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