Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Studies on Colossians #27

Sufficiency of Christ and Christian Living (3:1-4:6)

B.     Our Christian Apparel (3:5-11)

I once heard a speaker say we as believers are to take off our grave clothes. That comes from Paul. By using the word therefore, Paul is making a connection between theology and practice. Good theology makes for good Christian living (cf. John 13:17). This paragraph can be divided into three parts each according the imperatives (3:5, 8, 9).[1] The first two are generally looked upon as negative, with the last be positive. However, it seems to me that even the negative language of the text is positive. Getting rid of the old clothes is a positive change, enforced by putting on the new. Lopez reminds us of three things about this appeal in Colossians:[2]

  • The vices originate from the old fallen nature.
  • They are especially evident among nonbelievers.
  • They are unnatural for believers, but nevertheless possible (and in many cases a reality) in the life of believers.

The first imperative: “consider the members of your earthly body as dead.” (1:5-7).

In the Greek text the sentence begins with the imperative (or command): “Mortify or Put to death;” the Greek word nekroo means to kill, put to death, destroy, or to be rendered impotent (cf. Rom. 4:19; 6:6-7, 11-12; Heb. 11:12). Dunn says the word is somewhat rare and is derived from the medical field in reference to the atrophy of part of a body that by sickness or old age becomes inoperative.[3] We have already died with Christ positionally, now we are to put to death in our old self our old sinful practice. Our heavenly position and our earthly practice are to be in harmony. To do so, it must be done in the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:13). In His power we must put to death the deeds of the flesh. Vice list are common in Paul (cf. Rom. 1:29-32; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:3-5). These lists have these features:[4]

  • There is a variety of vices, and nowhere is there a complete list by Paul. This is clear at the end of the Galatians list which states: “and the like” (Gal. 5:21).
  • The list is significant or exemplary of something in the immediate context. They are always negative. Paul uses them as a “list of vices characteristic of unbelievers as a way of exhorting believers not to emulate them.[5]
  • They normally are set within the framework of God’s judgment (Col. 3:6).
  • They are not to be considered a new law or way to achieve merit.
  • They are given to aid transformation (Col. 3:10). The aim is for the reader to look anew at his life in relationship to his position in Christ.

There are certain deeds of the flesh we are to render dead or impotent in our new position. Paul also calls them the works of darkness (Rom. 13:12). Colossians lists five sins in this connection. This lists is only examples and by no means complete (cf. Gal. 3:19-23). They are:

  • Fornication or immorality (porneian), a word used of illicit sexual relationship; married or unmarried (3:5). Barclay says the word means prostitution, and porne is a prostitute and is connected with the verb pnumi meaning to sell.[6] It may well be the most common sin in the world.s This word is sometimes translated immoral (cf. Eph. 5:3). The word is general and indicates all types of unlawful sexual relations. In the days of Paul shame was absent from every society. This is evident for three reasons: there was not a strong stand or writing against it; Sexual matters were open and a well-established custom and practice in society; Sexual practices were strongly connected with religion, as seen in the many temples and their prostitutes.[7] This easily spilled over to those in the church who were raised during that time.
  • Impurity (akatharsia) meaning uncleanness or lewdness. It has its root physical dirt. It has been used of a clean house but more commonly in regard to ritual ceremony which cleanses one from ritual defilement. Impurity denotes moral and ceremonial impurity that keeps us out of the will of God. Purity makes it possible to come into the presence of God. In the Jewish religion impurity keeps one out of the temple and incurs the wrath of God (Lev. 22:23). It indicates moral depravity and is often connected with fornication (Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:3). It is a work of the flesh, not the spirit.
  • Passion (inordinate affection—KJV). It is the Greek word pathos, affection or passion, especially sexual. It could be translated lust. Some feel it is issued in connection to homosexual sin (cf. Rom. 1:26).[8] It is used three times in the NT and every time it is used “in conjunction with evil, i.e., to be absorbed in an evil passion or desire (cf. Rom. 1:26, Tit. 2:12).[9]
  • Evil desire (evil concupiscence—KJV), in the Greek it is two words (kokos epithesis) does not mean simply evil Kokos means evil mischief, bad in quality or disposition, corrupt, or wicked.  The word epithesis means an earnest desire or lust, and speaks of the object of evil. The two words should be translated together—evil desire. Evil is not a general object here, but is an expression of the type of desire.
  • Covetousness, which is idolatry. Covetousness (pleonexia) is the inordinate desire for riches, greed, or a consuming ambition for something (Rom. 1:29; Eph. 5:3). It points to motivation rather than action.[10] It is modified by the words, “which is idolatry.” It is idolatry because the item of covetousness takes the place over God. It is an item that projects itself and is lifted to the place of worship and praise, not necessarily by an overt act, but by one’s attitude concerning the object.

