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Paul's Epistle to the Colossians Part 3: The Handwriting Against Us
Thus far three topics have stood out in the discussion found in Paul’s epistle to the Colossians: the fact that Jesus Christ is God come in the flesh, and that He had come to reconcile His household to Himself, redeeming them and forgiving their sins. In relation to this, Paul explains that he, being assigned the administration of this household, suffered many things for their benefit in the execution of that assignment. Here in Colossians chapter 2 Paul will continue expounding upon all three of these topics as he also adds some admonitions as to how Christians should conduct themselves on account of these things.
1 For I wish you to know that as great a struggle as I have for you, and those in Laodikeia, and as many as have not seen my face in the flesh,
Laodikeia was about 10 miles from Colossae. In Colossians chapter 4 we learn that Paul also wrote an epistle to the Laodikeians (popularly Laodiceans), which has not survived to us. The Laodikeians are mentioned again in the Revelation, where they are the seventh of the seven assemblies which had received messages from Yahshua Christ.
Here we see evidence in support of the fact that Paul himself had not brought the gospel to the Colossians, or to the Laodikeians, since those people had not seen him in person. Rather, as we had discussed presenting chapter 1 of this epistle, it seems to have been Epaphras who had brought to them the Gospel, as Paul had written there concerning the favor of God, “7 As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ”. In chapter 4 of this epistle, Paul informs us that Epaphras is also a Colossian.
Paul now characterizes his own trial in the faith as an encouragement to other Christians, even those who never met him:
2 that they may be encouraged in their hearts, being brought together in love, and to all riches of the certainty of understanding in the knowledge of the mystery of the Anointed of Yahweh, 3 in which are all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge concealed.
There are many subtle differences in the surviving Greek manuscripts of the New Testament which, when taken all together, may seriously affect one’s worldview if one is persuaded by one particular manuscript or another. It is also evident that these differences exist because so many of the copyists seem to have imposed their own imperfect views upon the manuscripts, and many of them probably thought that they were making honest clarifications, while others were certainly making dishonest corruptions. However neither do many of the oldest manuscripts display a pattern which is consistent in reference to these differences, and the time needed which would allow us to study them completely has not yet been afforded. But we can see in these differences how the various Christian heresies had developed, and also how so much of the writing of Paul of Tarsus could be so badly misunderstood.
Here, at the end of verse 2 after the phrase “in the knowledge of”, where the Christogenea New Testament has “the mystery of the Anointed of God”, there are several such differences found among the oldest manuscripts. The 6th century Codex Coislinianus (H 015) has only “the mystery of God”; the 6th century Codex Claromontanus (D) has “the mystery of God who is Christ”; the Codex Sinaiticus (א), which is esteemed to be from the 4th century, and the 5th century Codices Alexandrinus (A), Ephraemi Syri (C) and Vaticanus Graecus 2061 (048) all have “the mystery of God, Father of the Christ”, and the 6th Century Codex 0208 has “the mystery of God the Father and of the Christ”. The Majority Text has “the mystery of God, even the Father, and of the Christ”, which nearly explains the reading in the King James Version. While most later manuscripts agree with one of these readings, some have yet other variations. The text of our translation follows the 3rd century papyrus P46 and the 4th century Codex Vaticanus (B). Making the translation, we chose to follow those manuscripts in this instance not only because of their antiquity, but also because we believe that the mystery of which Paul speaks relates not to Christ, but to the people of Christ, whom Paul frequently also refers to as the anointed, and therefore the readings of that phrase as they are found in those manuscripts best fit the context of Paul’s words in this context from the beginning of this epistle.
The mystery of which Paul speaks here is of the anointed, which is the mystery of the fate of the chosen people of God, and not of Christ Himself, even if it is apparent that such confusion stems from the fact that as Paul speaks of reconciliation and the household of God, he is also at the same time discussing the nature of Christ as God, something which he mentions again in this chapter. At least many, if not all, of the manuscript copyists seem to believe that the term anointed always referred to Christ, and not collectively to the people of Christ, and this has also been the cause of much confusion. Among them, some of the differences in the manuscripts reflect the notion that Christ was a personality separate from God, and they seem to be reworded in order to maintain that notion. Others seem to understand that Christ was God incarnate, such as Codex Claromontanus in this passage, and they seem to be reworded in order to relate that understanding more clearly.
