Letter to the Colossians 2:1-23

2  For I want you to realize how great a struggle I am having in your behalf and in behalf of those at La·o·di·ceʹa+ and in behalf of all those who have not personally seen me.  This is so that their hearts may be comforted+ and that they may be harmoniously joined together in love+ and may have all the riches that result from the full assurance of their understanding, in order to gain an accurate knowledge of the sacred secret of God, namely, Christ.+  Carefully concealed in him are all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge.+  I am saying this so that no one may delude* you with persuasive arguments.  Though I am absent in body, I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order+ and the firmness of your faith in Christ.+  Therefore, just as you have accepted Christ Jesus the Lord, go on walking in union with him,+  being rooted and built up in him+ and being stabilized in the faith,+ just as you were taught, and overflowing with thanksgiving.+  Look out that no one takes you captive by means of the philosophy and empty deception+ according to human tradition, according to the elementary things of the world+ and not according to Christ;  because it is in him that all the fullness of the divine quality dwells bodily.+ 10  So you have acquired a fullness by means of him, the one who is the head of all government and authority.+ 11  By your relationship with him, you were also circumcised with a circumcision performed without hands by stripping off the fleshly body,+ by the circumcision that belongs to the Christ.+ 12  For you were buried with him in his baptism,+ and by your relationship with him you were also raised up+ together through your faith in the powerful work of God, who raised him up from the dead.+ 13  Furthermore, though you were dead in your trespasses and in the uncircumcised state of your flesh, God made you alive together with him.+ He kindly forgave us all our trespasses+ 14  and erased the handwritten document+ that consisted of decrees+ and was in opposition to us.+ He has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the torture stake.+ 15  He has stripped the governments and the authorities bare and has publicly exhibited them as conquered,+ leading them in a triumphal procession by means of it. 16  Therefore, do not let anyone judge you about what you eat and drink+ or about the observance of a festival or of the new moon+ or of a sabbath.+ 17  Those things are a shadow of the things to come,+ but the reality* belongs to the Christ.+ 18  Let no man deprive you of the prize+ who takes delight in a false humility and a form of worship of the angels, “taking his stand on” the things he has seen. He is actually puffed up without proper cause by his fleshly frame of mind, 19  and he is not holding fast to the head,+ to the one through whom the whole body is supplied and harmoniously joined together by means of its joints and ligaments and made to grow with the growth that is from God.+ 20  If you died together with Christ with respect to the elementary things of the world,+ why do you live as if still part of the world by further subjecting yourselves to the decrees:+ 21  “Do not handle, nor taste, nor touch,” 22  referring to things that all perish with their use, according to the commands and teachings of men?+ 23  Although those things have an appearance of wisdom in a self-imposed form of worship and a false humility, a harsh treatment of the body,+ they are of no value in combating the satisfying of the flesh.

Footnotes

Or “deceive; cheat.”
Or “substance.” Lit., “body.”

Study Notes

one: Lit., “flesh.” The Greek word sarx is here used in the sense of a human, a being of flesh and blood.​—See study notes on Joh 3:6; 17:2.

Laodicea: A wealthy city in the western part of Asia Minor (near modern Denizli, Turkey) about 18 km (11 mi) from Colossae and about 150 km (90 mi) from Ephesus. (See App. B13.) The city was situated in the fertile Lycus River valley at the junction of major trade routes. This verse indicates that Paul had not preached the good news in Laodicea. Yet, the Kingdom message reached the area (Ac 19:10), and a congregation was formed in Laodicea as well as in nearby Colossae and in Hierapolis (Col 4:13, 15, 16). The Scriptures mention the city of Laodicea only in the books of Colossians and Revelation.​—Re 1:11; 3:14.

personally seen me: Or “met me face-to-face.” Lit., “seen my face in the flesh.”​—See study note on Ro 3:20.

