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Freedom From Human Regulations Through Life With Christ October 16, 2012

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Colossians 2:6-23.

Summary: Paul begins by telling the Colossians that since they have been taught the Gospel by the preachers, they should be united with Christ Jesus their Lord – being built up in Him, having their faith bind them together and remaining true to the lessons of Epaphras; this should result in their giving thanks to God.

Now Paul exhorts the Colossians to not let anyone make them his prey through a philosophy that is empty and deceptive; such a philosophy is essentially esoteric and relies on the elementary teaching belonging to the sphere of material and external things – instead of the sphere of the Spirit.

Paul then asserts that the plenitude dwells corporeally in Christ. Not only this, but as the Colossians are incorporated in Him, His plenitude is transfused into them, as He is the source of all energy and life – including the angelic beings. Now the Colossians were circumcised at their spiritual baptism in Christ, when their body – with all its corrupt and carnal affections – was immaterially cast aside. This great act occurred in their spiritual baptism, and it stems from their belief in the resurrection of Christ.

Next Paul states that the Colossians – as Gentiles – were dead in their actual transgressions, and their carnal minds were unchastened; yet God regenerated them morally, having forgiven all believers. God cancelled the bond standing against all believers – which consisted in ordinances; not only this, but Christ tore it up and threw it aside at His crucifixion. In fact, Christ put away the powers of evil and boldly displayed them, leading them in triumph at His crucifixion.

Given the victory that Christ has achieved, Paul exhorts the Colossians to not let anyone take them to task regarding:

  • their food and drink
  • their observance of the Jewish sacred times.

Indeed, food, drink, and the Jewish sacred times typify analogous concepts in the New Testament dispensation. He exhorts them to prevent anyone who is:

  • self-consciously humble
  • devoted to the angelic beings

from robbing them of their prize; these people are excessively proud and are directed by the mind of the flesh. Moreover, these people are not connected with Christ, who enables His people to:

  • communicate life and energy to each other
  • preserve their unity

which facilitates their growth which belongs to God.

Now Paul asks the Colossians why – since they have died to the rudimentary ordinances that belong to the sphere of the mundane – they still obey these ordinances. They are following the commands of the false teachers to avoid being defiled by impure objects. He notes that these objects actually become unfit for further use in the consuming, as they are perishable. Paul concludes by asserting the worthlessness of these ordinances, as they stem from officious zeal – yet they lack lasting efficacy to curb the desires of their sinful nature.

Thoughts: This passage is analogous to Ephesians 2, which I’ve blogged about. Now in this passage, we are reminded of the supremacy of Christ, especially in verse 15; Lightfoot offers some insights on this point:

The victory was complete. The enemy of mankind was defeated. The powers of evil, which had clung like a Nessus robe about his humanity, were torn off and thrown aside forever. And the victory of mankind is involved in the victory of Christ. In his cross we too are divested of the poisonous, clinging garments of temptation and sin and death.

Lightfoot’s note inspired me to learn a few facts about Nessus. I must say that Lightfoot’s analogy is quite appropriate; the yoke of sin is impossible for humans to cast off by their own strength. If left unchecked, it slowly strangles us. Clearly a feat of superhuman strength was required for us to break free of the “Nessus robe” of sin; only Christ could have accomplished this for us. As a sports fan, the image that came to mind when I read this passage was that of a running back breaking tackles on his way to the end zone. Though Satan tried to tackle Him, Christ was determined to cross the goal line – and believers are thankful that He scored that touchdown.

In verse 10, we see that believers have been given the “fullness” that dwells in Christ Himself. Lightfoot offers some insights on this intriguing point:

“Your fullness comes from his fullness; his pleroma is transfused into you by virtue of your incorporation in him.” See John 1:16; Ephesians 3:19; 4:13. Hence also the church, as ideally regarded, is called the fullness of Christ because all his graces and energies are communicated to her; see Ephesians 1:23.

This is an interesting point; now Christ certainly cannot be transfusing all of the attributes of His deity into us, i.e. this should not imply that believers can suddenly become equal to God, expanding the Trinity in the process. My understanding is that believers are certainly being transformed by Christ, though that transformation must have a limit. Yet believers should be encouraged by the extent of our actual transformation – which leads to unfathomable blessings. For example, whenever we rebel against the dictates of our sinful nature, we see that Christ has transfused at least some of His fullness into us.

In verse 19, Paul presents a neat illustration of the relationship between Christ and the members of His body – the church; Lightfoot expounds on this picture as follows:

The discoveries of modern physiology have invested the apostle’s language with far greater distinctness and force than it would have had with his contemporaries. Any exposition of the nervous system reads like a commentary on the image of the relationship between the body and the head…We cannot fail to be struck in the text not only with the correctness of Paul’s imagery but also with the propriety of the terms; and we are forcibly reminded that among the apostle’s most intimate companions at this time was one whom he calls “our dear friend Luke, the doctor” (4:14).

This is an intriguing point, and it raises the question as to whether Luke assisted Paul in crafting this particular illustration. As the structure and function of the nervous system had not been elucidated when Paul wrote this letter, did God supernaturally reveal this illustration to Paul and/or Luke? If so, this passage would testify to God’s storehouse of wisdom and knowledge (believers know that whenever a scientific discovery occurs, they get a glimpse into the mind of God Himself). I am also curious as to whether this verse influenced the experiments that eventually revealed the structure and function of the nervous system.

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