After listing these works of the flesh, Paul brings out two vital truths:

First, is judgment (3:6).

For because” is accusative and denotes the reason or cause to why we are to leave these actions or attitudes of the flesh. It is the judgment of God. These things bring God’s wrath. The words concerning the wrath which “will come” of “cometh” (KJV), reads as a future in most English translations. However, in the Greek it is a present tense—is coming.[11] It has the sense of that which has begun and is continuing; denoting certainty and immediacy. It is the strongest possible affirmation of God’s wrath. God’s wrath raises these vices to a new level of seriousness. Men brings wrath upon themselves. God’s wrath, “is tied directly to the holiness of God and depicts the necessary reaction of a personal God to any violation of his character or will.[12] As a gnomic present, it is voicing a principle of universal and permanent validity of God’s wrath.[13] It indicates both immediate and a long-range condition. The object is “upon the sons of disobedience.” (While some translations omit the phrase, such action is highly suspect).[14] In this text the preposition (epi) means on, upon, over, or above. The understanding is thereby that the sons of disobedience have the wrath of God on them or hanging over them. God’s wrath is not simply a future event (cf, Rom. 2:5; 5:9); but is active in our present time (cf. Rom. 1:18; 1 Thess. 2:16).

Second, is our past (3:7).  

The second is connected to the first by a relative pronoun (hos). Its translation depends on its antecedent. In this case it is not clear. It can be neuter, referring the list of vices, in which case it would be among these; or it can be masculine, referring to the sons of disobedience, thereby translated among whom.[15] It is debated which way it should be taken. Both are possible. Most scholars and translations translate it as neuter. Gromacki on the other hand sees it a masculine, referring to people.[16] The answer is unclear, but such a list is often taken to describe a way of life. I prefer the neuter use. The two halves of the verse seem to form a chiastic structure. Pao shows this clearly, dividing it as follows[17]

In these

you walked



you were living

In them

Both the phrases you walked and you were living emphasize behavior, of which the antecedent would be the vices. The contrast here is on a way of life. They at one time lived in accordance or under these vices; but they are no longer to live in them. This is in accord to the call to put the old to death (2:1). This contrast uses the same language and contrast in Ephesians 2:2-3. Both speak of a past condition in contrast to our new position in Christ. Our new status offers us deliverance (1 Thess. 1:10) from the wrath of God and forgiveness (1:14; cf. Eph. 1:7).

To be continued

[1] Gromacki, STAND PERFECT, 131
[2]  Rene A Lopez, “A Study of Pauline Passages with Vice List,” BIBOTHECRA SACRA, July 2011, 309-310.
[4]  O’Brien, WBC: COLOSSIANS, PHILEMON, 180. Also see Rene A Lopez, a series on “Paul’s Vice Lists” in BIBLIOTHECA SACRA, January 2011 to April 2012. A six-part study.
[5]  Rene A. Lopez, “Views on Paul’s Vice Lists and Inheriting the Kingdom,” Part 1: BIBLIOTHECA SACRA, January 2011, 81.
[6]  William Barclay, FLESH AND SPIRIT, [Grand Rapids MI, Baker, 1981], 24.
[7]  Ibid, 28.
[9]  Campbell, COLOSSIANS & PHILEMON, 131
[11]  Campbell, COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 133.
[14]  Terry, GREEK VARIENTS, points out the phrase is missing from two good manuscripts. While possible the phrase was borrowed from Eph. 5:6, in all likelihood, since they are missing from so few manuscripts, they are original.
[16]  Gromacki, STAND PERFECT, 134,

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Studies in Colossians #26

Sufficiency of Christ and Christian Living (3:1-4:6)

There is a transition beginning with this section of Colossians. This is clear because “Therefore if” (3:1). It is a double conjunction Ei oun; meaning if then, or therefore if or since.  It is a logical connective between the first half of the epistle and the second half. Harris takes it to indicate consequences of our identification in Christ.[1] It is generally agreed that the first two chapters are doctrinal, with the last two as practical, dutifully carrying out and applying the doctrinal truth.

