Daily Archives: November 6, 2019

November 6 God’s Way Is Best

Scripture Reading: 1 Samuel 13:5–15

Key Verses: 1 Samuel 13:13–14

And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”

Saul grew impatient. He wanted to start the offering ceremony so he could fight the Philistines, but Samuel had not yet arrived. It was imperative that they sacrifice to the Lord before a battle!

The army began scattering, so Saul took action. He made the sacrifice even though he knew it was not what the Lord had commanded. He assumed that details of the offering were not as important as getting it done.

When Samuel returned, he was furious. He rebuked Saul’s foolish actions (1 Samuel 13:13–14).

Saul had only violated a few details of the command, yet he sinned by considering his way better than God’s and choosing his timing above God’s. Matthew Henry comments, “He covered his disobedience to God’s command with a pretense of concern for God’s favor. Hypocrites lay a great stress upon the external performances of religion, thinking thereby to excuse their neglect of the weightier matters of the law.”

Serve God out of love, respect, and obedience. Allow God to lead you in His way, and He will show you greater victories than you could have contrived on your own.

Lord, You desire above all else a loving, obedient heart. Let me not hide hypocritically behind the practice of religion but, rather, serve You sincerely.[1]

 

[1] Stanley, C. F. (2006). Pathways to his presence (p. 325). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

November 6 The Key to Listening

Scripture Reading: 2 Samuel 7

Key Verse: Psalm 46:10

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

God had just made a covenant with David. Among many things, God promised to give him a son (Solomon), who would someday build the temple for God that David had dreamed of. The throne of rulership over Israel would never depart from David’s house, though interrupted at times, and would one day find its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ.

What an overwhelming set of promises, and what a mighty demonstration of complete grace! God made this covenant with David before he sinned with Bathsheba. God knew what David would soon do, but He in grace chose to love him and establish a never-ending relationship with him. David’s response to God’s words through the prophet Nathan is a prime example of why David is called “a man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14 nasb).

David’s heart priority was on worshiping and loving his God. He said, “Now therefore, O Lord God, the word that Thou hast spoken concerning Thy servant and his house, confirm it forever, and do as Thou hast spoken” (2 Sam. 7:25 nasb).

God desires your humble worship, thanksgiving, and the complete giving over of your heart to Him. That is what David did, and that is why his fellowship with God was so sweet. If you seek intimacy with God, falling down before Him in worship is the place of beginning.

Master, I seek a greater intimacy with You. I know it will come through worship, so teach me how to worship in spirit and truth.[1]

 

[1] Stanley, C. F. (1999). On holy ground (p. 325). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

November 6, 2019 Truth2Freedom Briefing Report (US•World•Christian)

REUTERS

U.S. Democrats claimed an upset win in Kentucky on Tuesday over a Republican governor backed by President Donald Trump and seized control of the state legislature in Virginia, where anti-Trump sentiment in the suburbs remained a potent force.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her coalition partners said on Wednesday they would keep working together after welcoming a report which they said showed how much the government had achieved but also how much it still had to do.

Iran has stepped up activity at its underground Fordow nuclear plant, state TV said on Wednesday, a move France said showed for the first time that Tehran explicitly planned to quit a deal with world powers that curbed its disputed nuclear work.

The United States was very encouraged by a recent meeting between the leaders of South Korea and Japan, a senior U.S. diplomat said on Wednesday, amid heightened tensions that could undercut three-way security cooperation on North Korea.

Cyprus on Wednesday said it had started a process to strip 26 individuals of citizenship they received under a secretive passports-for-investment scheme, admitting it had flaws.

American workers were unexpectedly less productive during the third quarter, with growth in their output failing to keep up with hours worked.

Iraqi security forces fired tear gas and live rounds into the air to disperse protesters in central Baghdad on Wednesday as the biggest wave of anti-government demonstrations in decades spread out across the capital.

AP Top Stories

The U.S. birthrate is currently at its lowest in 32 years, with 2018 being the fourth consecutive year of decline. Usually births increase at times of economic stability, so these latest numbers have led demographers to wonder what else is on prospective parents’ minds.

Mexican authorities have made an arrest they believe may be connected to the ambush killings of nine Americans in northern Mexico earlier this week.

On Tuesday, the US invited international media to see part of the IMX, the second-largest maritime exercise of its kind. The maneuvers involve 5,000 personnel, 40 vessels and 17 aircrafts from 50 countries deployed to the strategic waterway that separates Iran from the pro-US Arab Gulf monarchies.

A 38-year-old man is scheduled to be executed in Texas on Wednesday, 14 years after he was convicted of strangling a woman so she would not tell police about a drug house where he and members of his white supremacist gang gathered.

Voters in Tucson have rejected an initiative making it Arizona’s only sanctuary city. Tucson voters have elected their first Latina mayor. Democrat Regina Romero was overwhelmingly elected to lead Arizona’s second-largest city. She’ll be the first woman to lead Tucson and the first Hispanic since 1875, nearly four decades before Arizona became a state.

Mohave County, Arizona declares itself a ‘Second Amendment Sanctuary County’ in a symbolic commitment to gun owners.

Republicans strengthened their dominance in Mississippi by keeping the governorship and picking up the last remaining statewide office that has been held by a Democrat.

A parasitic worm typically found in cattle has been discovered in a woman’s eye in what scientists have warned may be an “emerging zoonotic disease” in the U.S. The 68-year-old woman is the second human to have become infected by the parasite.

The United States is deeply troubled by reports the Chinese government has “harassed, imprisoned, or arbitrarily detained” relatives of Uighur Muslim activists and survivors of internment camps who have made their stories public, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

The United States on Tuesday vowed to maintain maximum pressure to topple Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro as it slapped sanctions on five more officials.

Fifteen jihadists were killed in Tajikistan Wednesday during an attack on a border post that officials blamed on members of the Islamic State group who crossed over from Afghanistan.

Nearly six in ten Russians, up from 42% in 2017,want “decisive and full-scale changes” in the country amid growing discontent with the authorities over living standards, according to research.

BBC

An outspoken critic of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drug war has accepted his offer to help steer the campaign. Vice-President Leni Robredo will now co-chair the government committee tackling the problem.

A knifeman has injured four foreign tourists and four locals in an attack in the Jordanian city of Jerash. Three Mexicans and a Swiss national were among the wounded. One of the Mexicans and a Jordanian tour guide were hurt seriously, the health minister said.

WND

A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research shows the downside to the promises of “free college” that Democratic presidential candidates are promoting. Some 86% of American households “would lose” under the touted plans, the study concludes.

An anonymous insider has leaked a video of ABC anchor Amy Robach lamenting that her network spiked a bombshell investigation of Jeffrey Epstein story three years ago. “We had … Clinton, we had everything,” Robach says on the “hot mic” video.

Philadelphia — It was a rocky start on Election Day in Philadelphia, where new touchscreen voting machines were rolled out. A judge of elections says some of the new voting machines were not taking paper ballots that need to be inserted in them. The polling place where the issue took place was at Fire Company Engine 13 on the 1500 block of Parrish Street in the Fairmount section of the city.

The increasing use of social media by governments to manipulate elections and monitor citizens has resulted in a decline in global internet freedom for a ninth consecutive year, according to an annual assessment by the Washington, D.C., think tank Freedom House.


Mid-Day Snapshot · Nov. 6, 2019

The Foundation

“Excessive taxation … will carry reason and reflection to every man’s door, and particularly in the hour of election.” —Thomas Jefferson (1798)

State Elections a Mixed Bag for GOP

Dems win control of Virginia while the GOP wins Mississippi. Kentucky was a toss-up.


ABC Spiked Epstein Story to Help Clinton

Editorial standards keep a damaging interview off the air. Brett Kavanaugh, anyone?


Conservatives Are Happier, More Generous Than Liberals

Another study confirms that leftists are the angry, unhappy, and stingy ones.


Incremental Progress on Immigration

President Trump has made positive changes that are working, even if judges thwart other things.


Trump Begins Exit From Socialist Paris Climate Agreement

U.S. will be officially out of the agreement one day after the 2020 presidential election.


What’s Really Wrong With American Public Schools?

Poverty, low attendance, and negative peer influence all trace back to fatherlessness.


Video: America Needs a Hate Speech Law?

Matt Christiansen on a recent Washington Post op-ed advocating a law about “hate speech.”


Video: Can’t Flee Onerous Tax and Regulatory Policies?

Stand against them! Allen West points to the contrast between California and Texas.



Today’s Opinion

Gary Bauer
Murder in Mexico
Star Parker
Impeachment About Ideology, Not the Constitution
L. Brent Bozell & Tim Graham
Twitter Tilts 2020 With an Ad Ban
Michelle Malkin
Three Cheers for Refugee Reduction
Walter E. Williams
Disproportionalities: Whose Fault?
For more of today’s columns, visit Right Opinion.

Wednesday Top News Executive Summary

Tuesday’s election results, ABC’s bogus standards, Senate GOP united, and more.


Wednesday Short Cuts

Notable quotables from John Hayward, Erick Erickson, Charlie Kirk, and more.



Today’s Meme

For more of today’s memes, visit the Memesters Union.

Today’s Cartoon

For more of today’s cartoons, visit the Cartoons archive.

Headlines – 11/6/2019

‘Unity government is dead – Israel headed for another election’

Fatah official: Abbas won’t seek reelection

Likud MK pushes PM on West Bank annexation

Hamas threatens cut in financial aid to Gaza will lead to escalation in violence

US Jewish umbrella group slams Democratic hopefuls’ calls to leverage Israel aid

Rivlin urges ‘anti-Semitism czars’ to urgent action

In probe transcripts, police threaten key witness against Netanyahu with loss of assets

AG to check alleged police wrongdoing in grilling of witness against Netanyahu

Russia reportedly in possession of advanced Israeli interceptor missile

IDF Operations Head: Threat posed by Iran is not ‘fear-mongering’

Rouhani: Iran to continue scaling back commitments to nuclear deal

Iran further violates 2015 deal by injecting gas into Fordow centrifuges

Netanyahu: Iran’s decision to enrich uranium at Fordow endangers the world

As Iran expands enrichment, Netanyahu vows it will never have nukes

EU, Russia express concern over Iran’s announcement of new enrichment

US accuses Iran of ‘nuclear extortion’ as Tehran expands enrichment at key plant

Trump OKs wider Syria oil mission, raising legal questions

ISIS Tells Followers to Set Forest Fires in U.S., Europe

Iraqi forces shoot dead 13 protesters in renewed crackdown

‘They Have Stolen Everything From Us’: Iraq’s Anti-Government Protests Continue

The World’s Protesters Want to Soak the Rich, But That’s Not All

Under shroud of secrecy US weapons arrive in Yemen despite Congressional outrage

Gunmen kill 15 in southern Thailand’s worst attack in years

Anti-police violence surges in the tough suburbs of Paris

Did Russia interfere in Brexit?: An unpublished report roils U.K. politics before election

UK’s Johnson to launch election bid with promise to ‘get Brexit done’

Boris Johnson’s Brexit trade deal with Trump would force the UK to accept food contaminated with maggots and rat hair, warns Jeremy Corbyn

India is opting out of a China-backed trade deal. That could hurt its economy

McConnell says Senate would acquit Trump if trial held today

DOJ will fight impeachment subpoenas unless Trump administration witnesses are allowed attorneys

Impeachment reversal: Diplomat now acknowledges quid pro quo

Impeachment probe: Diplomat says he knew why US aid withheld

Lindsey Graham calls latest impeachment inquiry ‘a bunch of BS’ after new transcripts released

Most Republicans on impeachment committees aren’t showing up, transcripts reveal

Republicans break with Trump and Rand Paul on whistleblower unmasking

Rand Paul doubles down on call for whistleblower to come forward, slams Hunter Biden

Kentucky outcome embarrasses Trump and worries many Republicans ahead of 2020

Democrats will control Virginia House and Senate for the first time in more than two decades

Virginia cyclist who flipped off Trump’s motorcade wins race for local office

Federal Officials Warn Russia, China And Iran Want To Interfere In The 2020 Election

‘Deep fake’ videos could upend an election – but Silicon Valley may have a way to combat them

Clinton says Facebook chief should ‘pay price’ for endangering US democracy

California DMV ‘inappropriately’ shared customers’ Social Security information with feds

Amazon Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant can be hacked using lasers, experts warn

Report: Instagram, other apps sold in Google, Apple app stores being used to facilitate human trafficking

Mass Cellphone Outages During CA Fires Raise Question About What Will Happen After Major Quake

6.3 magnitude earthquake hits near the South Sandwich Islands

5.9 magnitude earthquake hits near Sola, Vanuatu

5.8 magnitude earthquake hits near Sola, Vanuatu

5.3 magnitude earthquake hits near Lar, Iran

5.1 magnitude earthquake hits near Sola, Vanuatu

5.1 magnitude earthquake hits near Merizo Village, Guam

5.1 magnitude earthquake hits near Farkhar, Afghanistan

5.0 magnitude earthquake hits near Santa Maria Huazolotitlan, Mexico

Sabancaya volcano in Peru erupts to 27,000ft

Popocateptl volcano in Mexico erupts to 21,000ft

Reventador volcano in Ecuador erupts to 15,000ft

Sakurajima volcano on Japan erupts to 14,000ft

Nevados De Chilla volcano in Chile erupts to 14,000ft

Copahue volcano in Chile erupts to 12,000ft

Sangeang Api volcano in Indonesia erupts to 10,000ft

Super typhoon Halong among strongest storms ever seen on Earth

Tropical storm, strong winds, headed for Vietnam and Thailand

Tropical Cyclone Maha has no impact on UAE: NCM

2019 North Indian Ocean cyclone season breaks named storm days record

11,000 scientists warn of ‘untold suffering due to the climate crisis’

Donald Trump Continues to Attack California During Wildfires: ‘Los Angeles Looks Like a Third-world City’

Climate Change Is Disrupting Centuries-Old Methods Of Winemaking In France

Earth Needs Fewer People to Beat the Climate Crisis, Scientists Say

Parasitic worms found in woman’s eye as scientists warn of ’emerging’ disease

People are posting their genitals on Reddit to ‘diagnose’ STDs

Finnish Politician, Pastor’s Wife Accused of ‘Incitement of Hatred’ Over Booklet ‘Male and Female He Created Them’

Thousands protest across Spain after men cleared of raping unconscious 14-year-old girl: ‘People are raging’

Mexican cartel massacre: 9 Americans, including 6 children, from Mormon offshoot murdered

Woman whose sister-in-law was killed in massacre near the US-Mexico border says cartels have targeted them before

Trump calls for ‘war’ against Mexican drug cartel ‘monsters’ after Americans murdered

Russian Court Sentences Jehovah’s Witness To 6 Years In Prison For ‘Extremism’


Truth2Freedom Blog Disclaimer

This post was originally posted on: https://truth4freedom.wordpress.com

This blog is an aggregator of news and information that we believe will provide articles that will keep people informed about current trends, current events, discussions and movements taking place within our church and culture.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107,material here is distributed without profit for research and educational purposes. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

An article and/or blog post link doesn’t necessarily mean that there is agreement or approval with all the views and opinions expressed within the linked article/posting. Caution is also warranted with regards to the advertisements and links that are embedded within the headline linked article.

“A simple layman armed with Scripture is to be believed above a pope or a council without it…” – Martin Luther

Crucial Questions: 32 Free eBooks from R.C. Sproul | Ligonier Ministries

To further help Christians know what they believe, why they believe it, how to live it, and how to share it, in May 2013 we made the ebook editions of R.C. Sproul’s Crucial Questions series free forever. We continue to publish new ebooks in this series and this year have added What Is Predestination? and Why Should I Join a Church?

 

Here is a complete list of the free ebooks in the Crucial Questions series

You can also download the free collection from Logos.

Please share these resources with your church, family, and friends. Not sure how to download an eBook? Please see our FAQ section.

Source: Crucial Questions: 32 Free eBooks from R.C. Sproul

November 6 The Storms of Life

Scripture reading: 1 Peter 5:9–11

Key verse: 2 Timothy 2:12

If we endure,

We shall also reign with Him.

If we deny Him,

He also will deny us.

