Walking in Christ (Colossians 2:6-19)

About 2 months ago, I fell down the steps in our apartment getting my morning coffee. I thought I heard a crack, which the emergency room visit revealed that I broke a really important and really difficult bone in my ankle (great …). The orthopedic group I visited immobilized my ankle for the next 6 weeks.

Fast forward 4 weeks. My physical therapist said I could walk around the house with a sneaker on (praise!). As I took off my aircast and threw on a sneaker, I went to go take my first step and I nearly fell. Imagine Bambi’s first steps.

You see, my leg atrophied (meaning, my muscles started to break down from inactivity.) In this case, imagine a twig for one leg, and a tree trunk for the other.

For the next month, I had to learn all over how to walk again. Slowly, but surely, my gimp went away and I became like an all grown up Bambi.

And this is the situation the Colossian church found themselves. An unknown group led them astray from Christ. Paul, through his suffering, sought to remind them of their first love. Hoping that the Colossian church has returned, he gives them instruction on how to walk in Christ again.

Therefore, whoever received Christ Jesus the Lord, in him walk, having been firmly rooted and built up in him and confirming the faith just as you all were taught abounding in thanksgiving.

See that no one will take you all captive through the philosophy and empty deceit according to the tradition of men, according to the elemental spirits of the world and not according to Christ; because in him all the fullness of bodily deity dwells, and you all have been filled with him, who is the head of every ruler and authority.

In whom you all were circumcised with a circumcision not of human hands in the removal of the body of flesh, but in the circumcision of Christ, being buried with him in the baptism, in which also you all were raised together through the working of faith of God who raised him up from the dead; and you all were dead in sin and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, you all were made alive together with him, forgiving all our sins.

He obliterated our certificate of indebtedness to the ordinances, which were hostile to us, and he was taken away from the midst being nailed to the cross; he made a display of the disarming the rulers and authorities in public, triumphing over them by him.

Therefore don’t let anyone judge you all in eating or in drinking or in participation of festivals or new moons or sabbaths; which are shadows of the future, and the body of Christ.

Don’t let anyone condemn you all, taking pleasure in asceticism and the worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffing up without cause by the mind of his flesh, and not holding fast to the head, from whom all the body through the ligaments and sinews support and unite growing the growth of God. — Colossians 2:6-19, my translation

Walking in Christ

First, Paul identifies those who are Christians in Colossae and he charges them to walk in Christ. If you think about this phrase, it’s pretty unusual. How do you walk in someone?

In this instance, Paul uses “walk” to indicate that they should model their life after him, that every sphere of their life is shaped by imitation of him.[1]

He charges them to walk in Christ for 2 reasons. First, walking in Christ leads to a rooted and built up faith. When God’s people seek to model their life after his Son, who is the source of faith, the Spirit will establish them similar to how God established the Garden of Eden. Their faith will be like miniature Gardens of Eden that will flourish, where God and humanity will dwell together. This union will cause faith to grow in the believer’s life.

Second, walking in Christ confirms faith. If God dwells in you by the Spirit, which means Christ’s work is applied to you (more on that later), this means you have faith! As you grow, your faith will begin to reflect the “teaching”—the truth of who Christ is—more and more. This leads to abundant thanksgiving because your faith will continue to grow and Christ will see to it (Philippians 1:6).

Philosophy & Empty Deceit

Paul juxtaposes walking in Christ against philosophy’s and empty deceit’s captivity, tradition of men, and elemental spirits. It seems that Paul is not opposing philosophy (literally, lover of wisdom), because we see examples that he was conversant in it.[2] However, it seems that if one is not discerning, philosophy—this empty deceit—will take prisoners. Instead of following after Christ’s tradition, men’s tradition—their beliefs—will take hold of faith, suffocating its growth.[3]

Christ should inform your thinking and how you understand the world. The philosophy, deceit, tradition, and spirits are all abstract and impersonal—you can’t really know them. However Christ, who dwelled with God in heaven, “took to himself a true body” (WSC #). Even after his ascension, he resides physically. One day, when Christ returns, we will see him—the person our faith is bound together in—face to face. And no matter what belief system is prevalent in the world, they are subject to Christ and will be judged accordingly.

Circumcision

As mentioned in the first post of this series, its difficult to identify who the actual conversation partner is, namely what group Paul actually rebuked. In the previous section, it looks like Greek philosophy. In this section, it looks like Judaism.

In Judaism, circumcision is important because it marks who God’s people are along with obedience to his commands.

However, Christ took this sign and transformed it for his purposes. Instead of the removal of flesh, it is now the washing of water, which symbolizes the purification from sin. This means that instead of merely physical descendants, it is now those who came in faith.

Indebtedness

Those who come in faith are no longer dead in their sins, but are alive in Christ. Christ forgave our debt when no one else would.

Sin stood as our accuser. We were indebted to the Kingdom of Darkness. However, Christ took our “certificate of debt” and brought it with him to the cross. Therefore, no longer can sin stand as our accuser, because we have moved kingdoms. He has disarmed his and our enemies by finally defeating them in his death and resurrection.

Living as Exiles

What does this all have to do with us today?

Judge Not

The first thing we learn is to not judge each other. Whatever error(s) this group at Colossae preached, it caused division. People judged each other for what they were or were not doing, what they were or were not observing.

However, if Christ really did free us from our sins by taking our certificates of indebtedness to the cross, then judging whether someone keeps an extra regulation or not is wrong. Christ’s work freed God’s people from the law’s demands—Christ didn’t free his people from the law just to put them under subjection to each other’s personal laws.

Therefore, whatever one eats, drinks, observes—unless it is contrary to the Christian ethic established by Christ—let us not judge one another.[4]

Condemn Not

The second thing we learn, especially in light of the first, is to not condemn each other. God’s people are not monolithic in their makeup—we have a diversity of beliefs and practices.[5] As we interact with each other, some of us will adopt practices and beliefs that we find beneficial, but someone else may hold to a different system of beliefs and find your particular practice unhelpful.

Christ, who rules the Church from God’s right hand, holds together the church. He will see to it that his bride is built up and strengthened in order that she may reflect him more and more.

May God, because of Christ’s work on the cross, empowered by the Spirit, enable us to look to him as our faith’s foundation that will sustain and unify us.


Further Resources

I would like to share with you BestCommentaries.com. I’ve linked to the section on Colossians where you can sift through all known commentaries and choose the best one for you whether its technical, pastoral, devotional, or a special study. They’ll even let you know if it’s in Logos Bible Software.


Endnotes

[1] BDAG.

[2] Acts 17:28, 1 Corinthians 15:33, Titus 1:12. Now, someone could say that he only read philosophy for apologetics purposes only. Namely, being able to argue against what the speakers of the day were saying. This could be true, but I would point out that he does exhibit a degree of charity in this conversation. Seeing how conversant he was in philosophy, I don’t think he read it merely for apologetic purposes, but received some training in the Greco-Roman society and it shaped his thinking.

[3] You’ll notice that I didn’t dive into the phrase “elemental spirits.” This conversation would take a whole post—nay, series of posts—to dive into and dissect. Simply, no one really knows what this phrase refers to. However, it seems that the consensus is shifting towards primitive philosophy’s understanding of the 4 basic elements that make up the earth: land, fire, water, air.

[4] For a more thorough understanding of this topic, I would begin studies under the topic of Christian Liberty. A great starting place would be WCF 20.

[5] Although we do have a core set of beliefs and a set of practices we should participate in.

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