A.    Principles of the Christian Inner Life (3:1-4).

Since Christ is the source of all wisdom (2:1-5) and was identified with Christ (2:11-17) hence we are not to yield to false rules and regulations to grow in Christ. Paul opens this section with some important principles to victory over sin and falsehood. There is a change of tone from being scornful to a more congenial perspective. we are to act in accordance to our position and its principles. The heart of these principles are drawn from the double motif of the death and resurrection of Christ. The death and resurrection is vital to the gospel and the heart of Pauline truth (cf. Rom. 6:3-9). The cross without the resurrection are not the gospel; likewise, the call to live the resurrected life without the cross is foolishness. The two go hand in hand throughout this passage, and the epistles of Paul. They make possible these principles or responsibilities of Christian living: 

  • Seek Heavenly things (3:1). This is an exhortation; being a present imperative which entails constant, daily seeking. we are to “keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” The basis of this imperative is our position in Christ. It centers in our presence with Christ and the realization of our location in and with Him (cf. Rom. 4:24; 6:4). House observes: “For Paul there is no reason for anyone to be ‘seeking the things above’ if they had not risen with Christ.[2] This is a contrast between “things above,” and the earthly legalistic, ascetic practices of the false teachers. These things are under doom and destruction. We are to avoid such so called wisdom which is enmity toward God (Rom. 8:6). Unlike the false teachers who focused on the secret heavenly realm (cf. 2:18), Paul’s thought is on the person of heaven who is present there and seated with God the Father; Jesus Christ. His work and sufficiency is a revealed truth that is open and evident. It is revealed in history. A key concept is the idea of being seat in heaven. In Jewish tradition, only God sits in heaven, with all the others (i.e. angelic beings) standing in his presence indicating subservience. We are in Christ seated at the right hand of God indicates equality in deity, sovereignty, and sufficiency (Eph. 1:20; Heb. 10:9-10). He is the motive of our life (Phil. 3:20).
  • Have a new mind-set. “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (3:2). This is an imperative that goes beyond seeking to a new way of thinking. It is the Greek word (phroneite) meaning primarily to think, take heed, to mind, or pay attention to. It speaks of the active focus of the mind; to be actively engaged in thinking, reason, and comprehending of truth. This is present tense which has the idea of continually setting or the mind. It has been pointed out that verse 1 speaks of a practical pursuit, while verse 2 to an inner character. The primary or main focus is on the revelation of “things above” which are associated with the resurrected Christ, while the “things on earth” are temporary and subordinate (cf. Phil. 3:19). They are not to be our main goal in life. Our mind-set is to be like the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5), which is accompanied by humility (Phil. 2:3). Campbell gives us three categories we are to think upon about Christ in this age of grace:[3]

First, on Christ the one who restored us gentiles to a right relationship with God. He is our Savior (Eph. 2:1-10).

Second, to think about of our daily relationship with Christ, our head (1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 1:22).

Third, we are to think about our future relationship to Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 4:13-17; Titus 2:13).

These categories could be reduced down to our past salvation, present sanctification, and future hope in Christ. All of which is to influence our thinking or perspective.

  • Surety in Christ (3:3-4). He is our hope. “For you have died and our life then is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory” (3:3-4). Our surety comes from our identification in Christ. This new identification terminated the old (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17; Rom. 5:12-17). Notice the tenses in this phrase, died (cf. 1:20) is an aorist indicating the event happened in a past point of time; whereas hidden is in the present perfect tense, indicating that we are hidden in Him and will continue to be. This identification is ensured by two actions by God:

First to safeguard us: being hidden with Christ in God. This reminds us of the words of Jesus in John 10:28. It indicates our double security: “with Christ in God.” Constable notes: “For the false teachers, the treasures of wisdom were hidden in their secret books (Gr. apokryphoi), but for believers, Christ is the treasury of wisdom, and our "life" is "hidden" (Gr. kekryptai) in Him.”[4] We have the surety of our salvation.