Seventeenth-century theologian François Fénelon stated:

We have much trouble convincing ourselves of the kindness with which God crushes those he loves with crosses. Why take pleasure, we say, in making us suffer? Would he not know how to make us good without making us miserable? Yes, doubtless, God could do so, because nothing is impossible for him …

But God, who could have saved us without crosses, has not wished to do so … what we see clearly, is that we cannot become entirely good except as we become humble, disinterested, detached from ourselves, in order to relate everything to God without any turning back upon ourselves …

God never makes trouble for us except in spite of himself, so to speak. His father’s heart does not try to desolate us. But he cuts to the quick to cure the ulcer of our heart. He has to take from us what we love too dearly, what we love in the wrong way and without discretion, what we love to the prejudice of his love.

There can be only one goal for the life of the believer, and that is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deut. 6:5). When trials come, know that God’s presence surrounds you. There is a purpose for every storm; therefore, pray for the strength to be found faithful.

Lord, thank You for Your presence, which surrounds me in the midst of the storm. Help me realize that each gale of life has purpose. Give me the strength to be found faithful.[1]

 

[1] Stanley, C. F. (2000). Into His presence (p. 325). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

November 6, 2019 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

Mysticism

Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God. (2:18–19)

Mysticism may be defined as the pursuit of a deeper or higher subjective religious experience. It is the belief that spiritual reality is perceived apart from the human intellect and natural senses. It looks for truth internally, weighing feelings, intuition, and other internal sensations more heavily than objective, observable, external data. Mysticism ultimately derives its authority from a self-actualized, self-authenticated light rising from within. This irrational and anti-intellectual approach is the antithesis of Christian theology. The false teachers claimed a mystical union with God. Paul exhorts the Colossians not to allow those false teachers to keep defrauding them of their prize. It was as if the heretics assumed the role of spiritual referees and disqualified the Colossians for not abiding by their rules.

Self-abasement translates tapeinophrosunē, which is usually rendered “humility.” The NASB translation emphasizes the negative use of the term in the present context. The humility of the Colossian errorists was a false humility. They were delighting in it, meaning their supposed humility was nothing but ugly pride. It was like that of Uriah Heep, one of the most contemptible characters of English literature, who said, “I am well aware that I am the ’umblest person going” (chapter 16 of Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield).

The false teachers had a far more serious problem than false humility, however. They also engaged in the worship of the angels, thus denying the truth that there is “one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).

The worship of angels was a heresy that was to plague the Phrygian region (where Colossae was located) for centuries. Commentator William Hendriksen notes that in a.d. 363 a church synod was held in Colossae’s sister city of Laodicea. It declared, “It is not right for Christians to abandon the church of God and go away to invoke angels” (Canon 25) (cited in Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. New Testament Commentary [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981], p. 126). The early Church Father Theodoret, commenting on Colossians 2:18, wrote, “The disease which St. Paul denounces, continued for a long time in Phrygia and Pisidia” (cited in Hendriksen, p. 126). The archangel Michael was worshiped in Asia Minor as late as a.d. 739. He was also given credit for miraculous cures.

The Bible strictly forbids the worship of angels. “It is written,” Jesus told Satan, “ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only’ ” (Matt. 4:10).

The angels themselves worship God, as Isaiah noted in his vision:

In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.” And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. (Isa. 6:1–4)

In Revelation 5:11–12, John writes, “I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.’ ”

When John tried to worship an angel, he was rebuked for doing so: “I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said to me, ‘Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God’ ” (Rev. 19:10; cf. Rev. 22:9).

In addition to practicing false humility and worshiping angels, the false teachers were taking their stand on visions they had seen. Like many heretics and cultists down through the ages, they claimed support for their aberrant teachings in visions they had supposedly seen. Some of the worst excesses in the modern-day charismatic movement are derived from such visions. There is no need for extrabiblical revelation through visions, because “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Heb. 1:1–2, italics added).

Paul warns the Colossians not to be intimidated by the false teachers’ claims. Far from being the spiritual elite they thought themselves to be, they were inflated without cause by their fleshly minds. Being guilty of gross spiritual pride, they were devoid of the Holy Spirit. Having gone beyond the teaching of Christ (cf. 2 John 9), they were not holding fast to the head, that is, Christ (cf. Col. 1:18). He is the One from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God. Spiritual growth comes from union with Christ. Jesus says in John 15:4–5, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

There is a tendency in human nature to move from objectivity to subjectivity—to shift the focus from Christ to experience. This has always intimidated weak believers and threatened the church.

Today this brand of mysticism is most commonly seen in the charismatic movement—where Scripture is a distant second in importance to visions and revelations.

When such intimidation came from the sixteenth-century mystical charismatics of Martin Luther’s day, the great Reformer was very firm with them, clinging to biblical revelation and the centrality and sufficiency of Christ. In particular, the followers of Thomas Münzer and the radical Anabaptists gave great prominence to the work and gifts of the Spirit—and to mystical knowledge. Their cry, expressing their supra-biblical experience, was “The Spirit, the Spirit!” Luther replied, “I will not follow where their spirit leads.” When they were granted the privilege of an interview with Luther, they gave their cry “The Spirit, the Spirit!” The great Reformer was not impressed and thundered, “I slap your spirit on the snout.”

We, like the Colossians, must not be intimidated by those who would make something other than knowing Christ through His Word a requirement for spiritual maturity. Christ is all sufficient, “seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (2 Pet. 1:3).[1]


19 Paul considered the visionaries to be not only conceited but also misguided. He accuses them of not holding fast to or grasping hold of the Head, i.e., Christ (cf. 1:18). It is probable that the ones promoting the “philosophy” regarded themselves as Christians (so Lincoln, 632; O’Brien, xl; cf. otherwise Garland, 31). (It does in fact seem probable that the “philosophers” would have interacted with and been influenced by the Colossian synagogue[s] [cf. Dunn, 185].) Paul calls their contention into question. Their avant-garde attitude toward Christ and their elitist perspective toward other believers endangered their necessary connection to both the Head and the body. God grants nourishment, support, and growth for those attached to Christ (Eph 4:15–16). By deprecating the Head and the body, the innovators ran the risk of severing themselves from the source of and ruler over all things. Paul regards those who are not holding fast to the Head to be disjointed from and out of alignment with the body. It would have been Paul’s hope, however, that those promoting the “philosophy” would be fully restored to the body so that they too might be encouraged in love and grounded in faith (cf. 2:1–5). Paul’s theological strategy for combating the Colossian deviation was to stress Christ’s supremacy and sufficiency. His epistolary plan was to set forth an apology against and to offer remedy for the “philosophy.”[2]


19  This self-inflation and pride in private religious experiences come of not maintaining contact with the head. Here at any rate it is best to understand “head” and “body” in their physiological relation to each other. Each part of the body functions properly so long as it is under the control of the head: if it escapes from this control and begins to act independently, the consequences can be very distressing. It is under the direction of Christ, then, that the various parts of his body function harmoniously together, since they share his common life and grow to maturity under the fostering care of God, supplied with nutriment and fitted to each other by means of the “joints and ligaments.”139

In spite of Dibelius’s argument, developed in agreement with his exposition of Col. 1:18 and 2:10, that the body here is the cosmos, it is preferable by far to take the present passage in the same sense as Eph. 4:16, the body being the church. Dibelius’s interpretation, according to which the false teachers hold fast to the members of the cosmos-body (that is, to the principalities and powers) instead of to Christ as the head of that body, introduces into the argument an element which is not only un-Pauline but not really consistent with its context. What is more probably meant here is that the false teachers, by failing to maintain contact with him who is head of his body the church, have no true part in that body, since it is from Christ as their head that all the members of the body acquire their capacity to function aright in harmony with one another.[3]


19 Anthropology now makes way for Christology, with echoes also of ecclesiology. The halakic charismatics who denounce the Colossian Christians because they have not embraced their version of full conversion (halakah and asceticism) are judged by Paul to “have lost connection to the head.” The language is dramatic and might be connected to themes of apostasy, heresy, and false prophets. Furthermore, this kind of evaluation by Paul demonstrates that the halakic mystics saw themselves as Christians. If so, the halakic mystics have, like Peter and Barnabas in Antioch (Gal 2:11–14), failed to maintain a consistency on gospel inclusion of Gentiles on the basis of faith in Christ.250 Yet, the grammar may not support such a reading. The Greek says “and not grasping the head.” Both the NIV and CEB insinuate that the opponents are losing connection with the head, although the text does not go that far and may be saying only that the opponents may have “never ‘grasped’ Christ in the first place … and now find themselves like a torso without a head.”

The “head” is Christ, the head of the church (Col 1:18; 2:10; also at 1 Cor 11:3–5, 7, 10; Eph 1:22; 4:15; 5:23). From what follows in our verse the sense of “head” is that Christ is the source of unity for all the church, Jews and Gentiles, with a clear sense that the halakic mystics are drawing the Colossians away from the one body in Christ. The rest of v. 19 is a digression on Christ, something that has become a pattern in Colossians (e.g., 1:13–23; 2:3), but this digression probes beyond a fullness-Christology to explore unity and growth in and through Christ. The core sentence is “from whom the whole body … grows the growth of God”—with “supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews”254 added for colorful metaphor. The core idea is that attachment to Christ is necessary for the body of Christ to grow as God wills. The “whole body” yet again evokes the importance of Gentiles and Jews as a new family (see 3:11). God’s plan is for this body to “grow.” The cognate noun—literally “grow the growth of God”—clarifies the growth as originating in God’s own work. The issue for some is whether this is numerical growth in the sense of the church fanning across the Mediterranean with more and more local churches or whether it is moral and spiritual maturity, with little emphasis on the numerical side. There is evidence in Colossians for the first at 1:6, 10, 26–27, while there is also evidence of the second in 1:10.

Whether more in number or more in maturity, the emphasis of Paul here is unity in Christ and inclusion of Gentiles on the basis of faith instead of adherence to halakah and ascetic rigor: Christ alone is sufficient. One must notice the same emphasis on unity in Eph 4:15–16: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” Colossians, however, does not explore spiritual gifts as an instrument of unity. Instead, this letter reduces it to the unity that Christ alone can and does provide.[4]


Three conclusions (vv. 18–19)

Paul draws three conclusions from his declaration of freedom.

the power of error: ‘Let no one cheat you of your reward’ (v. 18; NIV: ‘disqualify you for the prize’). To follow error is to be in danger of losing the reward that awaits the faithful in Christ (Matt. 25:21; 2 Tim. 4:7–8; James 1:12).

the possibility of pride: ‘Taking delight in false humility and worship of angels … vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind’ (v. 18). The ‘spoilers’ made the Colossian believers feel inferior. But in reality they were complete in Christ and lacked nothing for salvation. ‘The worship of angels’ implies that they were being taught that the mediation of angels was a valid and necessary way to approach the Father. ‘The doctrine of angels or of a spirit world was opposed to the sole mediation of Christ, and introduced an intermediate order of beings between God and man’. In A.D. 366 the Synod of Laodicea said, ‘It is not right for Christians to abandon the church of God and go away to invoke angels’ (Canon XXV). Michael the Archangel was worshipped in Asia Minor for centuries before A.D. 739.

the principle of headship: ‘Holding fast to the head’ (v. 19). The correct view of Christ is one which submits to his authority and acknowledges his power as the head of the church. This will lead to God-given growth. Jesus is Lord. But the spoilers had not held ‘fast to the head’, they had ‘lost connection’ (NIV), and as a result the church was now faltering and was in danger of disappearing. Correct spiritual liberty will allow the body to grow.[5]


2:19 / The false teachers have fallen into error because they have stopped holding on to the Head, from whom the whole body … grows. Paul already has discussed the headship of Christ as it relates to the cosmos and the church (1:15–20; 2:10). Here he applies that concept to the problems facing the church by using the analogy of the human body (cf. 1 Cor. 12:12–31; Eph. 4:15–16). Because these false teachers have detached themselves from Christ, they have deprived themselves of the true source of nourishment and unity.

Christ himself is the only true source of life for the church, for under his control the entire body is supported (epichorēgoumenon). This is a present participle, indicating that the process of support or nourishment is a continuing one. The same continuing action applies to the unity of the body as well (symbibazomenon): Under Christ’s control the whole body is held together by its ligaments and sinews (cf. Eph. 4:16). These anatomical features provide the necessary cohesion for the body. But they can do so only if they remain joined to the head.

Under the headship of Christ, the body grows according to God’s plan. Literally, the Greek translates into an awkward phrase “it (the church) grows (unto?) the growth of God.” The basic meaning, however, is that God provides the pattern for the church’s growth; he also is the source of that growth, which is mediated through Christ, the head.

All of what Paul has been saying adds to his indictment of the false teachers for being vain and carnal (2:18). Since they have cut themselves off from the source of nourishment, unity, and growth, it follows that they are undernourished, fragmented, and stagnant. In fact, the imagery can be carried even further, for it leads to this inescapable truth: The one who separates himself from Christ, the head of the church, is cut off from the church, the body of Christ; the one who separates himself from the church is cut off from Christ, the head.[6]


Warning against Angel-Worship

18 Let no one disqualify you by delighting in humility and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on the things he has seen, without cause puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 and not keeping firm hold on the Head, from whom the entire body, supported and held together by joints and ligaments, grows with a growth (that is) from God.

  • Turning now to the subject of angel-worship, which was one of the characteristics of the Colossian Heresy, Paul writes, Let no one disqualify you. Let no ritualist tell you, “Since you, Colossians, are not following my rules and regulations, you are not in the race or contest at all. You are unfit, unworthy.” Particularly, do not begin to feel inferior when such a person, in addition to stressing the importance of all those restrictions as to eating, drinking, etc., tries to put you to shame by his attempt to draw a sharp contrast between yourself and himself. Let him not disqualify you by his delighting in humility … Now sincere humility, is, indeed, a precious virtue (cf. Col. 3:12, and see N.T.C. on Phil. 2:3), but the humility of which this false teacher boasted was nothing but a thin disguise for insufferable pride, as is clear also from verse 23. This person was as “umble” as Uriah Heep in David Copperfield.

Paul continues, and (also delighting in) the worship of the angels. The question arises, Just what is the relation between humility and the worship of angels? The answer is not given. Perhaps the suggestion that has been offered by more than one commentator is correct, namely, that the teacher of error was trying to create the impression that he considered himself too insignificant to approach God directly, hence sought to contact Deity through the mediation of angels, and since the angels were willing to perform this service for him—or, in order that they might oblige—worshiped them.

With respect to the words here translated the worship of the angels there is much difference of opinion among commentators. Some prefer the rendering, “angelic piety” or “worship as practised by angels.” But the fact that Paul in this epistle constantly emphasizes Christ’s pre-eminence above all creatures, including the angels (Col. 1:16, 17, 20; 2:9, 15) and that he says “of the angels,” seems to indicate that he was combating angel-worship. Not only this, but there is evidence tending to support the theory that angel-worship was practised in the general region in which Colosse was located. Did not the Holy Spirit through John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, strongly condemn angel-worship? See Rev. 19:10; 22:8, 9. And did not John, during a considerable portion of his ministry, have Ephesus, only a little over one hundred miles to the west of Colosse, as his headquarters? Moreover, as has been pointed out in footnote , the Essenes, whose doctrine in certain respects resembled the one here attacked (though the Colossian errorists may not have been Essenes!), required of those who were about to be admitted to full membership an oath “carefully to guard … the names of the angels.” The Synod of Laodicea—one of the three cities of the Lycus Valley; see Introduction II A—in the year a.d. 363 declared, “It is not right for Christians to abandon the church of God and go away to invoke angels” (Canon XXV). A century afterward Theodoret, commenting on this very Scripture-passage (Col. 2:18), states, “The disease which St. Paul denounces, continued for a long time in Phrygia and Pisidia.” Irenaeus, himself from Asia Minor but widely traveled, in his work Against Heresies (a.d. 182–188), implies both the widespread presence of angel-worship in the camp of the emissaries of error and the firm stand of the primitive church against this evil practice when he states, “Nor does she [i.e. the church] perform anything by means of angelic invocations, or by incarnations, or by any other wicked curious art; but directing her prayers to the Lord who made all things … and calling on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, she has been accustomed to work miracles for the advantage of mankind, and not to lead men into error” (II.xxxii.5). It is known that Michael, a leader of the host of angels, was worshiped widely in Asia Minor, and this worship, too, continued for centuries. So, for example, as late as a.d. 739 the scene of a great victory over the Saracens was dedicated to him. His worship is also implied in inscriptions found in Galatia. And he was given credit for miraculous cures.

