05 Colossians 2:4-15 The Work of our Hands

by | Mar 2, 2016 | 01 Podcasts, Colossians


Colossians 1:1-12 – Paul prays that they would be filled the wisdom and spiritual knowledge such that the hope of the gospel would change their lives now.

Colossians 1:13-23 – Paul argues that Jesus Christ is absolutely central to the gospel.  Essentially, Paul claims you cannot seek God and avoid Christ.

Colossians 1:24-2:3 – Paul reminds them that he suffers to make the word of God fully known and to present every believer mature in Christ he urges them to hold fast to the gospel they first believed.

In 2:4 then he starts main point of this letter: He is writing to warn them because he’s heard they are being deceived by a false gospel.


2:4  I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments.  5For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.  6Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,  7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. – Colossians 2:4-7

Key Phrases:

  •  “let no one delude you with persuasive argument” (2:4)
  • “as you have received Christ (2:6)”
  • “just as you were taught (vs 7)”
  • “walk” (2:6) in Paul’s usage typically refers to living your life in such a way that it is clear what governs you.

The emphasis is on remaining true to the original gospel proclaimed by Jesus through the apostles to you.

The Spirit produces understanding, understanding produces hope and hope produces gratitude.  To reach the end of that chain is understand the gospel, hold fast to the gospel you first believed.

8See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,  10and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. – Colossians 2:8-10

Key Phrases:

  • “takes you captive” (2:8) – the image is like pirates raiding and looting and collecting spoils.
  • “through philosophy and empty deception” (2:8) – to understand this phrase consider its opposite: Scripture. Why does does “philosophy and empty deception” sound so wise? It reaches a conclusion that I want to be true.
  • “to the elementary principles of the world” (2:8) – the basic building blocks of life, the initial starting point; like elementary school is the starting point of education.
  • “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells” (2:9) – Everything you need to know about God is found in Christ; restatement of Colossians 1:13-23
  • “and you have been filled in him” (2:10) – the full solution to our biggest problem is found in Christ and no where else.

Why does does “philosophy and empty deception” sound so wise? It reaches a conclusion that I want to be true.

2:11In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,  12having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.  13And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.  15He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. – Colossians 2:11-15
  • The overall idea in 2:11-15 is that Christ’s death on the cross legally frees us from guilt and makes us spiritually alive.  We are dead in our sins, guilty and cut off from God.
  • What is the solution? Nothing made with human hands. Jesus’ literal physical death and resurrection is the solution to my problem of spiritual death.


Having been saved by grace through faith, the Colossians are now tempted to go back to a system of rituals, rules and regulations (works done with human hands).

The Old Testament Prophet Haggai faced a similar situation.  The Jews who returned to Jerusalem are rebuilding the temple.  They are tempted to think their obedience guarantees God’s blessings.  God speaks to Haggai to correct that theology.

2:11  “Thus says the LORD of hosts: Ask the priests about the law:  12’If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?'” The priests answered and said, “No.”  13Then Haggai said, “If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?” The priests answered and said, “It does become unclean.”  14Then Haggai answered and said, “So is it with this people, and with this nation before me, declares the LORD, and so with every work of their hands. And what they offer there is unclean. – Haggai 2:11-14
  • Disease (not health) is contagious.  Dirt (not cleanliness) spreads. “So it is with this people.”  We are dirty and there only one thing we can touch to get clean.
  • As Jesus is hurrying to heal a sick child (Mark 5:21-35), there is a woman in the crowd stricken with a disease that makes her bleed continuously.  Her illness not only made her anemic and sick, it made her an unclean, outcast who was prohibited from taking part in the life of the community.  In desperation, she touches the hem of Jesus’ robe.
  • What should happen? Dirt should win; disease is contagious.  Yet, in this case, health wins.  She is healed and Jesus tells her that her faith has saved her (Mark 5:34).
  • Performing an external ritual with human hands does not change my sinful heart.  The only way to be made clean is through the blood of Christ.  “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him. “

For more detail and explanation, please listen to the podcast.

Next: 06 Colossians 2:16-23 Passing Judgment

Previous: 04 Colossians 1:24-2:3 Riches of Assurance

Series: Colossians: Getting the Gospel Right

Study: Colossians Resources

Scripture quotes are from the English Standard Version of the Bible.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash