5. Freedom from Legalism (Colossians 2:6-23)

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Audio (38:21)

James J. Tissot, 'False Witnesses'
James J. Tissot, "False Witnesses" (1896-1903), watercolor, Brooklyn Museum, New York

Paul is about to confront head on the false teaching that has tempted the Colossians to revert to a speculative and mystical form of Judaism. But first he reminds them of the beauty of the gospel which they had first received in the early days of the church, a few years before. Paul had described this early in the letter.

We begin this lesson with a "therefore" (NRSV, KJV) or "so then" (NIV)1 based on what Paul has said so far:

  • Paul's thanksgiving for their faith and love,
  • Christ's preeminence over any created being, and
  • Paul's sacrificial ministry to bring the gospel to their area....

Characteristics of our Relationship with Christ (2:6-7)

"6 So then, just as you received2 Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness."  (2:6-7)

Paul appeals to their strong past in Christ, as a way to hold them steady for the present and future. Christ has been your Lord, he says. You "live" (NIV) or "walk" (NRSV, KJV) in him, that is, conduct your life in Christ's way and in his path.3

Paul highlights four characteristics of their walk or journey with Christ as their Lord. Each of the images depict what it's like to become mature in Christ.

  1. Rooted in Christ. They were once tender transplants, but now they have taken firm root, figuratively, they have been "put on a firm foundation, fix firmly." 4
  2. Built up in Christ. Paul uses a word from the construction trades to describe their growth: "to engage in a building process of personal and corporate development, edify, build up, build on." 5
  3. Strengthened in faith. The word comes from the root basis, "foot" (from which we get our word "basis"). It means "to make a person firm in commitment, establish, strengthen," 6 to make them firm upon their foundation.
  4. Overflowing with thankfulness. The imagery here is having abundance, being rich. Here the idea is to "be outstanding, be prominent, excel" in thankfulness.7

Deceptive Philosophy (2:8)

You've come a long way, Paul is saying. Don't let the wonderful place you have be replaced with a kind of bondage.

"8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."  (2:8)

The false teachers' motives are not benign, Paul warns. They want to "take you captive." The word is sylagōgeō, "to gain control of by carrying off as booty, make captive of, rob." 8 The imagery is of carrying someone away from the truth into the slavery of error. KJV uses "to spoil" in the archaic sense of "to despoil." The false teachers want to take from you the treasure that you have in Christ.

 But the replacement they offer isn't what they claim. Rather, it is hollow, empty.9 They make it look grand, but there is no substance. What they offer is nothing compared to what you already have. What's more, their approach is deceptive.10 They're not telling the truth.

 Paul characterizes the false teachers' doctrine as "philosophy" is philosophia, literally philos, "love"+ sophia, "wisdom." The Greek word goes back to the sixth century BC, of those who strive for knowledge, especially worthwhile knowledge of a comprehensive nature. Various Greek philosophical schools arose -- Sophists, followers of Plato, Aristotle, and Epicurus, Stoicism, and others. Paul's letters sometimes use terminology that arose in philosophical schools. But here Paul uses "philosophy" with a negative connotation to refer to the belief system of the false teachers in Colossae, who made claims about their weighty authority. Paul disparages them by calling their philosophy "hollow and deceptive," that is, both empty and false.11

The pillars that uphold the false teachers' philosophy are not of Christ. They are not Messianic truths, Paul warns. Rather, the hidden supports for their doctrine are two-fold:

  1. Tradition,12 concepts and accepted truths that have been passed on from one generation to another -- but are nevertheless devoid of truth.
  2. Elemental spirits (NRSV). This is a difficult word to translate into our culture and worldview. Stoicheion refers to the "basic components of something, elements." Here it may refer to "transcendent powers that are in control over events in this world, elements, elemental spirits." 13 Paul is probably alluding to evil spirits who are under the control of the "god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4), the spirits who are behind worldly philosophies.14

What the false teachers offer sounds good, but it is hollow, deceptive, and part of the "same old, same old" combination of tradition and false beliefs that the enemy has been propagating for millennia. See it for what it is, says Paul.

Q1. (Colossians 2:8) Philosophy refers to a prevailing belief system. How can a belief system be empty and false? Have you ever personally experienced being captivated by a belief system only to find it deceptive and hollow?




The Fullness of Deity in Bodily Form (2:9-10)

Contrast the empty philosophy that the false teachers offer with who Christ is, says Paul. There is no comparison!

