VERSE 8: DESCRIPTION OF ERROR
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”
“Beware lest any man spoil you”
Literally: “Watch that there not be one robbing you”— The meaning is, “Take heed lest anyone plunder or rob you of your faith and hope by philosophy.”
These false teachers would strip them of their faith and hope, as an invading army would rob a country of all that was valuable.
BEWARE: (Grk.–blepete)–Literally, “look well,” lest there shall be as I fear there is: (the Greek indicative expresses this) any man leading you away as his spoil (not merely gaining spoil out of you, but making yourselves his spoil) through (by means of) his philosophy, etc.
Paul does not condemn all philosophy, but “the philosophy” (so Greek) of the Judaic-oriental heretics at Colosse, which afterwards was developed into Gnosticism. You, who may have “the riches of full assurance” and “the treasures of wisdom,” should not allow yourselves to be led away as a spoil by empty, deceitful philosophy.
“lest any man spoil”:
Literally, “make booty” of you; rob you of spiritual blessings by leading you to depend on something besides Christ for salvation. Or despoil you; rob you of the rich treasure of the Gospel, strip you of your spiritual armor, take away from you the truths and doctrines of Christ, and divest you of your spiritual privileges and blessings; suggesting, that the false teachers were thieves and robbers, and men of prey.
SPOIL: (Grk.–sulagōgōn)–Literally: “to corrupt, to cause to decay and perish,” as fruit is spoiled by keeping too long, or paper by wetting, or hay by a long rain, or crops by mildew. But the Greek word used here means to spoil in the sense of plunder or rob, as when plunder is taken in war. common verb for warning like our "look out, beware, see to it.” This Greek word is used only here in the N.T
To lead or carry away,” signifies “to rob, or spoil of their goods,” as if by violence or rapine. Literally, make booty of you; rob you of spiritual blessings by leading you to depend on something besides Christ for salvation. Their goods were the salvation they had received from Christ; and both the Gentile and Jewish teachers endeavored to deprive them of these, by perverting their minds, and leading them off from the truths of Christianity
“through philosophy and vain deceit”
Literally: “through philosophy and empty deceit”–Or, the vain or empty deceit of philosophy; such philosophizing as the Jewish and Gentile teachers used.
As the term philosophy stood in high repute among the Gentiles, the Jews of this time affected it; and both Philo and Josephus use the word to express the whole of the Mosaic institutions. The Jewish philosophy, such as is found in the Cabala, Midrashim, and other works, deserves the character of vain deceit, in the fullest sense and meaning of the words. The inspired writers excepted, the Jews have ever been the most puerile, absurd, and ridiculous reasoners in the world.
THROUGH: (Grk.–dia)–This shows the means by which the heretics sought to deceive the believers. Paul lists five features of their methods of deception.
PHILOSOPHY: (Grk.–philosophias)–The only use of the word in the N.T. and employed by Paul because the Gnostics were fond of it
The Greek philosophy prevailed much in the regions around Colosse, and perhaps also the Oriental or Gnostic philosophy. These Colossian believers were constantly being exposed to the influences of these plausible systems. They consisted much of mere speculations respecting the nature of the Divine existence; and the danger of the Colossians was in is that they would rely rather on the deductions of that specious reasoning, than on what they had been taught by their Christian teachers.
Paul here condemns the philosophy of both the Jews, and of the Gnostics; the Jews had introduced natural philosophy into the worship and service of God, and the things appertaining to their religion; and the Gnostics had made the tabernacle and temple, and the most holy place, and the things belonging to them out to be merely emblems and hieroglyphics of natural things.
