8. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
8. Videte ne quis vos praedetur per philosophiam et inanem deceptionem, secundum traditionem hominum secundum elementa mundi, et non secundum Christum:
9. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
9. Quoniam in ipso habitat omnis plenitudo Deitatis corporaliter.
10. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
10. Et estis in ipso completi, qui est caput omnis principatus et potestatis,
11. In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
11. In quo etiam estis circumcisi circumcisione non manufacta, exuendo corpus peccatorum carnis, circumcisione, inquam, Christi.
12. Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
12. Consepulti cum ipso per baptismum, in quo et consurrexistis per fidem efficaciae Dei, qui suscitavit illum ex mortuis.
8. Beware lest any one plunder you. He again instructs them as to the poison, which the antidote presented by him should be made use of to counteract. For although this, as we have stated, is a common remedy against all the impostures of the devil, it had, nevertheless, at that time a peculiar advantage among the Colossians, to which it required to be applied. Beware, says he, lest any one plunder you. He makes use of a very appropriate term, for he alludes to plunderers, who, when they cannot carry off the flock by violence, drive away some of the cattle fraudulently. Thus he makes Christ's Church a sheep-fold, and the pure doctrine of the gospel the enclosures of the fold. He intimates, accordingly, that we who are the sheep of Christ repose in safety when we hold the unity of the faith, while, on the other hand, he likens the false apostles to plunderers that carry us away from the folds. Would you then be reckoned as belonging to Christ's flock? Would you remain in his folds? Do not deviate a nail's breadth from purity of doctrine. For unquestionably Christ will act the part of the good Shepherd by protecting us if we but hear his voice, and reject those of strangers. In short, the tenth chapter of John is the exposition of the passage before us. [John 10]
Through philosophy. As many have mistakingly imagined that philosophy is here condemned by Paul, we must point out what he means by this term. Now, in my opinion, he means everything that men contrive of themselves when wishing to be wise through means of their own understanding, and that not without a specious pretext of reason, so as to have a plausible appearance. For there is no difficulty in rejecting those contrivances of men which have nothing to set them off, but in rejecting those that captivate men's minds by a false conceit of wisdom. Or should any one prefer to have it expressed in one word, philosophy is nothing else than a persuasive speech, which insinuates itself into the minds of men by elegant and plausible arguments. Of such a nature, I acknowledge, will all the subtleties of philosophers be, if they are inclined to add anything of their own to the pure word of God. Hence philosophy will be nothing else than a corruption of spiritual doctrine, if it is mixed up with Christ. Let us, however, bear in mind, that under the term philosophy Paul has merely condemned all spurious doctrines which come forth from man's head, whatever appearance of reason they may have. What immediately follows, as to vain deceit, I explain thus; |Beware of philosophy, which is nothing else than vain deceit,| so that this is added by way of apposition.
According to the tradition of men. He points out more precisely what kind of philosophy he reproves, and at the same time convicts it of vanity on a twofold account -- because it is not according to Christ, but according to the inclinations of men; and because it consists in the elements of the world. Observe, however, that he places Christ in opposition to the elements of the world, equally as to the tradition of men, by which he intimates, that whatever is hatched in man's brain is not in accordance with Christ, who has been appointed us by the Father as our sole Teacher, that he might retain us in the simplicity of his gospel. Now, that is corrupted by even a small portion of the leaven of human traditions. He intimates also, that all doctrines are foreign to Christ that make the worship of God, which we know to be spiritual, according to Christ's rule, to consist in the elements of the world, and also such as fetter the minds of men by such trifles and frivolities, while Christ calls us directly to himself.
But what is meant by the phrase -- elements of the world? There can be no doubt that it means ceremonies. For he immediately afterwards adduces one instance by way of example -- circumcision. The reason why he calls them by such a name is usually explained in two ways. Some think that it is a metaphor, so that the elements are the rudiments of children, which do not lead forward to mature doctrine. Others take it in its proper signification, as denoting things that are outward and are liable to corruption, which avail nothing for the kingdom of God. The former exposition I rather approve of, as also in Galatians 4:3
9. For in him dwelleth. Here we have the reason why those elements of the world, which are taught by men, do not accord with Christ -- because they are additions for supplying a deficiency, as they speak. Now in Christ there is a perfection, to which nothing can be added. Hence everything that mankind of themselves mix up, is at variance with Christ's nature, because it charges him with imperfection. This argument of itself will suffice for setting aside all the contrivances of Papists. For to what purpose do they tend, but to perfect what was commenced by Christ? Now this outrage upon Christ is not by any means to be endured. They allege, it is true, that they add nothing to Christ, inasmuch as the things that they have appended to the gospel are, as it were, a part of Christianity, but they do not effect an escape by a cavil of this kind. For Paul does not speak of an imaginary Christ, but of a Christ preached, who has revealed himself by express doctrine.
Further, when he says that the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ, he means simply, that God is wholly found in him, so that he who is not contented with Christ alone, desires something better and more excellent than God. The sum is this, that God has manifested himself to us fully and perfectly in Christ.