"9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority."  (2:9-10)

Wow! Say these two verses over to yourself a few times to grasp their breadth and import. The false teachers are offering fulfillment and fullness by laying hold of something beyond Christ the Messiah. But there is nothing and no one closer to God, no experience fuller, than knowing him and walking with him.

Let's spend a few minutes examining the words in these two key verses.

First, it says that "in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form." The word "lives" (NIV) or "dwells" (NRSV, cf. KJV) is katoikeō, "to live in a locality for any length of time, live, dwell, reside, settle (down)." 15 In ancient Greek it refers to long-time residence, "settle in, colonize." 16 In the New Testament the word is used in a literal, geographical sense to refer to people "living in" Jerusalem, of Abraham's family "living in" Haran, of Jews "living in"Damascus.17 But the word has a special sense to refer to God's Spirit inhabiting a human being:

"That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith."  (Ephesians 3:17)

"... The Spirit he caused to live18 in us."  (James 4:5)

"And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling19 in which God lives by his Spirit."  (Ephesians 2:22)

The word is used twice in Colossians of Christ himself.

"For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him."  (1:19)

"For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form."  (2:9)

God dwells in his Son, the Messiah, the Christ. He does not dwell in us in the same degree as he dwells in his Son. We are merely creatures, fallen from God's perfect creation, who are being gradually restored by the Spirit to our full glory (2 Corinthians 3:18; 4:16-17). But Christ is not a created being, but the Creator himself, for "all things were created by him and for him" (1:16). Jesus is "one" with the Father (John 1:30), glorified with the Father before all creation (John 17:5). He is God in the flesh (John 1:14), the "only begotten God" (John 1:18, NASB).

God in the Flesh

Because Jesus himself is God, God dwells in him completely, fully, in the flesh.

"For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form."  (2:9)

The nature of this indwelling is spelled out in several Greek words:

1. Quality of Christ's Deity

 "Deity" (NIV, NRSV) or "Godhead" (KJV) in 2:9 is theotēs, a word which occurs only here in the New Testament. It means, "the state of being god, divine character/nature, deity, divinity." The King James' translation "Godhead" over-translates the word, since the concept of "head" or  "headship" isn't included in the Greek meaning of the word.20 However, this word theotēs, "deity," is to be distinguished from theiotēs, "divinity," "an attribute which might conceivably be possessed by a being of lesser standing than God himself." 21

2. Degree of Christ's Deity

"Fullness" is plērōma, which we saw in 1:19, "sum total, fullness, even (super) abundance." 22 So the Divinity doesn't dwell in Jesus partly, or in some measure, like he does in us. In Christ, God dwells completely, expressed by the phrase "all the fullness of the Deity." 23

3. Expression of Christ's Deity

The manner of dwelling is described as: "in bodily form" (NIV), "bodily" (NRSV, KJV). This is the adverb sōmatikōs, "bodily, corporeally," as opposed to noncorporaelly, from sōma, "body." 24 Paul is talking about the incarnation, which means literally, "in-fleshment" (from in + carne, "flesh, meat"). Jesus of Nazareth is God in the flesh, deity in bodily form.

4. Authority of Christ's Deity

Verse 10 talks about the authority of Christ's deity.

"... Christ, who is the head over every power and authority."  (2:10)

Earlier in his letter, Paul has explained that Christ is "head" over the church. But his headship extends over everything he has created -- including the evil spiritual powers that are opponents of the Church that we discussed previously. In Paul's letter to the Ephesians -- penned about the same time as Colossians and with many similar themes -- Paul says:

"[God] seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church...."  (Ephesians 2:20-22)

In these verses kephalē, "head," is used to denote superior rank of a being of high status over another.25 The Colossians have nothing to fear from spiritual powers, nor does a mystical Judaism have anything over Christianity, for Christ has authority over all powers in heaven and on earth.

Complete in Him! (2:10)

This powerful passage concludes with Paul's assurance to the Colossians about their standing in Christ. See how various versions translate it:

"And you have been given fullness in Christ...."  (NIV)
"And you have come to fullness in him...."  (NRSV)
"And in Him you have been made complete...."  (NASB)
"And ye are complete in him...."  (KJV)

The verb is plēroō, "to make full, full(fill)," used of persons, "fill" with powers, qualities, etc.26

What a wonderful truth -- we are made complete and find our fulfillment in Christ and in him alone. We don't need to add anything more. In him we are completed! You can rest in the sufficiency of Christ's love and redemption. Relax and enjoy him. You are complete in him!

If Paul's letter to the Colossians has a center, a central thesis, it is here! The false teachers are trying to deceive members of this young church that they need something more. Paul's answer? A resounding, "No!" You are complete in Christ!

