A Study of Colossians 2:8–15
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. For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in Him, which is the Head of all principality and power: 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: 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. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 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; And having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. (Colossians 2:8-15)
Now we come to another summit in this epistle: Paul is teaching us how complete we are in Christ, and that any trying to add “the things of this world” to the completeness in Christ is much like an opposing troop utterly defeating us and carrying away our goods captive.
But this should in no way be possible, unless we let them. Look quickly at verse 8 then at verse 15: “Beware lest any man spoil you”…”having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in [the cross]”.
Christ has utterly defeated the rulers and authorities of this world, including the unseen forces of evil which Paul warns us to guard against:
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Ephesians 6:10-13)
That they are defeated does not mean that they do not continue the fight, and they continue the fight in hope that they may spoil YOU. And they will use MEN to do it. From the entire context here, it is not the “sinners” that entice you to sin, but it is men who will entice you back into a religious system to try and merit what you have COMPLETELY IN CHRIST. Please note, this is sin, but it does not appear to be sin, but actually on the surface appears to be something good. Do not fall for this trick:
But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:3)
In our passage in Colossians, we have two opposing ways to follow: we could follow after the traditions of men and the rudiments of the world, or after Christ. The two things that are according to, or after, traditions and rudiments are philosophy and vain deceit. Now philosophy is a love of wisdom, and as such it is a pursuit of wisdom. In this context, it is obviously a pursuit of man’s wisdom. God’s estimate of man’s wisdom and his pursuits of wisdom is spelled out clearly in the first epistle to the Corinthians:
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, Who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)
Chasing after man’s wisdom is also foolish in trying to explain the things of God, because it is Christ “In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). Christ IS the wisdom of God, and we who know Him will find our thirst for wisdom IN HIM.
As far as “vain deceit” goes, we would hope that no one would knowingly follow vain deceit, but deceit usually does not label itself as such. What we do know, however, is that the philosophy of the world is often right in line with what the Bible would call deceit. For example, the world gives the advice to “follow your heart”, while the Bible speaks of the heart as being “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). So the advice that the world essentially gives is to follow the lead of a desperately wicked liar! It sounds good, but is really vain deceit. That is man’s philosophy.
Now Paul is getting to his very important point here: the world system, which is “according to the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), will encourage all sorts of religious activities to get you involved with. Do not think for a second that Satan is against religion. He loves it! In fact, he is moving this world’s religious system in a direction that will worship him. See 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12, and Revelation 13:4. All of mankind’s idolatrous religious practices including those that go under the guise of the Christian religion are essentially working together toward this end. Paul is telling us that believe to not get caught up in these things to try and make ourselves more complete than we are in Christ. In Christ “dwelleth all the [completeness] of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in Him”, or In Christ “dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are [filled full] in Him”.
There are two things that come to mind when thinking of things being added to complete that which is already complete. Very often, when discussing baptism, the Lord’s baptism by John is pointed to, where He says to John that the reason why it must be done is that “thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). This is an example of using “one truth to negate another truth”. It certainly did become the Lord to fulfil all righteousness, because He needed to be “numbered with the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12), and the transgressors were being baptized by John with the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins (Luke 3:3). The word “fulfil” in Matthew 3:15 is the same root as that in Colossians 2:10 translated “complete”. We are made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). The righteousness of God is complete righteousness. It does not need to be completed any further. “And ye are complete in Him”.
The other is Lent. I think about it now because so many have a belief that during Lent it somehow adds to spirituality, or frankly, makes us more full. I used to think that it was strictly a Roman Catholic custom, but more and more I am hearing the defense and even the encouragement of Lenten rituals by Protestants and Evangelicals, and wonder have you not read….”YE ARE COMPLETE IN HIM!”. But so many have walked away from, ignored, or put into a subordinate position the epistles of the Apostle of the Gentiles, who was given the dispensation (stewardship) of grace. But these are especially the Scriptures that are written to the Body of Christ. Yet we ignore them to our peril, and to our spoiling. If only we really believed this wonderful truth in Colossians 2:9-10:
…in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in Him…
In Christ we find all that we need for a complete relation to God with complete righteousness. Do not look elsewhere, or the defeated enemy will SPOIL you! It does not seem right that those who were trampled underfoot by the Saviour at the cross can still spoil us, and carry us away captive, but they will if we let them.
STAND YOUR GROUND!