From all this it would seem that the rendering “the worship of the angels” is correct. For the theory according to which these angels were “astral spirits,” “rulers of the planetary spheres,” see footnote  above. And for Paul’s own teaching respecting angels see not only above, on Col. 1:16, 17; 2:15, but also N.T.C. on I and II Timothy, and Titus, pp. 183–185.

Paul continues, taking his stand on the things he has seen.101

This man pretends (perhaps even believes) to have seen something, and he presumes on this experience he has had. He makes the most of it. If any one ventures to contradict him or to question the truth of his theories, he will answer, “But I have seen such and such a vision.” In saying this and in relating the vision he will, of course, assume an air of deep insight into divinely revealed mysteries. He prides himself on what he regards as his superior knowledge. He forgets that “Knowledge puffs up but love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1). He is, continues Paul, without cause puffed up by his fleshly mind. Note “without cause,” that is, though he is filled with an exalted opinion of himself, he has no good reason to feel this way. His mind, moreover, is distinctly the mind of the flesh, the attitude or disposition of heart and mind apart from regenerating grace. It is important in this connection to observe that for the mind to be “fleshly” or “of the flesh” it is not necessary that it be “fixed on purely physical things.”103 On the contrary, it is “of the flesh” if it bases its hope for salvation on anything apart from Christ, as verse 19 clearly indicates. Whether the ground or which it bases this confidence be physical strength, charm, good works, or, as here, transcendental visions, makes no difference. It is “the mind of the flesh” all the same. Note how Paul exposes this individual who pretends to take such pleasure in humility or self-abasement. He says, as it were, “This man who pretends to be so very humble is in reality unbearably proud. His mind is inflated with the sense of his own importance, as he brags about the things he has seen.” Contrast this tawdry behavior with respect to questionable visions with Paul’s own sensible reaction in regard to real visions (2 Cor. 12:1–14)

19. The trouble with this combination philosopher-ritualist-angel worshiper-ascetic-visionary is that he is taking his stand on the things he has seen … and not keeping firm hold on the Head. He does not cling to Christ. He fails to see that Christ is all-sufficient for salvation, and that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in him (Col. 2:3, 9, 10). Hence, Paul continues, from whom the entire body, supported and held together by joints and ligaments, grows with a growth (that is) from God. It should not be necessary to defend the proposition that when the apostle, having just referred to Christ as the Head, now speaks about the entire body, he is thinking about the church. That, in such a connection, this is the only possible meaning is clearly implied in such passages as Col. 1:18, 24; 3:15; Eph. 1:22, 23; 4:16.

The underlying figure in this passage is that of the growth of the human body. The aptness of Paul’s metaphor has been questioned, and this for two reasons:

Objection No. 1. The apostle implies that in a human body the head is the source of growth. This is faulty, ancient physiology.

Answer. As was indicated in connection with Col. 1:18, the hormone that is closely related to the growth of connective tissue, cartilage, and bone structure of the body originates in the pituitary gland which is housed in a small cavity in the base of the skull. And that is only one of several ways in which the head influences the growth of the body.

Objection No. 2. According to Paul “nourishment is ministered” (A.V.) to the body by joints and ligaments. Lightfoot similarly states that one of the two functions of the joints and ligaments is “to supply nutriment” (op. cit., p. 200). But we now know that it is not joints and ligaments but the bloodstream that carries nourishment to the various cells and tissues of the human body. Therefore, Paul was in error.

Answer. The proper rendering is “the entire body supported and held together by joints and ligaments.” Now the fact that the body is, indeed, thus supported and held together is common knowledge. It is not refuted by the most up to date science. Therefore, instead of hinting that the apostle is basing his argument on “loose physiology” (Moule, op. cit., p. 107), the question may well be asked whether the rendering according to which joints and ligaments “supply nutriment” (or “nourishment”) to the body is not “loose translation.”

So much for the underlying figure. Now as to the real message which the apostle is here conveying, in the light of the context it is clear that the main idea is that to Christ the entire church owes its growth. The church need not and must not look for any other source of strength to overcome sin or to increase in knowledge, virtue, and joy. Just as the human body, when properly supported and held together by joints and ligaments, experiences normal growth, so also the church, when each of its members supports and maintains loving contact with the others, will, under the sustaining care of God, proceed from grace to grace and from glory to glory (cf. 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4:16).[7]


2:18–19. Fullness and freedom mean that believers need not be drawn into the quest for exciting experiences. Apparently, the false teachers were telling the believers at Colosse that mystical visions and deeper experiences were necessary to make them truly spiritual. Once again, Paul brings the issue back to Christ.

Scholars debate whether the worship of angels referred to the angels being the objects of worship (the worship given to angels) or to the worship that the angels perform. Either are possible, but the former seems most likely. The mystical experience began with initiation into ascetic rituals (possibly referred to in Col. 2:21) which led to supernatural visions in which the individual was ushered into the heavenly realms to worship the angels who emanated from God or to join with the angels in the worship of God. The worshiper would then return with all kinds of stories about what he [had] seen in his vision. The Colossians were being told that if they really wanted to reach new levels of spirituality they needed to engage in these kinds of experiences. The mystical journey was intended to restore a lost dimension to spiritual experience.

Paul says this kind of spiritual quest is in fact a dangerous distraction. The person loses connection with the Head, from whom the whole body grows. The vision becomes the focus; Jesus becomes secondary. As a result growth is stunted, and believers are disqualif[ied] … for the prize. This phrase is actually one Greek term meaning “act as umpire against you.” It could mean “let no one pass critical judgment against you,” or it could mean “let no one deprive you of spiritual reward” because you have become distracted by a quest for experiences. Paul does not want Christians to be robbed of assurance and made to feel unspiritual, unfaithful, and in need of something extra—something more and higher than the cross.

This quest for superspiritual experience, like the legalism of the previous verses, fosters pride. The experience seeker delights in false humility, but his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. Believers may have spiritual experiences of varying kinds. Experiences themselves are not evil. When we try to make our experience the standard for all believers or when we measure our own or someone else’s spirituality on the basis of that experience, we’re being arrogant and unspiritual.

Christ is central. Not rules. Not experiences. Christ.[8]


Vers. 18–19. Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility. It is evident that “humility” here is degraded and discoloured by the tinge which is given it by its close connection with the words “in a voluntary.” This is a rendering in the LXX. of a Hebrew word signifying “taking a delight in, having one’s own inclination gratified in.” θέλω is used of that which a man does of his own notion, and passes over into the notion of sheer self-will and arbitrariness. Thus we learn the important lesson that virtues and graces are too delicate for the rough admeasurement of mere hard and fast moral lines. Their beauty and acceptability depart, and may even turn into their opposites. Wilful self-complacency in humility is censured by St. Paul as inconsistent with the sweet unconsciousness of true humility. It becomes the worst pride, or the most abject meanness—the pride or the meanness which apes humility. The word “will worship” in ver. 23 shows that a strong sense of θέλω, as intense self-will, was present to St. Paul’s mind. There as here, self-will imparts a contamination to the virtue with which it is associated. Humility and worship themselves become pride and superstition. Hence in Luke 1:48 the word should be rendered “low estate,” not humility. One who says, “I am humble,” is not humble. Mary does not profess humility, she practices it. (Bp. Alexander.)

Speculative and practical error:—

  1. The speculative side of the Colossian heresy. In the Authorized Version the apostle is made to bring a charge of presumption against the false teachers “intruding into the things which he hath not seen.” But this is a strange argument for one whose whole walk was by faith and not by sight, and who would hardly count it an answer to a professed revelation to say “you are intruding into that which you have not seen, and therefore you cannot know” with modern materialists. But this difficulty is removed in the Revised Version, which, on high authority, omits the “not,” and inverts the argument. Again, the Greek word “intruding into” means “dwelling in” or “taking his stand upon,” and the charge now becomes that of self-complacent self-conceit. 1. This man has “seen things,” the exact equivalent of our “a man has views,” a phrase of which obscure thinkers are very fond. The Colossian speculator may have professed to see visions and revelations of the Lord, and to bare come back from the third heaven to reveal them; or, if not this, to have seen things in the tone of an arrogant thinker, who gives his notions the style of certainties, verified with the eye of the mind, “dwelling in” them with complacent satisfaction as the whole of truth. 2. Or we may take the marginal reading, “taking his stand upon” his views; regarding them as land which he has won with his intellectual bow and spear, and from which he can go on to move or conquer the universe. 3. These new thinkers spoke much of the mind, made knowledge the bait of their enticements, endeavoured to establish an aristocracy of intellect within that Christian society which was free to all comers, and in which the wise and prudent are set side by side with babes. How striking is St. Paul’s language, “idly inflated with the mind of his flesh.” So far from being edified into the spiritual realm it was merely puffed up, and had its moving power in the repudiated sphere of matter. That Paul would so describe all so-called modern thought which sets aside Christ is certain. II. We pass on to ver. 23 to the practical side of the new heresy. 1. Here we have its treatment of matter, how its teachers sought by ceremonial prohibitions (ver. 21) to counteract the deadly influence of sense in spirit, and to mortify the body as an enemy of the spiritual life. It was a plausible, and perhaps, in its origin, a well-intentioned effort. It was nobler than that which treats matter as of no moment. But the two perversions have one root. Asceticism and licence both rob the body of its dignity as the servant of the spirit. 2. St. Paul admits that the ascetic rules have a show of wisdom; they speak plausibly, and promise largely by their will worship, i.e., their religion of self-imposed observances; by their humility, i.e., their obsequiousness; and by their severity to the body, i.e., their mortifying restrictions. 3. Thus far both versions agree. But now the Authorized Version says, “not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.” This leaves out a particle which demands a contrast. But without this is it in accordance with St. Paul’s teaching to blame a system for not satisfying the flesh? Indeed, the Greek word is “indulgence.” But the Revised Version has inserted the particle of antithesis, and reads, “but are not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh.” The language is borrowed from the medical profession. What is good for it? What is a valuable remedy for such and such a disease? Indulgence of the flesh is the disease; can asceticism cure it? St. Paul says no! It sounds well, professes loudly, but has no real value. 4. Rules of abstinence, regulations as to food or drink—lawful, indeed, but from which it is an act of religion to abstain—have a show of wisdom; they point to a terrible evil and profess to cure it; they are well sounding words, “temperance” and the like; they talk of the value of humility in bending the neck to discipline. St. Paul does not deny that the conquest of the body is good, and that the means have something to say for themselves; but he declares as a man of large experience who has tried all means, and who is taught of God that all such regulations will fail.

III. The true principle of Christian thinking and living. 1. In Christ Jesus are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. They who do not hold fast the Head therefore, whatever they may think or see or dream, cannot but be puffed up and not edified. 2. In Christ with whom our life is hid in God (chap. 3:1) can alone be found the secret of the victory over the flesh which is the professed object of every system of ethics. If ye are dead what need of “touch not,” &c.? If ye are risen the chains of flesh shall fall off by the influence of the spiritual life. (Dean Vaughan.)

The angels and the Head:—

  1. The warning. 1. “Let no man rob you of your prize.” The metaphor is that of the race or wrestling ground; the judge is Christ, the reward is the crown, not of fading bay leaves, but of sprays from the “tree of life” which dower with blessedness the brows round which they are wreathed. The tendency of the heresy is to rob them of this. No names were mentioned, but the portrait of the robber is drawn with four rapid but accurate strokes of the pencil. (a) The humility has not a genuine ring about it. Self-conscious humility in which a man takes delight is not the real thing. A man who knows that he is humble and is self-complacent about it, glancing out of the corners of his downcast eyes at any mirror where he can see himself, is not humble at all. “The devil’s darling vice is the pride that apes humility.” (b) So very humble were these people that they would not venture to pray to God. The utmost they could do was to lay hold of the lowest link of a long chain of angel mediators in hope that the vibration might run upwards through all the links, and perhaps reach the throne at last. Such fantastic abasement which would not take God at His word, nor draw near to Him through Christ, was the very height of pride. (2) “Dwelling in the things he hath seen,” i.e., by visions, &c. The charge against the false teachers was of “walking in a vain show” of unreal imaginations. (3) “Vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.” The self-conscious humility was only skin deep, and covered the utmost intellectual arrogance. The false teacher was like a blown bladder, dropsical from conceit of “intellectual ability” which was after all only the instrument of the flesh, the sinful self. Of course, such could have no grip of Christ, from whom such tempers were sure to detach. (4) Therefore, the damning indictment closes with “not holding the head.” 2. The special forms of these errors are gone; but the tendencies which underlay them are as rampant as ever. (1) The worship of angels is dead, but we are often tempted to think that we are too sinful to claim our portion of the promises. The spurious humility is by no means out of date, which knows better than God whether He can forgive, and grasps at others as well as Christ, the one Mediator. (2) We do not see visions and dream dreams, except that here and there some one is led astray by “spiritualism,” but plenty of us attach more importance to our speculations than to the clear revelation of God in Christ. The “unseen world” has for many an unwholesome attraction. The Gnostic spirit is still among us which despises the foundation truths of the gospel as milk for babes, and values its baseless artificial speculations about subordinate matters which are unrevealed because they are subordinate, and fascinating to some minds because unrevealed, far above the truths which are clear because they are vital, and inspired because clear. (3) And a swollen self-conceit is, of all things, the most certain to keep a man away from Christ. We must feel our utter helplessness and need before we shall lay hold of Him; and whatever slackens our hold of Christ tends to deprive us of the final prize. “Hold fast that thou hast; let no man take thy crown.”
  2. The source and manner of all true growth is set forth in order to enforce the warning and to emphasize the need of holding the head. 1. Christ is not merely represented as supreme and sovereign, but as the source of spiritual life. 2. That life which flows through the head is diffused through the whole body by the various and harmonious action of all the parts. The body is “supplied and knit together,” i.e., the functions of nutrition and compaction into a whole are performed by the “joints and bands,” in which last word are included muscles, nerves, tendons. Their action is the condition of growth, but the Head is the source of all. Churches have been bound together by other bonds, such as creeds, polity, nationality; but an external bond is only like a rope round a bundle of faggots. 3. The blessed results of supply and unity are effected through the action of the various parts. If each organ is in healthy action the body grows. There is diversity in offices; the same life is light in the eyes, beauty in the cheek, strength in the hand, thought in the brain. The effect of Christianity is to heighten individuality, and to give to each man his own proper “gift from God.” The perfect light is the blending of all colours. 4. A community where each member thus holds firmly by the Head will increase with the increase of God. There is an increase not of God. These heretical teachers were swollen with dropsical self-conceit. The individual may increase in apparent knowledge, in volubility, in visions and speculations, in so-called Christian work; the Church may increase in members, wealth, influence, &c., and it may not be sound growth, but proud flesh that needs the knife. (A. Maclaren, D.D.)

The seductive peril of a false philosophy:—A false philosophy—

  1. Threatens to rob the believer of his reward. Many erroneous opinions may be held without invalidating salvation; but any error that depreciates our estimate of Christ, and interrupts the advance of our Christian life, is a robbery.
  2. Advocates the most presumptuous and perilous speculations. 1. It affects a spurious humility. God is unknowable to the limited powers of man, so it reasons. But this humility was voluntary, self-induced, and was in reality another form of spiritual pride. 2. It invents a dangerous system of angelolatry. 3. It pretends to a knowledge of the mysterious. Locke says a work in the drawer of a cabinet might as well pretend to guess at the construction of the universe, as man venture to speculate about the unseen world.

III. Ignores the Divine source of all spiritual increase. 1. Christ is the great Head of the Church—the centre of its unity, the source of its life, authority, and influence. 2. The Church is vitally and essentially united to Christ. 3. The vital union of the Church with Christ is the condition of spiritual increase. Lessons: A false philosophy—1. Distorts the grandest truths. 2. Substitutes for truth the most perilous speculations. 3. Against its teachings be ever on your guard. (G. Barlow.)

