In this summary of Colossians 2, we get an understanding of the dangers of false teachings. Especially those that give the appearance of wisdom. Paul’s concern for the church in Colosse is understandable. There were believers among them who believed they must continue to abide by the Jewish customs and regulations. Paul’s words in this second chapter of Colossians are a reminder to these Christians that they had been made complete in Christ.
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What is the Main Message in Colossians 2
Let’s start with a quick review of what we saw in Colossians chapter 1. Paul began this epistle by establishing God’s Work in Christ. He discussed the excellence of Christ, and our redemption through Him. Paul also talked about his calling as a minister of the mystery of Christ which we learned is the gospel – salvation for all through Him.
Now in chapter 2 Paul shares his care and concern for the Colossians to know and understand that true wisdom and knowledge are found in Christ alone.
Why Colossians 2 Was Written
Chapter 2 of Colossians, similar to chapter 1, was written to portray the nature of Christ and His lordship over all creation and all authority. God has reconciled all things to Himself through Christ, independent of any human effort.
We also see Paul denouncing the false teachings that were prevalent in this area of Laodicea. These teachings were deceitful and encouraged the Christians in Colosse to chase after other philosophies which were contrary to Christ.
Summary of Colossians 2
There are lots of gems in this chapter, so let’s take a look at Colossians 2 verse by verse.
Summary of Colossians 2:1-3
For I want you to know how great a struggle I have in your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and that they would attain to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
The first section of this chapter, I believe, should have been added to the end of chapter 1. Paul had just discussed his ministry and his labor to present all men complete in Christ. He continues this idea in chapter 2:1-3 by stating that this is also his desire, and struggle, for the church in Colosse.
He wanted them to press on towards maturity in Christ and then gave them a picture of what that looks like:
- Being knit together in love
- Having full assurance of understanding
- Having a true knowledge of Christ
This passage teaches us that Christ is the source of true wisdom and knowledge. It says specifically that they are ‘hidden’ in Him. This doesn’t mean that this wisdom is secretive, but rather that it is a treasure and must be sought out. We need to dig deep in our search for wisdom and knowledge.
Paul is about to warn them of the dangers of deceptive philosophies that would lead them astray from simple devotion to Christ and the wisdom that is found in Him alone.
4 I say this so that no one will deceive you with persuasive arguments. 5 For even though I am absent in body, I am nevertheless with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your orderly manner and the stability of your faith in Christ. 6 Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.
The main thing that stood out to me in this passage was the phrase “orderly manner”. The NASB version says “good discipline” which means “regular arrangement, fixed succession”.
I love that!
Paul also instructed them to walk in Christ according to how they had received Him. If we look back at chapter 1 we see how they received Christ and the gospel.
because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel 6 which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth – Colossians 1:5-6
Paul’s encouragement here is for these believers to continue to walk in a way that bears kingdom fruit.
There is some great application in this for us.
We need to be consistently arranging our beliefs, thoughts, and actions to make sure they are properly aligned with the truth of the gospel and the wisdom and knowledge found in Christ. This regular arrangement will stabilize our faith in Christ. This stability is what keeps us from being taken captive by other philosophies and false teachings and causes us to live fruitful lives.
for bodily discipline is just slightly beneficial, but godliness is beneficial for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. – 1 Timothy 4:8
See to it that there is no one who takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception in accordance with human tradition, in accordance with the elementary principles of the world, rather than in accordance with Christ. 9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over every ruler and authority; 11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision performed without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And when you were dead in your wrongdoings and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our wrongdoings, 14 having canceled the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.
Many scholars believe that the ‘elementary principles’ Paul is referring to are connected with pagan worship. Elementary principles are anything or any practice that would lead us away from devotion to Christ.
The word ‘philosophies’ means the love of wisdom. The world’s wisdom, although attractive at times, is contrary to the wisdom of God. We must be careful what kind of wisdom we choose to love and choose to follow.
The Colossians were to see to it; it was their responsibility. This ties into what he just said about their good discipline leading to stability in faith.
As believers we have been given the indwelling Holy Spirit, therefore we have the strength and the ability through Him to not allow ourselves to be taken captive through deceptive philosophies. We need to be firmly rooted in our knowledge of Christ.