But here, following a couple of the oldest manuscripts, Paul instead seems to be relating the fact that the “certainty of understanding in the knowledge of the mystery of the Anointed of Yahweh” is the certainty of the fact that, as it says in Luke chapter 1, “the Lord God of Israel … has visited and redeemed his people … as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets”. That is demonstrated in the redemption, the forgiveness of sins, and the reconciliation of which Paul had written in Colossians chapter 1, and it is the purpose of the Gospel to announce those things to the so-called “lost sheep” of the children of Israel. The mystery of the anointed was where those sheep were, and both the Bible and Classical histories help to establish where they were. Paul’s gift was an understanding of both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Greek classics, and few men at that time had mastered both of those areas of literature. Being given this understanding, Paul writes to these people:
4 This I say, that no one would mislead you with persuasive speech.
The Greek word for “persuasive speech” is πιθανολογία (Strong’s # 4086), a word found nowhere else in the Greek Scriptures. Liddell & Scott describe it as “the use of probable arguments, as opposed to demonstration.” Once one understands the mystery of the Anointed of Yahweh, he cannot be misled with probable arguments constructed in order to deceive the very elect. That is because the revelation of the mystery of the Anointed of God was the very purpose of Paul’s ministry, so that Paul could bring to them the message of reconciliation in Christ.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 2 Paul made a similar comment, which fully reflects the way in which Liddell & Scott had defined the word Paul uses here, πιθανολογία, although he used different Greek words in that epistle where he had written of his ministry among them and said: “3 And I in weakness and in fear and with much trembling had come before you; 4 and my speech and my proclamation were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in exhibition of Spirit and of power; 5 in order that your faith be not in wisdom of men, but in power of Yahweh.” There was good reason why, as it is described in the Book of Acts, the apostles of Christ were given the ability to perform so many miracles, and they must have been true. This is evident because against the competition of so many other sects of Greek philosophy, and in the face of the persecutions of the Jews, Christianity flourished. But Paul himself could not be with the Colossians, so he writes:
5 For if even in the flesh I am absent, yet in the spirit I am with you, rejoicing and seeing your position and the firmness of your faith in Christ.
In Psalm 149 we see a message of rejoicing on the part of the saints for reason of their salvation: “1 Praise ye the LORD. Sing unto the LORD a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints. 2 Let Israel rejoice in him that made him: let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. 3 Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp. 4 For the LORD taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation. 5 Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds.” Likewise are those same children of Israel depicted in Revelation chapter 5: “9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation [all the nations promised to come from Abraham’s seed]; 10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” The message of salvation for Israel was the song of Psalm 149, and it is also the song of Revelation chapter 5. Likewise we see it in Isaiah chapter 25: “9 And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” Then in Isaiah chapter 29 this rejoicing is associated with the delivery of the children of Israel from darkness, as Paul had mentioned their having been delivered from the power of darkness here in Colossians chapter 1, and it says in Isaiah: “18 And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness. 19 The meek also shall increase their joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.”
6 Therefore as you have received Christ, Yahshua the Prince, walk with Him.
To receive Christ is more than just to “believe in Jesus”: it is to accept all of His instruction, as He Himself says in diverse places, for example in John chapter 12: “46 I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. 47 And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. 49 For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.” So once again, accepting the teachings of Christ, the children of Israel are taken out from under the power of darkness, because He is the light come into the world. Another example of receiving Christ is found in John chapter 14: “23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. 24 He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me.”