Interpreters explain in different ways the adverb bodily. For my part, I have no doubt that it is employed -- not in a strict sense -- as meaning substantially. For he places this manifestation of God, which we have in Christ, to all others that have ever been made. For God has often manifested himself to men, but it has been only in part. In Christ, on the other hand, he communicates himself to us wholly. He has also manifested himself to us otherwise, but it is in figures, or by power and grace. In Christ, on the other hand, he has appeared to us essentially. Thus the statement of John holds good:
He that hath the Son, hath the Father also. (1 John 2 23.)
For those who possess Christ have God truly present, and enjoy Him wholly.
10. And ye are complete in him. He adds, that this perfect essence of Deity, which is in Christ, is profitable to us in this respect, that we are also perfect in him. |As to God's dwelling wholly in Christ, it is in order that we, having obtained him, may posses in him an entire perfection.| Those, therefore, who do not rest satisfied with Christ alone, do injury to God in two ways, for besides detracting from the glory of God, by desiring something above his perfection, they are also ungrateful, inasmuch as they seek elsewhere what they already have in Christ. Paul, however, does not mean that the perfection of Christ is transfused into us, but that there are in him resources from which we may be filled, that nothing may be wanting to us.
Who is the head. He has introduced this clause again on account of the angels, meaning that the angels, also, will be ours, if we have Christ. But of this afterwards. In the mean time, we must observe this, that we are hemmed in, above and below, with railings, that our faith may not deviate even to the slightest extent from Christ.
11. In whom ye also are circumcised. From this it appears, that he has a controversy with the false apostles, who mixed the law with the gospel, and by that means made Christ have, as it were, two faces. He specifies, however, one instance by way of example. He proves that the circumcision of Moses is not merely unnecessary, but is opposed to Christ, because it destroys the spiritual circumcision of Christ. For circumcision was given to the Fathers that it might be the figure of a thing that was absent: those, therefore, who retain that figure after Christ's advent, deny the accomplishment of what it prefigures. Let us, therefore, bear in mind that outward circumcision is here compared with spiritual, just as a figure with the reality. The figure is of a thing that is absent: hence it puts away the presence of the reality. What Paul contends for is this -- that, inasmuch as what was shadowed forth by a circumcision made with hands, has been completed in Christ, there is now no fruit or advantage from it. Hence he says, that the circumcision which is made in the heart is the circumcision of Christ, and that, on this account, that which is outward is not now required, because, where the reality exists, that shadowy emblem vanishes, inasmuch as it has no place except in the absence of the reality.
By the putting off of the body. He employs the term body, by an elegant metaphor, to denote a mass, made up of all vices. For as we are encompassed by our bodies, so we are surrounded on all sides by an accumulation of vices. And as the body is composed of various members, each of which has its own actings and offices, so from that accumulation of corruption all sins take their rise as members of the entire body. There is a similar manner of expression in Romans 6:13.
He takes the term flesh, as he is wont, to denote corrupt nature. The body of the sins of the flesh, therefore, is the old man with his deeds; only, there is a difference in the manner of expression, for here he expresses more properly the mass of vices which proceed from corrupt nature. He says that we obtain this through Christ, so that unquestionably an entire regeneration is his benefit. It is he that circumcises the foreskin of our heart, or, in other words, mortifies all the lusts of the flesh, not with the hand, but by his Spirit. Hence there is in him the reality of the figure.
12. Buried with him, in baptism. He explains still more clearly the manner of spiritual circumcision -- because, being buried with Christ, we are partakers of his death. He expressly declares that we obtain this by means of baptism, that it may be the more clearly apparent that there is no advantage from circumcision under the reign of Christ. For some one might otherwise object: |Why do you abolish circumcision on this pretext -- that its accomplishment is in Christ? Was not Abraham, also, circumcised spiritually, and yet this did not hinder the adding of the sign to the reality? Outward circumcision, therefore, is not superfluous, although that which is inward is conferred by Christ.| Paul anticipates an objection of this kind, by making mention of baptism. Christ, says he, accomplishes in us spiritual circumcision, not through means of that ancient sign, which was in force under Moses, but by baptism. Baptism, therefore, is a sign of the thing that is presented to us, which while absent was prefigured by circumcision. The argument is taken from the economy which God has appointed; for those who retain circumcision contrive a mode of dispensation different from that which God has appointed.
When he says that we are buried with Christ, this means more than that we are crucified with him; for burial expresses a continued process of mortification. When he says, that this is done through means of baptism, as he says also in Romans 6:4, he speaks in his usual manner, ascribing efficacy to the sacrament, that it may not fruitlessly signify what does not exist. By baptism, therefore, we are buried with Christ, because Christ does at the same time accomplish efficaciously that mortification, which he there represents, that the reality may be conjoined with the sign.
In which also ye are risen. He magnifies the grace which we obtain in Christ, as being greatly superior to circumcision. |We are not only,| says he, |ingrafted into Christ's death, but we also rise to newness of life:| hence the more injury is done to Christ by those who endeavor to bring us back to circumcision. He adds, by faith, for unquestionably it is by it that we receive what is presented to us in baptism. But what faith? That of his efficacy or operation, by which he means, that faith is founded upon the power of God. As, however, faith does not wander in a confused and undefined contemplation, as they speak, of divine power, he intimates what efficacy it ought to have in view -- that by which God raised Christ from the dead. He takes this, however, for granted, that, inasmuch as it is impossible that believers should be severed from their head, the same power of God, which shewed itself in Christ, is diffused among them all in common.