I know I've spent some time on these two verses, but the truth is so important and life-changing that it is crucial that we grasp it.

Q2. (Colossians 2:9-10) What does verse 9 teach about Christ's full divinity? In what sense are we "complete" or  "come to fullness" in Christ? What does this mean? Why do we sometimes fail to understand this fullness?




Spiritual Circumcision (2:11-12)

Now Paul brings up the subject of circumcision, probably because the Jewish false teachers were telling the Gentile Christians that they needed to be circumcised in order to be truly saved. Not so, says Paul.

"11 In him you were also circumcised,27 in the putting off28 of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12 having been buried with29 him in baptism and raised with30 him through your faith in the power31 of God, who raised him from the dead."  (2:11-12)

Verses 11 and 12 are a difficult sentence to understand, so I've broken it down logically. You don't need anything more, says Paul, because...

  1. In Christ your hearts were purified (symbolized by circumcision):
    • This circumcision was not in human flesh, but spiritual, in that your sinful nature (literally, sarx, "flesh") was dethroned.
    • This was not some human ritual like circumcision, but a supernatural work done by Christ.
  2. AND you were united with Christ (symbolized by baptism):
    • Baptism is a symbol of both spiritual union with Christ in his death and in his resurrection.

We could spend more time here, but the images are confusing to the twenty-first century mind, so we'll move on.32

Made Alive in Christ (2:13-14)

As we mine verses 13 and 14 we find a rich vein of gold.

"13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross."  (2:13-14)

Paul uses three figures to describe our state before our salvation:

  1. Spiritually dead.
  2. Uncircumcised, that is unpurified in the "flesh" (sarx).33
  3. Unforgiven, that is, "in your sins."

He uses three figures to describe the results of Christ's salvation:

  1. Made spiritually alive.34
  2. Forgiven35 of all our sins.36
  3. Freed from the law.

The Written Code is Cancelled (2:14)

 This last act of salvation, being freed from the law, needs further explanation. Look carefully at verse 14 again:

"... Having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross."  (2:14)

The question here is what is the Christian's relationship to the Mosaic law and its requirements. Jesus had said clearly in the Sermon on the Mount:

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill37 them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." 38 (Matthew 5:17-18)

By "accomplished," Jesus seems to be referring to all the events that must take place that have been prophesied for the Messiah, especially his death in our place, his burial, and his resurrection. "Nailing39 it to the cross" suggests that it has been fulfilled on the cross.

Two words describe the removal of the law.

  1. " Cancelled" (NIV), "erasing" (NRSV), "blotting out" (KJV) is exaleiphō. The primary meaning is, "to cause to disappear by wiping." Here it has the more specific meaning, "to remove so as to leave no trace, remove, destroy, obliterate." 40 Elsewhere we read that the law has been annulled because it has become weak, useless, and obsolete (Hebrews 7:18; 8:13). A number of times the scripture talks about blotting out sins and transgressions (Psalms 51:1, 9; Isaiah 43:25; Acts 3:19), but here the written code41 that stood against us42 -- the Mosaic law itself is erased -- a strong word.
  2. " Took away" (NIV), "set aside" (NRSV), is rendered quite literally by the KJV as "took out of the way." "Way" is mesos , "midst, from among." The verb is airō. The word originally meant, "lift up, take up, pick up." But here, it means, "to take away, remove, or seize control" without suggestion of lifting up. In the case of "a bond, note, certificate of indebtedness, "destroy." 43

Did Jesus substitute a soft, squishy law of love for the hard, unrelenting demands of the Mosaic Law? No! He fulfilled the Mosaic Law on our behalf, drinking its bitter cup down to the very dregs on the cross. This is no cheap grace. The demands of the law have been fulfilled totally in Christ's death. Now that Messiah has come and his Spirit has been poured out, the Law is no longer our guide; the Holy Spirit is. The Old Covenant's role is over in this age of the New Covenant, made possible by the shedding of Christ's blood. It is finished!

Disarming the Evil Spiritual Powers (2:15)

Now we read a fascinating statement:

"And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross."  (2:15)

"Disarmed" (NIV, NRSV), "spoiled" (KJV) is apekdyomai, an emphatic word. A related word, apodyō/ynō was used by Homer (especially in the Illiad) of stripping armor from the slain.44 "Triumphing" is thriambeuō, "lead in a triumphal procession." 45 The image is of a public46 triumphal parade following a decisive military victory, with the disgraced47 and defeated foe marching behind the victor, as alluded to in Ephesians 4:8 (quoting Psalm 68:18).