Second, we have the surety of our hope. When Christ is revealed, we “also will be revealed with Him in glory” (3:4). There is no question that this refers to a future action. The word revealed is in counterpoint to being hidden in verse 3. Likewise, the phrase is your life is identified in connection with Christ (cf. Gal. 2:20). The two lives are inextricable bound together. Thus, so is the revelation. The word revealed is phaneroo, and stresses an open display or appear; being an aorist subjunctive passive, indicating that Christ will appear at a given point in time.[5]  It is used twice, therefore indicating a future double revelation, both which happen at the same time and go hand in hand with one another. Christ in us gives us the hope of glory (cf. 1:27). Paul invokes this identify with the mystery of his gospel of grace. It is at the revealing of the church, the body of Christ, which occurs at the rapture, that this will be accomplished (1 Thess. 4:13-18). This transformation is part of a mystery (1 Cor. 15:51-53). Most of Bible students see this event in that second coming of Christ to set up His 1000-year kingdom, or the eternal state. However, I believe this is Rapture of the church. As Baker concisely says: 

…these are two separate events, and that the Rapture is a part of the truth of the Mystery which was never before made known to the sons of men in other ages or generations. The Church which is His Body and redeemed Israel are distinct entities. And yet God, in his eternal plan and purpose, placed these two events very close together in time. It is our conviction that at the Rapture we will be manifested with Christ in His glory in the heavenly sphere, and then as He comes back to earth we will be manifested in glory in the earthly sphere. The whole universe will blaze with His glory, so that every created intelligence will know that He is Lord of all. Surely the Body of Christ, even though distinct from Israel, will be manifested in glory with the Head, when He is displayed in the glory of His Kingdom as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.[6]

Regardless of one’s eschatological view of this passage, one thing is perfectly clear: Our destiny is one of glory!

To be continued…

[2]  H. Wayne House, “The Christian Life in Colossians,” BIBLIOTHECA SACRA, October 1994, 449.
[3]  Campbell, COLOSSIANS, 126.
[4]  Constable, NOTES ON COLOSSIANS, 48.
[5]  Campbell, COLOSSIANS, 129.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Book Review: Angels

Graham, Jack, ANGELS, [Minneapolis MN, Bethany House, 2016] 220 pages.

Angels is mostly devotional, not theological in presentation. This is clear from the chapter headings. The chapters are divided into 4 sections:

The Wisdom of Angels as You start your Journey—Forgiveness, Perspective, Provision, and Confidence.

The Protections of Angels as You Sustain Life’s Blows—Comfort, Courage, Advocacy, and Shelter.

The Encouragement of Angels as You Soar on Eagles’ Wings: Spurred On When You’re Spiritually Lethargic, Faithfulness When You’ve been broken, and Victory When You Are Tempted.

The Presence of Angels as You Stay the Course with Christ—Companionship When You Are Lonely, Persistence When You Want to Give up, Assurance When You Are Dying, and Inspiration When You’re Short on Hope.

All of these are important aspects of Christian living. In each chapter the reader can find encouragement. However, I have some major problems with the book.

First, it is weak on the theology of angels. It is more on the presentation of his sermons, than of substance or teaching concerning angels.

Second, it has the underlying principle that the work of angels is the same throughout redemptive history. The writer presents the work of angels as always the same, overlooking the dispensational aspects of their work. He makes this clear when he writes: “…the same angelic presence and protection that enveloped Jesus Christ at all points along his earthly journey remains in service to those who love God here and now” (page 14). That is a questionable concept he nowhere proves, but only assumes.

Third, the absence of Pauline teaching for the church the body of Christ.

Fourth, the book emphasizes Christian living rather than teaching on angels.

I read this book with mixed feelings. I was disappointed as the actual teaching on angels is superficial at best. At the same time, I was uplifted at times by the devotional truths of the book. However, there are better books on angels in the marketplace.

 I received this book free from Bethany House Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, August 8, 2016


ESCHATOLOGY: BIBLICAL, HISTORICAL, AND PRACTICAL APPROACHES, D. Jeffrey Bingham and Glenn R. Kreiger (editors), Grand Rapids MI, Kregel Academic, 2016.

This book was written in honor of Craig Alan Blaising, one of the most modern authors on the subject. He was has had a great influence in eschatology, the last 20 years or so. He is one of the original authors of progressive dispensationalism. The book opens with a biography of him by Steven L. James.

This is not a book on end-time events. It is one consider issues within the eschatological field and the importance of eschatology as Biblical theology. The book itself is divided into four main parts:

·         The Doctrine of the Future and its Foundations

·         The Doctrine of the Future in the Bible.

·         The Doctrine of the Future in the History of Christian Thought.

·         The Doctrine of the Future and Christian Ministry.

Each division contain a series of studies by a series of authors. Each writing on some aspect of the sectional subject. The number of studies in each section are not equal (for example the first division has 4 studies, while second division has 8 studies). However, it does not affect the importance or significance of the studies or the section.

