.  The victor was drawn in a magnificent chariot, usually by two white horses. Other animals were sometimes used. When Pompey triumphed over Africa, his chariot was drawn by elephants; that of Mark Antony by lions; that of Heliogabalus by tigers; and that of Aurelius by deer.
      The people of Corinth were acquainted with the nature of a triumph. About one hundred and forty-seven years before Christ, Lucius Mummius, the Roman consul, had conquered all Achaia, and had destroyed Corinth, Thebes, and Colchis, and by order of the Roman senate was favored with a triumph, and was surnamed Achaicus.
        Paul refers here to a victory which he had, and a triumph with which he was favored by the Redeemer. It was a victory over the enemies of the gospel; it was success in advancing the interests of the kingdom of Christ; and he rejoiced in that victory, and in that success, with more solid and substantial joy than a Roman victor ever felt on returning from his conquests over nations, even when attended with the richest spoils of victory, and by humbled princes and kings in chains, and when the assembled thousands shouted Io triumphe!


This passage has basic Gnostic ideas interwoven all through it.  In this, Paul is warning the Colossian believers not to adopt these ideas of these Gnostic heretics.

VERSE 16:  Areas of Legalism
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath {days}:

“Let no man therefore judge you”
Literally:  “Then do not let anyone judge you”– Paul now begins to speak in reference to some particulars of the hand-writing of ordinances.
  Judge you; pronounce you good or bad, according to your treatment of the Ceremonial Law.

        THEREFORE:  (Grk.–oun)–Because you are complete in Christ, and God in Him has dispensed with all subordinate means as essential to acceptance with Him. Paul has here in mind the ascetic regulations and practices of one wing of the Gnostics (possibly Essenic or even Pharisaic influence).

        JUDGE:  (Grk.–krinetō)–Paul now begins to speak in reference to some particulars of the hand-writing of ordinances, which had been taken away.  The word judge here is used in the sense of pronouncing a sentence.  Regard none who judge you.

The meaning is, “since you have thus been delivered by Christ from the evils which surrounded you; since you have been freed from the observances of the law, let no one sit in judgment on you, or claim the right to decide for you in those matters. You are not responsible to man for your conduct, but to Christ; and no man has a right to impose that on you as a burden from which he has made you free.”

“in meat, or in drink,”
Literally:  “in eating or in drinking”-

The distinction of foods and drinks, what was clean and what was unclean, according to the Law. The Essenes went far beyond the regulations of the Mosaic Law.  See Rom. 14:1-17.

        MEAT:  (Grk.–brōsei)–This word encompasses the entire area of eating.  It denotes Jewish dietary regulations with their distinction between clean and unclean foods (Lev. 11; Acts 10:14). The reason the wordmeatis used here is because in the time that the KJV was being translated, the word, meat”  was used for any and all foods.

        DRINK:  (Grk.–posei)-Paul may be referring to the prohibition of wine and strong drink.

Levites and Nazarites observed this restriction (Lev. 10:9; Num. 6:3).  The Law required that liquids could not be stored in unclean vessels (Lev. 11:34-36).  In Rom. 14:17 Paul said that, “the kingdom of God is not meat and rink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”  Paul is undoubtedly referring to the distinctions which the Jews made on this subject, implying that an effort had been made by Jewish (Judaizer) teachers to show them that the Mosaic laws were binding on all.

“or in respect of an holy day”
Literally:  “or in part of a feast”– The meaning is, “in the part, or the particular of a holy day; that is, in respect to it.” 

The Gnostic and Jewish legalists (Judaizers) observed yearly feasts and monthly new moons and weekly Sabbaths.  They drew up lists of days which specifically belonged to God, on which certain things must be done and certain things must not be done.  They equated religion with ritual.

        HOLY DAY:  (Grk.–heortēs)–Literally:  “feasts.”  The three major feasts in the Jewish calendar were Passover (Hag HaMatzot), Pentecost (Pesach) and Tabernacles (Sukkot)–Exodus 23:14-18.  What Paul is saying is that no one had a right to impose their observance on Christians, or to condemn them if they did not keep them. They had been delivered from that obligation by the death of Christ, (v. 14). 