This is the fulfillment of the prophecy concerning the children of Israel and their reluctance to accept the instruction of Yahweh their God. As it is found in Isaiah chapter 29: “22 Therefore thus saith the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob, Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale. 23 But when he seeth his children, the work of mine hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel. 24 They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine.” That doctrine is found in the words of Christ and the admonitions to keep His commandments, which are in turn found in the law and the prophets. We have already cited Isaiah 29 where it says “18 And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity...”
7 Being planted and being built up by Him, and being established in the faith, just as you have been instructed, abounding in [B and the MT have “in it with”; 048 has “in it”; D has “in Him with”; the text follows א, A, C, H, I, and 0208] thanksgiving.
The denominational commentators often assert that the planting of which Paul speaks is done when one receives the Gospel, however that is not the case. As it says of the children of Israel in Isaiah chapter 5: “7 For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant.” This is still the case, as Yahweh had said in Malachi chapter 3: “6 For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. 7 Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts.” The faith in Christ is the avenue paved long ago by God to facilitate their return, as that very chapter of Malachi is a prophecy of John the Baptist. The only valid perception of the faith in Christ is that which is expressed in the words of Zacharias in Luke chapter 1: “72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; 73 The oath which he sware to our father Abraham...” Christ is the way to the tree of life, and we stay on that path by keeping His commandments.
In Matthew chapter 13 we read in the explanation of the parable of the wheat and the tares that “38 The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; 39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil...” The wheat and the tares were sown long before the ministry of Christ began. For that reason the devil is described as having already sowed the tares. So Paul writes here “being planted and being built by Him” and then he adds “and being established in the faith”, a process separate from the planting. Therefore the planting is not done after the time of Christ, but rather, the planting was done long before the coming of Christ, and the vineyard of God is the children of Israel who had already been planted as it describes in Isaiah. Otherwise, how could John the Baptist have said that “But already the axe is laid to the root of the trees”, as he is recorded as having said in Matthew 3:10, or Luke 3:9?
So Christ came not to begin the planting, as so many of the denomination commentators suggest, but rather, He came for the harvest, as it says in Matthew chapter 9: “36 But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; 38 Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.” One cannot conduct the harvest before the planting, so the planting must have already been done beforetime. Again we see this in Luke chapter 10: “1 After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come. 2 Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.” So the harvest is referred to of places where Christ had not yet been.
In John chapter 4 we read: “35 Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. 36 And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. 37 And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. 38 I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: [the apostles did not do the planting] other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.” He that soweth is Christ Himself, as Paul had explained in chapter 1 of this epistle that “by him were all things created”. Therefore He sent His apostles to reap, and the reaping continues until the time when he that soweth, God Himself, and he that reapeth, which are His messengers the apostles, can rejoice together. But as Christ had also said, “Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up”, and therefore not every man was planted by God, but the tares were planted by the devil, in rebellion against God.
So, allegorically speaking, we see that at the beginning of the world that the Wheat was planted by God, who is Christ, and the Tares were planted by the devil. According to Scripture, which is evident in Revelation chapter 12 and Genesis chapters 3 and 6, the devil did not make the tares himself, but rather the tares were planted in the corruption of God’s original creation. But the Garden of God was nevertheless established in Genesis chapter 3, and because of the sin attributed to Adam it would yield thorns and thistles as well as fruit. Christ came for the harvest, where the planting had occurred long before Him. The scythes, allegorically speaking, are the Word of God, and those who accept it yield fruit. But the fruit comes only within the bounds of the keeping of His commandments, because the keeping of His commandments is how they are told to love Him. Those who reject His commandments shall ultimately have their fruits rejected by Him.
8 Watch that there be no one captivating you through philosophy and vain deceit, in accordance with the tradition of men, in accordance with the elements of the society, and not in accordance with Christ.
The word for philosophy here is the Greek word φιλοσοφία (Strong’s # 5385), which is literally the love of wisdom. Paul had already warned the Colossians not to let anyone mislead them with persuasive speech, or as the King James Version has it, “enticing words”. The concept and purpose of God was always a topic of Greek philosophy and debate among not only the Greeks, but also among the Judaeans of the later Hellenistic and Roman period as well, where the sects of the Pharisees, Sadducees and others became divided from the God described in the Old Testament Scriptures, each sect having upheld various perceptions of the nature and the will of that God.