sacred secrets: The Greek word my·steʹri·on is rendered “sacred secret” 25 times in the New World Translation. Here used in the plural, this expression refers to aspects of God’s purpose that are withheld until God chooses to make them known. Then they are fully revealed but only to those to whom he chooses to give understanding. (Col 1:25, 26) Once revealed, the sacred secrets of God are given the widest possible proclamation. This is evident by the Bible’s use of such terms as “declaring,” “making known,” “preach,” “revealed,” and “revelation” in connection with the expression “the sacred secret.” (1Co 2:1; Eph 1:9; 3:3; Col 1:25, 26; 4:3) The primary “sacred secret of God” centers on the identification of Jesus Christ as the promised “offspring,” or Messiah. (Col 2:2; Ge 3:15) However, this sacred secret has many facets, including the role Jesus is assigned to play in God’s purpose. (Col 4:3) As Jesus showed on this occasion, “the sacred secrets” are connected with the Kingdom of the heavens, or “the Kingdom of God,” the heavenly government in which Jesus rules as King. (Mr 4:11; Lu 8:10; see study note on Mt 3:2.) The Christian Greek Scriptures use the term my·steʹri·on in a way different from that of the ancient mystery religions. Those religions, often based on fertility cults that flourished in the first century C.E., promised that devotees would receive immortality, direct revelation, and approach to the gods through mystic rites. The content of those secrets was obviously not based on truth. Those initiated into mystery religions vowed to keep the secrets to themselves and therefore shrouded in mystery, which was unlike the open proclamation of the sacred secrets of Christianity. When the Scriptures use this term in connection with false worship, it is rendered “mystery” in the New World Translation.​—For the three occurrences where my·steʹri·on is rendered “mystery,” see study notes on 2Th 2:7; Re 17:5, 7.

God’s wisdom in a sacred secret: That is, the wise arrangement that God put in place for ending the rebellion that started in Eden and for bringing about universal peace and unity. (See Glossary, “Sacred secret.”) The declaration of the “sacred secret” (Greek, my·steʹri·on; see study note on Mt 13:11) began with Jehovah’s prophecy at Ge 3:15. Jehovah’s “sacred secret” centers on Jesus Christ. (Eph 1:9, 10; Col 2:2) It includes Jesus’ identity as the promised offspring, or Messiah, and his role in God’s Kingdom (Mt 13:11); the selection of anointed ones​—taken from among both Jews and Gentiles​—to be Christ’s joint heirs, with whom he shares the Kingdom (Lu 22:29, 30; Ro 11:25; Eph 3:3-6; Col 1:26, 27); and the unique nature of this congregation composed of 144,000 “bought from among mankind as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb” (Re 14:1, 4). These facets can be understood only by those who thoroughly study the Scriptures.

the sacred secret of his will: The term “sacred secret” is mentioned several times in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Generally speaking, Jehovah’s “sacred secret” centers on Jesus Christ. (Col 2:2; 4:3) However, God’s sacred secret has many facets. These include: Jesus’ identity as the promised offspring, or Messiah, and his role in God’s purpose (Ge 3:15); a heavenly government, God’s Messianic Kingdom (Mt 13:11; Mr 4:11); the congregation of spirit-anointed Christians, of which Christ is head (Eph 5:32; Col 1:18; Re 1:20); the role of those anointed ones who share the Kingdom with Jesus (Lu 22:29, 30); and the selection of the anointed from among both Jews and Gentiles (Ro 11:25; Eph 3:3-6; Col 1:26, 27).​—See study notes on Mt 13:11; 1Co 2:7.

the sacred secret of God, namely, Christ: God’s sacred secret centers on what Paul calls “the sacred secret about the Christ.” (Col 4:3) However, this sacred secret has many facets.​—See study notes on Mt 13:11; 1Co 2:7; Eph 1:9.

Carefully concealed in him: Because of the important role that Jehovah God has given His Son in the outworking of His purposes, it could be said that all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge are concealed in him. Saying that they are “concealed” does not mean that such precious wisdom and knowledge are beyond comprehension for humans. However, a person needs to exercise faith in Jesus Christ as God’s Son in order to understand the real meaning of the Scriptures. (Mt 13:11) Jesus’ teachings opened up the minds of his followers to learn wonderful truths never before understood, including how his own life and ministry fulfilled Bible prophecy. (Lu 24:25-27, 32) He also revealed his Father to humans to help them to come to know God better than they had ever known him before. (Lu 10:22) Because Jesus is God’s firstborn Son, he knows the Father and his ways better than anyone else does.​—Col 1:15, 16, 18.