The final clause is a little hard to translate accurately.

"... triumphing over them by the cross."  (NIV)

"... triumphing over them in it."  (NRSV, KJV)

The Greek text contains a masculine pronoun "it" or  "him," not "cross," which the NIV supplies to bring out the meaning better. There are two possible referents for the pronoun:

  • "The cross" (verse 14)

  • "Christ" (verse 13)

    There's no way to be absolutely sure which Paul meant, nor does it matter greatly. "Cross" is the closer referent, while the entire sentence is about Christ's work.

    The real question, of course, is: In what sense did Christ disarm these evil powers? How complete was the victory? The letter to the Colossians doesn't answer this question. We have a few passages in the New Testament that may shed some light on this, however.

    • Binding the strong man. Jesus relates a parable that points to his overpowering Satan and taking his goods (Matthew 12:29; Luke 11:22).
    • Satan falling from heaven. Jesus alludes to Satan's fall from heaven when the 70 report their ability to cast out demons, but the time frame isn't specified (Luke 10:18).
    • Prince of the world driven out seems to be tied to Jesus' death (John 12:31).
    • War in heaven is a vision in Revelation, where Satan is thrown out of heaven when he tries to destroy the Messiah and the church (Revelation 12).
    • Satan is bound for 1,000 years, then released, fights the final war against the Messiah, and is thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20).

    If Christ disarmed and conquered the principalities and powers on the cross, why do we still have to fight them (Ephesians 6:10-18)? We don't know fully. The decisive battle was won on the cross. Satan was weakened and the church given power over him, but Satan has not been fully destroyed. This is part of the "now and in the future" nature of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom is here now, but will come in its fullness -- and Satan will be defeated completely and utterly -- after Christ returns.

    Q3. (Colossians 2:13-15) How did forgiveness free us from the Law? What is the significance of nailing the Law to the cross? What does this symbolize? How did the cross bring triumph over evil spiritual forces?




    Discarding the Shadow for the Reality (2:16-17)

    We've focused most of our time on what Paul says about who Christ is and what he has done in us and for us. But now Paul gets specific about some of the elements of false teaching with which the mystical Jewish sect in Colossae was tempting the young church:

    "16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ."  (2:16-17)

    In verse 16 Paul mentions four elements of Judaism by which the false teachers were putting down and criticizing the church:

    1. Food regulations. Since the time of Moses, the Jews had observed complex rules concerning clean and unclean animals, outlined in Leviticus 11, and then expanded upon and interpreted by rabbis over the centuries. The Council of Jerusalem decided not to require Gentile Christians to observe Jewish food laws (Acts 15:1-21; Romans 14:14; 1 Timothy 4:3-5; Matthew 15:11).
    2. Religious festivals,48 probably including Passover, Pentecost, etc. Early Jewish-Christians (and Paul, on occasion; Acts 20:11) observed these festivals, but they were not part of the life of the Gentile church (Galatians 4:10).
    3. New Moon celebrations49 were common in Judaism (Numbers 10:10; 28:11; Nehemiah 10:33; Psalm 81:3; Isaiah 1:13).
    4. Sabbath day.50 Though the Sabbath day was enjoined in the Ten Commandments, Gentile Christians celebrated the first day of the week (John 20:19; 20:26; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2), the day on which Christ had risen, which they called the Lord's Day (Revelation 1:10).

    Paul sees these Jewish practices as intended to teach and prepare God's people for the reality that was to come when the Messiah appeared.

    "These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ."  (2:17)

    We see also this language of shadow and reality (or substance)51 in relation to Judaism and Christ in the Book of Hebrews (Hebrews 8:5; 10:1). This may sound a bit like Plato's idealism, his allegory of the cave, in which shadows projected on a wall appear to be real, while they are only shadows of the actual people,52 but clearly Paul's root ideas are based in the Old Testament.

    Mystical Jewish Practices (2:16-18)

    So far, Paul has explained why Gentile followers of the Messiah have no reason to adopt Jewish practices. Now he attacks the specific practices of the mystical Jewish sect around Colossae that is trying to entice the Christian believers.