Rather than giving a blow by blow of the content of the book, as other reviews have done, let me point out some of the important features found concerning the subject. Significant areas give us the following to consider:

1.       0ne of the key enlightening chapter is by Stanley Toussaint and the concept of hope. He not only gives a good survey of hope thoughtout the Bible; but his comments on “I Am” are especially insightful. It is a different view and will make one reconsider the concept. He sees the importance of the phrase as God being the God of the patriarchs.  Laing and Laing give a good overall survey of the founding stones of prophecy.

2.       The second section of the book deals with the Old Testament. In this section there are two important and significant articles. Daniel Block deals with the heart of Moses contribution to the future, guiding us through Deuteronomy. He deals with the heart of prophecy—adversaries, vengeance, remnant, restoration, and redemption of the land. He endeavors to show that all of this has roots in Deuteronomy. This chapter will give insight to the book of Deuteronomy and the future. Klein points out the importance of hope and waiting as important aspects that permeate the Psalms. Both are essential to the subject of eschatology.

3.       The next section looks at the New Testament. Darrell Block presents the Gospel’s envision a time between Jesus and His second coming involves a period of time (may be relative short, or an extended period of time). He argues against those who hold to a vision of the immediate return of Christ taking place right after the resurrection. This is an excellent chapter.

4.       The section of Future in the History of Christian Throught will be of interest of those who are interested on the play of eschatology in history. In found the section interesting and informative. This is clearly the major section of the book. It deal with the eschatological beliefs of key theologians of history from the church fathers to modern thinking. its include millennial and amillennial theologians. All the chapters are informative. I especially like the chapters on Justin Martyr and Irenaeus of Lyons which laid the groundwork of eschatology: including the key concept of the possibility of the immediate return of Christ, a coming resurrection, the judgment of the wicked, and the millennial kingdom.  Augustine and his contributions were the non-literal approach to eschatology. He has been called the father of the Allegorical method in eschatology. This method continues to be followed to this day. No literal millennium. The church and the present age is the millennium. Bailey defends the traditional view of dispensational eschatology including the pretribulation view and premillennialism.

5.       The book ends with a section on the future and ministry. This seems to me to be the weakest section of the book. It deals with ministry in Pastoral care; it challenges; and the marketplace. The best of the three is on Pastoral care.  Audrey embraces the view that the church needs see eschatology as a direction for the church. Eschatology should be a springboard of consistent preaching, encouraging counsel, and active ministry in contemporary society. He combines the example of church history and nurturing through the word in times of persecution. The last two chapters to me simply fall short of the mark.

Overall this book is edifying, interesting, and worthwhile. It will be stimulating and a fine addition on the subject and for your library.

 I received this book free from Kregel Academic. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Studies to Colossians #025

The Peril of Asceticism (2:20-23).

Asceticism is the practice of strict self-denial as a spiritual discipline. Gromacki notes that “asceticism and legalism are partners in humanistic religion.”[1] The continuation of regulations imposed by the false teachers shows the connection with what Paul already had been condemning.

Still the central error of the false teachers was an attempt to impose the ceremonial yoke, in some of its aspects, on the members of the Christian church, as something which would inspire them to transcendental purity, and bring them into a magical connection with powers of the spiritual world.[2]

Paul opens this section with a controversial tone as seen in the word “if” [or since] and “why.” This section begins with a conditional statement turning to a condemning statement. The conditional statement is: “If you have died with Christ to the elementary principle of the world” (2:20 cf. 2:8).  The word if is a first class condition which indicates that it should be perceived as real or true. It is assumed true for the sake of argument.[3] The if clause pertains to both the position and identification of the believer—we have died with Christ. The aim or purpose of our position is “to the elementary principles of the world” (1:20). The word translated to is not the best. The KJV is better translating it, from. The Greek is apo, meaning from, away from, and signifies departure. Thus, we died with Christ from the elementary principles. It speaks not only of separation but the element of freedom that follows severance; thus, from the control of. The point is that if they died with Christ, they are to be separate from the elementary principles (or rudiments) of the world. These elements are the godless principles of the world. They are to live up to their spiritual completeness in Christ.