be rooted and established on the foundation: As in other places in Ephesians, Paul here uses two word pictures to emphasize a point. (Eph 2:20-22; 4:16) He shows that Christians should be as firm as a tree that is rooted in the soil and as solid as a building that rests on a good foundation. At Col 2:7, Paul uses a similar word picture of “being rooted and built up in him,” that is, Christ Jesus. (Col 2:6) Also, Paul uses an illustration at 1Co 3:11 to describe a spiritual construction work, likening Jesus to a “foundation.” (See study note on 1Co 3:10.) To become rooted and established, the Ephesians would need to study God’s Word diligently, especially the life and teachings of Jesus. (Eph 3:18; Heb 5:12) This, in turn, would help them develop a strong relationship with Jehovah.​—Joh 14:9.

be rooted and established on the foundation: As in other places in Ephesians, Paul here uses two word pictures to emphasize a point. (Eph 2:20-22; 4:16) He shows that Christians should be as firm as a tree that is rooted in the soil and as solid as a building that rests on a good foundation. At Col 2:7, Paul uses a similar word picture of “being rooted and built up in him,” that is, Christ Jesus. (Col 2:6) Also, Paul uses an illustration at 1Co 3:11 to describe a spiritual construction work, likening Jesus to a “foundation.” (See study note on 1Co 3:10.) To become rooted and established, the Ephesians would need to study God’s Word diligently, especially the life and teachings of Jesus. (Eph 3:18; Heb 5:12) This, in turn, would help them develop a strong relationship with Jehovah.​—Joh 14:9.

being rooted: In this verse, Paul uses three different word pictures to describe how a Christian should “go on walking in union with” Christ. (Col 2:6) With the first one, he emphasizes that Christians should be as firm as a tree with deep, strong roots.​—See study note on Eph 3:17.

built up in him: That is, in Jesus Christ. With this word picture, Paul emphasizes that a Christian should be as solid as a building that rests on a good foundation.​—See study note on Eph 3:17.

being stabilized in the faith: This is the third phrase describing how a Christian should “go on walking in union with” Christ. (Col 2:6) After using word pictures from agriculture (“being rooted”) and architecture (“built up”), Paul uses vocabulary from the commercial and legal fields. The Greek word for “being stabilized” has legal connotations and can also be rendered “to verify; to make firm; to guarantee.” (Ro 15:8; 1Co 1:8; 2Co 1:21) One lexicon renders this expression “confirmed in faith.” Paul uses a related Greek noun in his letter to the Christians in Philippi when referring to “legally establishing” the good news. (Php 1:7) As Christians take in accurate knowledge of God, they acquire additional reasons to see that their faith in him is well-founded.

the elementary things: This expression generally means “the rudimentary elements of anything.” For example, it was applied to the individual sounds and letters of the Greek alphabet, the basic components used to form words. Paul uses the expression here and at Col 2:8, 20 in a negative sense to refer to the basic principles that guide the world, that is, the world of mankind alienated from God. These could include (1) philosophies based on human reasoning and mythology (Col 2:8), (2) unscriptural Jewish teachings that promoted asceticism and “worship of the angels” (Col 2:18), and (3) the teaching that Christians must observe the Mosaic Law in order to gain salvation (Ga 4:4–5:4; Col 2:16, 17). The Galatian Christians had no need of such “elementary things,” for they had a superior way of worship based on faith in Christ Jesus. Christians were not to be like children who were enslaved by the elementary things, voluntarily placing themselves under the Mosaic Law, which Paul likened to a guardian. (Ga 3:23-26) Rather, they were to be like grown sons in a relationship with their Father, God. The Christians certainly should not turn back to the Law or to any of “the weak and beggarly elementary things” promoted by those who were not following Christ.​—Ga 4:9.

takes you captive: Or “carries you off as his prey.” One lexicon defines the Greek word as “to gain control of by carrying off as booty, make captive of.” It continues, “in imagery of carrying someone away [from] the truth into the slavery of error.”

the philosophy: The Greek word phi·lo·so·phiʹa, which occurs only here in the Christian Greek Scriptures, literally means “love of wisdom.” In Paul’s day, this word had broad usage. It commonly referred to many groups and schools of thought, including religious ones. In the only recorded interchange between Paul and Greek philosophers, the discussion centered on religious issues. (Ac 17:18-31) Various schools of philosophy were active in the eastern part of the Roman Empire, where Colossae was located. Both the context and the grammatical construction of Col 2:8 indicate that Paul was particularly concerned about Judaizers, who were promoting observance of the Mosaic Law, including its required circumcision, festival days, and abstinence from eating certain foods.​—Col 2:11, 16, 17.

deception: Or “seduction.” The Greek word used here is also rendered “deceptive power” (Mt 13:22; Heb 3:13) and “deceptive teachings” (2Pe 2:13).