While we don’t know for certain the specific arguments circling society in this region during this time, the text does give us some clues as to what they may have been.
Here are the different doctrines Paul mentions in this passage that we need to have a thorough understanding of.
- Christ’s Deity – Throughout scripture, we see the deity or oneness of Christ with the Father. Paul spent much of chapter 1 laying that foundation. (Philippians 2:5-11; John 1:1, 14; John 8:58; Exodus 3:14-15; John 8:24; John 10:30-31; Hebrews 1:3-4; Colossians 1:15-17; John 17:4-5; Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:21-22; Isaiah 9:6, Isaiah 43:10-11; Micah 5:2, Luke 2:4-7; Isaiah 44:6; Revelation 1:7-8, 17-18)
- Our completeness in Christ – this word “made complete” is in the present, passive tense which means that it’s a completed action with ongoing results. (Ephesians 1:3-14; Ephesians 2:1-5)
- Circumcision – Circumcision in the Old Testament was the physical removal of flesh. It was a sign that a person belonged to the Lord. However, circumcision is of no value if the person’s heart is far from God. God has always been after the hearts of His people. (Romans 2:28-29, Philippians 3:2-3)
- Baptism – The submersion into the water is a sign of death to our old life, then the rising out of the water is a sign of our new life in Christ. This is the physical act of baptism. It is a step of obedience to the Lord and a sign of our new life in Christ. However, true spiritual baptism occurs when we place our faith in Christ and receive the seal of the Holy Spirit, becoming one with Him. (1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27; 1 Peter 3:21; Mark 16:16; Matthew 3:7-11)
- The resurrection of Christ – The resurrection of Christ is the foundation of our faith. If Christ was not raised, our faith is in vain. (John 11:25-26; Mark 16:6; Ephesians 2:4-9; Romans 6:1-8, 1 Corinthians 15:1-20)
- Christ’s Authority – Christ is seated at the right hand of God, above all rule and authority. We are also seated with Him in heavenly places. (Hebrews 2:14-15, Ephesians 2:4-7)
Therefore, no one is to act as your judge in regard to food and drink, or in respect to a festival or a new moon, or a Sabbath day— 17 things which are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Take care that no one keeps defrauding you of your prize by delighting in humility and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding firmly to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God. 20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of man? 23 These are matters which do have the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and humility and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.
We see in this passage that some of the believers in Colosse believed that they had to observe Jewish laws. I love how Paul calls these laws shadows, then contrasts them with Christ, the substance. Shadows represent the incomplete nature of the former laws. It was only in Christ that we are made complete. The phrase in v. 19 “holding firmly to the head” is referring to Christ and his authority over all these other rules and regulations.
Romans 14 gives us some great insight. In chapter 14 we learn that our religious practices must come out of personal conviction and faith in God. We are not to judge each other in regard to food or drink. Instead, we are to not put an obstacle in a brother’s way.
Therefore let’s not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this: not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s or sister’s way… For if because of food your brother or sister is hurt, you are no longer walking in accordance with love. Do not destroy with your choice of food that person for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; 17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For the one who serves Christ in this way is acceptable to God and approved by other people. – Romans 14:13,15-18
We also learn in 1 Corinthians that Christ freed us from the law that we may become all things to all people for the sake of the gospel.
For though I am free from all people, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may gain more. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might gain Jews; to those who are under the Law, I became as one under the Law, though not being under the Law myself, so that I might gain those who are under the Law; 21 to those who are without the Law, I became as one without the Law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might gain those who are without the Law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak; I have become all things to all people, so that I may by all means save some. 23 I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. – 1 Corinthians 9:19-23
The ways that we practice our religion must be focused on the gospel and loving others.
Summary of Colossians 2 Final Thoughts
Here’s a quick recap of what we have seen in this chapter.
- Beware of false teachings and philosophies. Following the rules and regulations of the law cannot make us complete. True fullness is found in Christ
- We must walk in Him. We must discipline ourselves to pursue the wisdom and knowledge that are hidden in Christ.
- Use the freedom we have been given to love others.
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