Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
C1.1 Vain Philosophy
Paul now moves on to the specific dangers that the Colossians were facing. The first one being Vain Philosophy. The aim of this Vain Philosophy was self-realisation. That is trying by self-effort to release the potential of the human soul and be the perfect person.
This is all of the flesh, and is a work independent of God. Vain Philosophy is a means that ignores and denies the all sufficiency of Christ’s atoning work at Calvary. No wonder Paul calls it vain, that is empty. It promises much but can not and does not deliver anything of external worth.
C1.2 Complete in Him
Paul in contrast shows that the only completeness is in Christ and what He has provided for us. No amount of philosophy can do that. Paul lists four important aspects of the work of Christ in the believer. We shall examine these carefully and see the complete and full salvation that we have in Christ.
Firstly, circumcised in Christ. This picture, taking OT physical circumcision as its basis, refers to the dealings of God with the heart. As we shall see it is a picture of new birth. To come into the life of God being born from above is foundational. This alone is the work of God as seen in Jn.1:12.
Secondly, baptised into Christ. This metaphor is arguably the most common one of the Christian life. It illustrates that on being born from above we are immersed into the death and resurrection life of Jesus, and all the benefits of Calvary become ours.
Thirdly, freed in Christ. New life means total freedom from our past sin and the law. We are brought into a marriage union with Christ. In so doing we are to live in newness of life and not in the deadness of the legal letter. Our daily walk is in the Spirit and not in the works of the law.
Finally, we are victorious in Him. Not only has Jesus conquered death and sin, but also the devil and all his cohorts. Thus we know that we can walk in victory over the enemy, and that nothing, not even they, can separate us from God’s love.
In summary the world’s Vain Philosophy does not give us eternal life, nor any provision to live the life God wants us to live. Whereas God in Christ has provided all things necessary for salvation and for the life He wants us to life. In other words we are complete in Christ.