Angel worship:—

  1. The apostle brands the seducers and concludes that no regard is to be paid to them. 1. Because in sacred things they arrogated to themselves, by no right whatever, a power of determining as the judges were accustomed in contests. These voluntary umpires decreed the reward of eternal life to none who were unwilling to subscribe to their doctrines. Therefore, as St. Paul struck at this usurpation, we must understand that no such power is granted to man that he should determine anything in religion of his own will; but is bound to judge according to Scripture (Isa. 8:20). Hence estimate Romish tyranny which claims this very power. 2. They abused their power to deceive Christians. A director of the games, if he should order any one to run outside the course, would deprive him of his prize; because he would never that way arrive at the goal. So they who direct Christians to seek salvation apart from Christ, endeavour to beguile them of their reward (Heb. 3:14). This condemnation rests on all who would lead us from the simplicity of Christ.
  2. He shows in what instance they abused their usurped authority. The foolish lowliness of mind which would seek the mediation of angels rather than that of Christ, is rebuked because Christ is more united to us than the angels (Rom. 5:2; Heb. 4:16; Eph. 3:12). 1. Because from this and similar places there arises between us and the Papists a great controversy about the worship of angels and deceased saints who are equal to the angels (Luke 20:36); let us see with whom the truth lies. (1) Religious worship, whether it be called latria or dulia, is given to God alone, and not to angels or saints. “Religion,” says Cicero, “is that which is comprised in the pious worship of the gods,” and Hilary says that “religion paid to the creature is accursed.” With this Scripture agrees (Deut. 6:13; Gal. 4:8; Rev. 19:10). The foundation of religious worship is infinite excellence apprehended under the consideration of our first cause and chief good; it is not a sufficient reason therefore, for offering to them, that angels and saints are endowed with supernatural gifts, or procure for us many good things, unless they are the first and chief cause to us of our chief good. (2) The Papists ascribe to angels and even to saints supreme religious worship no less than these seducers here censured. (a) Prayer is an act of latria or highest worship; for where we pray we acknowledge that its object can hear, deliver, and answer (Psa. 50:15). But this is offered to saints. (b) To make a vow to another is an act of latria, due to God alone (Isa. 19:21; Psa. 50:14). But vows are made to angels and saints. (c) To erect a house of prayer, to raise altars and offer incense upon them to any one is to pay Divine honour to him (Exod. 30:37; Matt. 21:13). But this is done wholesale by Rome to the angels and saints. 2. Paul rejects this doctrine, because (1) it proceeded from those who are accustomed rashly to invent and speak about matters unknown to them (1 Tim. 1:7). For they cannot trace angel or saint worship to the Word of God, or learn it from the example of prophets or apostles. Hence we may infer (a) That their bold curiosity is not to be endured who intrude themselves into the determining of things, the investigation of which surpasses human wit (Rom. 12:3). (b) Concerning religious matters nothing should be determined without a sure foundation, i.e., the Word of God, for whatever things we see relating to our salvation we find here. He who obtrudes anything not found there, hath not seen it but imagined it. (c) They, therefore, exercise tyranny over the Church who anathematize all who reject commandments of men for articles of faith. (2) The authors of this doctrine are puffed up with pride, and thence presume that their inventions are the dictates of truth. The fleshly mind denotes the animal man, or perspicacity, unenlightened by the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:14). (Bp. Davenant.)

False confidences:—One of the saddest incidents connected with the disastrous fire at Chicago is that so many trusted not only their goods, but their lives, to buildings that were regarded as fireproof, and that they perished together. Dr. Goodall records similar incidents connected with the great fire at Constantinople in 1831, and makes a suggestive reflection: “We, like many others, fared the worse for living in houses which were considered fire-proof. In the great burning day may no such false confidence prove our ruin.” (Christian Age.)

Humility before God:—Thomas à Becket wore coarse sackcloth made of goats’ hair from the arms to the knees, but his outer garments were remarkable for splendour and extreme costliness, to the end that, thus deceiving human eyes, he might please the sight of God. (Hoveden.)

How self-will may be lost:—A person who had long practised many austerities, without finding any comfort or change of heart, was once complaining to the Bishop of Alst of his state. “Alas!” said he, “self-will and self-righteousness follow me everywhere. Only tell me when you think I shall learn to leave self. Will it be by study, or prayer, or good works?” “I think,” replied the bishop, “that the place where you lose self will be that where you find your Saviour.” Not holding the Head.—

The union between head and body:—The discoveries of modern physiology have invested the apostle’s language with far greater distinctness and force than it can have worn to his own contemporaries. Any exposition of the nervous system more especially reads like a commentary on his image of the relations between the body and the head. At every turn we meet with some fresh illustration which kindles it with a flood of light. The volition communicated from the brain to the limbs, the sensations of the extremities telegraphed back to the brain, the absolute mutual sympathy between the head and the members, the instantaneous paralysis ensuing on the interruption of continuity, all these add to the completeness and life of the image. Bearing in mind the diversity of opinion among ancient physiologists, we cannot fail to be struck in the text, not only with the correctness of the image, but also with the propriety of the terms; and we are forcibly reminded that among the apostle’s most intimate companions at this time was one whom he calls “the beloved physician” (4:14). (Bp. Lightfoot.)

The Head and the body:—

  1. The Head supplies all things necessary to its members. In worshipping angels the seducers diminished the dignity of Christ, for they took away from Him the prerogative of the Head, and incorrectly judged of His virtue and sufficiency. For Christ, the God Man, is Head of the Church. If they acknowledged Him as God they would seek from Him alone grace and salvation; if as man, they would not solicit angels to intercede for them, since Christ, our Elder Brother, sits continually at the right hand of God. Hence we may infer—1. That they who are concerned about their salvation, ought never to turn their eyes from their Head in whom alone is salvation. 2. Christians are seduced to do so, and do not hold the Head, whenever they embrace new doctrines, worship, means of salvation never prescribed by Christ and His apostles (1 Tim. 6:3, 4).
  2. The Head binds and knits together the same to itself and to each other. 1. The effect obtained from cleaving to Christ is that the whole body has by joints nourishment ministered. (1) The joints are—(a) The Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9). As that member is not united to the head which is not animated by the same essence as the head itself, neither is that Christian united to Christ who lacks His Spirit. (b) The gifts of the Spirit, e.g., faith by which as a secondary mean we are united to Christ, and receive the remission of sins and all the grace promised in the gospel (John 6:35). (2) The whole body thus adhering to Christ hath nourishment ministered. The Greeks called him “minister” who supplied all the apparatus to the leaders of the sacred dances. By a metaphor derived from this he is said “to supply the expenditure” who furnishes to another the things necessary for any particular object; and the word used by Paul signifies the doing of this copiously and abundantly by Christ, who supplies all the means of salvation. For whether we regard the grace making grateful, or grace gratuitously given, Christ abundantly supplies both to His Church by His Spirit. (a) Of that grace which has reference to justification and sanctification, Paul testifies (Rom. 8:10; 2 Cor. 8:9) that it is ministered to all His members by Christ. (b) The same with that which relates to the edification of the Church (1 Cor. 12:7, &c.; Eph. 4:11). (3) We may here observe—(a) That in the whole body of the Church is not a single dry member, but all are watered by streams of grace flowing from the Head. (b) To adhere to the Pope as a visible head, does not constitute membership, but adherence to Christ. Therefore the ungodly are not true members, to whatever visible Church joined, unless by the joints of the Spirit and faith they are united to Christ. (c) As to doctrine and salvation the Church is supplied from its Head, not one member from another. (d) The Papists err, who will have the Church to draw the doctrine of salvation, not alone from Christ, but from tradition; who will have her receive holiness, merit, &c., not from Christ alone, but the saints. If this be so, the text is not true. 2. By virtue of the Head, the whole body is knit together (Rom. 12:5). The “bands” are the same—the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit. For the same Spirit who unites us to Christ is the principal band by which we are united to each other (1 Cor. 12:13), and after He is infused into all the ligaments of the Church, He enkindles in every one that excellent gift of charity which is also the firmest bond of cohesion. The other ties are diversities of gifts and callings emanating from the same Spirit (Eph. 4:11, 12).

III. The fruit of this union. 1. While united to Christ by faith, and knit together by love, the whole body of the Church increaseth in faith, love, holiness, and all saving grace. This growth is said to be of God as He is the primary agent (1 Cor. 3:6), and because it tends to His glory as the ultimate end. 2. Observe of this increase—(1) As there is a growth in the natural body in all its parts, so in the mystical body all the members increase spiritually. (2) Not every increase is approved. A member of the body is not said to increase when it is inflated with any bad humour. So the piety of a Christian man is not increased when his mind is filled with tradition and will worship, which proceed not from the Spirit, but from the empty mind of ignorance and pride. (3) Be not deceived by that incongruous mass of opinions of the Romish Church. The kingdom of the Pope may be increased, viz., by temporal things, traditions, superstitions, not by the knowledge of God and piety. (Bp. Davenant.) (See also on chap. 1:18, and Eph. 4:16)[9]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1992). Colossians (pp. 119–122). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Still, T. D. (2006). Colossians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, p. 319). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Bruce, F. F. (1984). The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (p. 123). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[4] McKnight, S. (2018). The Letter to the Colossians. (N. B. Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, G. D. Fee, & J. B. Green, Eds.) (pp. 278–279). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[5] McNaughton, I. S. (2006). Opening up Colossians and Philemon (pp. 54–55). Leominster: Day One Publications.

[6] Patzia, A. G. (2011). Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon (pp. 63–64). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[7] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Colossians and Philemon (Vol. 6, pp. 125–129). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[8] Anders, M. (1999). Galatians-Colossians (Vol. 8, p. 309). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[9] Exell, J. S. (n.d.). The Biblical Illustrator: Philippians–Colossians (Vol. 2, pp. 155–160). New York; Chicago; Toronto; London; Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company.

November 6 Loving Jesus

scripture reading: John 14:15–24
key verse: Philippians 3:12

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.

Is your relationship with the heavenly Father one of duty or delight? God, who is love, desires your fellowship with Him to be motivated by personal, growing, demonstrated love.

God is a person. Although He could have existed without creating humankind, He made us for Himself. He wants such an intimate relationship with you that He executed His Son for you so that you could be reconciled to Him forever.

As His child, you are free to love Him for all He is and for what He has done and will do for you. Each day is an opportunity to express your love for Jesus. You can love Him by telling Him so.

There is no such thing as true love in a marriage without verbal encouragement and praise. Likewise, God wants to hear the words of your lips that proclaim His excellencies. You can also tell Him you love Him by cheerful obedience. Work heartily at your task, knowing Christ is your Master. Carry out principles of Scripture He has laid on your heart. Serve others with compassion and understanding as Christ’s ambassador on earth.

The more you know Christ, the more you love Him. The more you love Him, the more passionately you want to honor and praise Him. It is a divine circle of love filled with blessings.

Heavenly Father, the more I get to know You, the more I love You. I am overwhelmed by the love that You showed in offering up Your Son, Jesus, in my behalf. Make me an ambassador of Your love here on earth.[1]

 

[1] Stanley, C. F. (1998). Enter His gates: a daily devotional. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

6 november (1859) 365 Days with Spurgeon

Let us pray

“But it is good for me to draw near to God.” Psalm 73:28

suggested further reading: James 4:1–8

Draw near to God with living, loving prayer; present the promise, and you shall obtain the fulfilment. Many things I might say of prayer; our old divines are full of high praise concerning it. The early fathers speak of it as if they were writing sonnets. Chrysostom preached of it as if he saw it incarnate in some heavenly form. And the choicest metaphors were gathered together to describe in rapturous phrase the power, nay, the omnipotence of prayer. Would to God we loved prayer as our fathers did of old. It is said of James the Less, that he was so much in prayer that his knees had become hard like those of a camel. It was doubtless but a legend, but legends are often based on truths. And certain it is that Hugh Latimer, that blessed saint and martyr of our God, was accustomed to pray so earnestly in his old age, when he was in his cell, that he would often pray until he had no strength left to rise, and the prison attendants had need to lift him from his knees. Where are the men like these? Oh angel of the covenant, where can you find them? When the Son of Man comes shall he find prayer on the earth? Ours are not worthy of the name of supplication. Oh that we had learned that sacred art, that would draw near to God, and plead his promise. Cowper has put several things together in one hymn.

Prayer clears the sky;

 

“Prayer makes the darkened cloud withdraw.”

 

Prayer is a heaven-climber;

 

“Prayer climbs the ladder Jacob saw.”

 

Prayer makes even Satan quake;

 

“For Satan trembles when he sees,

The weakest saint upon his knees.”

 

for meditation: Do you regard your prayer-life as a dead, boring routine? May God teach us to draw near to him and enjoy the relationship in a living and meaningful way (Luke 11:1–4).

sermon no. 288[1]

 

[1] Spurgeon, C. H., & Crosby, T. P. (1998). 365 Days with Spurgeon (Volume 1) (p. 317). Leominster, UK: Day One Publications.

6 NOVEMBER 365 Days with Calvin

Receiving Christ in the Supper

But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. 1 Timothy 3:15

suggested further reading: 1 Corinthians 11:17–34

When the apostle tells us to withdraw from all wicked affections, he calls us to our Savior, Jesus Christ. Must not we then take pains to come unto him in the Holy Supper? Let us solemnly meditate upon this subject.

Let us see how we are disposed, for God will not have us come to him in the Holy Supper as liars and deceivers. Let us see if we are disposed to receive God, not as a guest that travels by the way, but as one who has forever chosen us for his dwelling place, and as one who has dedicated us to himself as his temples so that we may be like a house built upon a rock. We must receive God by faith and as those who have been made truly one with our Lord Jesus Christ.

We should so examine and cleanse ourselves that when we receive the Supper of our Lord Jesus Christ, we may be more and more confirmed in his grace, that we may be engrafted into his body and truly be made one with him, and that all the promises we perceive in the gospel may better be confirmed in us. We must know that we live in him as he dwells in us, and that God owns us and takes us for his children.

We should be most earnest to call upon him and trust in his goodness, so he may so govern us by his Holy Spirit, and that poor ignorant creatures may through our example be brought to the right way. For today we see many people who are walking in the way of destruction. May we pay attention to what God has confirmed to us; that he would be pleased to show his grace, not only to one city or a little handful of people, but to reign over all the world so that everyone may serve and worship him in spirit and in truth.

for meditation: How do you receive Christ in the Holy Supper? Do you focus by faith on the Lord Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection? How do you continue to grow in Christ after the Supper has been administered?[1]

 

[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 329). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

November 6, 2019 Morning Verse Of The Day

9 Then my soul will rejoice in Yahweh;
it will rejoice in his salvation.
10 All of my bones shall say, “O Yahweh, who is like you,
who delivers the poor from one stronger than he
and the poor and needy from the one who robs him?”

Harris, W. H., III, Ritzema, E., Brannan, R., Mangum, D., Dunham, J., Reimer, J. A., & Wierenga, M. (Eds.). (2012). The Lexham English Bible (Ps 35:9–10). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.


35:10 Who is like you, Lord? This is an allusion to Moses’s words in the Song of the Sea (Exod. 15:11; variations occur in Pss. 71:19; 89:8; Isa. 44:7; Jer. 49:19; 50:44; see the sidebar).[1]


Vers. 9, 10. My soul shall be joyful in the Lord.Life’s joy:

It is not often that we meet with a truly joyous face. We see many a brow curved with humour, and lips with their wreath of mirth, but the eyes seldom beam the glory of that quiet delight which is named in our text. Everybody has some joy; but in many cases it is spurious like a bad shilling, and unreliable like the grass which grows over the marsh on a moor. But real joy is wholesome, beneficent and abiding; and it is for all. It is seldom or never found in external things; it is an inward state of the soul. Joy may be likened to a seat under the shade of a tree to which you can go at once for rest, and it is as free as a street fountain with the cup hanging ready for the thirsty traveller to drink; anybody may take the cup and drink. True joy is not a fiction; to be expressed, it must be felt. As you cannot have a river without a spring or source, neither can you have true joy without its fountain which flows from the heart of God.