Another example is Philo Judaeaus, who was also known as Philo of Alexandria, who was a contemporary of Christ and the apostles residing at Alexandria in Egypt, and he was one of the vain philosophers who sought to reconcile Greek pagan religion, philosophy, and the Old Testament. We would think that either Philo was an early Gnostic, or that the Gnostics to a great degree had followed the path of Philo. In any event, philosophically speaking, to Philo and the Gnostics the logos was the thought or reason of God, aside from the plain Word of God spelled out in the Old Testament. Philo’s view of God and Creation seemed to have been a mixture of Plato and Aristotle with Moses and Solomon and the prophets.
In one aspect of later Gnostic philosophy, it is asserted that man could elevate himself to their concept of the logos of God, since even Christ and His apostles had taught Christians that “the word of God abideth in you”. In this they take the words of Christ out of context and believe that the reasoning of man can therefore be elevated separately from the plain Word of God which is in the Scriptures. The Gnostics also separated the attributes and manifestations of God into different personalities, distinguishing them from one another as distinct beings. Paul must have been acquainted with all of these vain philosophies, and seems to be addressing them here. However he addresses other aspects of pagan philosophy later in this chapter.
Here is a view of philosophy which may be different from the general perception. People often think that the ancient philosophers were brilliant men who developed their own complex notions of the world and the reasons for existence, along with other aspects of being. This is only true in part. More accurately, ancient philosophy is really nothing more than ancient paganism stripped of many of its rituals and its mythical characters and apparent superstitions, and reconstructed in scientific expression under the pretense of reason. Some of the philosophers recognized the existence of a transcendent God, but they codified their own morals based on their own perceptions of right and wrong, so they were basically idolaters who created their own gods in their own image, esteeming that man could be as god. This is the essence of humanism, which is basically paganism without the tangible decorations, but which is idolatry all the same.
In Isaiah chapter 55 Yahweh God distinguishes Himself from the philosophies of men: “6 Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” So the God of Scripture denounces the logic of men, and it says in Proverbs chapter 8: “32 Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways. 33 Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not. 34 Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. 35 For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD. 36 But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.”
Next, in relation to Christ, Paul refutes the vain philosophers, who, like Philo and others before him had taught that God transcended His creation, that His transcendence was absolute, and that therefore He was, in effect, confined to His Own transcendent position. While Philo seems to have not known of Christ, or at least never mentioned Him, the Arian heresy and other such heresies would seep into Christianity, and many of them had their beginnings in Jewish Gnosticism. Arius was also from Alexandria, two centuries after Paul.
9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Divinity bodily, 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all sovereignty and authority,
John chapter 14: “23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”
The word translated as Divinity here is translated in the King James Version three times as Godhead. The other two occurrences are found at Acts 17:29 and Romans 1:20. The Greek word is θεῖος (Strong’s # 2304) and according to Liddell & Scott it means “of or from the gods, sent by the gods, issuing from them, divine...” So in essence Paul is saying that in Christ is all the fulness of that which comes from God, as much as could be contained in the body of a man.
The masculine pronouns in verses 9 and 10 both refer to Yahshua Christ. As Paul had said in the first chapter of this epistle, in reference to Yahshua Christ, “14 in whom we have redemption: the dismissal of errors. 15 Who is the likeness of the invisible God, first born of all the creation. 16 Because by Him all things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, those visible and those invisible, whether thrones or dominions or realms or authorities, all things are created by Him and for Him; 17 and He is before all, and all things by Him endure; 18 and He is the head of the body: the assembly. He who is the beginning, first born from among the dead, that in all things He would be holding the first place.”
