The apostle cautions the Colossians against deceivers (Col. 2:4): And this I say lest any man beguile you with enticing words; and Col. 2:8; Lest any man spoil you. He insists so much upon the perfection of Christ and the gospel revelation, to preserve them from the ensnaring insinuations of those who would corrupt their principles. Note, 1. The way in which Satan spoils souls is by beguiling them. He deceives them, and by this means slays them. He is the old serpent who beguiled Eve through his subtlety, 2 Cor. 11:3. He could not ruin us if he did not cheat us; and he could not cheat us but by our own fault and folly. 2. Satan’s agents, who aim to spoil them, beguile them with enticing words. See the danger of enticing words; how many are ruined by the flattery of those who lie in wait to deceive, and by the false disguises and fair appearances of evil principles and wicked practices. By good words, and fair speeches, they deceive the hearts of the simple, Rom. 16:18. “You ought to stand upon your guard against enticing words, and be aware and afraid of those who would entice you to any evil; for that which they aim at is to spoil you.” If sinners entice thee, consent thou not, Prov. 1:10. Observe,
I. A sovereign antidote against seducers (Col. 2:6, 7): As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk you in him, rooted and built up, etc. Here note, 1. All Christians have, in profession at least, received Jesus Christ the Lord, received him as Christ, the great prophet of the church, anointed by God to reveal his will; as Jesus the great high priest, and Saviour from sin and wrath, by the expiatory sacrifice of himself; and as Lord, or sovereign and king, whom we are to obey and be subject to.—Received him, consented to him, taken him for ours in every relation and every capacity, and for all the purposes and uses of them. 2. The great concern of those who have received Christ is to walk in him—to make their practices conformable to their principles and their conversation agreeable to their engagements. As we have received Christ, or consented to be his, so we must walk with him in our daily course and keep up our communion with him. 3. The more closely we walk with Christ the more we are rooted and established in the faith. A good conversation is the best establishment of a good faith. If we walk in him, we shall be rooted in him; and the more firmly we are rooted in him the more closely we shall walk in him: Rooted and built up. Observe, We cannot be built up in Christ, unless we be first rooted in him. We must be united to him by a lively faith, and heartily consent to his covenant, and then we shall grow up in him in all things.—As you have been taught—“according to the rule of the Christian doctrine, in which you have been instructed.” Observe, A good education has a good influence upon our establishment. We must be established in the faith, as we have been taught, abounding therein. Observe, Being established in the faith, we must abound therein, and improve in it more and more; and this with thanksgiving. The way to have the benefit and comfort of God’s grace is to be much in giving thanks for it. We must join thanksgiving to all our improvements, and be sensible of the mercy of all our privileges and attainments. Observe,
II. The fair warning given us of our danger: 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, Col. 2:8. There is a philosophy which is a noble exercise of our reasonable faculties, and highly serviceable to religion, such a study of the works of God as leads us to the knowledge of God and confirms our faith in him. But there is a philosophy which is vain and deceitful, which is prejudicial to religion, and sets up the wisdom of man in competition with the wisdom of God, and while it pleases men’s fancies ruins their faith; as nice and curious speculations about things above us, or of no use and concern to us; or a care of words and terms of art, which have only an empty and often a cheating appearance of knowledge. After the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world: this plainly reflects upon the Jewish pedagogy or economy, as well as the Pagan learning. The Jews governed themselves by the traditions of their elders and the rudiments or elements of the world, the rites and observances which were only preparatory and introductory to the gospel state; the Gentiles mixed their maxims of philosophy with their Christian principles; and both alienated their minds from Christ. Those who pin their faith on other men’s sleeves, and walk in the way of the world, have turned away from following after Christ. The deceivers were especially the Jewish teachers, who endeavoured to keep up the law of Moses in conjunction with the gospel of Christ, but really in competition with it and contradiction to it. Now here the apostle shows,
1. That we have in Christ the substance of all the shadows of the ceremonial law; for example, (1.) Had they then the Shechinah, or special presence of God, called the glory, from the visible token of it? So have we now in Jesus Christ (Col. 2:9): For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. Under the law, the presence of God dwelt between the cherubim, in a cloud which covered the mercy-seat; but now it dwells in the person of our Redeemer, who partakes of our nature, and is bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, and has more clearly declared the Father to us. It dwells in him bodily; not as the body is opposed to the spirit, but as the body is opposed to the shadow. The fulness of the Godhead dwells in the Christ really, and not figuratively; for he is both God and man. (2.) Had they circumcision, which was the seal of the covenant? In Christ we are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands (Col. 2:11), by the work of regeneration in us, which is the spiritual or Christian circumcision. He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, Rom. 2:29. This is owing to Christ, and belongs to the Christian dispensation. It is made without hands; not by the power of any creature, but by the power of the blessed Spirit of God. We are born of the Spirit, John 3:5. And it is the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit, Titus 3:5. It consists in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, in renouncing sin and reforming our lives, not in mere external rites. It is not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God, 1 Pet. 3:21. And it is not enough to put away some one particular sin, but we must put off the whole body of sin. The old man must be crucified, and the body of sin destroyed, Rom. 6:6. Christ was circumcised, and, by virtue of our union to him, we partake of that effectual grace which puts off the body of the sins of the flesh. Again, The Jews thought themselves complete in the ceremonial law; but we are complete in Christ, Col. 2:10. That was imperfect and defective; if the first covenant had been faultless, there would no place have been sought for the second (Heb. 8:7), and the law was but a shadow of good things, and could never, by those sacrifices, make the comers thereunto perfect, Heb. 10:1. But all the defects of it are made up in the gospel of Christ, by the complete sacrifice for sin and revelation of the will of God. Which is the head of all principality and power. As the Old-Testament priesthood had its perfection in Christ, so likewise had the kingdom of David, which was the eminent principality and power under the Old Testament, and which the Jews valued themselves so much upon. And he is the Lord and head of all the powers in heaven and earth, of angels and men. Angels, and authorities, and powers are subject to him, 1 Pet. 3:22.
2. We have communion with Christ in his whole undertaking (Col. 2:12): Buried with him in baptism, wherein also you have risen with him. We are both buried and rise with him, and both are signified by our baptism; not that there is anything in the sign or ceremony of baptism which represents this burying and rising, any more than the crucifixion of Christ is represented by any visible resemblance in the Lord’s supper: and he is speaking of the circumcision made without hands; and says it is through the faith of the operation of God. But the thing signified by our baptism is that we are buried with Christ, as baptism is the seal of the covenant and an obligation to our dying to sin; and that we are raised with Christ, as it is a seal and obligation to our living to righteousness, or newness of life. God in baptism engages to be to us a God, and we become engaged to be his people, and by his grace to die to sin and to live to righteousness, or put off the old man and put on the new.
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