How to Evade Capture; Col 2:8-17




That's the prime exhortation from Colossians 2. He is amazing, the treasure and wisdom of God. 

But make no mistake, there are plenty of forces out there that will try to stop us. Paul mentions the first in 2:4 - people trying to deceive by fine-sounding arguments. Note well, there are arguments - ie reasoned cases - that are fine-sounding. Apparently rational, attractive and plausible. We are going to need careful analysis, clear thinking and firm grounding if we are to spot and take captive such well-crafted appeals to junk Christ.

The train of though continues from v8: make sure you don't get taken in by hollow and deceptive philosophy that depends on this world and not on Christ.

What is this philosophy? Why is it attractive? 

It seems likely from v9-11 that Judaisers were teaching that if you want spiritual fulness then you have to be circumcised and come under the Law of Moses. The Galatian heresy all over again. The enticement is: do the religious ritual in order to receive spiritual fulness.

How does Paul counter it?

  • You know Christ
  • He has all the fulness of deity in bodily form v9
  • You have been given fulness in him v10
  • He is head over every power and authority v10. In other words, he has all the fulness there is to have and all the fulness there is to give. There is no greater or further spiritual fulness for us to have than that which Christ gave us when we became Christians. Any other claim is a reduction, something that takes away from what we have in Christ, not something that adds to it

What then about the claim that they need to be circumcised. Paul's answer in v11 is astonishing. He doesn't say "no you don't need to be circumcised." He says:

in Christ you were circumcised, in the putting off of your sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men, but with a circumcision done by Christ (v11)

To put it another way: the whole point of circumcision in the Old Testament was to be a sign that God would finally cut away our sinful nature and remake us, alive to him. Circumcision was always and only a sign, a pointer, to what Christ would do. The Old Covenant was heavily loaded with significance of what the New Covenant - Jesus - would accomplish.

He goes on:

  • Real uncircumcision is about being dead to God in our sinful nature (v13)
  • Real circumcision happens when God deals with that and makes us spiritually alive with Christ (v13)

Jesus has done it all: forgiven sin, cancelled the Law standing against us with its regulations, disarming every spiritual power and authority and triumphng over them. All by the cross.

And then the climax to his case: therefore don't let anyone judge you by performance of religion, celebrations, sabbath observance and the like. These were only a shadow of the reality that has now come in Jesus.

Old Testament signs and sacrifices and sabbaths and rituals and circumcision and the Mosaic Law were all about Jesus. The whole shooting match. What is the equivalent of the Sabbath for believers now? Jesus! What is the equivalent of circumcision? Being made alive in Jesus. 

Should we listen to people who tell us that it is the performance of religious acts - whether Old Testament or the expectations of churchy culture - that brings further spiritual maturity or fulness? Certainly not!

This isn't to say we shouldn't wholeheartedly be part of the church of Jesus Christ. Definitely not! But it is to say that ritual and philosophy and religion are not the way to fulness. They lead not to Christ but away from him. 

(I simply can't resist one brief footnote to all my paedobaptist friends - note well what the New Testament equivalent of circumcision is in this passage. It isn't infant baptism! It is the giving of a new nature by God, through the death and resurrection of Christ, when people put their faith in his death and resurrection, demonstrated by baptism).