In Acts chapter 17, Paul says that “29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.” Earlier here in Colossians Paul called Christ the “first born of all the creation”, where we had shown that he spoke of the Adamic creation. In Romans chapter 1 Paul wrote of the eternal power and Godhead which had created the world, and which had been made manifest to men. Putting these thoughts together, there is no doubt that Paul fully believed the Christ to be Yahweh God incarnate in the flesh. Then speaking of that Christ he says:
11 by whom you also are circumcised, with a circumcision not made by hand, in the putting off of the body of flesh, in the circumcision of the Anointed;
The Majority Text has verse 30 to read in part “in the putting off from the body of those sins of the flesh”; the text follows the 3rd century papyrus P46 and the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A), Vaticanus (B), Ephraemi Syri (C), and Claromontanus (D).
Where Paul tells the Colossians, referring to Christ, that by Him “you also are circumcised”, he makes the assertion that these Christians are among the descendants of those of the ancient children of Israel whom Yahweh God had promised to circumcise in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, it is only found in reference to the children of Israel that Yahweh had promised to circumcise anyone, and therefore Paul must here be referring to the fulfillment of that promise. In an epistle written just prior to this one, Paul had said something quite similar to the Philippians, where he told them that “we are the circumcision, who in spirit are serving God”. By this, Paul attested that these Israelite Christians are the authentic people of the Old Testament God. As we said when we presented Philippians chapter 3, these early Christians had circumcised their hearts, they had accepted the Gospel of Christ, and properly, they sought to establish the law by keeping His commandments.
This is the true circumcision, which is of the heart rather than the foreskin. We read in Deuteronomy chapter 10: “12 And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, 13 To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good? 14 Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the LORD'S thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is. 15 Only the LORD had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day. 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.” Likewise, there is a similar appeal in Jeremiah chapter 4: “4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.”
Moreover, in Deuteronomy chapter 30 we read: “1 And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee, 2 And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; [the fulfillment of this is found in the spread of Christianity, where the real descendants of the ancient Israelites who were driven away many centuries before Christ had returned to Yahweh their God in Christ] 3 That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. [This scattering had happened long before there were ever any so-called Jews.] 4 If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: 5 And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. 6 And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.”
Here in Colossians as well as in Philippians chapter 3 and throughout his epistles, Paul was teaching the very fulfillment of the prophecy found in Deuteronomy chapter 30, understanding that in Christ this circumcision of the heart is fulfilled. When the true children of Israel return to Yahweh their God in Christ, then Yahweh circumcises their hearts as well as the hearts of their children, to love Him that they may live. Speaking of the planting which Yahweh God had done long before the incarnation of Christ, the Word of God says in 2 Samuel chapter 7: “10 Moreover I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more, as beforetime...” Paul brought the Gospel into Europe because that was where those ancient children of Israel had been planted.
Along with the reference to the circumcision of the heart comes a reference to the true baptism in Christ:
12 being buried together with Him in that immersion by which also you were raised up together through the faith of the operation of Yahweh who raised Him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in transgressions and in the foreskin of your flesh, you [The MT wants “you”; P46 and B have “us”, which we probably should have followed; instead the text follows א, A, and C; D, 0208] He made alive together with Him, forgiving us all those transgressions.
The children of Israel were under a sentence of death, because they had forsaken the laws of their God. The reference to the foreskin of their flesh is symbolic of the fact that they had descended from circumcised Israelites that had forsaken Yahweh their God. So it says of the northern tribes of Israel in Hosea chapter 13: “1 When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended in Baal, he died.” Being idolaters and being as good as dead to God, they were put out of the Kingdom of God, but they were many times promised redemption and a way by which to return to Him. So the word of Yahweh says in Isaiah chapter 42: “16 And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.”
As Paul explained in Romans chapter 6, to be baptized with Christ is to be immersed in His death. There in that chapter he had written: “3 Or are you ignorant that as long as we are immersed in Christ Yahshua, into His death we are immersed? 4 So we were buried with Him through immersion into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the honor of the Father, so then we in newness of life should walk. 5 Therefore if united we have become in the likeness of His death, then also shall we be of His resurrection; 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body would be left void of sin, that no longer are we in bondage to sin. 7 Therefore, dying one is judged worthy apart from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we also will live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ having been raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer lords over Him. 10 Therefore when He died, the sin upon all died; but because He lives, He lives to Yahweh.”