elementary things of the world: Paul uses the same expression in his letter to the Galatians.​—See study note on Ga 4:3.

not according to Christ: The philosophy mentioned by Paul was of human origin. Paul was not opposed to true knowledge, for he prayed that the Christians in Colossae would “be filled with the accurate knowledge” of God’s will. But as he showed, in order to obtain such knowledge and true wisdom, one must appreciate the role of Jesus Christ in the outworking of God’s purpose.​—Col 1:9, 10; 2:2, 3.

it is in him that all the fullness of the divine quality dwells bodily: The context shows that having this “divine quality” does not make Jesus Christ equal to God Almighty, as some claim. In the preceding chapter, Paul states: “God was pleased to have all fullness to dwell in him,” that is, in Christ. (Col 1:19) So the Father is the one who caused Christ to have “the fullness of the divine quality.” At Col 1:15, Paul says that Jesus “is the image of the invisible God,” not God himself. Col 1:19-22 describes the reconciliation that God brings about through Christ, and Col 2:12 shows that God raised him from the dead. Furthermore, Paul later says that “Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” (Col 3:1) These statements show that possession of this “fullness” does not make Jesus Christ identical with God, the Almighty.

of the divine quality: Or “of the divinity.” The “divine quality” includes all the excelling qualities of Jesus’ heavenly Father and God, and these also dwell in Christ. The Greek word (the·oʹtes), which occurs only here in the Christian Greek Scriptures, is derived from the Greek word for “god,” the·osʹ, but is different in meaning. Many lexicons give such definitions as “divine character; divine nature; divinity.” The term was used by ancient Greek writers to describe a quality or condition that could be obtained or lost as a result of one’s behavior. Obviously, then, such a term was applied to created beings and not exclusively to the almighty and eternal God, Jehovah. So there is solid basis for rendering the·oʹtes to refer to a divine quality rather than to God himself.

you have acquired a fullness by means of him: The meaning of this statement is explained by the context, which says that “carefully concealed in [Christ] are all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge.” Jesus Christ had provided his followers with everything they needed to be “built up in him and [to be] stabilized in the faith.” (Col 2:3, 6, 7) In addition, Col 2:13-15 explains that Christ had released Christians from the Law covenant. Christians do not need the Law; nor do they need human philosophy and tradition. (Col 2:8) They have all they need, a precious “fullness” by means of Christ.​—Col 2:10-12.

circumcision . . . of the heart: “Circumcision” is used figuratively in both the Hebrew and the Christian Greek Scriptures. (See Glossary, “Circumcision.”) “Circumcision . . . of the heart” was a divine requirement even for the Israelites who were already circumcised in the flesh. According to a literal translation of De 10:16 and 30:6 (see ftns.), Moses told Israel: “You must circumcise the foreskin of your hearts,” and “Jehovah your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring.” In his day, Jeremiah reminded the wayward nation that they should do the same. (Jer 4:4) To “circumcise [the] heart” means to “cleanse” it by getting rid of anything in one’s thinking, affections, or motives that is displeasing and unclean in Jehovah’s eyes and that makes the heart unresponsive. Similarly, ears that are not sensitive or responsive to Jehovah’s guidance are spoken of as being “uncircumcised.”​—Jer 6:10, ftn; see study note on Ac 7:51.

a circumcision performed without hands: See study note on Ro 2:29.

dead in your trespasses and sins: In the Bible, death and life can be used in a figurative, or a spiritual, sense. Paul says that the former course of the Ephesian Christians made them “dead in [their] trespasses and sins.” One lexicon describes the figurative use of the Greek word for “dead” in this verse as a person’s “being so morally or spiritually deficient as to be in effect dead.” However, Paul shows that Jehovah could now view those spirit-anointed Christians as being alive, since they had repented of their sinful way of life on the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice.​—Eph 2:5; Col 2:13; see study notes on Lu 9:60; Joh 5:24, 25.