  1. The secret cause of joy in the Christian is—
  2. That he possesses all things. The great cry of the human heart is—“I want this; O that I could have that!” Our failing is discontentedness; the glory of Christianity is contentment, not empty and fleeting, but full, overflowing, and everlasting. Under the Atlantic ocean is a cable through which passes a wire connecting the coast of England with that of America, and though there are great storms and crashing icebergs on the ocean, the cable under the sea is undisturbed; the lightning message passes along the three thousand miles of wire silently and in the twinkling of an eye. Likewise, the soul of the Christian, no matter whether he may be in a dungeon, awaiting a martyr’s death, or upon a throne, the object of the people’s praise, is serene because it is in communion with God.
  3. That our sins are all forgiven.
  4. The sense of salvation also inspires one’s soul to be joyful in the Lord.
  5. The promise of heaven. Some of you may say, “What you have said is of no use to me, for I am not a Christian; I am not good; there is no chance for me.” You think God must draw the line somewhere, that He cannot take you in; that He may receive other people, but He cannot admit you. Now the Bible says, “Whosoever will.” You cannot be too wicked for God to save; for He is able to save to the very uttermost all that pray unto Him. Therefore, come. (W. Birch.)[2]

9–10 Wishes for destruction are followed without explanation by praise and thanksgiving. This expression of trust has several purposes. First, it contrasts the acts of the one praying and the enemies who harm without cause. Second, it serves as an additional reason or motivation for God to save the one who has trust in God’s grace and power. Finally, it is the way humans under stress react. We too can flip from wishes against those hurting us to trust in God and back again. We, like the one praying, are confronted with that dual reality: life is difficult and painful, and God loves us and wants us to be happy and whole. God acts for those who are in the most need (v. 10). It is often hard, if not impossible, to reconcile these two truths.[3]


9. “And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord.” Thus rescued, David ascribes all the honour to the Judge of the right; to his own valorous arm he offers no sacrifice of boasting. He turns away from his adversaries to his God, and finds a deep unbroken joy in Jehovah, and in that joy his spirit revels. “It shall rejoice in his salvation.” We do not triumph in the destruction of others, but in the salvation given to us of God. Prayer heard should always suggest praise. It were well if we were more demonstrative in our holy rejoicings. We rob God by suppressing grateful emotions.

10. As if the tongue were not enough to bless God with, David makes every limb vocal—“All my bones shall say, Lord, who is like unto thee?” His whole anatomy he would make resonant with gratitude. Those bones which were to have been broken by my enemies shall now praise God; every one of them shall bring its tribute, ascribing unrivalled excellence to Jehovah the Saviour of his people. Even if worn to skin and bone, yet my very skeleton shall magnify the Lord, “which deliverest the poor from him that is too strong for him, yea, the poor and the needy from dim that spoileth him.” God is the champion, the true knight-errant of all oppressed ones. Where there is so much condescension, justice, kindness, power, and compassion, the loftiest songs should be rendered. Come, dear reader, have you not been delivered from sin, Satan, and death, and will not you bless the Redeemer? You were poor and weak, but in due time Christ sought you, and set you free. O magnify the Lord to-day, and speak well of his name.

11 False witnesses did rise up; they laid to my charge things that I knew not.

12 They rewarded me evil for good to the spoiling of my soul.

13 But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom.

14 I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother: I bowed down heavily as one that mourneth for his mother.

15 But in mine adversity they rejoiced, and gathered themselves together: yea, the abjects gathered themselves together against me, and I knew it not; they did tear me, and ceased not:

16 With hypocritical mockers in feasts, they gnashed upon me with their teeth.

17 Lord, how long wilt thou look on? rescue my soul from their destructions, my darling from the lions.

18 I will give thee thanks in the great congregation: I will praise thee among much people.[4]


35:9, 10 Then David will be joyful in the Lord, celebrating His salvation. All his being will join in acknowledging the Lord as the incomparable One who saves the defenseless from the superior power of his opponent, the helpless and needy from the spoiler.[5] 9. And my soul is joyful in Jehovah. Others read this in the optative mood, May my soul rejoice in Jehovah, and may it be glad in his salvation. But instead of continuing to express his desires, David, in my opinion, rather promises in this verse that he will be grateful to God. This is still more evident from the following verse, in which extolling very highly the goodness of God, he says that he will celebrate the remembrance of it with every member of his body. While, therefore, some ascribe to fortune, and others to their own skill, the praise of their deliverance from danger, and few, if any, yield the whole praise of it to God, David here declares that he will not forget the favour which God had bestowed upon him. My soul, says he, shall rejoice, not in a deliverance of the author of which it is ignorant, but in the salvation of God. To place the matter in a still stronger light, he assigns to his very bones the office of declaring the divine glory. As if not content that his tongue should be employed in this, he applies all the members of his body to the work of setting forth the praises of God. The style of speaking which he employs is hyperbolical, but in this way he shows unfeignedly that his love to God was so strong that he desired to spend his sinews and bones in declaring the reality and truth of his devotion.

10. O Jehovah! who is like thee? Here he explains more fully the nature of his joy in the salvation of God of which he had spoken, showing that it consisted in his ascribing entirely to God the deliverance which he had obtained. Men, in general, praise God in such a manner that he scarcely obtains the tenth part of his due. But David, distinguishing him from all others, distinctly declares that the whole glory of his deliverance is due to him alone. And, certainly, we then only yield to God what belongs to him, when, investing him with his own power, we rest all our hopes on him. For what purpose does it serve, loudly to celebrate the name of God with our mouths, if we tear in pieces his power and goodness at our pleasure? David, therefore, in the true spirit of godliness, extols the greatness of God by this high encomium, that he is the guardian and defender of the poor, and rescues the needy and afflicted from the hand of those who oppress them; as if he had said, It is God’s peculiar duty to succour the miserable. By these words we are taught to cling to the hope of better things in adversity; for the power and resources of our enemies, however great they may be, is no reason why we should lose our confidence, since God declares to us from heaven that he reigns expressly for the purpose of resisting the strong and powerful. If the children of this world, who employ their power in injuring and oppressing the weak, had the least degree of sound understanding, it would certainly serve to restrain their audacity, and prevent them proceeding farther in provoking the wrath of God.

11 Violent witnesses rise up, they charge me with things which I know not.

12 They render me evil for good, to the bereaving of my soul.

13 But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sack-cloth: I afflicted my soul with fasting; and have poured my prayer into my own bosom.

14 I behaved myself towards him as if he had been my friend and brother: I humbled myself as one that mourneth heavily for his mother.

15 But they rejoiced at my halting, they gathered themselves together; yea, even the objects whom I knew not gathered themselves against me: they have torn me with their lips, and have not ceased.[6]


Ver. 9.—And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord. A sudden transition from imprecatory prayer to thanksgiving, or rather, to the promise of it—“My soul shall be joyful;” i.e. it shall be so when my prayers have been granted. It shall rejoice in his salvation. “Salvation” here is, no doubt, especially, deliverance from the immediate danger, but, perhaps, even here, not only that (see the comment on ver. 3).

Ver. 10.—All my bones shall say, Lord, who is like unto thee? The “bones” here represent, not the frame only, as in Ps. 34:20, but the entire nature. David promises that his whole nature shall bear witness to God’s mercy and goodness, proclaiming that there is “none like unto him” in these respects, none other that can deliver from danger as he can and does. As Hengstenberg observes, “He seeks to make the Lord grant the desired help by promising that the help afforded would yield a rich harvest of praise and thanksgiving.” Which deliverest the poor from him that is too strong for him, yea, the poor and the needy from him that spoileth him? (comp. Ps. 86:1, where David again calls himself “poor and needy;” i.e. in want of help and peace and comfort; not absolutely without means, or he would not offer any temptation to the spoiler.[7]


[1] Bullock, C. H. (2015). Psalms 1–72. (M. L. Strauss & J. H. Walton, Eds.) (Vol. 1, pp. 264–265). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[2] Exell, J. S. (1909). The Biblical Illustrator: The Psalms (Vol. 2, p. 196). New York; Chicago; Toronto; London; Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company; Francis Griffiths.

[3] Jacobson, R. A., & Tanner, B. (2014). Book One of the Psalter: Psalms 1–41. In E. J. Young, R. K. Harrison, & R. L. Hubbard Jr. (Eds.), The Book of Psalms (p. 336). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[4] Spurgeon, C. H. (n.d.). The treasury of David: Psalms 27-57 (Vol. 2, p. 142). London; Edinburgh; New York: Marshall Brothers.

[5] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 600). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[6] Calvin, J., & Anderson, J. (2010). Commentary on the Book of Psalms (Vol. 1, pp. 581–582). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[7] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Psalms (Vol. 1, p. 266). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

November 6 For the love of God (Vol. 2)

2 Kings 19; Hebrews 1; Hosea 12; Psalms 135–136

 

some psalms give us a glimpse of ancient Israelite worship, and Psalm 136 is one of them. Probably this was sung antiphonally: either a restricted part of the choir, or one part of the congregation in the temple would sing the lead line of each cycle, and the whole congregation would burst out and respond with “His love endures forever.” Comparing 136:18–22 with 135:10b–12 suggests that some other psalms were sung this way too. In Jewish tradition this psalm is known as the Great Hallel, “the Great Psalm of Praise.” The refrain itself celebrates God’s “love”: the Hebrew word is hesed, notoriously difficult to render consistently by one English word. The King James Version opts for “steadfast love.” It is bound up with God’s faithfulness to the covenant, and in various contexts might properly be rendered “grace,” “love,” even “covenant-fidelity”—with overtones of a reciprocal obligation.

What makes this psalm so thought-provoking is not the compactness of the refrain but its connection with a vast grounding of evidence—evidence that God’s love endures forever. The psalm speaks of God’s character (136:1), the sweep of his sovereignty (136:2–3), his creative power (136:4–9), the extraordinary displays of his might when he redeemed his people from Egypt (136:10–22), and his mercy displayed alike to his elect and to every creature under heaven that needs food (136:23–25). Contrast this specificity with more than a few contemporary praise choruses that endlessly exhort us to praise the Lord, without telling us why we should praise the Lord, or perhaps giving us only a reason or two. In the choruses, the emphasis tends to be on worship; here, the emphasis is on the One who is worshiped, such that the worship has the flavor of being no more than the inevitable response to so great a God. The one focuses on what we do, the other on who God is and what he has done.

Some final reflections: (1) The expression “Give thanks” that opens the first three verses and the last suggests more than a casual “Thanks a lot.” It has to do with “confessing” (in the old-fashioned sense), “acknowledging” (with thoughtful God-centeredness), with grateful worship. (2) This God brooks no rivals. He is the God of gods, the Lord of lords (136:2, 3). (3) Informed as they are by pluralism, our ears find it strange to append the refrain “His love endures forever” to such lines as “who struck down great kings” and “[h]e swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea.” But these actions were expressions of God’s elective love for his chosen people. The notion that God loves all people exactly the same way and in every respect finds little support in Scripture.[1]

 

[1] Carson, D. A. (1998). For the love of God: a daily companion for discovering the riches of God’s Word. (Vol. 2, p. 25). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

November 6 For the love of God (Vol. 1)

2 Kings 19; Hebrews 1; Hosea 12; Psalms 135–136

 

the contrasts in the opening verses of Hebrews 1 all tend in the same direction.

“In the past” contrasts with “in these last days.” God spoke “to our forefathers” stands over against the fact that in these last days he has spoken “to us.” In the past God spoke to the forefathers “through the prophets at many times and in various ways.” But in these last days God has spoken to us “by his Son” (1:1–2).

Indeed, the form of that expression, “by his Son,” in the original, suggests pretty strongly that the author of Hebrews does not think of the Son as one more prophet, or even as the supreme prophet. The idea is not that while in the past the word of God was mediated by prophets, in these last days the word has been mediated by the Son, who thus becomes the last of the prophets. Something more fundamental is at issue. The Greek expression, over-translated, means “in Son.” The absence of the article “the” is significant. Moreover, “in Son” contrasts not only with “through the prophets” but with “through the prophets at many times and in various ways.”

The point is that in these last days God has disclosed himself in the Son revelation. In the past, when God used the prophets he sometimes gave them words directly (in oracles or visions), sometimes providentially led them through experiences they recorded, sometimes “spoke” through extraordinary events such as the burning bush: there were “many times” and “various ways” (1:1). But now, God has spoken “in Son”—we might paraphrase, “in the Son revelation.” It is not that Jesus simply mediates the revelation; he is the revelation. It is not that Jesus simply brings the word; he is himself, so to speak, the Word of God, the climactic Word. The idea is very similar to what one reads in the Prologue of John’s Gospel. The Son is capable of this because he is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (1:3).

Strictly speaking, then, Christians are not to think of the New Testament books as just like the Old Testament books, bringing the next phase of God’s redemptive plan to us. Mormons argue that that is all they are—and then say that Joseph Smith brought a still later revelation to us, since he was yet another accredited prophet. But the author of Hebrews sees that the climax of all the Old Testament revelation, mediated through prophets and stored in books, is not, strictly speaking, more books—but Christ Jesus himself. The New Testament books congregate around Jesus and bear witness to him who is the climax of revelation. Later books that cannot bear witness to this climactic revelation are automatically disqualified.[1]

 

[1] Carson, D. A. (1998). For the love of God: a daily companion for discovering the riches of God’s Word. (Vol. 1, p. 25). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

November 5 Confronting Giants

Scripture reading: Hebrews 10:35–39

Key verse: Numbers 13:30

Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.”

In times of trouble the key to victory instead of defeat is perspective. In her book, Streams in the Desert, Mrs. Charles Cowman quotes an anonymous writer who has the right perspective on trials and difficulties:

Yes, they saw the giants [in Numbers 13:33], but Caleb and Joshua saw God!… Giants stand for great difficulties; and giants are stalking everywhere. They are in our families, in our churches, in our social life, in our own hearts; and we must overcome them or they will eat us up, as these men of old said of the giants of Canaan …

Now the fact is, unless we have the overcoming faith we shall be eaten up, consumed by the giants in our path. Let us have the spirit of faith that these men of faith had, and see God, and He will take care of the difficulties.

The nation of Israel did not face trouble when they were standing still or thinking of retreating. Only when they moved forward, trusting God, did they face the grimmest trials. Many times a sure sign that you are doing what God has called you to do is opposition. Satan and his workers have one goal in mind, and that is to keep you from being all that God has planned for you to become.

If you sense there is a spiritual battle brewing, go immediately to God in prayer. Tell Him all you are facing. Prayer is your strength, and His Word your greatest weapon.

Lord, I am facing battles today. Give me an overcoming, victorious faith.[1]

 

[1] Stanley, C. F. (2002). Seeking His face (p. 324). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

November 5, 2019 Evening Verse Of The Day

Complete Forgiveness

And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. (2:13–14)

Paul here approaches the same truth he discussed in 2:11–12 from a different perspective. In 2:11–12 he emphasized that salvation is complete apart from any religious ritual. In these verses he emphasizes that forgiveness is complete apart from any human work. Forgiveness is perhaps the most exciting and comforting doctrine in all of Scripture, because it is what guilty sinners need to be made right with God.

Like all of sinful mankind, the Colossians were dead in their transgressions before their salvation (cf. Eph. 2:1). The Greek construction is a locative of sphere. Unbelievers exist in the sphere or realm of spiritual death. To be spiritually dead means to be devoid of any sense, unable to respond to spiritual stimuli, just as to be physically dead means to be unable to respond to physical stimuli. It is to be so locked in sin’s grasp that one is unable to respond to God. The Bible and spiritual truth make no sense to one in such a state. Those who are spiritually dead are dominated by the world, the flesh, and Satan and possess no spiritual, eternal life.

Paul describes the Colossians in their prior unsaved state as being dead not only in their sins, but also in the uncircumcision of their flesh. That phrase designates Gentiles, whose condition of uncircumcision demonstrated that they were outside the covenant. Paul wrote about them in Ephesians 2:11–12: “Remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called ‘Uncircumcision’ by the so-called ‘Circumcision,’ which is performed in the flesh by human hands—remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” The Gentiles were therefore in a much worse state than the unbelieving Jews, who at least were a part of the covenant community that possessed the law of God. It is no wonder, then, that Paul describes them as “having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12).