In Romans chapter 5, Paul had explained that where there was no law, sin was not imputed. The apostle John, in chapter 3 of his first epistle, had likewise said that “4 Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” So the only way that these Colossians could have had transgressions which needed to be forgiven, was that their ancestors were Israelites who were obligated to keep the law.
14 Having wiped out the handwriting against us in the ordinances which were opposed to us, even this He has taken out of the way [literally “out of the midst”], nailing it to the cross.
First it must be noted, that since the law was only given to the children of Israel, “the handwriting against us in the ordinances which were opposed to us” pertains only to those same Israelites, and also proves that Paul is brining the Gospel to no one but Israelites. Just as he had told the Galatians, who were also descended from the ancient Israelites that the law was their schoolmaster to bring them to Christ, he makes very much the same indication here in reference to these Colossians. There is no universalism in the epistles of Paul, who brought the message of the Gospel only to the nations of the “lost sheep” of the house of Israel.
In Daniel chapter 9 there is prophesied the coming of the Messiah, and it gives an explanation of the purpose of that coming: “to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.”
We would assert that the most holy are anointed when the children of Israel return to obedience in Christ, thereby demonstrating that they are indeed the children of Yahweh, as Paul had told the Corinthians in the first chapter of his first epistle to them, that the “proof of the anointed” was confirmed in them, because they had turned to Christ. Likewise, the apostle John wrote that “the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you”. However men still violate the law, and therefore there is still sin in the world. Yet Daniel said that the Messiah would “finish the transgression, and ... make an end of sins”.
Ostensibly, since sin is only imputed where there is law, the words of Daniel could only be fulfilled in the manner in which Paul states here, where he said that Christ “wiped out the handwriting against us in the ordinances which were opposed to us”. The key to understanding how Christ did that is found in Romans chapter 7: “1 Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? 2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. 3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. 4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. 5 For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. 6 But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.”
The children of Israel were bound to the law in Exodus, the nation of Israel was considered the bride of Yahweh, as it is often stated in the prophets, and when they broke the law although their violations made them worthy of death, Yahweh their God was nevertheless obligated to let them live on account of the promises made to their fathers. So Paul said in Galatians that the covenant with Abraham: “that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.” So it was the original promise to Abraham that was confirmed in Christ. If Israel were judged by the law which came later, all of Israel should die. But Yahweh kept the promise to Abraham by coming Himself and dying on their behalf, releasing Israel from the judgments of the law so that Israel could live, and the promise to Abraham could be kept. Understanding this is the key to understanding the entire Bible, where all of the Scriptures fall into place consistently. So because Christ died for the children of Israel, and because they have life through His death, they should consider themselves dead to the desires of the flesh in the world and be willing to serve Christ in the spirit. The law being spiritual, they should seek to establish the law rather than serve the desires of the flesh.
When the children of Israel pursued other gods, following the laws of those gods and abandoning the laws of Yahweh, they were accused of having committed idolatry, and committing fornication with those other gods. For that reason, Israel the bride was under the penalty of having committed adultery against Yahweh the Husband. We see this in part in Jeremiah chapter 3: “6 The LORD said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot. 7 And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. 8 And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also. 9 And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks.”
Later, Yahweh put away Judah as well, and we see Him depicted as having asked rather rhetorically in Jeremiah chapter 33: “24 Considerest thou not what this people have spoken, saying, The two families which the LORD hath chosen, he hath even cast them off? thus they have despised my people, that they should be no more a nation before them. 25 Thus saith the LORD; If my covenant be not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth; 26 Then will I cast away the seed of Jacob, and David my servant, so that I will not take any of his seed to be rulers over the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: for I will cause their captivity to return, and have mercy on them.” Even though Yahweh did indeed cast both Israel and Judah away, He promised to have mercy on them and that they would return to Him.