It is possible, however, to return or place oneself back under the rudiments of the world (cf. Gal. 4:9). Paul confronts them and their behavior— “Why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees” (1:20). Why may be more important than most commentaries indicate. It seems to function in this context in at least two ways: First, is demanding a response by the readers as to the reason they are taking such action. Second, it stands as part of a rebuke or condemnation in taking such action. The object of the why is given in a twofold behavior (1) “As if you are living in the world.” This ties in directly with the living according “to the elementary principles of the world” The word living means to be possessed of its vitality and exercise the function thereof. In the Greek is an adverbial participle and is concessive, thus the idea of still living captures the idea well, but retains the emphasis of the previous clause concerning our identification in the death of Christ.[4] This does not mean that believers are no longer in the world which is fallen and sin-laden; rather they are called to a higher standard of conduct that they are to live by (cf. John 15:19). They are not to be controlled by this world’s system. “Paul is not denying his reader’s earthly existence, only the worldly orientation of their lives,” notes Harris.[5]  (2) The second description is given in the translation as: “do not submit yourself to decrees.”  This seems to indicate a prohibition. In the Greek text, however, the phrase is an extension of why, thus giving it as part of the ;question and could read; Why…do you submit to its rules?”  It is a causative/ permissive passive which “implies consent, permission, or cause of the action of the verb on the part of the subject.”[6] The passive voice carries the idea of them allowing themselves to be in this condition. They are voluntarily doing this. The word submit is the word is the Greek word dogmatizesthe, where we get the word dogma. “Paul uses the present tense of the verb to suggest that the readers of the letter were, in fact, in danger of allowing themselves to be ‘dictated to’ by the false teachers.”[7]

He now describes the rules or decrees. Asceticism promotes self-denial in order to develop spiritualism. The false teachers believed that by abstaining from things they can earn merit with God. This self-denial is described a in somewhat sarcastic tone.[8] These rules are not the apostle’s own teaching, but prominent watchwords of the false teachers.[9]  He gives three examples of the sort of regulations imposed by Ascetic teaching:

  • Do not handle” (2:21).  The Greek here and the rest of these examples are aorist subjunctives, which conveys not to begin to do them. It is used of a prohibition, a negative command.[10] The word translated handle or touch (KJV) is the Greek word hapto, meaning to bring in contact, touch, handle, lay hold of, or to meddle with. It is common to look at this and the other prohibitions concerning food and drink regulations. However, Harris says these are probably not limited to dietary.[11]  Gromacki makes a point when he suggests this has to do with sexual abstinence.[12] He points out that the same word in 1 Corinthians7:1— “It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” This is reinforced by Paul warning against false teachers who prohibit marriage (1 Timothy 4:3). This is possible. O’Brien rejects this for three reasons: (1) Prohibition of sexual relations are nowhere else in this epistle. (2) In the Old Testament the word is always used in connection of an object of the verb making clear what is meant (cf. Gen. 20:4, 6, Prov. 6:29). Here there is no such object in the text. (3) Verse 22 talks about these being used.[13] Pao understands these are references of the general framework of cultic matters (cf. Ex. 19:12-13; 30:29; Lev. 5:2-3; 11:24-39).[14] Since these are general statements there is a degree of amenity here; therefore, it is hard to determine what it applies to in the false teaching. Paul probably intends his readers to take these in a general sense.
  • Do not taste” (1:21).  There can be little doubt this refers to dietary laws or fasting. Again no details are given that will specify what it directly refers to. However, in Christ there is no such distinctions (cf. 1 Tim. 4”3-5).
  • Do not touch” (1:21). This is not the same word as used in the first prohibition. This is a rarer word thingano, which is found only three times in the New Testament (here, Hebrews 11:28; 12:20). It means to touch or to harm. The difference between this prohibition and the first one is not clear. Lightfoot holds that the first verb is stronger than the second one,[15] which may be the case; but is not much help in just what they refer t0 in the text. What is clear is that there are things that asceticism holds that must be abstained from, and they are evidently well known to the readers, since all three prohibitions are used in general terms. It seems that all the prohibitions have the background of purity, and should be seen in that context.
The peril of such ordinances are clearly presented in verse 22 and 23. Paul presents justification for his rejection of such actions and teaching in a threefold matter. Paul uses the relative pronoun to start each verse. The structure can be diagramed as so:

Which” (Greek: ha) refers back to verse 21.

In accordance with” refers back to verse 20 and the reference to decrees or ordinances.[16]

Which things” referring to the last part of verse 20.

