Chapter 2

Here we have a glance at the intense earnestness of Paul’s service and of its aim and object. He prayed and agonised for saints whom he had never seen.

Verses 2, 3.—The way the Church is built up, is by saints being drawn together. The way of the acknowledgment of the mystery is by hearts being knit together. God is gathering and welding souls together, and the apostle is very anxious that none may be drawn away. He was in conflict, lest they might be divided in heart. God’s way is to build His saints together by union of heart—in one spirit (Phil. 1:27). His way is to begin within (see Acts 4:32). Two disciples walking to Emmaus, talking together with Christ, had their two hearts fused into one. “Did not our heart burn within us” (Luke 24:32). So also in John 14:1, “Let not your heart be troubled.” Acknowledging God’s mystery is acting it out, so that the hearts of saints may be knit into one. “Knit together,”—interlaced: a spiritual thread joining them together. Not loving because you agree in this or that doctrine, but because you see Christ in each other. There will only be Christ to unite us in heaven. Let us be done with all else on earth.

Verse 4.—“Lest any man should delude you”—draw you aside. There is such a tendency for saints to be drawn aside by enticing words, persuasive speech. So few there are who live on Christ, and care for the living reality of a living Christ.

Verse 5.—“Steadfastness of your faith towards Christ.” This is the order: it is the order of the Holy Ghost. “Towards Christ”: providing this is right, other things will fall into their places. Only as a man is full of Christ, can he be of any use. No wisdom of the flesh is of any value before God. It must be Christ first, and Christ last.

Verses 6, 7.—“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him.” That is, go on with Him getting increased knowledge of Him, accustoming yourselves to His presence, reckoning upon Him and obeying Him daily. There is all in Him you need. Creation came from His hand. All things are held together by Him. As you “received” Christ Jesus to be your Lord, so see in Him all that you need. “So walk in Him,” saying, “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.” Then the Holy Ghost explains how we are to “walk in Him.” “Rooted and built up in Him.” Christ the root, His precious work the foundation of our souls. As we grow, we see more and more the strength and security of that foundation: the soul is more and more taken up with Him and charmed with His perfect work. “In Him”: not in frames and feelings, or in knowledge and attainments. Everything that God can convey to the soul is in Christ. The more we learn our need, let us the more turn to Kim: there we find all. As we see what we have there, we become rooted. As you read the Word, or hear the Word telling of the work of Christ, you are “built up.” “And stablished in the faith”: very few are stablished. It is distressing to hear of saints and even teachers drifting about, turning round and round like spiritual weather-cocks. Surely it all indicates a very feeble acquaintance with Christ. “In the faith.” God has made known that to us. “The faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Therein are we to abide, and therein to “abound in thanksgiving.”

Verse 8.—Here is a word of warning, how the fulness of Christ may be denied. “Philosophy and vain deceit.” Think of any one preferring these to Christ. Philosophy will be poor stuff for a dying pillow; you will want Christ then, and you need Him now to live. Do your souls crave anything else? Do you sigh after intellectual discourses and traditional religion? The Holy Ghost says it is all “vain deceit”—mere fallacy.

Verse 9.—“In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead.” That is the strongest word possible in the Greek for “Godhead.” There is everything in Christ. Just think of anyone turning from Him to “vain deceit”! And not only is there in Him all the fulness, but “ye are complete,”—filled full—“in Him.” This is wonderful: too vast to comprehend. In Ephesians 1:23, the Church is said to be “the fulness” of Christ; He cannot do without it. Here in Colossians, He is the fulness of the saints, and surely they cannot do without Him.