Let the dead bury their dead: As shown in the study note on Lu 9:59, the father of the man to whom Jesus is talking was likely ailing or elderly, not dead. Therefore, Jesus is evidently saying: ‘Let those who are spiritually dead bury their dead,’ that is, the man should not wait to make his decision to follow Jesus, since other relatives could apparently care for the father until his death. By following Jesus, the man put himself on the way to eternal life, not among those who were spiritually dead before God. In his reply, Jesus shows that putting the Kingdom of God first in one’s life and declaring it far and wide are essential to remaining spiritually alive.

has passed over from death to life: Jesus is apparently speaking about those who were once spiritually dead but who upon hearing his words put faith in him and discontinue walking in their sinful course. (Eph 2:1, 2, 4-6) They pass over “from death to life” in that the condemnation of death is lifted from them, and they are given the hope of everlasting life because of their faith in God. In a similar way, Jesus apparently referred to spiritually dead ones when he said to the Jewish son who wanted to go home to bury his father: “Let the dead bury their dead.”​—Lu 9:60; see study notes on Lu 9:60; Joh 5:25.

the dead: Jesus said that the hour, or time, for the dead to “hear [his] voice” is now, so he could only mean living humans who inherited sin from Adam and were therefore condemned to death. (Ro 5:12) From God’s standpoint, mankind in general has no right to life because “the wages” that sin pays to them is death. (Ro 6:23) By hearing and heeding Jesus’ “word,” individuals could figuratively ‘pass over from death to life.’ (See study note on Joh 5:24.) The terms “hear” and “listen” are frequently used in the Bible with the meaning of “pay heed to” or “obey.”

you were dead in your trespasses: In the Bible, death and life can be used in a figurative, or spiritual, sense. (See study note on Eph 2:1.) Paul says that the former course of the Colossian Christians made them “dead in [their] trespasses.” However, Paul shows that Jehovah made those spirit-anointed Christians alive together with Jesus Christ. Since they had repented of their sinful way of life, God could kindly forgive them all their trespasses on the basis of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice.​—Eph 2:5; compare study notes on Lu 9:60; Joh 5:24, 25.

get . . . blotted out: The Greek verb used here has been defined “to cause to disappear by wiping.” In the Bible, it is used in connection with wiping out tears (Re 7:17; 21:4) and erasing names from the book of life (Re 3:5). In this context, it conveys the idea of “to remove so as to leave no trace.” According to some scholars, the image expressed here is that of erasing handwriting.​—Compare Col 2:14, where the same Greek word is rendered “erased,” or “blotted out,” ftn.

erased: Or “blotted out.”​—See study note on Ac 3:19.

the handwritten document: That is, the Mosaic Law. By accepting Jesus’ sacrificial blood, God “erased the handwritten document,” that is, he set aside the Law covenant, with its required offerings and sacrifices. Figuratively speaking, God nailed this document, or contract, to the stake on which Jesus died. At Col 2:16, Paul mentions some of the decrees that were erased. He says: “Therefore, do not let anyone judge you about what you eat and drink or about the observance of a festival or of the new moon or of a sabbath.” At Eph 2:15, Paul uses a similar wording when he says that Jesus “by means of his flesh . . . abolished the enmity, the Law of commandments consisting in decrees.”

torture stake: Or “execution stake.”​—See Glossary.

leads us in a triumphal procession: The Greek word thri·am·beuʹo, meaning “to lead in a triumphal procession,” occurs only two times in the Scriptures, each time in a somewhat different illustrative setting. (2Co 2:14; Col 2:15) A Roman triumphal procession was an official parade held to thank the deities and to glorify a victorious general. Triumphal processions were portrayed in sculptures and paintings and on coins. They were also illustrated in literary and theatrical works. A representation of the June 71 C.E. triumph can be seen on the relief panels of the Arch of Titus in Rome. These panels depict Roman soldiers carrying sacred vessels taken from the ruined temple in Jerusalem.

He has stripped the governments and the authorities bare: In this word picture, Paul likens governments and authorities under Satan to condemned captives who were paraded in a Roman triumphal procession. (Compare Eph 6:12.) Prisoners were stripped of their armor and weapons, and the crowds following the procession ridiculed them. Ancient sources state that some prisoners, including monarchs, preferred to commit suicide rather than to be paraded in such a procession, stripped of their dignity. In the metaphor used by Paul, Jehovah the Conqueror strips his enemies naked and exhibits them in public as defeated. Paul here uses the metaphor of “a triumphal procession” in a way different from what he uses at 2Co 2:14-16.​—See study note on 2Co 2:14.

by means of it: That is, by means of “the torture stake” mentioned in the preceding verse. Christ’s death on the torture stake not only provided the basis for removing “the handwritten document,” the Law covenant, but also made it possible for Christians to be freed from bondage to the satanic powers of darkness. (Col 2:14) It is also possible to understand the expression to mean “by means of him,” that is, Jesus Christ.