    "Do not let anyone who delights53 in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions."  (2:18)

     Just like the writer of Hebrews, Paul sees returning to Judaism of any sort a step backward, and a denial of the Messiah. The phrase "disqualify for the prize" (NIV), "disqualify" (NRSV), "beguile of your reward" (KJV) is katabrabeuō, "'decide against' (as umpire), and so rob of a prize, condemn," from kata-, "against"+ brabeuō, "to be an umpire in a contest." 54

     Verse 18 mentions three characteristics of this sect:

    • False humility. The false teachers put on a guise of humility (perhaps including ascetic practices such as fasting55 ), but in fact they were full of pride56 about their supposed spiritual prowess. They projected an aura of spirituality, but in fact were "unspiritual." 57
    • Worship58 of angels. Other sources attest to the worship of angels in Phrygia and Pisidia in the early centuries of the Christian era.59 Angel worship wasn't standard in Judaism as a whole, but probably was present in Colossae through syncretism with local religious beliefs, perhaps in a belief that angels would protect them from evil.60
    • Visions (NRSV) or "what is seen" (NIV)61 were a third characteristic of the local brand of mystical Judaism. The false teachers would go into great detail62 about these visions.

    Connection with the Head (2:19)

    Paul warns the Colossians about such false teachers:

    "He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow."  (2:19)

    The NIV's "lost connection" is perhaps too strong, suggesting that the false teachers had once held to Christ. Closer to the Greek are "not holding fast" (NRSV) and "not holding" (KJV).63

    Christ is the one who makes sense out of faith. So many churches are just religious shells. They have their ritual and their rites, based solidly on their traditions. But they have lost an intimate connection to him who gives life. Even right doctrine (in contrast to the false teachers in Colossae) can't substitute for a close, personal connection to the Head. All growth comes by means of nourishment from him, and him only.64

    The Emptiness of Human Regulations (2:20-23)

    In place of a relationship to Christ, the false teachers had imposed all sorts of rules. Paul asks his readers:

    "20 Since you died with Christ to the basic principles65 of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules:66 21 'Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!'? 22 These are all destined to perish67 with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance68 of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence."  (2:20-23)

    Paul makes three points in these verses:

    1. The picky rules are not spiritual, but related to temporal matters -- foods, etc. -- that will pass away. In baptism, the Colossians had died to their old way of life. Now they were being enticed to trade their new path for the old. The rules Paul writes against seem to reflect Jewish laws about ritual purity regarding unclean foods. Their world was limited by what they were not allowed to do.69
    2. The rules don't come from God, but from human commands and traditions. Paul refers to them as a "self-made religion." 70
    3. The rules don't bring about spiritual transformation. The false teachers possess a kind of pious humility71 and asceticism -- "harsh treatment of the body." 72 Like all highly legalistic religions that are scrupulous to keep all the rules, the false teachers assume that they are somehow more spiritual. After all, they can document their faithfulness by the multitude of observances. However, none of this is of value in really changing from a body-centered life to a spiritual life. The phrase "restraining sensual indulgence" (NIV), "checking self-indulgence" (NRSV), and "the satisfying of the flesh" (KJV) translate two words sarx, "flesh" and plēsmonē, "process of securing complete satisfaction, satiety." 73

    Legalistic religions are attractive. After all, their adherents seem serious and observant. But the real question is: Do they help a person draw closer to Christ in their daily life, their character, and their actions? If not, they are empty and deceptive, for they promise something they can't deliver.

    Christianity at its very core is a connection to Jesus Christ -- Creator, Messiah, Son of God, Redeemer, Lover of our souls. Various spiritual practices may aid our devotion, but they are not the core. Jesus is!

    Q4. (Colossians 2:20-23) Why are legalism and asceticism unable to restrain the sinful nature? What alternative to legalism does Paul offer in Colossians 2?




    Christ Is Supreme! Discipleship Lessons from Colossians and Philemon, by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
    A book of the compiled lessons is available in both e-book and paperback formats.

    In this lesson Paul has put the spotlight on Jesus Christ himself. Union with Christ by faith and baptism completes us. We don't need other observances to complete us. They are external, man-made traditions. The real substance is Christ himself. We are complete in Him. Hallelujah!


    Father, help us see Jesus more clearly than we ever have before. Help us to see him as our Completor, in whom we find completion. Thank you for your love and salvation that plucked us out of our confusion and brought us to Christ himself. In his holy name, we pray. Amen.

    Key Verses

    "God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross."  (Colossians 2:13b-14, NIV)

    "And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross."  (Colossians 2:15, NIV)

    "These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ."  (Colossians 2:17, NIV)


    1. "So then" (NIV), "therefore" (NRSV, KJV) is oun, "inferential, denoting that what it introduces is the result of or an inference from what precedes, 'so, therefore, consequently, accordingly, then'" (BDAG 737, 1b).

    2. "Received" is paralambanō, "to gain control of or receive jurisdiction over, take over, receive," here, of a mental or spiritual heritage, 'accept Christ Jesus,' that is, the proclamation of him as Lord" (BDAG 768, 2bγ).

