Click for Text Here: Colossians 2:8-3:4
Gospel Precedents and Biblical Background of Spiritual Elements in Colossians 2
I. One of the great markers of the New Testament Gospels is the translation of concrete and historical Old Testament realities into spiritual and historical realities:
A. Jesus becomes the sacrificial lamb.
1. OT: Abraham begins to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22:1-14)
2. OT: Passover blood of the sacrificial lamb on the lintel (Exodus 12:7)
NT: Jesus sacrificed during Passover (Luke 22:7-8)
B. Jesus becomes the temple.
1. OT: (2 Chronicles 7:11-12)
NT: (John 2:19-22)
C. Concrete worship becomes spiritual.
1. OT: God commanded a certain location where he was to be worshiped (Deuteronomy 12:2-7)
NT: Jesus changed a specific, physical (concrete) location of worship into a spiritual locus of worship with no physical correspondence (John 4: 20-24)
2. OT: God gave the Israelites manna to keep them alive in the wilderness (Exodus 16)
OT: (Hosea 11:1)
E. The Old Covenant becomes the New Covenant
1. OT: The many OT covenants had physical (concrete) markers
a. the Noahic Covenant, marked by a rainbow, in which God promised not to physically destroy all living flesh by water (Genesis 9:12-17)
b. covenant with Abraham marked by the sacrifice of a physical ram (Genesis 22:9-18)
c. covenant with Israel through Moses (Exodus 24:3-8) marked by sacrificial blood (“This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.” Exodus 24:8) and the Ten Commandments (Exodus 24:8, 12; 25:16; 34:28)
2. NT: Jesus gives a New Covenant marked by the concrete (physical) sacrifice of his own body on a cross and the symbolic remembrance of that sacrificed blood in communion (“This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Luke 22:20
II. The New Testament epistles continue to replace concrete (physical) realities with spiritual realities sometimes marked by concrete symbols:
A. Continuation of Jesus’ blood as a symbolic marker of the New Covenant (1 Corinthians 11:25)
B. Continuation of the spiritual temple motif (Hebrews 10:19-20)
Paul’s Movement from Concrete (Physical) to Spiritual in Colossians
I. In matters of food, drink, festivals, new moon, a sabbath
Colossians 2:16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
A. Paul’s list includes all concrete substances (food and drink) or practices (celebrating a festival, a new moon, or a Sabbath).
B. He calls these a “shadow,” but Christ is the “substance,” or the reality that casts the shadow. Not being physically present on Earth at this time, Christ is Spirit, present by means of the Holy Spirit, who lives in believers and among them.
C. Paul calls these concrete religious practices “elemental spirits” or “elementary principles” as in the NAU. (Gr: στοιχεῖον) (Colossians 2:20)
E. These practices concern concrete (physical) items, such as food and drink, which perish as they are used–i.e., they have no eternal value–and they are not useful in helping one to achieve the spiritual practices God desires (Colossians 3:23). The spiritual practices which God desires Paul begins to present in 3:5.
II. Paul moves circumcision from concrete to spiritual
Colossians 2:11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,
III. Baptism, itself a concrete action, signifies a spiritual correspondence to and spiritual identification with Christ’s death and resurrection
Colossians 2:12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.
IV. In a spiritual way, the record of debts owed under the Old (First) Covenant was nailed to the cross with Christ and thereby cancelled, forgiven (2:13)
Colossians 2:14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
V. Paul’s point is that the Colossians, as believers in Christ, have moved from the old, concrete form of worshipping God to the new, spiritual form of worship.
Colossians 2:20a If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world,
They are therefore free of the old ways, having died with Christ to them, and having been raised with him into newness of life under the New Covenant of Spirit
and no longer need to follow these old, concrete (physical, fleshly) ways of worship and thinking and living
Colossians 2:20b why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations–
A. His rationale
Colossians 3:1a Since, then, you have been raised with Christ
Colossians 3:3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
B. His conclusion
Colossians 3:1b set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
C. How should the Colossians’ thinking change?
Colossians 3:2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
D. What will the end result be?
Colossians 3:4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
VII. Paul begins to answer the question, How then shall we live?
NIV Colossians 3:5a Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature (your concrete, fleshly body)
[not in text: and begin to live to the spiritual in the following ways, which he begins to state in 3:5b]
- A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 2nd Edition, edited by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich. Chicago: The University of Chicago, 1979.
- BibleWorks 9 Software for Biblical Exegesis & Research. Norfolk, VA: BibleWorks, 2011.
- Community Bible Study. Engaging God’s Word: Colossians. Colorado Springs: Community Bible Study, 2013.
- Duffield, Guy P. and Nathaniel M. Van Cleave. Foundations of Pentecostal Theology. 4th ed. Los Angeles: Foursquare Media, 2008.
- Fee, Gordon D. and Douglas Stuart. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003.
- Friberg, Timothy, Barbara Friberg, and Neva F. Miller. Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament. Baker’s Greek New Testament Library. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000. BibleWorks, v.9.
- Hendriksen, William. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of Colossians and Philemon. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1964.
- The Holy Bible: New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica. All rights reserved worldwide. (New International Version Bible Online). http://www.biblestudytools.com/colossians/.
- The Navigators. LifeChange Series: A life-changing encounter with God’s Word from the books of Colossians & Philemon. 2nd ed. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2013.
- O’Brien, Peter T. Understanding the Basic Themes of Colossians, Philemon: Quick Reference Bible Topics. Edited by David A. Hubbard. Dallas: Word Publishing, 1991.
- Pink, Arthur W. Gleanings from Paul. Edited by Rev. Terry Kulakowski. Zeeland, MI: Reformed Church Publications, 2009. Accessed February 26, 2016. http://www.davidcox.com.mx/m/files/Pink-Gleanings_From_Paul(PPC).pdf.
- Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, 2nd Edition, edited by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick William Danker. Copyright © 1965 by The University of Chicago Press.
- Thayer, Joseph. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Abridged and Revised Thayer Lexicon). Ontario, Canada: Online Bible Foundation, 1997. BibleWorks, v.9.
- Wright, N. T. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries Vol. 12: Colossians and Philemon. Downer’s Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1986.
Tracing Out a Single Strand in Paul’s Letter
I. The Colossians’ Position in Christ
- The Colossians have faith and love (1:4).
- They heard the gospel and fully understood and recognized (ἐπιγινώσκω) the grace of God in truth (1:6).
- They learned this true gospel from Epaphras, a faithful minister of Christ (1:7).
- They are no longer estranged (1:21) but are now reconciled and will be presented by God holy, blameless, and irreproachable before him (1:22),
- IF they continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel they heard (1:23) (and again in 2:6).
- They currently have good order and firmness of faith in Christ (2:5).
- How? (2:7)
- rooted in Christ
- built up in Christ
- established in the faith (as you were taught in the gospel by Epaphras)
- overflowing with thanksgiving
B. Don’t do this:
- Don’t let others deceive and draw you astray into their cul-de-sac of false belief (2:8),
- Because you don’t need them:
- Christ is everything (2:9)
- and you have been:
- You are debt free (2:14)
- Your creditors have been defeated and publicly shamed by God through Christ (2:15)
C. Don’t let this happen:
- That anyone should pass judgment on you in regard to food, drink, festivals, new moons, or Sabbaths (2:16).
D. But do this:
- Seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God (3:1).
- Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (3:2).
III. Paul Continues Explaining in Detail How the Colossians Should Live (3:5-4:6)