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1-3 I wish you could understand how deep is my anxiety for you, and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have never met me. How I long that you may be encouraged, and find out more and more how strong are the bonds of Christian love. How I long for you to grow more certain in your knowledge and more sure in your grasp of God himself. May your spiritual experience become richer as you see more and more fully God’s great secret, Christ himself! For it is in him, and in him alone, that men will find all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Let me warn you against “intellectuals”

4-7 I write this to prevent you from being led astray by someone or other’s attractive arguments. For though I am a long way away from you in body, in spirit I am by your side, watching like a proud father the solid steadfastness of your faith in Christ. Just as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so go on living in him—in simple faith. Grow out of him as a plant grows out of the soil it is planted in, becoming more and more sure of the faith as you were taught it, and your lives will overflow with joy and thankfulness.

Be careful that nobody spoils your faith through intellectualism or high-sounding nonsense. Such stuff is at best founded on men’s ideas of the nature of the world and disregards Christ!

9-10 Yet it is in him that God gives a full and complete expression of himself (within the physical limits that he set himself in Christ). Moreover, your own completeness is only realised in him, who is the authority over all authorities, and the supreme power over all powers.

The old Law can’t condemn you now

11-15 In Christ, you were circumcised, not by any physical act, but by being set free from the sins of the flesh by virtue of Christ’s circumcision. You, so to speak, shared in that, just as in baptism you shared in his death, and in him are sharing the miracle of rising again to new life—and all this because you have faith in the tremendous power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. You, who were spiritually dead because of your sins and your uncircumcision (i.e. the fact that you were outside the Law), God has now made to share in the very life of Christ! He has forgiven you all your sins: Christ has utterly wiped out the damning evidence of broken laws and commandments which always hung over our heads, and has completely annulled it by nailing it over his own head on the cross. And then having drawn the sting of all the powers ranged against us, he exposed them, shattered, empty and defeated, in his final glorious triumphant act!

It is the spiritual, not the material, attitude which matters

16-19 In view of these tremendous facts, don’t let anyone worry you by criticising what you eat or drink, or what holy days you ought to observe, or bothering you over new moons or sabbaths. All these things have at most only a symbolical value: the solid fact is Christ. Nor let any man cheat you of your joy in Christ by persuading you to make yourselves “humble” and fall down and worship angels. Such a man, inflated by an unspiritual imagination, is pushing his way into matters he knows nothing about, and in his cleverness forgetting his head. It is from the head alone that the body, by natural channels, is nourished and built up and grows according to God’s laws of growth.

20-23 So if, through your faith in Christ, you are dead to the principles of this world’s life, why, as if you were still part and parcel of this world-wide system, do you take the slightest notice of these purely human prohibitions—“Don’t touch this,” “Don’t taste that” and “Don’t handle the other”? “This”, “that” and “the other” will all pass away after use! I know that these regulations look wise with their self-inspired efforts at worship, their policy of self-humbling, and their studied neglect of the body. But in actual practice they do honour, not to God, but to man’s own pride.