Verse 11.—“In whom ye are circumcised.” Moses commanded that part of the flesh should be cut off; here all the flesh is cut clean out, and put off. It is a reference to the new creation, which the Holy Ghost here calls “a circumcision.” “Putting off the body of the flesh” — the words “sins off” should be left out. The whole body is put off. “Ye are not in the flesh” (Rom. 8:9). All that I was as a child of Adam, a sinner, I am cut out of: all that Christ is, I am before God. How the two fit together. I am cut off, am dead: I have no place, no standing before God, save in a Risen Christ. God wants us to live upon that fulness. Is it not enough? “Who is the Head of all principality and power.” If He can fill all these intelligences in heaven, is He not enough for me? Here is the true circumcision, of which the circumcision in the flesh was but a shadow. We are still in the body, thank God, not in the flesh, although the flesh is still in us. “Putting off” is the same as is in verse 15, rendered “spoiled”—or stripping. As the grave-clothes were stripped off Christ when He rose, so has He delivered us. Everything hinges on the resurrection and the victory He won for us. “In the circumcision of Christ”: that means the circumcision with which He circumcises us, and cuts us off from what we were.

Verse 12.—“Buried with Him in the baptism.” It reminds us how all the waves and billows went over Him; how He cried, “I sink in deep mire where there is no standing,” and how the floods overflowed Him. Yet out from these waters (Psa. 18:16) He was brought, and out from the miry clay (Psa. 40:2). This was first true of Christ; then of all who are His. “Buried with Him in the baptism.” There is only one. As the believer goes down in the water, it is a symbol of how God has buried all that we were out of His sight.

Verse 12.—“Wherein also ye were raised with Him.” These three things are infinitely precious. 1st—The blood of Christ has dealt with all my sins, and brought me into the presence of God (Eph. 1:13). 2nd—All that I am by nature, the Lord Jesus has cut me clean out of, so that I am no longer what I was. 3rd—In Christ risen, I am, and have His nature. He gives us the beautiful symbol of baptism to shew this forth. He went down in His baptism of suffering (Luke 12:50), under the billows of God’s wrath; we go down in the symbolic grave of baptism, and rise with Him to newness of life. All that I am by nature buried out of God’s sight: all that Christ is before God, is now mine. The flesh is still in us, but that need not break our communion with God. With the two loaves baked with leaven, which were waved before Jehpvah, there was offered a kid of the goats for a sin-offering, for their acceptance (Lev. 23:17-22). These loaves are a type of the Church, composed of Jew and Gentile, with sin still in its members, yet accepted, because of the work of Christ.

“Through the faith of the operation of God.” Faith may seem simple in our account, but it is a marvellous feat in God’s. When you believe, it shews God is at work in you. The more simply the soul drinks in what Christ is, the more is God’s power at work in you. Faith is produced by the revelation of Christ to the soul; and the more the soul gazes on Christ thus revealed by the Holy Ghost, the more the life flows into it. “Raised Him out from the dead ones.”

Verse 13.—“Quickened together with Him.” If I believe on Him, my faith may be tiny, yet I am risen with Him. I have His life. I have fellowship, that is partnership, with Him. He and I have the same life; His life is mine. Verse 12 tells what we have been brought out of; verse 13 shews what we have been brought into “with Him.” This is delightful! It is always true, not only when you are talking to Christ; then you may be enjoying it more; but the thing itself is a fact always. There is a slight difference in English between “communion” and “fellowship.” Communion denotes intercourse; fellowship, companionship, society. They are one word in Greek—community. Whether I enjoy it or not, God has seen to it; He has secured it. Blessed be God, He has raised His people with Christ, and there in Him risen, they are a new creation. There is no condemnation: how could there be in Christ? There is nothing to condemn. My sins? Christ bore them all away. My nature? Christ circumcised it. All has gone. Christ and His members alone remain before God. What a blessed standing the believer has! What a place of nearness! Christ must needs have a people meet for Him, companions worthy of Him. He the Living One died, that we the dead ones might live. Now He is our life, our fulness, our everything.

