This post opens with Fr. Callan’s brief summary of Colossians 2:8-23, followed by his notes on verses 12-14.
THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE FALSE TEACHERS IS OPPOSED TO CHRIST
A Summary of Colossians 2:8-23. St. Paul now directly considers the so-called philosophy of the false teachers among the Colossians, and he finds it is in opposition to Christian principles in doctrine and in practice. It is based on human traditions and worldly elements, instead of following Christ, in whom dwells the fullness of the Godhead, in whom the Colossians will find all they need for salvation, and who is superior to all powers. In Christ they have received the true circumcision, which is of the heart, having been buried with Him in Baptism and risen with Him through faith to a new life. Yes, when they were dead in their sins, God gave them new life in Christ, pardoning them their offences and liberating them from the burdens of the Law. It was the victory of the cross that cast off the principalities and powers, and led them away in triumphal defeat (Col 2:8-15). Therefore, the Colossians must not be judged by regulations and observances which were only shadows of the reality which is Christ. Nor let them be cheated of their prize by a wrong asceticism and worship of angels which would lead away from Christ, the head of all; for it is through Christ alone that the Church attains that full growth which is of God. Since, then, the Colossians have died to the elements of the world, they should pay no need to those things which perish in the using. These precepts and doctrines of men have an outward appearance of value, but they are really impotent against sensual indulgences (Col 2:16-23).
12. Buried with him in baptism, in whom also you are risen again by faith in the operation of God, who raised him up from the dead.
The Apostle explains when and how the Colossians received the circumcision of Christ (see verse 11. It took place at the time of their Baptism, when their immersion in the water signified their death and burial to sin, and their coming out of it represented their resurrection to a new life of grace. See on Rom 6:4 flf.
By faith, etc. In order that Baptism may confer spiritual life, faith in the power of God who raised Jesus to life is required in adults who have the use of reason (Rom 1:17).
Who raised him, etc. The Apostle mentions the resurrection of Jesus, because this mystery is fundamental to Christianity.
13. And you, when you were dead in your sins, and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he quickened together with him, forgiving us all offences:
Such is the circumcision of Christ, which is conferred through Baptism; and now the Apostle will apply to the Colossians what he has been saying on this subject, recalling first to their minds their former miserable condition of soul as pagans.
The uncircumcision of your flesh means their unregenerate state, in which they obeyed the promptings of the flesh (Eph 2:3).
He quickened, etc., i.e., God the Father raised you to new, spiritual life, “with him” (i.e., with Christ), when by faith you became united to Christ in Baptism. According to the best Greek MSS., the Vulg. should read donans nobis; the forgiveness of sins was something common to all converts, Jewish and Gentile.
14. Blotting out the handwriting of the decree that was against us, which was contrary to us. And he hath taken the same out of the way, fastening it to the cross
Blotting out, etc., is parallel to the preceding phrase, “forgiving us all offences” (ver. 13), and means that God had cancelled the indebtedness which our sins had caused to be registered against us.
Handwriting of the decree. Better, as in R. V., “the bond written in ordinances,” i.e., the signature of obligation to observance, whether expressed in the “ordinances,” or “orders,” or “decrees” of the Mosaic Law for the Jews (Deut 27:15-26); or in the dictates of the natural law and conscience for the pagans (Rom 2:12-15).
The reference then is primarily to indebtedness incurred by the Jews in violating the decrees and prescriptions of the Law of Moses, but secondarily also to that incurred by the Gentiles in violating the law written on their own hearts. Therefore, when the Apostle says, “which was contrary to us,” all are included, all were under the curse of law, Gentiles as well as Jews. See on Eph 2:15. Now God, through Christ, has destroyed this account that stood against us, taking it “out of the way,” in which it stood between us and God; and this He did by “fastening it to the cross” of Christ, on which our Lord suffered and atoned for all our sins and transgressions.
The Vulgate chirographum decreti should be made to agree with the Greek, which has τοις δογμασιν (dative); hence we should read decretis, and understand a chirographum which was expressed in or based on “decrees,” or “orders,” or “ordinances.”