    3. "Continue to live" (NIV), "live your lives" (NRSV), "walk" (KJV) is the present imperative of peripateō, "walk," figuratively, "to conduct one's life, comport oneself, behave, live as habit of conduct" (BDAG 803, 2aδ).

    4. Rhizoō, BDAG 906. We get our botanical word "rhizome" from this Greek word stem.

    5. Epoikodomeō, BDAG 387, 2.

    6. Bebaioō, BDAG 172, 2.

    7. Perisseuō, BDAG 805, 2bβ.

    8. Sylagōgeō, BDAG 955.

    9. "Hollow" (NIV), "empty" (NRSV), "vain" (KJV) is kenos, "pertaining to being devoid of intellectual, moral, or spiritual value, empty," of things, "without content, without any basis, without truth, without power" (BDAG 539, 2a).

    10. "Deceptive" (NIV), "deceit" (KJV) is apatē, "deception, deceitfulness" (BDAG 99, 1).

    11. See Otto Michel, philosophia, philosophos, TDNT 9:172-188.

    12. "Tradition" is paradosis, "the content of instruction that has been handed down, tradition" (BDAG 763, 2).

    13. Stoicheion, BDAG 946, 2. It is translated, "basic principles" (NIV), "elemental spirits" (NRSV), "rudiments" (KJV).

    14. Moo, Colossians, pp. 187-192 for a careful discussion.

    15. Katoikeō, BDAG 534, 1b.

    16. Katoikeō, Liddell-Scott.

    17. Luke 13:4; Acts 7:2; 9:22, for example.

    18. Causative verb, katoikizō, "cause to dwell, establish, settle" (BDAG 535).

    19. The noun form, katoikētērion, "dwelling place" (BDAG 534).

    20. Theotēs, BDAG 452. "Divinity, divine nature" (Liddell-Scott).

    21. Wright, Colossians, pp. 107-108.

    22. Plērōma, BDAG 829, 3b.

    23. A century after Colossians was written, the term plērōma had come to be a Gnostic technical term for various lesser supernatural beings emanating from God, as a kind of second-level intermediary, but we can't assume that the word had this meaning in Paul's day.

    24. Sōmatikōs, BDAG 984. G.B. Caird (Paul's Letters from Prison (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon) in the Revised Standard Version: Introduction and Commentary (Oxford, 1976), pp. 191-192) argues that "in bodily form" can also mean "actually" or  "in solid reality, "citing 2:17 (shadow vs. reality) as a parallel. But Paul's point here is to underscore the incarnation, God in the flesh.

    25. Kephalē, BDAG 542, 2a.

    26. Plēroō, BDAG 828, 1b.

    27. Peritemnō, "to cut off the foreskin of the male genital organ, circumcise," figurative (BDAG 807, bα). Peritomē, "circumcision." (BDAG 807, 1c).

    28. "Putting off" is apekdysis, "removal, stripping off of clothes" (BDAG 100).

    29. "Buried" is synthaptō, "bury (together) with" (BDAG 971).

    30. "Raised with "synegeirō, originally, "to cause to emerge with from an inactive state, awaken with," then figuratively, "to raise up with from death, physical or spiritual, raise with" (BDAG 967, 2b). It is used in this sense in Colossians 2:12; 3:1 and Ephesians 2:6.

    31. "Power" (NIV, NRSV), "operation" (KJV) is energeia, "the state or quality of being active, working, operation, action" (BDAG 335).

    32. Note that this is the only time in the Bible that circumcision (the rite of inclusion in the Old Covenant) and baptism (the rite of inclusion in the New Covenant) appear together. Sometimes those who teach infant baptism use this verse to support their position, but in doing so they miss Paul's intention. This passage has nothing to do with infant baptism, either for or against.

    33. Here Paul is making a play on words. Circumcision is performed on human tissue, but by "flesh" here he is referring to the unregenerate human nature that is prone to sin and in rebellion against God.

    34. "Made alive (together) with" (NIV, NRSV), "quickened together with" (KJV) is syzōopoieō, "make alive together with someone," also at Ephesians 2:5 (BDAG 954).

    35. "Forgave" (NIV, NRSV), "having forgiven" (KJV) is charizomai, basically, "to give freely as a favor, give graciously," here, "to show oneself gracious by forgiving wrongdoing, forgive, pardon" (BDAG 107, 3). The word is also used in 3:13.

    36. "Sins" (NIV), "trespasses" (NRSV, KJV) is paraptōma, "a violation of moral standards, offense, wrongdoing, sin" (BDAG 770, bγ).

