Paul's quarrel is not with academic philosophy per se, nor is it with anyone who drafts persuasive and learned arguments to advance the gospel truth. Paul himself is well educated in these matters and often appeals to philosophical ideas and uses sophisticated arguments to explain the gospel more effectively (see Acts 17:16-34). Rather, Paul opposes those whose learning is used to advance falsehoods as gospel truth. He opposes any philosophy devoid of Christ that claims to teach about the spiritual order of God's creation and reign.
Notice that Paul shapes his initial statement of the problem as an inverted parallelism (ABB'A'), presumably for rhetorical effect. I will follow this same pattern in my exposition of this passage. The problem of sophistry is introduced in verse 4 (A) and repeated in verse 8 (A'), thereby bracketing its essential solution which is introduced in verse 5 (B) and repeated in verses 6-7 (B'). The effect of this parallelism is to relate problem and solution as two integral parts of a coherent polemic, making Paul's argument easy to follow.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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