I. THE NATURE OF THE PHILOSOPHY
A. It is a philosophy inseparably connected with “vain deceit.”
B. It sets up the wisdom of man in opposition to the wisdom of GOD.
C. It is the “science,” (falsely so called) which “puffs up” but does not edify.
D. It always tends to undermine man’s faith in the Word of God.
II. THE ORIGIN OF THE PHILOSOPHY
A. It is “after the tradition of men.”
B. It had its source in mere human speculation.
III. THE SUBJECT-MATTER OF THE PHILOSOPHY
A. It is “after the rudiments of the world—(the world, i.e., Satan’s sytem”—(see James 4:4; I John 2:22) .
B. This points to ritualistic observances worthy only of children, not adapted to grown men.
IV. THE NEGATIVE WORTHLESSNESS OF THE PHILOSOPHY
A. It did not have Christ as its Author—“not after Christ.”
B. It did not have Christ as its Subject–It displaced Him to make way for:
1. Ritualistic ordinances, and
2. Angelic mediators.
C. No philosophy is worthy of the name that cannot find a place for Him Who is the high Wisdom (I Cor. 1:30).
V. THE DANGER OF THE PHILOSOPHY
“Take heed lest there shall be anyone that maketh spoil of you.”
A. It would have an enslaving effect.
1. Because of its ritualistic drudgeries, and
2. Because of its false teachings
B. It would bring serious personal losses.
1. The loss of Christian liberty (Gal. 5:1)
2. The loss of much of the good seed sown in Christian hearts (Matt. 13:10).
3. The loss of what Christians had wrought (II John 10).
4. The loss of first love (Rev. 2:1).
5. The loss of the joys of salvation (Psa. 51:12).
VAIN DECEIT: (Grk.–kevnēs apatēs)–Literally: “empty deceit;” that which is vain and empty, and has no solid foundation, even in nature and reason itself; and which being applied to divine things and religious observances, is deceitful; mere fallacy. The idea is, that the doctrines which were advanced in those systems were maintained by plausible, not by solid arguments; by considerations not fitted to lead to the truth, but to lead astray.
“after the tradition of men”
Literally: “according to the tradition”–There appears to have been two sources of danger to which the Christians at Colosse were exposed, Grecian philosophy (to which Paul in these cautions alludes), and Jewish opinions. Applied to Rabbinical traditions, (Mark 7:8). The latter is what Paul is referring to here. The Jews depended much on tradition, and many of those traditions would have tended much to corrupt the gospel of Christ.
Jesus castigated the Jews for their adherence to and worship of their traditions (Matt. 15:3-6; Mark 7:7-9). When men could not make revelation even seem to tell about deep mysteries which they were curious to pry into, they brought in human philosophy and pretended traditions to help it, as if one should bring a lamp to the sundial to find the hour. The false teachers boasted of a higher wisdom in theory, transmitted by tradition among the initiated; in practice they enjoined asceticism, as though matter and the body were the sources of evil. Phrygia (in which was Colosse) had a propensity for the mystical and magical, which appeared in their worship of Cybele and subsequent Montanism.
“after the rudiments of the world”
Literally: “according to the elements of the world”—or “the elements of the world.” Either of the Gentiles, who had their traditions in religion; or of the Jews, called the traditions of the elders, and of the fathers, which the Pharisees were fond of, by which they transgressed the commandments of God; which the apostle was brought up in, and was zealous of formerly, but now was delivered from, and rightly condemned as idle, trifling, and pernicious.
RUDAMENTS: (Grk.—stocheia)-–Literally: “elements.” Not the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water; or the worship of the sun, moon, and stars etc., among the idolatrous Gentiles, but the ceremonial laws of the Jews; which were that to them in religion.
Stocheia-–Word for anything in a “row, series,” like the letters of the alphabet, the materials of the universe (II Pet. 3:10,12), elementary teaching (Heb. 5:12), elements of Jewish ceremonial training (Acts 15:10; Gal. 4:3, 9), the specious arguments of the Gnostic philosophers as here with all their aeons and rules of life.