“or of the new moon”
Literally:  “or the new moon”–This marked the observance of the lunar calendar (Num. 10:10; 28:11; I Sam. 20:18).

        NEW MOON:  (Grk.–neumēnias)–On the appearance of the new moon, in addition to the daily sacrifices, two bullocks, a ram, and seven sheep, with a meat-offering, were required to be presented to God, (Num. 10:10; 28:11-14). The new moon at the beginning of the month Tisri (October) was the beginning of their civil year, and was commanded to be observed as a festival, (Lev. 23:24-25).

“or of the Sabbath {days}:
Literally:  “or of Sabbaths”– Omit “THE,” which is not in the Greek.

“SABBATHS” (not the Sabbaths”) of the day of atonement and feast of tabernacles have come to an end with the Jewish services to which they belonged (Lev. 23:32,37-39).  These “Sabbath days” (shabbat) point to Saturday, the day of weekly rest in which Israel remembered the divine work of creation and her covenant relationship with God (Exo. 20:8-11). 

        SABBATH:   (Grk.–neumēnias)–The word Sabbath in the O.T. is applied not only to the seventh day, but to all the days of holy rest that were observed by the Hebrews, and particularly to the beginning and close of their great festivals.

The weekly sabbath rests on a more permanent foundation, having been instituted in Paradise to commemorate the completion of creation in six days. Lev. 23:38 expressly distinguished “the sabbath of the Lord” from the other sabbaths.  This weekly Sabbath was never against men or contrary to them, but was always for them, and promotive of their highest good.

VERSE 17:  Weakness of Legalism
“Which are a shadow of things to come

The weakness of the Mosaic Law, with its moral and ceremonial regulations, was that it was merely “a shadow of things to come.” All these things were types, (mere images) and must continue in force till the Christ, whom they represented, came.  Paul says that the body, the substance or design of them, was of Christ; that they pointed Him out, and the excellent blessings which He has procured. 

“Which are a shadow”
Literally:  “which {are} a shadow”—Old word, opposed to substance (soma), “body.”

       SHADOW: (Grk.–skia)–Here skia  is distinguished from body (sōma) or substance.  A shadow does not exist in and of itself.  It is caused by a material object or person. It has reality only in that to which it points, in the substance which formed it.

         The word skia (shadow), is often used to express anything imperfect or unsubstantial; while the term body  (sōma) expressed any thing substantial, solid, and firm. The law was but the shadow (skia) or representation of good things to come; none should rest in it; all that it pointed out is to be sought and obtained in Christ. The word “shadow” here refers to a rough outline of anything, a mere sketch, such as a carpenter draws with a piece of chalk, or such as an artist delineates when he is about to make a picture. He sketches an outline of the object which he designs to draw, which has some resemblance to it.
        The “body” (sōma) casts the “shadow” (skia) and so belongs to Christ. A shadow (skia)-as of a man, a house, a tree–will indicate the form, the outline, the size of the object; but it has no substance or reality. So it was with the rites of the Jewish religion. They were designed merely as a shadow of the substantial realities of the true worship, or to present the dim outlines of what is true and real in heaven

“of things to come”
Literally: “of coming things”—The blessings of the Christian covenant, the substance of which Jewish ordinances were but the type or shadow  (skia). Compare ”ages to come,” that is, the Gospel dispensation (Eph. 2:7). Heb. 2:5, “the world to come.”

“but the body {is} of Christ”–The reality, the substance. All that they signified is of or in Christ. Between those things themselves which are in Christ, and those which only represented or prefigured them, there is as much difference as there is between a body and a shadow–a solid substance and a mere outline.

The Law was given to produce a sense of moral guilt and to drive the convicted sinner to put his faith in the gracious provision that God has given, namely, Christ–“Wherefore the Law was our schoolmaster (literally:  our pedagogue) {to bring us} unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” Gal. 3:24).  The sacrificial calendar produces pictures, or types, of what Christ would accomplish in His death and resurrection (Heb. 9:13-14).  Christ is the Passover for the believer (I Cor. 5:7); the open veil into the very presence of God (Heb. 10:19-29).