Fortunately, the story did not end there. Because God is “rich in mercy” (Eph. 2:4), He made us alive together with Him. Paul again stresses the believer’s union with Christ (cf. 2:10, “in Him”; 2:11, “in Him”; 2:12, “with Him”). Those who were hopelessly dead in sin received new life through that union. God initiates the salvation process, because spiritually dead people cannot make themselves alive.

As a result of being made alive with Christ, believers have been forgiven of all their transgressions. The knowledge that all our sins have been forgiven brings great joy. “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!” (Ps. 32:1).

That God forgives the sins of those who trust in Him and includes them in His eternal kingdom and glory is the most important truth of Scripture. The psalmist wrote, “If Thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared” (Ps. 130:3–4). In Isaiah 1:18 we read, “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.” Isaiah says in Isaiah 55:7, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” “Who is a God like Thee,” exclaimed the prophet Micah, “who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession?” (Mic. 7:18).

God’s forgiveness is also a prominent theme in the New Testament. Our Lord told His disciples at the Last Supper, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:28). Peter told those assembled in Cornelius’s house that “through [Jesus’] name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins” (Acts 10:43). In Acts 13:38–39 Paul said, “Let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.” To the Ephesians Paul wrote, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7). In Hebrews 8:12 the Lord says, “I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”

What are the characteristics of God’s forgiveness? First, it is gracious. It is not earned, but is a free gift. Romans 3:24 says people are “justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” Paul echoes that thought in Titus 3:4–7: “When the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Second, God’s forgiveness is complete. Forgiveness, Ephesians 1:7 tells us, is “according to the riches of His grace.” God’s grace will always be greater than sin, because “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom. 5:20). The apostle John flatly states, “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake” (1 John 2:12).

Third, God’s forgiveness is eager. “ ‘Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,’ declares the Lord God, ‘rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?’ ” (Ezek. 18:23; cf. 33:11). “Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon Thee” (Ps. 86:5). Far from begrudging His forgiveness, God is anxious to give it.

Fourth, God’s forgiveness is certain. In Acts 26:18 Paul says that God sent him to the Gentiles “to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in [Jesus].” Forgiveness is certain because it is based on God’s promise.

Fifth, God’s forgiveness is unequalled. The prophet Micah said, “Who is a God like Thee, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession?” (Mic. 7:18). The answer to his question is that there is none. None of the gods of false religion offers such forgiveness.

Sixth, God’s forgiveness is motivating. Ephesians 4:32 commands us to “be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” God has forgiven us the huge, unpayable debt we owed Him. How can we do any less than forgive others the trivial debts they owe us (cf. Matt. 18:23–35)? That verse is further confirmation of God’s complete forgiveness. How could He command us to forgive others if He has not forgiven us?

Paul then illustrates God’s forgiveness. When God forgave us, He canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Certificate of debt translates cheirographos, which literally means “something written with the hand,” or “an autograph.” It was used to refer to a certificate of indebtedness handwritten by the debtor in acknowledgment of his debt. Paul describes that certificate as consisting of decrees against us. Dogmasin (decrees) refers to the Mosaic law (cf. Eph. 2:15). All peoples (including Gentiles, cf. Rom. 2:14–15) owe God a debt because they have violated His law. The certificate was hostile to us, that is, it was enough to condemn us to judgment and hell, because “cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them” (Gal. 3:10). Exaleiphō (canceled out) means “to wipe off,” like erasing a blackboard. Ancient documents were commonly written either on papyrus, a paper-like material made from the bulrush plant, or vellum, which was made from an animal’s hide. The ink used then had no acid in it and did not soak into the writing material. Since the ink remained on the surface, it could be wiped off if the scribe wanted to reuse the material. Paul says here that God has wiped off our certificate of debt, having nailed it to the cross. Not a trace of it remains to be held against us. Our forgiveness is complete.[1]


13 Even as Christ was physically dead, so also the Colossians were spiritually dead (cf. Eph 2:1, 5). Though the believers in Colossae were made alive in Christ (2:12), they were formerly dead in (en taken as a locative) or because of (en construed as causal) their sins (transgressions or trespasses), for “the wages of sin is death” (Ro 6:23). Additionally, picking up the metaphor of circumcision from 2:12, Paul, a Jew, depicts the Gentile Colossians prior to their conversion as dead in “the uncircumcision of [their] flesh” (NASB). Not having been “cut around,” they were “cut off” from God. They were “sinners” (Gal 2:15) and “foreigners” (Eph 2:12).

But that was a former day; a new day had dawned in Christ. The Colossians (reading hymas, “you,” as opposed to hēmas, “us”) had been made alive, presumably by God (as inferred by the NIV, though the subject is unexpressed [so, rightly, NASB]), with Christ. How so? What had God done through Christ to vivify the Colossians? Through the vehicle of participial phrases, Paul indicates in vv. 13c–15 three acts of God in Christ. First, God brought the Colossians to life with Christ by forgiving them of all their sins. These former Gentiles did not have to die in their transgressions, because God extended forgiveness to Jew and Gentile alike (reading hēmin, “us,” as do the NIV and NASB). God grants forgiveness to believers for all of their sins through the One in whom all the fullness of the Deity dwells (1:19; 2:9) and all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden (2:3).[2]


13  Yes, the apostle insists, this is what has happened to you. You were spiritually and morally dead in your earlier pagan days. But now you have been brought to life again—brought to life in Christ, who was himself dead and came to life again.86 Your new life, indeed, is a sharing in the new life which Christ received when God raised him from the dead. And in giving you this new life with Christ, God has broken you clean away from your past. He has freely forgiven all your sins—and not yours only, but ours too.88 Paul insisted that Jews, who had received the divine law by revelation, and pagans, who had not received it—not in the same form, at least—were alike morally bankrupt before God and equally in need of his pardoning grace. Jews had disobeyed his will in the form in which they knew it (the law); pagans had disobeyed it in the form in which they knew it (the inner voice of conscience). But, like the creditor in the parable faced with his two debtors, “when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both” (Luke 7:42).[3]


The Rearticulation of Circumcision in Baptism (2:13a)

13a Paul backs up now to rearticulate his points, backing up directly to 2:11 to the Colossians’ spiritual circumcision and to their co-death in 2:12. He now redescribes the whole process of redemption, this time in terms of life from among the dead: “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ.” He refers to the Gentile past as a time of the “uncircumcision of your flesh.” Campbell calls this description “distorted, Adamic ontology.”116 Sin and death in v. 13a correspond to the unspiritual circumcision of vv. 11–12. If we add Paul’s description of the Colossians’ pre-Christian past (1:21–23) to their noncircumcision (2:11–12) and to their sin and death (2:13a), we discover Paul’s pre-in-Christ anthropology. Here is the summary of Dunn:

In sum, humankind in the world is not just weak and corruptible. There is an inescapable dimension of sin, of failure and transgression, also involved. Humans were created for relationship with God, a relationship which is the essence of human life, a relationship which gives humankind fulfillment of being, as creature (in relation to God) and as human (in relation to the rest of the world). But humankind has made the mistake of thinking it could achieve a more satisfying relation with the world if it freed itself from its relation with God. It has turned from God and focused attention exclusively on the world, revolting against its role as creature and thinking to stand as creator in its own right. In consequence humankind has fallen when it thought to rise, has become foolish not wise, baser not superior. It has denied its likeness to God and preferred the likeness of beasts and things. It has lost its share in the majesty of divinity, and now falls far short of what it might have become. Instead of sharing eternal life, it has become dominated by death, a “sucker” for sin. It shares in a pervasive out-of-joint-ness, frustration, and futility with the rest of creation.

Paul’s argument in v. 13a is progressive: he identifies who they are (the dead), he specifies two elements of that death (in sins, in uncircumcision), and then he reveals the solution to that death: resurrection with Christ. While forgiveness of sins is the most popular benefit of the gospel, making sins the fundamental problem, often enough in the New Testament the fundamental problem is death, and the solution therefore life. One need not be forced to choose between the two, but neither should one overdo one at the expense of the other. Death, then, is the Adamic destiny (Rom 5:12–8:2).

Two elements (sins, uncircumcision of the flesh) now appear in the death condition, but are these two elements the cause of death or the metaphoric location of the Adamic death-existence? The term “sins” (NIV) or “things you had done wrong” (CEB), which in Greek is paraptōma, refers to deeds done that violate a standard. Paul also calls wrongdoing the “uncircumcision of your flesh.” In summary, he sees the previous condition of these Gentiles as excluded from the one family of God, Israel, and as one marked by sins.

But death is more than resolved by the overwhelming power of the resurrection: “God made you alive with Christ.” The verb is causative: God caused them to come back to life from a condition of death, and undoubtedly the Holy Spirit’s regenerative power is in view. Paul says nearly the same thing at Ephesians 2:5, where he adds that it was by the grace of God. “The God who gives life to the dead” is a conversion expression in Judaism, but one’s theological or ecclesial setting influences which conversion event Paul has in mind: personal faith or the sacrament of baptism. The latter, on the basis of 2:12, has substantive support here, without it eliminating the need for faith (also 2:12).

  1. The Solution of Victory in Christ (2:13b–15)

13b–15 There is a subtle shift in v. 13b to the subject of Christology, but it moves from the dead-in-sins condition (v. 13a) to resurrection life in Christ, in whom one finds the solution to the dead-in-sins condition: “He forgave us all our sins.” The grammatical flow can be explained in a number of ways, but if one sticks to the principle that main ideas come through main verbs instead of participles, one is forced to focus on “God made you alive” (2:13a), followed by verbal explanatory glosses—forgiving and canceling (both participles, vv. 13b–14a), a verb (“taken it away,” v. 14b), and then another verb (“he made a public spectacle,” v. 15b), which is modified before and after by participles (“having disarmed” in v. 15a and “triumphing over” in v. 15c). Here is an outline:

“God made you alive …” (2:13a)

  1. In forgiving (2:13b)
  2. In canceling (2:14a)
  3. In taking it away (2:14b)

Nailing it to the cross (2:14c)

  1. In making a spectacle (2:15ab)

Disarming them

Triumphing over them

Thus, 2:13b–15 is an extended and extending expansion of the gift of new life. One thought triggers another, but only by digging deeper into the work of Christ. God is the subject of the actions that follow in numbers 1–4.

One more observation on the shift that is occurring in 2:13b. Instead of “you” (plural) Paul writes about “we.” Has he shifted from Gentile Colossians to the all-embracing reality of both Jews (Paul and Timothy) and Gentiles? Or is the “you” at least in part all Christians, and the “we” the assumption he has been using all along? Or is this pastoral theology, Paul identifying with his audience? I am unpersuaded that a careful distinction—“you” for Gentiles and “we” for either Jewish believers or both Jews and Gentiles—can be established consistently in the evidence of Colossians or the Pauline letters at large. Paul seems here to identify with his audience and is offering yet one more expression of the indivisible unity of Jews and Gentiles in Christ.

(1) New Creation … in Forgiveness (2:13b)

13b The central image in this paragraph is that God has ushered in new creation. That is, “made alive” is the main verb of 2:13. Several dimensions of how God creates anew become the focus of the work of Christ in 2:13b–15, beginning with the forgiveness of sins. The term “sins” denotes acts contrary to a prescribed set of commands, a violation of God’s will known also by Gentiles. The word behind “forgiveness” is the word charizomai, which could be translated “gracing.” In Pauline theology grace refers to the love of God unleashed to rescue all humans from their captivity in order to bring them into the liberated family of God.131 In this context, the term focuses on rescuing in the sense of erasing all of one’s debt of sins owed to God. Hence, to use Barclay’s perfections, we see here especially the perfections of superabundance, priority, and incongruity, while in the wider sweep of this letter we could factor in grace’s efficacy and even circularity. In the gospel of Jesus’s death, resurrection, and exaltation, God “graces” Jesus with the name (Phil 1:29). God’s revelation in Christ “graces” us with the Abrahamic promise (Gal 3:18) and understanding (1 Cor 2:12); in giving us his Son, God has “graced” us with “all things” (Rom 8:32), not excluding suffering (Phil 1:29). All of these items and more express God’s “gracing” the church (Col 3:13; Phlm 22; Eph 4:32; 2 Cor 2:7, 10). At the very heart of this gracing by God is the grace of removing one’s sins (Col 2:13b), the sins Paul has just said put the Colossians to death (2:13a). If sins put to death, forgiveness brings back to life, a life that unleashes the cycle of forgiveness in the fellowship, and hence its circularity between humans (Col 3:13; Eph 4:32; 2 Cor 2:7–10; 12:13; Matt 18:21–35).

(2) New Creation … in Cancellation (2:14a)

14 The second dimension of new creation now appears: “having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us.” There are here four facts at work in this clause. First, there is a handwritten note, contract, or charge. The term cheirographon refers to a commonly known handwritten document that, in this context, refers to a certificate of indebtedness, a receipt or a contract confessed to and signed by a debtor. Such a document is behind the parable of the shrewd manager told by Jesus (Luke 16:1–9). Paul puts himself into such a certificate in Phlm 18–19. A concrete example is found in the Testament of Job:

There were also certain strangers who saw my eagerness, and they too desired to assist in this service [of charity to the poor]. And there were still others, at the time without resources and unable to invest a thing, who came and entreated me, saying, “We beg you, may we also engage in this service. We own nothing, however. Show mercy on us and lend us money so we may leave for distant countries on business and be able to do the poor a service. And afterward we shall repay you what is yours.… And receiving their note eagerly, I would give them as much as they wished, taking no security from them except a written note.…

[Unable to pay Job back, the indebted] would come and entreat me saying, “We beg you, be patient with us.” … Without delay, I would bring before them the note and read it granting cancellation as the crowning feature. (11:1–4, 6–7, 10–11)

Some explore an apocalyptic background for the term and then connect it to the book (biblos) of life (e.g., Exod 32:32–33; Ps 69:28; Dan 12:1; Rev 3:5), in which are listed the names of the blessed. One wonders whether it is too big of a leap from cheirographon to biblos, but support for the view can be seen in the Apocalypse of Zephaniah 3:5–9:

Then I saw two other angels weeping over the three sons of Joatham, the priest. I said, “O angel, who are these?” He said, “These are the angels of the Lord Almighty. They write down all the good deeds of the righteous upon their manuscript as they watch at the gate of heaven. And I take them from their hands and bring them up before the Lord Almighty; he writes their name in the Book of the Living.

“Also the angels of the accuser who is upon the earth, they also write down all of the sins of men upon their manuscript. They also sit at the gate of heaven. They tell the accuser and he writes them upon his manuscript so that he might accuse them when they come out of the world (and) down there.”

And in the Apocalypse of Paul 17: “And I heard the Lord God, the just judge, again saying, ‘Come, angel of this soul, and stand in the midst.’ And the angel of the sinful soul came, having in his hands a document, and said, ‘These, Lord, in my hands, are all the sins of this soul from its youth till to-day, from the tenth year of its birth; and if you command, Lord, I will also relate its acts from the beginning of its fifteenth year.’ ” The view is at least plausible, even if the evidence cannot be established as pre-Pauline.

