What could have made the Apostle Paul desire that the church at Colosse should know of the great conflict which he had for them, and for others besides, were he not aware of the immense spiritual dangers to which they were exposed? He knew their peril; he could see the effort of the serpent by whom the hallowed precincts of Eden itself had been invaded and its inmates beguiled; he was conscious that no power but that of God could preserve the saints from a similar temptation, and therefore, as a true shepherd, he had this struggle against a subtle foe who was deftly using human instruments for the accomplishment of his work. They had a battle to fight and greatly required divine courage to face it; they needed the uniting power of love, whereby their affections should be firmly knit together for mutual support; they had to be possessed of the wealth of a clear understanding of the revealed will of God, that they should be in the enjoyment of full and well-grounded assurance; as well as a full knowledge of the mystery of God—the revelation He has now given of His mind in the glorious Person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ—for in this mystery are hid every treasure of wisdom and knowledge, and outside of it there could be therefore only darkness. All else could only have had their seduction from the truth for its enticing object.
But the fact that the Apostle could behold the absence of such disorder as, for example, he had to mourn at Corinth, in those to whom he is here writing, as well as a steadfastness in the faith of Christianity, led him to rejoice, and to urge them that, as they had received Christ Jesus the Lord, so they should walk in Him, in the sense of His sufficiency; and being rooted and grounded in Him, and thus established in the faith in which they had been taught, they should abound therein, as in pasture rich and nutritious, with a thanksgiving which would indicate their hearts’ entire satisfaction.
The sine qua non, the urgent necessity for that day, and our own, was and is a firm and thankful establishment in the great and unchanging facts of our faith—“the faith once delivered to the saints,” never altered, nor modified, nor amended, but which is as complete and perfect, and suitable, and blessed today, after its long and glorious course, as ever. Woe to the man who would derogate from its peerless worth.
But warning was necessary, for the same subtle foe, who had succeeded by the use of intellectual wiles in Eden, was at work, with similar weapons, in the church. He sought to spoil and lead captive the confessors of Christ, and, by the use of wicked men to bewilder the minds of His followers. Thus to this end he employed philosophy—the speculation of the human mind, which, after all, could only be guesswork, whether as applied to creation, or to the more serious work of theorizing on the Godhead, both matters utterly beyond the reach of man, save as by the revelation of God Himself. Such philosophy is but vain deceit, and is a sinful tampering with that revelation.
Let the philosophers of old, or the professors of today, restrict their minds to that which is within their range of vision, and then they will neither stultify themselves nor wickedly deceive others.
Besides these cosmogonies and desecrating theories there were the traditions of men—teachings subversive of the doctrine of God and the faith of Christ; and, yet more, there were worldly elements and principles which were necessarily and essentially opposed to the heavenly and unworldly economy of grace.
Surely the cloven foot was visible in all this—nor is that foot withdrawn today. But the whole deception is met by the three following words of divine contrast: “not after Christ.” Christ is the absolute antithesis, the pattern and touchstone—“for,” it says, “in Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” Not a lack, not a deficiency, not one single quality that goes to make up that fullness, but is found to be bodily in Christ. So then, if in Him, we too are complete, filled full, without lack or deficiency either—yea, if in Him! If so, what room can there be for poor human philosophy, or teaching, or worldly elements? God’s fullness cannot be complemented! It suffices for Him, and therefore for faith. Oh! let us maintain earnestly the magnificence of this God-inspired statement: “In Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” Then, how comes it that we, once so destitute, should be thus “complete”? What has happened to us?
Is the old rite of circumcision obligatory? Nay, for we are circumcised in the circumcision of Christ—that is death (with Him we also died) has for us put off the body of the flesh in its entirety. How circumcise a man thus dead? But not only dead, but buried, as the Christian rite of baptism declares; not only buried, but risen also with Him through the faith of the operation of God! The Christian is thus a dead and risen man in the sight of God—a fact well-nigh forgotten by saints today!
This, however, implies a new life, and so we are “quickened together with Him,” He is our life, as the following chapter abundantly shows, and all offences are forgiven. What a position! Further, did an obligation rest on Israel to fulfil their side of the covenant at Sinai? That obligation, or agreement, was blotted out for them at the cross. Again, did hostile principalities and powers stand in the way? He spoiled them there, stripping them of their supremacy over us, and making a show of them openly. He, by dying, “destroyed him that had the power of death, that is the devil,” and
“Peace like an even river flows
And mercy like a flood.”
Glorious victory indeed; and just as His fullness meets all our need, so His death clears us from every spiritual foe. That is, the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ constitute the grand basis of Christianity. His person can have no possible addition; His work calls for no poor useless human supplement of any kind whatsoever, be it the Mass of the Catholic or the merits of the Protestant. And why? Because “the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.” All the glory is due to Him.
Finally to “hold the Head,” and to derive solely from Him from whom all spiritual nourishment comes, lifts you above a worship of angels who, though high, are only creatures and can supply no such increase. Nay, but being dead with Christ (mark the words) from the rudiments of the world (sorry things at best) why, as though alive in it, be in subjection to ordinances? Oh! the idea of a man who is dead and risen with Christ, and thus belonging to a new world, placing himself in subjection to rules which appertain to the old one! How deplorably inconsistent! Hence the human, philosophic, ritualistic system of bodily starvation and neglect, while exceedingly imposing, is not humility but pride in its subtlest form; so that, while the body suffers, the flesh is pampered. It is not “mortifying your members” in the power of the new life; it is only pandering to the precepts of a wretched religious philosophy which, instead of being “after Christ” and doing honour to Him “in whom all the fulness of the Godhead dwells bodily,” has for its object the glorification of man and the activity of the flesh, in which “no good thing dwells.” A greater insult to the blessed revelation of God could not be offered.