A Study of Colossians 2:15-19 covers disarming the rulers and authorities, avoiding disqualifications, and holding fast to the head.

A Study of Colossians 2:15-19. Disarming the rulers and authorities

V.15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

This verse continues Paul’s thought in V.14 where he talks about “cancelling the record of debt” and “nailing it to the cross.”

The Greek word for “disarmed” is apĕkduŏmai, which means to divest wholly oneself, put off and despoil. It also includes the idea of stripping away. The Greek word for “triumphing” is thriambĕuō, which means to conquer, give victory, and to make an acclamatory procession.

And it presents a familiar picture to the Colossians. When Roman generals returned home after winning a war, they paraded through the middle of town followed by their spoils of war: loot and captured prisoners. It was a public declaration of victory.

Who are the rulers and authorities?

Who Paul specifically means by “rulers and authorities” is unclear. Is he alluding to the Roman authorities and Jewish religious leaders who collaborated to arrest and crucify Jesus? They abused their power and initially won. But in the end, the tables were turned and Jesus was the real winner. Because his death set mankind free from sin. An eternal victory and inspirational, underdog story for sure.

However, Paul more likely means the pagan Gods and spiritual beings he alluded to earlier that the Colossians used to follow. That held them captive. Their power over the Colossians was now stripped away. Although the “who” may not be clear, the point Paul’s making is. Jesus has triumphed, over these rulers and authorities, removed their power, and set the Colossians free.

V.16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.

Now that Paul has established their sins are forgiven, debt cancelled, rulers and authorities disarmed and Jesus triumphant, he moves forward with a conclusion. And he starts with a “therefore.” In other words, here is what’s next now that these things are settled.

The Greek word for “pass judgment” is krinō, which means to distinguish, decide, to try, condemn and call into question. Apparently, part of the false teaching involved regulations and observances related to Old testament, Jewish law around diet and Jewish holy days. And Paul reasserts they are not required to follow these religious practices. And not to let others condemn them for not doing so because Christ has established new covenant.

A Study of Colossians 2:15-19. Avoiding disqualifications

V.17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

In this verse Paul positions the words “shadow” and “substance” in contrast to one another. The Greek word for “shadow” is skia, which means shade or a shadow. The Greek word for “substance” is sōma, which literally means body. And Paul’s using them to make a distinction. A shadow offers an obscure view and anticipates what is to come. But Jesus is clearly visible and a present reality. Other verses on “shadow” include Hebrews 8:6 and 10:1.

V.18 Let no one disqualify you…

The Greek word for “disqualify” is katabrabĕuō, which means to beguile of reward and defraud of salvation. In other words, Christ alone is sufficient. He provides full qualification and is all you need. So don’t let others distract you and lead you away from him by adding extra provisions.

Paul describes these extra provisions.

Insisting on asceticism…

The Greek word for “asceticism” is tapĕinŏphrŏsunē, which means humiliation of mind. Asceticism was an outward expression of humility that involved practices of self-denial, like fasting. They were meant to control fleshly appetites.

And worship of angels…

Rather than an outright, worship of angels, the false teaching was more likely an unhealthy preoccupation with the angelic and spiritual realm. And anything that replaces the true God as the one we worship is idolatry.

Going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind…

Throughout the Bible, God spoke through dreams and visions. Once, even through a talking donkey. And we hear modern stories of this too. Okay, maybe not with talking donkeys. But today, we also have God’s written word. And it is our “go to” source for discerning God’s will. Any modern dream or vision that contradicts scripture should be disregarded.

The Greek word for “sensuous” is sarx, which literally means flesh and meat of the body. But it’s often used figuratively to imply sinful humanity with its carnal passions. Perhaps a little more sarcasm from Paul? He’s describing people who are outwardly spiritual, speaking about spiritual matters, but with a mind focused on fleshly passions.

In other words, these teachers presented themselves as “super Christians” but their humility was really pride in disguise.

A Study of Colossians 2:15-19. Holding fast to the head

V.19 And not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments…

Now Paul returns to what he says in 1:18. Jesus is the head of the body. The church. And these religious teachers and supposedly super Christians with their spiritual talk and practices were not holding fast to that head. But then, there’s also the body. Because Christianity is not practiced in isolation, but in community. This is where we find support, encouragement, and accountability.

Grows with a growth that is from God.

The presence of Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit empowers the church. And together, the members of that body grow together as disciples of Jesus Christ in God’s power.

Chip Tudor is an author, blogger and professional writer. He publishes books, humorous Christian drama, and thought provoking blogs from a Christian worldview.

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