“Having forgiven you all trespasses.” What sweetness is in that expression! In death, Christ made atonement for sin; in resurrection, they are all gone. Is there a sin there on Christ? Not one 5 then there is not one on me. “Having forgiven you all”—not a part, but a whole. Blessed assurance! There are no sweeter passages in the Word than these two, “Having forgiven you all trespasses,” “Hath He quickened together with Him.” The possession of life proves the removal of sin; for it is resurrection life. Christ then is risen, and we are out of our sins and quickened together with Him. Every time you act faith, it shews you have life. Would you be a healthy Christian? Then act faith in a living Christ, and “abundance of life” will flow into you.

“All trespasses.” Who would like to part with that little yet great word, “all”? I was thinking how great God is, to be able to call these starry worlds into existence out of nothing. But He has done a more wonderful thing still. He has put my many sins out of existence. They are all gone, gone to return no more. God says, I will not remember them (Heb. 10:14).

Verse 14.—“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us” There is a change in the pronoun. In verse 13, it is “you”; in verse 14, “us.” This is a clue to the interpretation. The same change occurs in Gal. 4:5, 6, “we” Jews, “you” Gentiles. So here Paul speaks as a Jew, the handwriting was “against us.” The law was given to Jews, not Gentiles (Rom. 2:8; Eph. 2:14-17). All that the law can do for man is to be against him. The law has dominion over a man as long as he liveth (Rom. 7:1-4); but we have died, and its claims are ended. How foolish for saints to put themselves under it as their rule of life! We are to live to another, even to Him who is risen. Instead of L-a-w, it is not L-o-r-d. “Christ Jesus my Lord “(Phil. 3:8). He forgives my trespasses, and blots out the law. “Took it out of the way,” as between Jew and Gentile (Eph. 2:14), nailing it to His Cross. Not merely the ten commandments, but the “ordinances” were all “contrary to us,” casting down the timid, and puffing up the self-righteous. When God rent the veil of the temple in the midst, the priests were wicked enough to sew it together again no doubt. So people now prefer to keep at a distance, while God invites them to draw near.

“Took it out of the way”—that is a very vivid expression. It means it is not wanted, it only opposed us.

Verse 15.—“Having spoiled principalities.” The word “spoiled” here is the same as verse 11, “put off”; it means properly, stripping off, and only occurs once again in Scripture (chap. 3:8). It refers to the Lord Jesus stripping off His grave clothes. “Made a show of them openly”; openly, refers to the Cross. In the moment of His greatest weakness, He achieved all this. What can He not do now that He has risen, with all power in His hand? “He liveth by the power of God” (2 Cor. 13:6). “Triumphing over them in Himself.” He had to cope with sin, death, the devil and his angels, single-handed, and He did it. Oh, what we owe to Him and to His Cross! It is very grand to know that He triumphed even there.

“By weakness and defeat, He won the meed and crown;
Trod all our foes beneath His feet, by being trodden down.”

He did all this for us when He was “emptied” (Phil, 2:7). What can He not do now, that He is “glorified”? (John 7:38).

Verse 16.—“Let no man therefore judge you,” &c. All these were but shadows; Christ is the substance. Why, then, go after shadows any longer? The Sabbath was typical of rest. Christ is the true rest of God, and God calls us to rest in Him. The Sabbath was the shadow; Christ spent it in the grave, and this earth has not had another since. In these verses, 16, 17, the Holy Ghost shews how the fulness of Christ may be practically denied, by going back to shadows. May we heed the warning; it is much needed in our time.

Verse 18.—“Let no man beguile you of your reward.” It is quite possible to miss it (Rev. 3:12), or part of it (2 John 10). Here it is by a ceremonial or ritualistic worship: a worship that was instituted through the instrumentality of angels (see Gal. 3:19; Acts 7:53). God had an earthly tabernacle, and people could then draw nigh to Him on earth. Now that has gone, His people are called with a heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1), and their only place of worship is in heaven itself (Heb. 10:17). Oh, to draw near to God there! To come before Him and worship there! “Intruding into those things which he hath seen.” Four of the oldest Greek MSS. leave out the word “not.” In other words, a religion of sense; ritualism and ordinances, which men can look at and handle, instead of having to do with things unseen. Heavenly things are only visible to faith. We have a Great High Priest, but He is unseen. The Holy Ghost is ours, but unseen. Faith grasps both, and makes them real to the soul. Do not let any one cheat you by bringing you down to a religion of rites and ceremonies, or soliciting your return to Judaism. Here we are reminded that its rites were only shadows. Now Christ is risen. It is a solemn warning to saints, to beware of very much that is everywhere around them, very popular too, of high esteem among men. “Vainly puffed up.” How true this is! How much pride often lurks under a garb of assumed humility? And religious pride and vanity are the worst of all.

Verse 19.—“Not holding the Head.” The true and only remedy is to have, individually and consciously, to do with Christ the Head. This alone will keep saints right in soul, and with each other. Anything merely external is Popery, Ritualism, Formality. “From which all the body.” The entire body is to live off the Head; there is enough in Him for all; for in Him all the fulness dwells. Oh, it is grand to have such a Head, in Whom all that His people need, is treasured for them. “Having nourishment,” implies that we need constant supplies, and that nutriment is constantly flowing down from the Head to His Church below. “By joints and bands”; any and all who are raised up and fitted by Him as channels of ministry to His people. “Knit together”—a beautiful word, mentioned before in verse 2, and also in Eph. 4:16, where it is rendered “compacted.” It speaks to us of the close and vital union of those who are Christ’s. Nourished from the Head, we shall see those who are the members of the body in the light of His love for them, and as those who are to be loved and served, because they are His. Thus shall saints, loving with His love, become of “one heart,” and ministering His Word from Him, they shall become of “one mind.”

Verse 20-22—“If ye have died.” This is the proper rendering; so also in chap. 3:3. This is God’s remedy for all fleshly piety and carnal religion. The Cross is the end of a worship of outward form. Saints have died with Christ. A new life and a new nature is theirs now, and nothing but a living Christ can satisfy. A living Christ to live upon. Is He not enough? Do you want worldly religion along with Him? If I get down to a religion of sense, Christ is lost sight of. His fulness is denied. The more we live by faith upon the living Christ, the more do we grow and our capacities increase. The more His fulness flows in, the more do our vessels become enlarged. “The rudiments of the world,” the same word as in Gal. 4:9, the “weak and beggarly elements”—a religion of the flesh and the world, with its commands and prohibitions—“Touch not, taste not, handle not.” The believer in Christ has passed out from all that belongs to the world and the flesh, into a new sphere, where Christ is everything.

Verse 23.—“Will-worship,” same word as verse 18; “voluntary” worship, people exercising their own wills, doing what pleases themselves. Is there not a lot of this in our day? A religion that pleases the natural mind is what men run after. What pleases God is to do His will, not our own, and to bring everything to the test of His Word. A living Christ in the heavens unseen, yet loved, is to be the object of our hearts. “To the satisfying of the flesh”; it finds its satisfaction in religious forms as well as in coarser things (See Eph. 2:2); but the new nature can only be satisfied with Christ.

Religious forms and ceremonies—Judaism then and Ritualism now—are of no value against the passions of the flesh. Man’s way of safeguard is by placing various restraints and negations of evil, “Handle not, touch not, taste not,” which is the proper order of the words—a descending climax. God’s way is by “stripping off the body of the flesh” through death and resurrection with Christ, giving us a new life, a new nature, and a continual flow of nourishment for that new life direct from the Risen Head in Heaven. Oh that God’s people may see how their all is in Christ, how He claims as Head and Lord their confidence and their obedience, and how all worldly and fleshly forms of religion deny Him that honour, and rob the saints of the present blessing and future reward by beguiling them from Christ. What was to keep these Colossian saints from human philosophy, and a recurrence to ordinances, man’s natural religion, and religious man’s traditions, Rationalism and Ritualism, was a fuller knowledge and a firmer hold of Christ If the heart is really satisfied with Him, drawing from Him, there will be no desire to wander about after the allurements of the world.

“Jesus, Thou art enough
The mind and heart to fill.”