These point to three reasons for rejecting asceticism:[17]

·         These rules concern things “which are destined to perish with use” (1:22). One must be careful here. We tend to read this phrase in eschatological terms, taking it to mean they will perish in the end time events. However, that seems to take the meaning out of context, and a misreading of the text. Destined to perish points the lack of any permanent value. Perish has the idea of present action, that which is perishable (1 Cor. 15:42, 50). It is the same word as found in Gal. 6:8 where the flesh reaps destruction. It is not an eschatological event as seen in the modifier—with use. It indicates consumption by use (locative); when they are consumed; or by being used, with use (instrumental). It seems to speak of perish in the use of asceticism, which rules are temporary. The great peril is that it allows the material to govern the spiritual life (cf. 1 Cor. 6:12-13, 19-20; 8:8, Mark 7:15). 

·         They are man-made rules and regulations that are being imposed on the person. They are “in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men” (2:22).  This resumes the thought of verse 21 and the “elementary principles of the world.” This alludes to Isa. 29:13. Human religion is the basis and origin in hearts and minds of men; not the Spirit of God. The readers were members of the church, the body of Christ rooted by and in faith. These false teachers were trying to force human commands and teachings contrary to faith in Christ alone. Man’s teaching is sensual and flesh centered and not spiritually centered. It tries to add to the finished and sufficient work of Christ.

·         These practices are valueless. This is the conclusion of this major section. While the verse is a subject of much debate on how to understand the Greek text translation,[18] the truth is not changed. It deals with the hypocriticalness of the teaching. Legalism, mysticism, and asceticism hold certain things in common. They are marked by rules and regulations; a false wisdom; and practices against the flesh for spiritual position. “These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, [but are] of no value against fleshly indulgence” (2:23). It seems best to take as the antecedent of these things to the preceding clause—doctrines and commandments of men. He now describes the true nature of these cultic practices promoted by these false teachers and doctrines. There are three:

First, they have an appearance of wisdom. The words have an appearance is a false one. Pao states that it is “a concessive adverbial participle, which thus sets up a contrast between the appearance of wisdom of the imposed practices and their actual uselessness.”[19] The false wisdom is found in the self-made religion; it is “a freely chosen worship.”[20] It is a religion from the mind of man, not the mind of Christ (cf. Rom. 1:22).

Second, is a self-abasement, or as the KJV says a false humility (which is better and the NIV translated it this way also). The Greek word is tapeinophrosyne, meaning lowliness of mind, humility, and modesty. This is camouflage for the purpose of inflating and destroying the grace with ordinances that are useless. It destroys the grace of God (cf. Gal. 5:4). Grace cannot be increased by merit. The two are opposed to one another. Salvation cannot be achieved; it can only be freely received.

Third, is the severe treatment of the body, or its neglect (KJV). The Greek word used is aphantos (found only here in the NT), and means unsparing, thus, unsparing in the treatment of the body. This is manifested in both the denial and the self-imposed beatings of the body. Asceticism both denies the flesh and self-tortures the flesh in other to reach a higher spirituality.

Paul concludes “[but are] of no value against fleshly indulgence” (2:23). In other words, it does not change nor control the sin nature of man. Such practices do not get to the essence of true spirituality. Only a change of heart and mind can bring true holiness. These rules do not accomplish their goal; they are of no value! Their worship and practices are in vain (cf. Mark 7:6-8). “This doctrine of matter being inherently evil denies God as Creator, denies Jesus Christ as being a member of the Godhead, makes marriage, sex, and the pleasures and joys of life to be inherently evil,” observes Baker.[21] Such actions and teachings have no value as far as God is concerned.


[1]  Gromacki, STAND PERFECT IN WISDOM, 122.
[2]  Eadie, COLOSSIANS, 197.
[3]  Wallace, BEYOND THE BASICS, 630.
[6]  Wallace, BEYOND THE BASICS, 440.
[8]  Ibid, 235
[9]  Eadie, COLOSSIANS 199.
[10]  Wallace, BEYOND THE BASICS, 469.
[12] Gromacki STAND PERFECT, 125.
[15]  Lightfoot, COLOSSIANS, 203.
[16]  Verse 21-22a is Paul interjecting or interrupting in the text and in most translations they are handled as a parenthesis. 
[18]  See the four major views in Pao, ZECNT: COLOSSIANS & PHILEMON, 197: O’Brien, WBC: COLOSSIANS, PHILEMON, 150-151,
[20]  Harris, EGGNT: Colossians and Philemon, 115.