In Hosea as well, the prophet was told to have a son with a harlot, representative of the children of Israel, and it is written: “9 Then said God, Call his name Loammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God. 10 Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God. 11 Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land: for great shall be the day of Jezreel.” So even though the children of Israel were cast off from Yahweh, they were promised to be reunited to Yahweh.
The casting off is described again in Hosea chapter 2: “2 Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband: let her therefore put away her whoredoms out of her sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts...” So the children of Israel went off into Assyrian captivity, and Babylonian captivity, and continued in their idolatry. In Deuteronomy chapter 24 we see a law that prevents the reconciliation of a wife who committed adultery against her husband, as the children of Israel were depicted as doing. There it says “1 When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. 2 And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife. 3 And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; 4 Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.”
In her divorce, it was said of Israel in Jeremiah chapter 30: “14 All thy lovers have forgotten thee; they seek thee not; for I have wounded thee with the wound of an enemy, with the chastisement of a cruel one, for the multitude of thine iniquity; because thy sins were increased.” Likewise it says in Hosea chapter 2: “5 For their mother hath played the harlot: she that conceived them hath done shamefully: for she said, I will go after my lovers, that give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, mine oil and my drink…. 10 And now will I discover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and none shall deliver her out of mine hand.” We see similar language in Ezekiel chapter 16 in reference to the adulterous remnant of Judah: “37 Behold, therefore I will gather all thy lovers, with whom thou hast taken pleasure, and all them that thou hast loved, with all them that thou hast hated; I will even gather them round about against thee, and will discover thy nakedness unto them, that they may see all thy nakedness.”
Yet with all of this, Yahweh had promised in Hosea that “14 Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. 15 And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt. 16 And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD, that thou shalt call me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Baali. 17 For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name…. 19 And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. 20 I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD.”
So even though Yahweh had promised to become betrothed to the children of Israel once again, in spite of having divorced them, the law of Deuteronomy nevertheless prevented the reconciliation of Israel to God. So Paul explained in Romans chapter 7 that “1 Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? 2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. 3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. 4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.”
The only way that Yahweh God could keep His Law and yet be reconciled to the children of Israel was to come as a man and die, in the body of Christ, fulfilling His law and freeing the children of Israel from that penalty of death which they had faced as adulterers. So Paul declares in that same chapter “But now we are delivered from the law”, and this is how Yahweh had “wiped out the handwriting against us in the ordinances which were opposed to us”, because the law itself had prevented the reconciliation of Yahweh to His people Israel.
That is the most important aspect of what Paul relates here in this passage of Colossians, but there is more to his elucidation than that alone:
15 Stripping the sovereignties and authorities which He exposed publicly, triumphing over them in it.
During the three-and-a-half years of His ministry, Christ had consistently demonstrated that the authorities in Jerusalem had no true Scriptural authority for many of their dogmas. While there are such ordinances in the law of God, the word which Paul had used in Colossians 2:14 is the Greek word δόγμα (Strong’s # 1378), and in the Greek versions of the Old Testament Scriptures, that word is only used in reference to the decrees of men, where it is found only in the books of Daniel, Esther (which we do not accept as a part of canon), and 3 & 4 Maccabees. The word also appears of the decrees of men in Luke 2:1 and Acts 17:7. Elsewhere in the New Testament it is found in Acts chapter 16 of the decrees from the apostles that were expressed in Acts chapter 15, where they were lacking specific guidance in the Scriptures and made their own deductions concerning circumcision, fornication, and other things.
In reference to the laws of God found in the Old Testament, the word δόγμα is found only here in Colossians 2:14, and in Ephesians 2:15 where Paul said that Christ had “annulled the law of commandments in ordinances”. A verbal form of this word is found in this chapter of Colossians in verse 20, where it is translated here as “subject to ordinances”. Using this word δόγμα, Paul is careful to distinguish those aspects of the laws of God which had to do with ceremonial and ritual righteousness to those aspects of the law of God which were counted as commandments.
