1For I want you to know how great a struggle I am having for you and for those in Laodicea* and all who have not seen me face to face, 2that their hearts may be encouraged as they are brought together in love, to have all the richness of fully assured understanding, for the knowledge of the mystery of God, Christ,a 3in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.b
III. Warnings Against False Teachers*
A General Admonition. 4I say this so that no one may deceive you by specious arguments.c 5For even if I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing as I observe your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.d 6So, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him, 7rooted in him and built upon him and established in the faith as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.e 8See to it that no one captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy according to human tradition, according to the elemental powers of the world* and not according to Christ.f
Sovereign Role of Christ. 9g For in him dwells the whole fullness of the deity* bodily, 10and you share in this fullness in him, who is the head of every principality and power. 11h In him* you were also circumcised with a circumcision not administered by hand, by stripping off the carnal body, with the circumcision of Christ. 12You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.i 13j And even when you were dead [in] transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he brought you to life along with him, having forgiven us all our transgressions; 14* obliterating the bond against us, with its legal claims, which was opposed to us, he also removed it from our midst, nailing it to the cross;k 15despoiling the principalities and the powers, he made a public spectacle of them,l leading them away in triumph by it.*
Practices Contrary to Faith. 16m Let no one, then, pass judgment on you in matters of food and drink or with regard to a festival or new moon or sabbath.* 17These are shadows of things to come; the reality belongs to Christ.n 18Let no one disqualify you, delighting in self-abasement and worship of angels, taking his stand on visions,* inflated without reason by his fleshly mind,o 19and not holding closely to the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and bonds, achieves the growth that comes from God.p
20If you died with Christ to the elemental powers of the world, why do you submit to regulations as if you were still living in the world? 21“Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” 22These are all things destined to perish with use; they accord with human precepts and teachings.q 23While they have a semblance of wisdom in rigor of devotion and self-abasement [and] severity to the body, they are of no value against gratification of the flesh.
* [2:4–23] In face of the threat posed by false teachers (Col 2:4), the Colossians are admonished to adhere to the gospel as it was first preached to them (Col 2:6), steeping themselves in it with grateful hearts (Col 2:7). They must reject religious teachings originating in any source except the gospel (Col 2:8) because in Christ alone will they have access to God, the deity (Col 2:9). So fully has Christ enlightened them that they need no other source of religious knowledge or virtue (Col 2:10). They do not require circumcision (Col 2:11), for in baptism their whole being has been affected by Christ (Col 2:12) through forgiveness of sin and resurrection to a new life (Col 2:13; cf. Col 3:1 and Rom 6:1–11). On the cross Christ canceled the record of the debt that stood against us with all its claims (Col 2:14), i.e., he eliminated the law (cf. Eph 2:15) that human beings could not observe—and that could not save them. He forgave sins against the law (Col 2:14) and exposed as false and misleading (Col 2:15) all other powers (cf. Col 1:16) that purport to offer salvation. Therefore, the Colossians are not to accept judgments from such teachers on food and drink or to keep certain religious festivals or engage in certain cultic practices (Col 2:16), for the Colossians would thereby risk severing themselves from Christ (Col 2:19). If, when they accepted the gospel, they believed in Christ as their savior, they must be convinced that their salvation cannot be achieved by appeasing ruling spirits through dietary practices or through a wisdom gained simply by means of harsh asceticism (Col 2:20–23).
* [2:14] The elaborate metaphor here about how God canceled the legal claims against us through Christ’s cross depicts not Christ being nailed to the cross by men but the bond…with its legal claims being nailed to the cross by God.
* [2:15] The picture derives from the public spectacle and triumph of a Roman emperor’s victory parade, where captives marched in subjection. The principalities and the powers are here conquered, not reconciled (cf. Col 1:16, 20). An alternate rendering for by it (the cross) is “by him” (Christ).
* [2:16] Festival or new moon or sabbath: yearly, monthly, and weekly observances determined by religious powers associated with a calendar set by the heavenly bodies, sun, moon, and stars (cf. Col 2:8).
* [2:18] Ascetic practices encouraged by the false teachers included subjection of self humbly to their rules, worship of angels, and cultivation of visions, though exact details are unclear.