“The rudiments” or elementary lessons “of the (outward) world,” such as legal ordinances; our Judaic childhood's lessons (vv. 11, 16, 20; Gal. 4:1-3). The Mosaic ceremonies, so called as containing, in comparison with the gospel of Christ, only the first elements of religion, even when rightly used; while they were so perverted by the false teachers, that they fed the spirit of worldly confidence, and made those who trusted in them carnal, instead of spiritual.
“and not of Christ”
Literally: “and not according to Christ”—Not according to the simple doctrine of Christ, that He died for our sins;
and if you believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved (John 3:16).
Their boasted higher “philosophy” is nothing but human tradition, and a cleaving to the carnal and worldly, and NOT to Christ. Though acknowledging Christ nominally, in spirit they by their doctrine deny Him. This false philosophy would involve:. A truly Christian pholosophy centers in Him and seeks to more understand fully His Incarnate Person and His redemptive death and resurrection.
Christ is the yardstick by which to measure philosophy and all phases of human knowledge. The Gnostics were measuring Christ by their philosophy as many men are doing today. They have it backwards. Christ is the measure for all human knowledge since he is the Creator and the Sustainer of the universe.
VERSE 9: IDENTIFICATION WITH CHRIST
One of the meanings of “identification” is the condition of being the same as something else. In the spiritual life, proper identification occurs when the believer confesses: “Not I, but Christ” (Gal. 2:20).
IDENTIFICATION WITH HIS PERSON
“For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.”
“For in Him dwelleth”
Literally: “Because in Him dwells”—Because their “philosophy” is not “after Christ,” (v. 8) i.e., does not dwell in it, as all true philosophy is, everything which comes not from Him, and tends not to Him, is delusionary; “For in Him (alone) dwelleth” as in a temple, etc. Christ alone is the standard by which all religious claims must be judged.
That is, this was the great and central doctrine that was to be maintained about Christ, that all the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in Him–“before Abraham, I Am.” Every system which denied this was a denial of the doctrine which they had been taught; and against everything that would go to undermine this, they were especially to be on their guard. Most all heresies have begun by some form of the denial of the great central truth of the Incarnation of the Son of God.
The fullness of the God-head was in Christ before the Incarnation (John 1:1-3, 18; Phil, 2:6),. He was in the Garden of Eden and walked and conversed with Adam. It was this same Christ whom Adam and Eve heard walking in the Garden and Whom they attempted to hide (Gen. 3:8-10). In fact, He is the One who created Adam–“So God (pre-incarnate Christ) created man in His own image, in the image of God (pre-incarnate Christ) created He him” (Gen 1:27) The fullness of the God-head was in Christ during the incarnation (John 1:14, 18; I John 1:1-3). It was the Son of God who came in the likeness of men (Phil. 2:7). Paul here disposes of the Gnostic teaching that Jesus had no human body. He asserts plainly both the deity and the humanity of Jesus Christ in corporeal form.
FOR: (Grk.–hoti)–Literally: “because.” In this sentence, (hoti, because) is given for the reason for the preceding claim for Christ as the measure of human knowledge Paul states the heart of his message about the Person of Christ.
FULLNESS: (Grk.–plērōma)-–Literally: “fullness, completeness, full number, full measure.”
“dwelleth all of the Godhead bodily”
Literally: “dwells all of the Godhead bodily”–As opposed to the Jewish tabernacle, in opposition to types and figures. There dwells (at home) in Christ not just one or more aspects of the Godhead, but the very essence of God.
DWELLS: (Grk.–katoikei)–Paul is careful here to use the present tense of this verb in order to point out two facts about Christ.
1. He still had a material body: a resurrected, immortal, incorruptible body that could be seen and touched.
He did not surrender His deity at His incarnation, and He did not give up His humanity at His resurrection.
2. This Greek verb denotes a permanent residency in contrast to some temporary sojourn.
As God the Son Christ shared equally in the essence of deity, and when He became a man this fullness came to indwell a human nature (1:19) and presently dwells in His divine-human Person.