Men can recognize the necessary aspects of the laws of Yahweh in the Gospel of Christ, but concerning the laws in ancient Scripture it says in Jeremiah chapter 8: “8 How will ye say, We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us? In vain have the scribes used a false pen.” As Paul had often explained, the righteousness of the children of Abraham was not to be accounted by how they kept the law, referring to the rituals and ceremonies and the dogmas in reference to these regulations that were later created by men. So on account of these things, Paul writes:
16 Therefore no one must judge you in food and in drink, or in respect of feast or new month or of the Sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of future things.
The word νεομηνία (Strong’s # 3561, sometimes spelled νουμηνία), only appears here in the New Testament. Liddell & Scott explain that although the word is literally the new moon, it was also used to denote the first day of the calendar month as opposed to the expression νουμηνία κατὰ σελήνην which was used to denote the true new moon. That the children of Israel were commanded to hold a feast on this day is evident in the 81st Psalm, where it says “3 Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast day.” This is in the law in Numbers chapter 10: “10 Also in the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days, and in the beginnings of your months, ye shall blow with the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; that they may be to you for a memorial before your God: I am the LORD your God.” We only discuss this at length because, rather strangely, many Identity Christians argue over whether the ancient Israelites actually celebrated the turn of months, or if it should be considered a pagan contrivance. Of course in want of diligence, pagan ideas can infiltrate anything once considered holy.
In Isaiah chapter 1 it is described that even by that early time Yahweh had already rejected the feasts, sabbaths and new moon celebrations of the children of Israel: “13 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. 14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. 15 And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. 16 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; 17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.” And we see in the Gospel that this very admonition is a core component of the admonitions of Christ, where He also quotes Hosea chapter 6 and he says “6 For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”
The authority of the Pharisees and the Sadducees had become legalistic, making certain that the people of Judaea had followed all of their various interpretations of the ceremonial and ritual aspects law found in the so-called “traditions of the elders”. Therefore we see phrases in relation to these things which we did not see in the Old Testament, such as the reference to a “sabbath day’s journey”, the allowable distance one was permitted to travel on the Sabbath, according to those same Pharisees and Sadducees. In his epistles, Paul frequently refers to the Judaizers, who had followed the apostles in an attempt to get Christians to abide in these same regulations.
In the Gospel, Christ was often rebuked by the Pharisees for how He celebrated the Sabbaths, and in turn He rebuked them for their hypocrisy, because they were concerned for the legalistic and detailed keeping of superficial observances while they failed to obey the important aspects of the law. As it is recorded in Matthew chapter 23, for example, Christ has told them: “23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. 24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. 25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. 26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.”
Another aspect of the purpose of the Messiah as it was described in the prophecy of Daniel is that “he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease”, which is consistent with an end to the Levitical priesthood and the enforcement of the rituals of the law, as Paul had said in his epistle to the Hebrews, that “If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.” Christ was, as Paul explained, a priest after the order of Melchisedek, and not of Levi. Therefore, by doing away with the need for ceremonies and rituals, Yahweh through Christ had removed the authority of the Pharisees and Sadducees. And not only that, but He also exposed them all as hypocrites, for they broke every law by condemning a man who broke no law, who was also God the author of law.
But Paul never persuaded Christians not to keep the Sabbaths and the feasts. In fact, in Acts chapter 18 and throughout the records of his ministry, it is said that “he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath”. In 1 Corinthians chapter 5, speaking of the Passover, Paul wrote: “Cleanse out the old leaven, that you may be a new dough, just as you are unleavened. Since also our passover, Christ, has been sacrificed. Consequently we should keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with leaven of sloth and wickedness, but with unleavened sincerity and truth.”
So Christians are encouraged to keep the feasts, and they should endeavor to keep the sabbaths. But since those things were a part of the rituals and ceremonies of the law, and were only a “shadow of things to come”, as the King James Version has it, then we should never judge our brethren as to how, or even when they should keep the feasts and the sabbaths. It is even evident in the Gospel, that the Judaeans themselves did not agree on a calendar, and we certainly could not keep it even if we were certain that we had a proper calendar.