days and months and seasons and years: Paul here refers to special occasions that God’s people were required to commemorate under the Mosaic Law. For example, there were the Sabbaths and sabbath years (Ex 20:8-10; Le 25:4, 8, 11), the new moon observances (Nu 10:10; 2Ch 2:4), the annual Day of Atonement (Le 16:29-31), the Passover (Ex 12:24-27), the Festival of Unleavened Bread (Le 23:6), the Festival of Weeks (Ex 34:22), and the Festival of Booths (Le 23:34). Each of these events took place at designated times. Some of the Christians in Galatia were formerly under the Mosaic Law and for many years had faithfully observed it. However, on learning of Christ’s ransom sacrifice, they happily accepted its benefits and the freedom from servitude to the Mosaic Law. (Ac 13:38, 39) Paul rightly feared for those who were again becoming enslaved to the Law and who were scrupulously commemorating those special occasions. (Ga 4:11) Likewise, if any Gentiles who became Christians returned to some of the religious observances from their pagan past, this would show a lack of faith in Christ’s ransom sacrifice.

the observance of a festival or of the new moon or of a sabbath: Under the Mosaic Law, God’s people were required to commemorate these special occasions. (See study note on Ga 4:10 and Glossary, “Festival of Booths,” “Festival of Dedication,” “Festival of Unleavened Bread,” “New moon,” “Pentecost,” and “Sabbath.”) Some were claiming that all Christians must continue to observe these occasions, but Paul urged them to disregard such claims. They were not to allow anyone to judge them based on whether they observed festivals commanded by the Mosaic Law, which by then was obsolete.

a shadow of the things to come: The shadow that an object casts can give an idea of the general shape or design of the reality that casts it. However, a shadow is temporary, or transient, in comparison with the object or reality that the shadow represents. In this connection, Paul explains that the Law, including its festivals, tabernacle, and sacrifices, was a shadow that represented greater things to come.​—Heb 8:5; 9:23-28; 10:1.

humility: This quality involves freedom from pride or arrogance. Humility is manifested in the way a person views himself in relation to God and others. It is not a weakness but a state of mind that is pleasing to God. Christians who are truly humble can work together in unity. (Eph 4:2; Php 2:3; Col 3:12; 1Pe 5:5) In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the word ta·pei·no·phro·syʹne, here translated “humility,” is drawn from the words ta·pei·noʹo, “to make low,” and phren, “the mind.” It could therefore literally be rendered “lowliness of mind.” The related term ta·pei·nosʹ is rendered “lowly” (Mt 11:29) and “humble ones” (Jas 4:6; 1Pe 5:5).​—See study note on Mt 11:29.

Carefully concealed in him: Because of the important role that Jehovah God has given His Son in the outworking of His purposes, it could be said that all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge are concealed in him. Saying that they are “concealed” does not mean that such precious wisdom and knowledge are beyond comprehension for humans. However, a person needs to exercise faith in Jesus Christ as God’s Son in order to understand the real meaning of the Scriptures. (Mt 13:11) Jesus’ teachings opened up the minds of his followers to learn wonderful truths never before understood, including how his own life and ministry fulfilled Bible prophecy. (Lu 24:25-27, 32) He also revealed his Father to humans to help them to come to know God better than they had ever known him before. (Lu 10:22) Because Jesus is God’s firstborn Son, he knows the Father and his ways better than anyone else does.​—Col 1:15, 16, 18.

who takes delight in a false humility: Paul is here warning against false teachers who took delight in appearing to be humble. Apparently, some of them insisted that having God’s favor depended on their observing self-imposed forms of abstinence. Their practices included renouncing material things, abstaining from certain foods, or observing religious days, all of which were not required of Christians. While these practices might have made those men appear to be humble, they were actually “puffed up” by a “fleshly frame of mind,” and their display of piety was designed to impress others.​—Mt 6:1.

a false humility: This expression renders a Greek word that simply means “humility,” or “lowliness of mind.” However, Paul says later in the verse that false teachers were “puffed up,” making it clear that he is referring to humility that is not genuine.​—For a discussion of what true humility involves, see study note on Ac 20:19.

a form of worship: The Greek word (thre·skeiʹa) used here is understood to designate “a form of worship” whether true or false. (Ac 26:5) The same word appears at Jas 1:27, where it is rendered “form of worship” in the main text and “religion” in the footnote. At Jas 1:26, it is rendered “worship.”