    37. "Fulfill" is plēroō, "to complete, fulfill," which we saw earlier in this lesson.

    38. "Accomplished" (NIV, NRSV) or "fulfilled" (KJV) at the end of verse 18 is ginomai, "happen." It is probably used in the sense here, "to occur as process or result, happen, turn out, take place" (BDAG 197, 4a).

    39. "Nailing" is prosēloō, "to nail (fast)" (BDAG 880).

    40. Exaleiphō, BDAG 344, 2.

    41. The terms translated "written code" (NIV), "handwriting of ordinances" (KJV), "the record ... with its legal demands" (NRSV), actually comprise two words: (1) cheirographon, "a hand-written document," specifically, "a certificate of indebtedness, account, record of debts." E. Lohse calls it, "A document is written in one's own hand as a proof of obligation, such as, a note of indebtedness. The meaning in Colossians 2:14, then, is a 'promissory note.'" (E. Lohse, cheír, ktl., TDNT 9:424-437). (2) The second word is dogma, the source of our English word "dogma," which means, "something that is taught as an established tenet or statement of belief." Here, however, it has something of its original usage, "a formal statement concerning rules or regulations that are to be observed, ordinance, decision, command" (BDAG 254, 1a).

    42. "Against" is the preposition kata, "down upon, toward, against someone or something," here, in a hostile sense, "against" (BDAG 518, 2bβ). "Stood opposed" (NIV), "stood against" (NRSV), "contrary to" (KJV) is the adjective hypenantios, "opposed, contrary, hostile." (BDAG 103).

    43. Airō, BDAG 29, 3.

    44. Apodyō/ynō, Liddell-Scott. Ekdyō/ynō was also used for "to strip." Paul combines the prepositions apo-, "separation, liberation, cessation, departure"+ ek-, "emission, removal, separation" also "equivalent to 'utterly, entirely,'" (Thayer) for "an expression of complete removal." (Robertson, Word Pictures). Dynō, "to put on, don" (Georg Autenrieth. A Homeric Dictionary for Schools and Colleges (New York. Harper and Brothers, 1891)), but our word "does not mean 'to divest oneself of,' but 'to disarm' (opposite of dıō, 'to arm oneself')" (Albrecht Oepke, TDNT 2:318-321). Later in Colossians 3:9, apekdyomai means to "take off, strip off," of clothes (BDAG 100, 1 and 2). But in 2:15 the image is a decisive military triumph.

    45. The image is either of a parade of conquered enemies or as a general does leading his army (Liddell-Scott). Here the word should probably be translated "triumph over" (or perhaps "expose to shame," but that isn't the main thrust of the word) (BDAG 459, 4 and 5). The word "is derived from thriambos, a hymn sung in festal procession and is kin to the Latin triumphus (our 'triumph'), a triumphal procession of victorious Roman generals" (Robertson, Word Pictures).

    46. "Public" (NIV, NRSV), "openly" (KJV) is en parrēsia, "openness to the public, in public, publicly" (BDAG 783, 2).

    47. "Made a spectacle" (NIV), "made an example" (NRSV), "made a shew" (KJV) is deigmatizō, "expose, make an example of, disgrace someone" (BDAG 214).

    48. "Religious festival" (NIV), "festivals" (NRSV), "holyday" (KJV) is heortē, "a day or series of days marked by a periodic celebration or observance, festival, celebration" (BDAG 355).

    49. "New Moon" is neomēnia, "new moon, first of the month, often celebrated as a festival by Jews and Gentiles (BDAG 669).

    50. "Sabbath Day" (NIV), "sabbath days" (KJV) is sabbaton, the seventh day of the week in Israel's calendar, marked by rest from work and by special religious ceremonies, sabbath." Here it is in the plural -- "sabbaths" (BDAG 910, 1bβ).

    51. "Reality" (NIV), "substance" (NRSV), "body" (KJV) is sōma, "body," here, "substantive reality, the thing itself, the reality," in imagery of a body that casts a shadow, in contrast to skia, "shadow" (BDAG 984, 4).

    52. Plato, Republic, book 7, 514A, 520A

    53. "Delights" (NIV), "insisting" (NRSV), "voluntary" (KJV) is thelō, "desire, wish to have, want." It probably means "to take pleasure in, like" (as in the NIV), but could have the connotation, "to have an opinion, maintain contrary to the true state of affairs" (as in the NRSV's "insist") (BDAG 448, 3b).