A variety of sometimes complementary options are raised by the theological implications of the term cheirographon. Is this a bond of accusation established by God against humans who have no capacity to repay? Is this an indebtedness created by human behaviors? Is this the Torah, to which Israel committed itself to be obedient (Exod 24:3), now acting as a condemning instrument? Is it simply an IOU, one that needs to be set in the context of the so-called halakic mystics’ demand for visions? Or as it was read in the patristic era, is this the bond Satan holds over humans that they will die (Gen 2:17)? Is it the human body’s fallen en-flesh-ment that prevents full obedience? Or is it a reference to the various teachings of the false teachers used to press the Colossians into a deeper conversion to the Mosaic Torah (Col 2:16–23)? Or a decree of condemnation?143

An answer comes by recognizing that the term cheirographon is modified by another term: “the handwritten note in its requirements/ordinances [dogmasin].” This second term strengthens the first term by expressing the kind of obligation:145 the handwritten note for which the individual human is accountable is one that specifies the requirements. Asking, Which requirements? pushes us closer to a resolution. It could be the Mosaic law and hence refers to the Torah of Moses, along with the halakah (see Col 2:16, 21–23; also Gal 3:10, 13; Rom 4:15; 5:13). Or it could be more applicable to Gentiles by referring to God’s general revelation of morality, which they have failed and under whose condemnation they now stand (e.g., Rom 1:32). The first is favored by Eph 2:15, which has “the law with its commands and regulations [dogmasin]” and finds substantive support in Deut 27:9–26; Rom 2:14–16, and Jas 2:10–11. Even more, in Col 2:20 we read, “Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules?” The term “submit” here translates the Greek verb dogmatizō, which is cognate to dogmasin in 2:14. This usage connects the term to the halakic rulings like “Do not handle!” (2:21). We conclude that the cheirographon records obligations to halakah or Torah.

The next two expressions to consider in 2:14 are nearly synonymous and so are treated together: “stood against us” and “condemned us.” These expressions suggest that the cheirographon is God’s accusing bond of agreement against the sinner. The first expression deals with the basics of a requirement, while the second reveals that requirement stands in an accusing manner (e.g., Gen 22:17; Exod 1:10; 23:27). There are phenomena to bring to the surface: God has revealed his will to all; humans comprehend that will; humans knowingly consent to God’s will as obligatory; humans violate that revelation; that will stands as an accusing instrument against those humans; the accusation leads to judgment; and Christ’s death removes the condemnation against humans by absorbing that very condemnation. These phenomena point us to a gracious revelation on God’s part that entails covenantal obligation of all humans to listen, learn, and obey—and to reverse it all, judgment for those who do not enter into that cross to remedy their sin. Wright expands these phenomena in their proper ecclesial orientation: “The Mosaic Torah did not, we should note, stand over against Jews and Gentiles in the same way. In Paul’s view, it shut up the Jews under sin and shut out the Gentiles from the hope and promise of membership in God’s people.”

Finally the good news: that note has been “canceled.” New creation is a leitmotif in our paragraph, and it gains new color here: forgiveness erases or scrapes off our indebtedness.150 The NIV has “having canceled,” while the CEB has “destroyed the record.” The word “canceled” is used for forgiveness elsewhere in the Bible (Isa 43:25; Acts 3:19; cf. also Rev 3:5), but inasmuch as the clause under discussion describes a handwritten note, implying ink on papyrus, the immediate image is that of scraping away or washing off. Yet, that conclusion demands perhaps too precise of a detail because the verb could be depicting the legal effects: canceling the debit or destruction of the whole certificate by ripping it to shreds or by burning (CEB). Or, less concretely, it could mean just “wipe away” (as in Gen 7:4). But all of these images are compounded in meaning in v. 14b: the certificate is in fact nailed to the cross, which means that the indebtedness is forgiven and the charge is canceled by the death of Christ, depicted thus as a substitutionary death.

(3) New Creation … in Taking It Away (2:14b)

Paul now expresses the same idea of forgiveness in slightly different terms: “he has taken it [the cheirographon] away, nailing it to the cross.” It is not that two acts are performed—first erasing and then taking away—but one major act (new creation) explored in various ways. The word “away” deserves some attention, translating the common Greek expression ek tou mesou. This term evokes presence or proximity, where the cheirographon looms as an accusing finger, like the ghost in Dickens’s Christmas Carol. But in God’s grace this accusing voice in our midst has been lifted and taken away.

How? God has lifted the accusing cheirographon from our presence by nailing it to an instrument of punishment: the cross. One cannot avoid the temptation of thinking that Paul here speaks of the titulus on the cross, the accusation pinned to the cross on which criminals were crucified to announce to all who can read it the charges against the person. Normally, one nailed accusations to the cross in order to condemn, but here the nailing of the accusation to the cross releases the person from those accusations. How so? The innocent one, as we see in 2 Cor 5:21, assumes the charges against the guilty ones so that the guilty ones might become innocent. We thus have here vicarious, substitutionary atonement. Jesus shoulders the accusations against us so we need not experience their consequences in death.

(4) New Creation … in Making a Spectacle (2:15)

15 Suddenly one element in new creation grows to cosmic dimensions: “having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them.” The order here matters: first, God disarms the powers; second, God makes a public spectacle of them. And in a conclusive way there will come a third: God triumphs over them in the cross. Each image is a metaphor of new creation and the upside-down theory of Christus victor of Pauline theology. We look at each in order.

First, God’s new creation disarms the powers and authorities. The word “disarmed” is cognate to the term used in 2:11, where it meant “putting off” or “stripping off” the “whole self ruled by the flesh.” In 3:9 the term describes removing the “old self.” While some think the actor here is Christ, others think it is God. Inasmuch as it was God who generates new creation, so also here: God disarms the powers, or as some contend, God strips off the powers and authorities who have cloaked the cosmos.158

Who are these powers?

Excursus: The Powers as Polluted Structures (1:16; 2:15)

When Paul refers in Col 1:16 to “thrones or powers or rulers or authorities” and in 2:15 to “powers and authorities,” what does he mean? What kind of reality do we see here? Is this a projection onto the cosmic map of evil forces, like evil and systemic injustice? Is this a description of beings beyond human gaze who inhabit the cosmos and influence even to the point of controlling the ways of this world and the state and institutions and assignments, like an order of angels? Or a description of seemingly impersonal but nothing more than natural orders of creation? Or better yet, structures that have the potential to operate benevolently or maliciously, like government and officials and laws? As Hendrik Berkhof concluded, “In short, the apocalypses think primarily of the principalities and powers as heavenly angels; Paul sees them as structures of earthly existence.”163 Is this an exaggeration of human powers by granting to them demigodlike influence and powers, like Pilate or Nero depicted with otherworldly powers? Is this a political interpretation of genuine human powers, like Pilate or Nero or local powers, who are genuinely influenced by demons and evil angels?

And then, what are we to make of these powers today? Andrew Lincoln sketches the three hermeneutical options:

  1. they were supernatural forces and are to be so yet today;
  2. they were supernatural forces but are appropriated today as ideologies and social structures; or
  3. they were supernatural and social structures then and can be so today.

Lincoln aligns himself with the second as an appropriation of a first-century worldview in our world today, which he does by way of analogy rather than a strict correlation of historical exegesis and modern application. He thus seeks to avoid the problem of demythologizing the New Testament texts through critical reinterpretation. Lincoln’s approach is honest but effectively points its finger at trends of appropriation today: that in principalities and powers we are to see the powers of politics embedded in structures, and these structures are confronted in the gospel and church while at the same time paving a more progressive way. It seems to me that the third view, with emphasis on supernatural beings more than structures, is best supported by the evidence.

We begin to answer these questions by gathering principal evidence found in the Bible.

Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him. (Dan 7:27)

But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. (Dan 10:13)

So he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come.” (Dan 10:20)

None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Cor 2:8)

Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Cor 15:24–26)

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:38–39)

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. (Rom 13:1)

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. (Col 1:16)

And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Col 2:15)

… he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (Eph 1:20–21)

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. (Eph 2:1–2)

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. (Eph 3:10)

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph 6:12)

The terms “powers and authorities” (Col 1:16; 2:15) are connected with the near parallel in Eph 1:21; 3:10; 6:12, which speak of “rule and authority, power and dominion” and “rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,” and then with the cosmic conflict in which Christians engage in the power of the Spirit and in the victory achieved by Christ “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” This language undeniably describes spiritual and cosmic forces at work in this world, which Paul in Ephesians attributes to “the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (2:2). Yet, some of this language is routinely used for, say, Roman structures and institutions. In other words, the powers refers to dark cosmic forces that are at work in the structures of God’s world. As Caird expressed it, “In its natural state the human race lives in bondage not only to sin, death, and the Law, but to a host of angelic beings, whose varied nomenclature indicates that all in common have been invested by God with a species of authority over the created order, though somehow the authority becomes corrupt and demonic. These powers include the guardians of the pagan state, the mediators of the Torah, and the angels who preside over the national order—the heavenly representatives of civil, religious, and natural law.”

Yet, these various terms fluctuate from one text to another because they are drawn from the rich and varied vocabulary of Paul’s world and not from some specific cosmology. Even more, Colossians teaches that these structures were created by Christ, as 1:16 makes clear: “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.” Yoder frames what is in mind with the powers in terms of ideological and social structures, but he spans the cosmic scope of these structures: “If we can analyze more abstractly this wealth of allusions, we might say that we have here an inclusive vision of religious structures (especially the religious undergirdings of stable ancient and primitive societies), intellectual structures (-ologies and -isms), moral structures (codes and customs), political structures (the tyrant, the market, the school, the courts, race, and nation). The totality is overwhelmingly broad.”

However, Yoder fails to see the supernatural-being element of Paul’s language, so we think an even wider scope is needed. In the powers, then, we are drawn into a story that is at work behind the terms: created by God, these structures have become polluted, distorted, and destructive because they are aligned with Satan and empowered by his minions. The powers are created, fallen, and already defeated and struggling with mighty gasps in the interim period of inaugurated eschatology. The defeat, Paul declares (2:13–15), is accomplished, but the structures are still at work, so it is in the church that this defeat is to be embodied. As Berkhof, who also focuses too little on the supernatural beings, puts it: “The very existence of the church, in which Gentiles and Jews, who heretofore walked according to the stoicheia of the world, live together in Christ’s fellowship, is itself a proclamation, a sign, a token to the Powers that their unbroken dominion has come to an end.”

The battle of bringing the enemy under the footstool (Pss 8:6; 110:1) is on, and no one has captured the framing of this epochal battle more succinctly than Longman and Reid:

The contours of the story are of one sent from heaven to subject the cosmos to its Creator and Lord. Born of a woman (Gal 4:4) and taking human form (Php 2:7), he engaged the enemy, was victorious in an epochal battle (Col 2:15; cf. 1:12–14), and was exalted to God’s right hand, where he now reigns as cosmic Lord (1 Co 15:24–26; Eph 1:20–22; Php 2; Col 3:1; 1 Ti 3:16), building his new temple (1 Co 3:16–17; 2 Co 6:16; Eph 2:19–22), and receiving praise and obeisance (Php 2:10–11). He will come again at the end of the age and conclude his defeat of the enemy, who will have waged a final revolt (2 Th 2:8). In the end, death, the final enemy, will stand defeated along with every other hostile power, and Christ will hand over the kingdom to God (1 Co 15:24–28). But in the meantime, the people of the Messiah stand between two episodes—climax and resolution—in the eschatological warfare, enjoying the benefits and advantage of Christ’s defeat of the enemy at the cross (Ro 8:37). Yet, as they await their Lord to descend from heaven on the final day (1 Th 4:16–17), they are till beset by a hostile foe (Eph 6:10–17).

This story of conflict and triumph presumes enemies. And Paul selected and fashioned a rich vocabulary to describe them in their various aspects. These enemies consisted not of Romans or Greeks but of “principalities and powers,” sin, flesh, death, law, and a final enemy he called the “man of lawlessness.”

We are to see in “powers and authorities” created but sinful beings at work in created structures. At times we see a focus on kings and princes (see Dan 7:2–8; 10:13, 20–21; 1 Cor 2:8; 15:24–26; Rom 13:1) and death (1 Cor 15:26), but behind them are beings like angels and demons (Rom 8:38–39; Eph 6:12). These structures and institutions have been turned against God through their capture by dark beings that seek to use them to capture and enslave humans in evil. Inasmuch as angels and demons emerge in these listing of structures in Paul’s letters, we are to see them as more than systemic injustice at work in altogether human structures (like government), even if one might see an inner dimension of a material reality. Instead, we are to see in the powers structures polluted by more than an “inner reality” (Wink) but by real demonic beings who seek to destroy God’s will for our world.173 Thus, it is best here to see a via media, a both-and: both demonic and supernatural beings at work in earthly structures.

The second point of new creation explores an extravagant metaphor: “he made a public spectacle of them.” God publicly shames the powers and authorities by conquering them in the most paradoxical of places: a cross on which a man brutally suffered to death. This strange but wondrous act of God turns typical Roman brutality on its head—whereas Roman military commanders exposed and paraded conquered enemies through Rome on their way (sometimes) to a public crucifixion, so here God exposes the hideousness of systemic evil by means of a crucifixion. There’s more here: behind the word “public” is the Greek term parrēsia, which transcends “public” and means “boldly.” That is, God exposes evil boldly.

To gain a full flavor of what such a triumphal procession looked like and therefore the imagery at work in this paragraph, here is Plutarch’s account of the triumphal process of Aemilius Paulus over King Perseus, the king of Macedon, hence, of Rome over Greece:

32.2 The people erected scaffoldings in the theatres for equestrian contests, which they call circuses, and round the forum, occupied the other parts of the city which afforded a view of the procession, and witnessed the spectacle arrayed in white garments. 3 Every temple was open and filled with garlands and incense, while numerous servitors and lictors restrained the thronging and scurrying crowds and kept the streets open and clear. 4 Three days were assigned for the triumphal procession. The first barely sufficed for the exhibition of the captured statues, paintings, and colossal figures, which were carried on two hundred and fifty chariots. 5 On the second, the finest and richest of the Macedonian arms were borne along in many waggons. The arms themselves glittered with freshly polished bronze and steel, and were carefully and artfully arranged to look exactly as though they had been piled together in heaps and at random, 6 helmets lying upon shields and breast-plates upon greaves, while Cretan targets and Thracian wicker shields and quivers were mixed up with horses’ bridles, and through them projected naked swords and long Macedonian spears planted among them, 7 all the arms being so loosely packed that they smote against each other as they were borne along and gave out a harsh and dreadful sound, and the sight of them, even though they were spoils of a conquered enemy, was not without its terrors. 8 After the waggons laden with armour there followed three thousand men carrying coined silver in seven hundred and fifty vessels, each of which contained three talents and was borne by four men, 9 while still other men carried mixing-bowls of silver, drinking horns, bowls, and cups, all well arranged for show and excelling in size and in the depth of their carved ornaments.

33.1 On the third day, as soon as it was morning, trumpeters led the way, sounding out no marching or processional strain, but such a one as the Romans use to rouse themselves to battle. 2 After these there were led along a hundred and twenty stall-fed oxen with gilded horns, bedecked with fillets and garlands. Those who led these victims to the sacrifice were young men wearing aprons with handsome borders, and boys attended them carrying gold and silver vessels of libation. 3 Next, after these, came the carriers of the coined gold, which, like the silver, was portioned out into vessels containing three talents; and the number of these vessels was eighty lacking three. 4 After these followed the bearers of the consecrated bowl, which Aemilius had caused to be made of ten talents of gold and adorned with precious stones, and then those who displayed the bowls known as Antigonids and Seleucids and Theracleian, together with all the gold plate of Perseus’s table. 5 These were followed by the chariot of Perseus, which bore his arms, and his diadem lying upon his arms. 6 Then, at a little interval, came the children of the king, led along as slaves, and with them a throng of foster-parents, teachers, and tutors, all in tears, stretching out their own hands to the spectators and teaching the children to beg and supplicate. 7 There were two boys, and one girl, and they were not very conscious of the magnitude of their evils because of their tender age; 8 wherefore they evoked even more pity in view of the time when their unconsciousness would cease, so that Perseus walked along almost unheeded, while the Romans, moved by compassion, kept their eyes upon the children, and many of them shed tears, and for all of them the pleasure of the spectacle was mingled with pain, until the children had passed by.

34 1 Behind the children and their train of attendants walked Perseus himself, clad in a dark robe and wearing the high boots of his country, but the magnitude of his evils made him resemble one who is utterly dumbfounded and bewildered. 2 He, too, was followed by a company of friends and intimates, whose faces were heavy with grief, and whose tearful gaze continually fixed upon Perseus gave the spectators to understand that it was his misfortune which they bewailed, and that their own fate least of all concerned them. 3 And yet Perseus had sent to Aemilius begging not to be led in the procession and asking to be left out of the triumph. But Aemilius, in mockery, as it would seem, of the king’s cowardice and love of life, had said: “But this at least was in his power before, and is so now, if he should wish it,” 4 signifying death in preference to disgrace; for this, however, the coward had not the heart, but was made weak by no one knows what hopes, and became a part of his own spoils.