a form of worship of the angels: Paul gives no details regarding this form of worship. The Greek phrase allows for various possibilities, such as these: Some Colossians may have pretended to copy the worship that angels performed; they thought that they were imitating the reverent attitude of angels. Or they were directly worshipping angels, perhaps invoking them for help or protection. There is evidence of angel worship in the region of Colossae in later times both in so-called Christian religions and in pagan ones. In fourth-century Laodicea, church authorities condemned such worship; yet, it persisted for at least another century. In any case, Jehovah’s loyal angels refuse to be worshipped. (Re 19:10; 22:8, 9) Paul here states that such worship was often accompanied by “a false humility.” (See study note on a false humility in this verse.) Worship of created beings would “deprive [Christians] of the prize” of everlasting life.​—Compare Mt 4:10; Ro 1:25.

“taking his stand on” the things he has seen: Here Paul apparently describes the position taken by certain false teachers. The expression “taking his stand on [lit., “stepping into,” Kingdom Interlinear]” may have meant that these teachers went into detail about things they claimed to have seen. Paul may be referring to mystery (initiation) rites or to visions that false teachers claimed to have received. In any case, it seems that these false teachers felt that their wisdom was superior to that of their Christian brothers. They based their authority on it. Such people were insisting that the congregation could look for direction from sources of knowledge and wisdom other than God’s Son. That is why Paul gives them counsel.​—See study note on Col 2:3.

every joint: A human body is joined together through the major joints, or connections. Jesus Christ supplies the members of the body, or the congregation of anointed Christians, with the things they need “through every joint.” He does so by means of the arrangements for dispensing spiritual food, for communicating within the congregation, and for coordinating its activity. In this way, “the body” is well-fed spiritually, and each part receives direction for carrying out its assigned work. (Eph 4:7-16; see study note on Col 2:19.) Paul uses a term for “joint” that would commonly have been used by physicians. There is archaeological evidence of a medical school in Ephesus, which may be why Paul uses this analogy of the human body.

is harmoniously joined together: Paul uses a Greek verb that in this context describes the harmony of the human body, which is made up of many different members. Each member contributes to the well-being of the whole. Similarly, Christians in the congregation work together under Christ as their head. (Eph 1:22, 23; 4:4, 15) When individuals all work in harmony, remaining responsive to Christ’s headship, the congregation matures and maintains a spirit of love. (1Co 12:14-27; Col 2:19; 3:14) Paul uses the same Greek word at Eph 2:21 (see study note), where he describes the congregation as a building “harmoniously joined together.”

the whole body: That is, the congregation of spirit-anointed Christians. Jesus Christ supplies the body with what it needs by means of “its joints and ligaments,” that is, the arrangements for dispensing spiritual food, for communicating within the congregation, and for coordinating its activity. In this way, “the body” is well-fed spiritually, and each part receives direction for carrying out its assigned work.​—Eph 4:7-16; see study note on Eph 4:16.

harmoniously joined together: See study note on Eph 4:16.

by means of its joints and ligaments: A human body is joined together through the major joints, or connections. It also has “ligaments,” or strong bands of tissue that connect bones or support organs. Some commentators suggest that the use of medical terms here may be explained in part by the presence of Luke, “the beloved physician,” who was with Paul at the time he wrote this letter. (Col 4:14) The Greek term synʹde·smos, here rendered “ligaments,” is also used in the broader sense of ‘binding together’ at Eph 4:3 (“uniting bond”) and Col 3:14 (“bond of union”).

a self-imposed form of worship: Lit., “self-willed form of worship.” This expression renders a Greek word that one lexicon defines in modern terms as “self-made religion, do-it-yourself religion.”

the satisfying of the flesh: Paul here shows that for Christians, fasting and adhering to other self-imposed decrees (Col 2:16, 20, 21) are not effective ways to fight fleshly, or wrong, desires; nor will extreme self-denial make a person more spiritual. True, God’s servants in Bible times were willing to suffer rather than compromise their integrity to God. (Heb 11:35-38) However, the Scriptures do not promote the concept of seeking hardship for its own sake or as a means of spiritual growth. True spirituality comes from studying and applying God’s Word and exercising faith in Christ’s ransom.​—Ro 3:23, 24; 2Ti 3:16, 17.

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