BODILY: (Grk.–sōmatikōs)–This is the only place in the N.T. that this Greek word is used. The word means, “having a bodily appearance, instead of existing or appearing in a spiritual form;” and the sense of the phrase is that the fullness of the divine nature became incarnate, and was indwelling in the body of the Redeemer.
Paul here asserts that "all the fullness of the Godhead,” not just certain aspects, dwells in Christ and in bodily form (sômatikôs). This fullness dwells now in Christ in His glorified humanity “the body of His glory” (Phil. 3:21).
THE GODHEAD– (Grk.–theotētos)– ThIS Greek word means the ESSENCE and NATURE of the Godhead, not merely the divine perfections and attributes of Divinity.
In Christ, the Godhead has expressed itself in human form. Christ, as man, was not merely God-like, but in the fullest sense was God. We can see, hear and handle the Divine Being in the Person of Christ. The Incarnation gives to men the true philosophy they long after. Christ is all and in all. Believers, by union with Him, partake of His fullness of the divine nature (John 1:16; II Pet. 1:4; see on Eph. 3:19).
“And having been filled, ye are complete in Him, which is the Head of all principality and power.”
“And having been filled,”– the Colossians were empty-spoiled and deprived of every good, while following the empty philosophy and groundless traditions of Jewish and Gentile (gnostic) teachers; but since they had received Christ Jesus they were filled with Him.
“And you are complete in Him”|
Literally: “you are in Him”— Having no need, for the purposes of salvation, of any aid to be derived from the philosophy of the Greeks, or the traditions of the Jews. All that is necessary to secure your salvation is to be found in the Lord Jesus. There is a completion, or a filling up, in Him, so as to leave nothing wanting.
This is true in respect:
1. To the wisdom which is needful to guide us;
2. The atonement to be made for sin;
3. The merit by which a sinner can be justified; and
4. The grace which is needful to sustain us in the trials, and to aid us in the duties of life.
Therefore, there is no necessity that we should look to the aid of philosophy, as if there was a defect in the teachings of the Savior; or to human strength, as if He were unable to save us; or to the merits of the saints, as if those of the Redeemer were not sufficient to meet all our wants. The sentiment advanced in this verse would overthrow the whole papal doctrine of the merits of the saints, and, of course, the whole doctrine of papal “indulgences.”
AND: (Grk.–kai)–And therefore; and so. Translate in the Greek order, “You are in Him (by virtue of union with Him) filled full" of all that you need (John 1:16).
“which is the Head of all principality and power”
Literally: “who is the Head of all rule and authority”–The Lord Jesus was exalted to the highest conceivable dignity and honor. Comp. v. 10, Phil. 2:9.
In this most important passage Paul seems to labor for words to convey the greatness of Christ, and uses those terms 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 Christianity throughout was a work of divine 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.
THE HEAD: (Grk.–kephalē)–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, but he was infinitely exalted over them, as of different rank and dignity. How could this be if He were a mere man, or if he were an angel?
PRINCIPALITY: (Grk.–archēs)–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 rabbis reckoned four, others ten, orders of angels, and they presumed to give them names according to their different ranks and power. But all this is evidently the result of mere fancy. The Scriptures do hint in several places, at a difference of rank among the angels, but even the sacred writers do not go into detail.
It may be added that there is no improbability in such a subordination, but it is rather to be presumed to be true. The creatures of God are not made alike; and difference of degree and rank, as far as our observation extends, everywhere prevails.
POWER: (Grk.–exousias)–There can be no doubt that the Jews were accustomed to divide the angels of heaven into various ranks and orders, traces of which custom we find often in the Scriptures.
There is also reason to suppose that they made such a division with reference to evil angels, regarding Satan as their leader, and other evil spirits, divided into various ranks, as subordinate to him. See (v. 15; Matt. 25:41; Eph. 6:12). To such a division there is probably reference here; and the meaning is, that no order of evil angels, however powerful, artful, or numerous, would be able to alienate the hearts of Christians from their Redeemer.