5 Next in order to these were carried wreaths of gold, four hundred in number, which the cities had sent with their embassies to Aemilius as prizes for his victory. 6 Next, mounted on a chariot of magnificent adornment, came Aemilius himself, a man worthy to be looked upon even without such marks of power, wearing a purple robe interwoven with gold, and holding forth in his right hand a spray of laurel. 7 The whole army also carried sprays of laurel, following the chariot of their general by companies and divisions, and singing, some of them divers songs intermingled with jesting, as the ancient custom was, and others paeans of victory and hymns in praise of the achievements of Aemilius, who was gazed upon and admired by all, and envied by no one that was good. 8 But after all there is, as it seems, a divinity whose province it is to diminish whatever prosperity is inordinately great, and to mingle the affairs of human life, that no one may be without a taste of evil and wholly free from it, but that, as Homer says, those may be thought to fare best whose fortunes incline now one way and now another.

Third, God’s new creation concludes in “triumphing over them [i.e., the powers and authorities] by the cross.” The term “triumphing,” or at least participating in the Schadenfreude of the parade, summarily describes often the public parade of the conquering military general, with a display of domination and violence of those who have been conquered. (The Arch of Titus and the Arch of Constantine in Rome today embody empire domination.) Paul paradoxically makes use of this image for apostolic ministry (2 Cor 2:14). Once again there is a phenomenology to be employed. For this set of images to work, we need to have God as ruler, God in conflict with the rebellious powers and authorities, humans and the people of God especially being subverted and suppressed unjustly by the powers, and then Christ, who enters into the fray to take the powers down in defeat through the cross and resurrection and who, as the strong-man victor180 over the powers, creates the space of victory for the Colossians and all the people of Jesus. Furthermore, we need to connect this verse to the theme of reconciliation in the hymn of 1:15–20: reconciliation entails victory over the powers in 2:15. Marianne Meye Thompson insightfully wonders why the powers are not said to be destroyed in 2:15, suggesting that the triumph may imply “restoration of the powers to their purposes in creation.”

The ultimate paradox is now clear: the location to celebrate victory is not the Roman Forum or the public streets of Roman cities but instead the precise place where Rome thought it was dominant: the cross. Some think “by the cross” (en autō) should be translated instead “in him [Christ]” in the sense of resurrection, ascension, and exaltation (cf. Eph 1:20–21; 4:8–10; 1 Pet 3:22), but the more immediate antecedent is “cross.” The powers are reversed: at the place Rome used as the ultimate indignity, God reestablishes the dignity of all. Jesus himself was stripped, and Jesus both was conquered and conquered at the cross. As Dunn says it so well:185

To treat the cross as a moment of triumph was about as huge a reversal of normal values as could be imagined, since crucifixion was itself regarded as the most shameful of deaths. But in this letter it is simply of a piece with the theological audacity of seeing in a man, Jesus the Christ, the sum and embodiment of the divine wisdom by which the world was created and is sustained (1:15–20). The key can only be to recognize that for Paul, as for the first Christians generally, the cross and resurrection of Christ itself constituted such a turning upside down of all that had previously determined or been thought to determine life that only such imagery could suffice to express its significance. The unseen powers and invisible forces that dominated and determined so much of life need no longer be feared. A greater power and force was at work, which could rule and determine their lives more effectively—in a word “Christ.” Triumph indeed!

The cross, then, is not only the politics of Jesus and Paul, but it is the paradigm for the moral life for all who would walk in the way of Jesus. This pattern of Christoformity will be worked out in detail through chapters 2 and 3 of Colossians.[4]


2:13 / The new life that these believers now possess in Christ is contrasted to what they were before their baptism. Basically, they were spiritually dead (cf. Eph. 2:1). This spiritual death manifested itself morally by their sins (paraptōma—or “trespass”). Thus, by way of a contrast, there is a connection with verse 11, where Paul talked about their “spiritual circumcision” (cf. Eph. 2:11, 12). The continuity with verse 13 is shown in the fact that God made you alive with Christ. As Christ was raised from the dead by the power of God, the believer, who is in Christ through baptism, has been raised (2:12) and brought to life (2:13).

The Greek text also illustrates how carefully Paul wishes to emphasize their union with Christ. The word for life (zōē) is prefixed with the preposition syn (synezōopoiēsen). This preposition is repeated with the pronoun “him” (syn autō), leaving no doubt that their resurrection and quickening to new life is God’s action in Christ alone.

This new life in Christ has resulted in a radical change in their moral life. Before, they were dead in their sins; now, they are spiritually alive (God forgave us all our sins). The change from you to us probably indicates that Paul is using traditional material familiar to the early church (note Matt. 6:12 in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our debts”). This “forgiveness” also has taken place in the past (the Greek aorist tense). Hence, there is no need to look beyond their experience with Christ to other alternatives.[5]


Triumphant Forgiveness

Colossians 2:13–15

God made you alive with him, when you were dead in your sins and were still uncircumcised Gentiles. He forgave you all your sins, and wiped out the charge-list which set out all your self-admitted debts, a charge-list which was based on the ordinances of the law and was in direct opposition to you. He nailed it to his cross and put it right out of sight. He stripped the powers and authorities of all their power and publicly put them to shame, and, through the cross, led them captive in his triumphal train.

Almost all great teachers have thought in pictures; and here Paul uses a series of vivid pictures to show what God in Christ has done for us. The intention is to show that Christ has done all that can be done and all that need be done, and that there is no need to bring in any other intermediaries for our full salvation. There are three main pictures here.

(1) Men and women were dead in their sins. They had no more power than the dead either to overcome sin or to atone for it. Jesus Christ by his work has liberated all people both from the power and from the consequences of sin. He has given them a life so new that it can only be said that he has raised them from the dead. Further, it was the old belief that only the Jews were dear to God; but this saving power of Christ has come even to the uncircumcised Gentiles. The work of Christ is a work of power, because it put life into those who were as good as dead; it is a work of grace, because it reached out to those who had no reason to expect the benefits of God.

(2) But the picture becomes even more vivid. As the Revised Standard Version has it, Jesus Christ cancelled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands; as we have translated it, he wiped out the charge-list which set out all our self-admitted debts, a charge-list based on the rulings of the law. There are two Greek words here on which the whole picture depends.

(a) The word for bond or charge-list is cheirographon. It literally means an autograph; but its technical meaning—a meaning which everyone would understand—was a note signed by a debtor acknowledging his indebtedness. It was almost exactly what we call an IOU. People’s sins had piled up a vast list of debts to God, and it could be said that they definitely acknowledged that debt. More than once, the Old Testament shows the children of Israel hearing and accepting the laws of God and calling down curses on themselves should they fail to keep them (Exodus 24:3; Deuteronomy 27:14–26). In the New Testament, we find the picture of the Gentiles as having not the written law of God which the Jews had, but the unwritten law in their hearts and the voice of conscience speaking within (Romans 2:14–15). People were in debt to God because of their sins—and they knew it. There was a self-confessed written accusation against them, a charge-list, which, as it were, they themselves had signed and admitted as accurate.

(b) The word for wiping out is the Greek verb exaleiphein. To understand that word is to understand the amazing mercy of God. The substance on which ancient documents were written was either papyrus, a kind of paper made of the pith of the bulrush, or vellum, a substance made of the skins of animals. Both were fairly expensive and certainly could not be wasted. Ancient ink had no acid in it; it lay on the surface of the paper and did not, as modern ink usually does, bite into it. Sometimes, to save paper, a scribe used papyrus or vellum that had already been written on. When he did that, he took a sponge and wiped the writing out. Because it was only on the surface of the paper, the ink could be wiped out as if it had never been. God, in his amazing mercy, banished the record of our sins so completely that it was as if it had never been; not a trace remained.

(c) Paul goes on. God took that written accusation and nailed it to the cross of Christ. It used to be said that, in the ancient world, when a law or a regulation was cancelled, it was fastened to a board and a nail was driven right through it. But it is doubtful if that was the case or if that is the picture here. Rather, it is this—on the cross of Christ, the charge that was against us was itself crucified. It was executed and put completely out of the way, so that it might never be seen again. Paul seems to have searched human activity to find a series of pictures which would show how utterly God in his mercy destroyed the condemnation that was against us.

Here indeed is grace. And that new era of grace is further underlined in another rather obscure phrase. The charge-list had been based on the ordinances of the law. Before Christ came, people were under law, and they broke it because no one can keep it perfectly. But now, law is banished and grace has come. We are no longer criminals who have broken the law and are at the mercy of God’s judgment; we are sons and daughters who were lost and can now come home to be wrapped around with the grace of God.

(3) One other great picture flashes on the screen of Paul’s mind. Jesus has stripped the powers and authorities and made them his captives. As we have seen, the ancient world believed in all kinds of angels and in all kinds of elemental spirits. Many of these spirits were out to bring about ruin. It was they who were responsible for such things as demon-possession. They were completely hostile. Jesus conquered them forever. He stripped them; the word used is the word for stripping the weapons and the armour from a defeated enemy. Once and for all, Jesus broke their power. He put them to public shame and led them captive in his triumphant procession. The picture is that of the triumph of a Roman general. When a Roman general had won a really notable victory, he was allowed to march his victorious armies through the streets of Rome, and behind him followed the kings and the leaders and the peoples he had defeated. They were openly branded as his spoils. Paul thinks of Jesus as a conqueror enjoying a kind of cosmic triumph, and in his triumphal procession are the powers of evil, beaten forever, for everyone to see.

In these vivid pictures, Paul sets out the total adequacy of the work of Christ. Sin is forgiven and evil is conquered; what more is necessary? There is nothing that Gnostic knowledge and Gnostic intermediaries can do for men and women—Christ has done it all already.[6]


13. In the spirit of jubilation and solid Christian optimism Paul continues, And you, who were dead through your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, you he made alive together with him. In his great mercy God had taken pity on Gentiles as well as on the ancient covenant people. “And you” means, “And you who were formerly Gentiles, and as such morally and spiritually dead, and this not only because of your individual trespasses against God’s holy law but also and basically because of your state before God.” That state is here described as “the uncircumcision of your flesh,” that is, “your state of guilt; hence, your condition of sinfulness, impotence, and therefore hopelessness.”

Being children of wrath, their physical or literal uncircumcision symbolized their moral and spiritual uncircumcision. The word you is repeated for the sake of emphasis, as if Paul were saying, “Ponder this! Continue to reflect on it that on you, yes even on you, so deeply fallen, so hopelessly lost, so utterly corrupt in state and condition, such grace was bestowed.” Cf. Eph. 2:1, 5. The predominantly Gentile origin of this church is clear also from such passages as Col. 1:21, 22, 27; 3:5–7 (similar passages in Ephesians are: Eph. 1:13; 2:1–3, 11, 13, 17, 22; 3:1, 2; 4:17, etc.). But the same God, who raised Christ from the dead, also and in that very act made the Colossians alive.

In verses 13, 14, and 15 the apostle in orderly arranged participial modifiers shows us what was implied in this making alive. It implied:

(1). granting forgiveness to us: “having forgiven us all our trespasses” (verse 13).

(2). blotting out a writing: “having blotted out the handwritten document that was against us” (verse 14).

(3). disarming spirits: “and having stripped the principalities and the authorities of their power” (verse 15).

In the work of salvation the guilt of our sins must be removed first of all. Hence, when Paul describes how we were made alive together with Christ he begins by saying: having forgiven us all our trespasses. Note the striking transition from you to us. If it be true that “all (both Jew and Gentile) have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), then all alike need forgiveness. And Paul, who regards himself as “chief of sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15) was unable to write about a subject like this without being deeply moved in his own soul, having experienced what God did for him in rescuing him from inevitable damnation.

Forgiveness

  1. Why is it emphasized?

It is worthy of special attention that the apostle speaks about forgiveness in each of the first thee chapters of Colossians. May there not have been a special reason for this? Remember that this letter was going to be read aloud to the assembled congregation of Colosse, yes, to the very church gathered in Philemon’s house. And Philemon was the master of Onesimus, the returned runaway whom Philemon must forgive! It is as if I am present when this letter is being read, and as if I hear the lector reading the precious words:

“The Father rescued us out of the domain of darkness, and transplanted us into the kingdom of the Son of his love, in whom we have our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins.… And you who were dead through your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, you he made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses.… Put on, therefore, as God’s elect, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, longsuffering, enduring one another, and if anyone has a complaint against anyone else forgiving each other. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so do you also (forgive)” (Col. 1:13, 14; 2:13; 3:12, 13). And it is as if I can hear the Holy Spirit whisper in the heart of the host of this house-church, “Philemon, if the Lord did all this for you, should you not, with gladness of heart, forgive Onesimus, and fully accept him as a beloved brother?”

But surely not only for Philemon were these words intended but for the entire Colossian congregation, and in fact—as Paul reminds us so beautifully by saying “having forgiven us all our trespasses”—for each and every believer both then and now.

  1. What are its characteristics?

The evidence shows that this forgiveness is:

(a) gracious The word used here in the original stresses this fact (see on 3:13, footnote ). It is completely unmerited by man (Rom. 3:24; Titus 3:4–7). It is God’s precious gift in Christ. May not this be the very reason why the sinner must become as a little child to receive it? Cf. Matt. 18:1–3. The story is told of a man who at a Fair offered $10 gold pieces. Accompanying a pile of these valuable coins there was a sign: “Free, Take one.” All day long people passed by. Their smile said, “You can’t fool me.” The pile remained untouched. Just before closing time a child saw the sign, reached out his hand and took a coin!

(b) bountiful When God gives or forgives he does not do so merely of, his riches but according to his riches (Eph. 1:7). His pardoning love super-abounds (Rom. 5:20). Cf. Isa. 1:18; Ps. 103:12.

(c) eager God “entreats” men to be reconciled to him, “not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Cor. 5:19, 20). Cf. Ps. 86:5.

(d) certain When Paul received his commission he was sent to the Gentiles “to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive remission of sins.…” When Festus expressed his doubt about this heavenly vision and the commission given to Paul, the apostle answered, “I am not mad, excellent Festus, but I am telling the sober truth” (Acts 26:16–18, 25). Cf. Ps. 89:30–35.

(e) basic When a sinner is rescued out of the domain of darkness and transplanted into the kingdom of the Son of God’s love, he receives forgiveness first of all. Moral and spiritual cleansing (“holiness”) follows (Col. 1:13, 14, 22). Thus also here in Col. 2:13 the very first blessing that is mentioned in connection with making the dead sinner alive is forgiveness. Cf. Rom. 3:24. Note emphasis on justification in Rom. 5, followed by emphasis on sanctification, Rom. 6. “How can a sinner become righteous in the sight of God?” is still basic.

  1. How do we receive it?

What is the way along which God leads his children toward the full possession and enjoyment of this basic blessing?

  1. There must be genuine sorrow for sin (God-wrought sorrow, 2 Cor. 7:10). Cf. Mark 1:4.
  2. There must be a yearning desire to forsake sin. Those who are eager by the grace of God to put to death their evil nature (Col. 3:5–11) are pronounced forgiven (Col. 3:13). Cf. Prov. 28:13. When the Sunday School teacher asked the class, “What does it mean to repent?” a little boy answered, “To repent means to be sorry enough to quit doing what is wrong.”
  3. There must be the disposition of the heart to forgive others (Col. 3:13; Eph. 4:32). Cf. Matt. 6:14, 15.[7]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1992). Colossians (pp. 109–112). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Still, T. D. (2006). Colossians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 314–315). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Bruce, F. F. (1984). The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (pp. 108–109). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[4] McKnight, S. (2018). The Letter to the Colossians. (N. B. Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, G. D. Fee, & J. B. Green, Eds.) (pp. 243–261). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[5] Patzia, A. G. (2011). Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon (pp. 57–58). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[6] Barclay, W. (2003). The Letters to Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (3rd ed. fully rev. and updated, pp. 163–166). Louisville, KY; London: Westminster John Knox Press.

[7] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Colossians and Philemon (Vol. 6, pp. 117–120). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.