    54. Katabrabeuō, BDAG 515.

    55. Moo, Colossians, p. 226. The Greek word is "self-abasement (NRSV).

    56. "Puff up" is physioō, literally, "to blow up, inflate" (from physa, "pair of bellows"), figurative, "to cause to have an exaggerated self-conception, puff up, make proud" (BDAG 106).

    57. "Unspiritual" (NIV), "human way of thinking" (NRSV), "fleshly" (KJV) is sarx.

    58. "Worship/worshipping" is thrēskeia, "'expression of devotion to transcendent beings, especially as it expresses itself in cultic rites, worship,' the being who is worshiped is given in the objective genitive" (BDAG 459).

    59. Ramsay, CB I/2 p. 541 no. 404 and p. 741 no. 678 testify to the worship of angels in Phrygia. The Council of Laodicea, Can. 35 rejects it; Theodoret III 490 [on Col 2:16] deplores its tenacious survival in Phrygia and Pisidia (thrēskeia, BDAG 459).

    60. Moo, Colossians, p. 227, citing Clinton Arnold, The Colossian Syncretism (WUNT 77; Tübigen: Mohr Siebeck, 1995), pp. 61-101.

    61. Horaō, "to see." (BDAG 726, 1c).

    62. "Goes into great detail" (NIV), "dwelling on " (NRSV), "intruding into" (KJV) is embateuō, "investigate closely, enter into a subject to investigate it closely, go into detail" (BDAG 322, 3).

    63. "Not" plus the verb, krateō, "to adhere strongly to, hold"... of commitment to someone or something "hold fast (to)" (BDAG 565, 6a).

    64. Paul's analogy of a body is reminiscent of a similar description in Ephesians 4:16. "Supported" (NIV), "nourished" (NRSV), "having nourishment ministered" (KJV) is epichorēgeō, "to provide what is necessary for the well-being of another, support" (BDAG 387, 3). "Held together" (NIV, NRSV), "knit together" (KJV) is symbibazō, "to bring together into a unit, unite," literally, of the body, which is "held together" by sinews, ligaments, joints." (BDAG 957, 1a), figuratively, "unite, knit together." "Grows" (NIV, NRSV), "increaseth" (KJV) is auxanō, "to become greater, grow, increase" (BDAG 152, 2a). Auxēsis is "growth, increase" (BDAG 152).

    65. Stoicheion, "transcendent powers that are in control over events in this world, elements, elemental spirits." We discussed this word in 2:8. (BDAG 946, 2).

    66. "Submit to rules/regulations" (NIV, NRSV), " (be) subject to ordinances" (KJV) is dogmatizō, "to put under obligation by rules or ordinances, obligate," here in the passive (BDAG 254).

    67. "Perish" is phthora, with the preposition eis, "unto, destined to." Phthora refers to, "breakdown of organic matter, dissolution, deterioration, corruption," in the world of nature (BDAG 105, 1).

    68. "Appearance" (NIV, NRSV), "shew" (KJV) is logos, "word," here, probably has the idea of a "report, story" ("have the appearance of wisdom, pass for wisdom") or perhaps, "make a case for wisdom" (BDAG 603, 1aβ and 2f).

    69. "Handle" or  "touch" is haptō, which carries the connotation, "to partake of something" with cultic implications, "have contact with, touch." (BDAG 126, 3). "Taste" is geuomai, "to partake of something by mouth, taste, partake of" (BDAG 195, 1). "Touch" or  "handle" is thinganō, "touch" (BDAG 456).

    70. "Self-imposed worship" (NIV), "self-imposed piety" (NRSV), "will worship" (KJV) is ethelothrēskia, "self-made religion, do-it-yourself religion, idiosyncratic religion," perhaps, "would-be religion." (BDAG 276), from thelō, "desire, wish"+ thrēskeia, "religion, worship."

    71. "False humility" (NIV), "humility" (NRSV, KJV) is tapeinophrosynē, "humility, modesty" (BDAG 989).

    72. "Harsh treatment" (NIV), "severe treatment" (NRSV), "neglect" (KJV) is apheidia (from apheidēs, "unsparing") from the sense "spare nothing," that is, to lavish on something, there is a transference to "sparing very little for something," as in "severe treatment of the body" (= asceticism) (BDAG 155).

    73. "Especially with food and drink, but also with other types of enjoyment, "satisfaction, gratification" (Plēsmonē, BDAG 830). BDAG notes: "The Greek exegetes understood this to mean for the gratification of physical needs. But sarx, according to verse 18, is surely to be taken in a pejorative sense, and pros has the force "against". The translation is probably best made along the lines of NRSV: "of no value in checking self-indulgence."

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