“Yes” to Jesus, “No” to rules
For wisdom, stick with Christ1 Listen, I want you to know I’m working hard for you. Same goes for the folks in Laodicea along with others who have never met me. 2 I hope this encourages everyone. I hope it helps them build strong bonds of loving concern for each other. I also want them absolutely confident about one thing: their understanding of God’s secret message about Christ. 3 Christ is where all knowledge and wisdom are safely kept.
4 I’m telling you this because I don’t want you to get conned into believing some half-baked idea that has just enough truth to be dangerously tempting. 5 Though I’m not there in person, my thoughts and prayers are with you. I’m delighted about the fine way you conduct yourselves and about your solid faith in Christ.
Short to-do list6 Here’s what you’ve got to do next. Since you’ve embraced Christ Jesus as your leader, live like it. 7 The roots of your faith are nourished in Jesus. Your life is built on him. You’ve already been taught this. So you should fill up on gratitude about that.
8 Hey, listen to me. Don’t let anyone kidnap you with highfalutin philosophy or a windbag full of empty lies. That stuff comes from mere human imagination or from the spirits that run this world. It doesn’t come from the Messiah. 9 All of God lived in the human body of Christ—and still does.
10 This Christ, who has power over every ruler and authority, lives in you. He completes you. 11 He marked you as his own with a spiritual circumcision instead of a physical one. He cut off the selfish part of you that enjoyed sinning. 12 When you went under the water in baptism, you were buried with Christ. When you came up out of the water, you were resurrected into a new life. This happened because you put your faith in the powerful God who raised Christ from the dead.
13 You sinned yourself to death when you were spiritually uncircumcised, doing whatever felt good to you. God brought you back to life through Christ. He forgave you for all the hurtful things you did. 14 He canceled the legally binding debt you owed. He nailed all the paperwork to the cross. 15 Then he celebrated his victory in Christ. This victory over the cross stripped naked the spiritual rulers and their associates—leaving them standing there in disgrace for all the world to see.
Human rules are all too human16 So let me tell you this. Don’t let anyone feed you their rules about what you should eat or drink on religious holidays, including the new moon or the Sabbath. 17 Important once, these were just shadows compared to the reality we now have in Christ. 18 Christ in your life is quite the prize. Don’t let anyone steal this. And don’t let anyone talk down to you because you don’t do what they do: observe self-denial rituals or worship angels. Don’t worry about it when they tell you they do this because of visions. No they don’t. They do it because they have inflated egos and imagination.
19 People who tell you to do this are not in any way connected to Christ who is the head of our body, the church. Christ feeds us the spiritual nourishment we need. He holds us together in unity, with spiritual joints and ligaments. We grow, thanks to God. 20 Come on now. You died with Christ. His power set you free from the spirits of this world. So why are you still following the rules of this world?
21 You know what rules I’m talking about. “Stay away from this! Don’t eat that! Don’t even touch this!” 22 Rules like these, invented by humans, are going to wear out. 23 These rules might seem wise and wonderful. But they’re not. They’re just part of another fake religion. It’s a religion that sets up a bunch of rules. These rules are supposed to make people feel pious and humble simply because those people follow the rules and they practice self-denial over their body. Let me tell you, these rules are worthless because they do nothing to help people overcome their sinful desires.
The Greek word is mysterion. It means “hidden,” “secret,” or “mystery.” Some other Bibles translate the phrase as “the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ” (New American Standard Bible, English Standard Version).
Circumcision is a Jewish ritual performed on baby boys eight days old. For Jews, it was a bit like signing a contract by cutting on the dotted line. God told Abraham, “These are the terms for you and your family throughout the generations. Circumcise every male….This way, your bodies will carry your signature of the contract, which is everlasting” (Genesis 17:10, 13). For Jews, circumcision became a visual mark that identified them as God’s people.
What Christ cuts off is more literally described as “the body of flesh.” This is sometimes translated as the “sinful nature” or the “sinful self.” Theologians sometimes explain the sinful nature as the tendency to do wrong when we are put in a position of having to choose between right or wrong. The sinful nature pulls us like a magnet in the direction we shouldn’t go.
Paul says he wants the Christians in Colossae to be absolutely confident about “their understanding of God’s secret message about Christ” (2:2). That’s an odd way of putting it: “God’s secret message about Christ.” Why do you think he put it that way?
Paul told the people in Colossae that though he’s not there with them, “my thoughts and prayers are with you” (2:5). So what? What kind of a difference to you think that would make to the people of Colossae?
Paul told the people of Colossae “The roots of your faith are nourished in Jesus. Your life is built on him” (2:7). Paul put that in agricultural terms because he was writing to people in an agricultural world. If he were writing to us today, how do you think he would put it?
Paul wrote “All of God lived in the human body of Christ—and still does” (2:9). It’s kind of hard to visualize. What do you make of this verse?
Paul said that Jesus “cut off the selfish part of you that enjoyed sinning” (2:11). Really? Is that how it works?
Paul paints a vivid word picture to describe what Christ’s victory over death did to Satan and evil spirits that apparently run wild in our world. “This victory over the cross stripped naked the spiritual rulers and their associates—leaving them standing there in disgrace for all the world to see” (2:15). How do you think the resurrection of Jesus did that to the spiritual rulers Paul was talking about?
Here’s an intriguing way to think of forgiveness: “You sinned yourself to death… God brought you back to life through Christ. He forgave you for all the hurtful things you did. He canceled the legally binding debt you owed. He nailed all the paperwork to the cross” (2:13-14). How do you react to the idea of your sins represented by a debt that is canceled and nailed to the cross were Jesus died?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul warned the people not to let anyone “kidnap you with highfalutin philosophy or a windbag full of empty lies” (2:8). Apparently, there were some false teachers roaming around from town to town spreading their own version of Christianity. What would you say are some parallels we’re seeing today?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul does not seem to be a fan of human rules. He didn’t even like the idea of people telling Jewish Christians how to celebrate “the Sabbath” (2:16). Given what Paul says in the closing verses of this chapter, from 2:16-23, how do you think he would react to church manuals today?