John Wesley's Explanatory Notes
Verse 1. How great a conflict - Of care, desire, prayer. As many as have not seen my face - Therefore, in writing to the Colossians, he refrains from those familiar appellations, "Brethren," "Beloved."
Verse 2. Unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, unto the acknowledgment of the mystery of God - That is, unto the fullest and clearest understanding and knowledge of the gospel.
Verse 6. So walk in him - In the same faith, love, holiness.
Verse 7. Rooted in him - As the vine. Built - On the sure foundation.
Verse 8. Through philosophy and empty deceit - That is, through the empty deceit of philosophy blended with Christianity. This the apostle condemns, 1. Because it was empty and deceitful, promising happiness, but giving none. 2. Because it was grounded, not on solid reason, but the traditions of men, Zeno, Epicurus, and the rest. And, 3. Because it was so shallow and superficial, not advancing beyond the knowledge of sensible things; no, not beyond the first rudiments of them.
9, For in him dwelleth - Inhabiteth, continually abideth, all the fulness of the Godhead. Believers are "filled with all the fulness of God," Ephesians 3:19. But in Christ dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead; the most full Godhead; not only divine powers, but divine nature, Colossians 1:19. Bodily - Personally, really, substantially. The very substance of God, if one might so speak, dwells in Christ in the most full sense.
on the Whole Bible
Verse 10. And ye - Who believe. Are filled with him - John 1:16. Christ is filled with God, and ye are filled with Christ. And ye are filled by him. The fulness of Christ overflows his church, Psalms 133:3. He is originally full. We are filled by him with wisdom and holiness. Who is the head of all principality and power - Of angels as well as men Not from angels therefore, but from their head, are we to ask whatever we stand in need of.
Verse 11. By whom also ye have been circumcised - Ye have received the spiritual blessings typified of old by circumcision. With a circumcision not performed with hands - By an inward, spiritual operation. In putting off, not a little skin, but the whole body of the sins of the flesh - All the sins of your evil nature. By the circumcision of Christ - By that spiritual circumcision which Christ works in your heart.
Verse 12. Which he wrought in you, when ye were as it were buried with him in baptism - The ancient manner of baptizing by immersion is as manifestly alluded to here, as the other manner of baptizing by sprinkling or pouring of water is, Hebrews 10:22. But no stress is laid on the age of the baptized, or the manner of performing it, in one or the other; but only on our being risen with Christ, through the powerful operation of God in the soul; which we cannot but know assuredly, if it really is so: and if we do not experience this, our baptism has not answered the end of its institution. By which ye are also risen with him - From the death of sin to the life of holiness. It does not appear, that in all this St. Paul speaks of justification at all, but of sanctification altogether.
Verse 13, And you who were dead - Doubly dead to God, not only wallowing in trespasses, outward sins, but also in the uncircumcision of your flesh - A beautiful expression for original sin, the inbred corruption of your nature, your uncircumcised heart and affections. Hath he - God the Father. Quickened together with him - Making you partakers of the power of his resurrection. It is evident the apostle thus far speaks, not of justification, but of sanctification only.
Verse 14. Having blotted out - in consequence of his gracious decrees, that Christ should come into the world to save sinners, and that whosoever believeth on him should have everlasting life. The handwriting against us - Where a debt is contracted, it is usually testified by some handwriting; and when the debt is forgiven, the handwriting is destroyed, either by blotting it out, by taking it away, or by tearing it. The apostle expresses in all these three ways, God's destroying the handwriting which was contrary to us, or at enmity with us. This was not properly our sins themselves, (they were the debt,) but their guilt and cry before God.
Verse 15. And having spoiled the principalities and powers - The evil angels, of their usurped dominion. He - God the Father. Exposed them openly - Before all the hosts of hell and heaven. Triumphing over them in or by him - By Christ. Thus the paragraph begins with Christ, goes on with him, and ends with him.
Verse 16. Therefore - Seeing these things are so. Let none judge you - That is, regard none who judge you. In meat or drink - For not observing the ceremonial law in these or any other particulars. Or in respect of a yearly feast, the new moon, or the weekly Jewish sabbaths.
Verse 17. Which are but a lifeless shadow; but the body, the substance, is of Christ.
Verse 18. Out of pretended humility, they worshipped angels, as not daring to apply immediately to God. Yet this really sprung from their being puffed up: (the constant forerunner of a fall, Proverbs 16:18) so far was it from being an instance of true humility.
Verse 19. And not holding the head - He does not hold Christ, who does not trust in him alone. All the members are nourished by faith, and knit together by love and mutual sympathy.
Verse 20. Therefore - The inference begun, Colossians 2:16; is continued. A new inference follows, Colossians 3:1. If ye are dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world - That is, If ye are dead with Christ, and so freed from them, why receive ye ordinances - Which Christ hath not enjoined, from which he hath made you free.
Verse 21. Touch not - An unclean thing. Taste not - Any forbidden meat. Handle not - Any consecrated vessel.
Verse 22. Perish in the using - Have no farther use, no influence on the mind.
Verse 23. Not sparing the body - Denying it many gratifications, and putting it to many inconveniences. Yet they are not of any real value before God, nor do they, upon the whole, mortify, but satisfy, the flesh. They indulge our corrupt nature, our self-will, pride, and desire of being distinguished from others.