Bible Commentary

Colossians 2

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

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(Read all of Colossians 2)

Verse 1

[1] For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;

How great a conflict — Of care, desire, prayer.

As many as have not seen my face — Therefore, in writing to the Colossians, he refrains from those familiar appellations, "Brethren," "Beloved."

Verse 2

[2] That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;

Unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, unto the acknowledgment of the mystery of God — That is, unto the fullest and clearest understanding and knowledge of the gospel.

Verse 6

[6] As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:

So walk in him — In the same faith, love, holiness.

Verse 7

[7] Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.

Rooted in him — As the vine.

Built — On the sure foundation.

Verse 8

[8] 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.

Through philosophy and empty deceit — That is, through the empty deceit of philosophy blended with Christianity. This the apostle condemns, 1. Because it was empty and deceitful, promising happiness, but giving none. 2. Because it was grounded, not on solid reason, but the traditions of men, Zeno, Epicurus, and the rest. And, 3. Because it was so shallow and superficial, not advancing beyond the knowledge of sensible things; no, not beyond the first rudiments of them. 9, For in him dwelleth - Inhabiteth, continually abideth, all the fulness of the Godhead. Believers are "filled with all the fulness of God," Ephesians 3:19. But in Christ dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead; the most full Godhead; not only divine powers, but divine nature, Colossians 1:19.

Bodily — Personally, really, substantially. The very substance of God, if one might so speak, dwells in Christ in the most full sense.

Verse 10

[10] And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:

And ye — Who believe.

Are filled with himJohn 1:16. Christ is filled with God, and ye are filled with Christ. And ye are filled by him. The fulness of Christ overflows his church, Psalms 133:3. He is originally full. We are filled by him with wisdom and holiness.

Who is the head of all principality and power — Of angels as well as men Not from angels therefore, but from their head, are we to ask whatever we stand in need of.

Verse 11

[11] In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:

By whom also ye have been circumcised — Ye have received the spiritual blessings typified of old by circumcision.

With a circumcision not performed with hands — By an inward, spiritual operation. In putting off, not a little skin, but the whole body of the sins of the flesh - All the sins of your evil nature.

By the circumcision of Christ — By that spiritual circumcision which Christ works in your heart.

Verse 12

[12] Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.

Which he wrought in you, when ye were as it were buried with him in baptism - The ancient manner of baptizing by immersion is as manifestly alluded to here, as the other manner of baptizing by sprinkling or pouring of water is, Hebrews 10:22. But no stress is laid on the age of the baptized, or the manner of performing it, in one or the other; but only on our being risen with Christ, through the powerful operation of God in the soul; which we cannot but know assuredly, if it really is so: and if we do not experience this, our baptism has not answered the end of its institution.

By which ye are also risen with him — From the death of sin to the life of holiness. It does not appear, that in all this St. Paul speaks of justification at all, but of sanctification altogether.

Verse 13

[13] And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;

And you who were dead — Doubly dead to God, not only wallowing in trespasses, outward sins, but also in the uncircumcision of your flesh - A beautiful expression for original sin, the inbred corruption of your nature, your uncircumcised heart and affections.

Hath he — God the Father.

Quickened together with him — Making you partakers of the power of his resurrection. It is evident the apostle thus far speaks, not of justification, but of sanctification only.

Verse 14

[14] Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

Having blotted out — in consequence of his gracious decrees, that Christ should come into the world to save sinners, and that whosoever believeth on him should have everlasting life.

The handwriting against us — Where a debt is contracted, it is usually testified by some handwriting; and when the debt is forgiven, the handwriting is destroyed, either by blotting it out, by taking it away, or by tearing it. The apostle expresses in all these three ways, God's destroying the handwriting which was contrary to us, or at enmity with us. This was not properly our sins themselves, (they were the debt,) but their guilt and cry before God.

Verse 15

[15] And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

And having spoiled the principalities and powers — The evil angels, of their usurped dominion.

He — God the Father.

Exposed them openly — Before all the hosts of hell and heaven.

Triumphing over them in or by him — By Christ. Thus the paragraph begins with Christ, goes on with him, and ends with him.

Verse 16

[16] Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:

Therefore — Seeing these things are so.

Let none judge you — That is, regard none who judge you.

In meat or drink — For not observing the ceremonial law in these or any other particulars. Or in respect of a yearly feast, the new moon, or the weekly Jewish sabbaths.

Verse 17

[17] Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

Which are but a lifeless shadow; but the body, the substance, is of Christ.

Verse 18

[18] Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,

Out of pretended humility, they worshipped angels, as not daring to apply immediately to God. Yet this really sprung from their being puffed up: (the constant forerunner of a fall, Proverbs 16:18) so far was it from being an instance of true humility.

Verse 19

[19] And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.

And not holding the head — He does not hold Christ, who does not trust in him alone. All the members are nourished by faith, and knit together by love and mutual sympathy.

Verse 20

[20] Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,

Therefore — The inference begun, Colossians 2:16; is continued. A new inference follows, Colossians 3:1.

If ye are dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world — That is, If ye are dead with Christ, and so freed from them, why receive ye ordinances - Which Christ hath not enjoined, from which he hath made you free.

Verse 21

[21] (Touch not; taste not; handle not;

Touch not — An unclean thing.

Taste not — Any forbidden meat.

Handle not — Any consecrated vessel.

Verse 22

[22] Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?

Perish in the using — Have no farther use, no influence on the mind.

Verse 23

[23] Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.

Not sparing the body — Denying it many gratifications, and putting it to many inconveniences. Yet they are not of any real value before God, nor do they, upon the whole, mortify, but satisfy, the flesh. They indulge our corrupt nature, our self-will, pride, and desire of being distinguished from others.

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