Beware lest any man spoil you - The word συλαγωγων, from συλη, prey, and αγειν, to lead or carry away, signifies to rob, or spoil of their goods, as if by violence or rapine. Their goods were the salvation they had received from Christ; and both the Gentile and Jewish teachers endeavored to deprive them of these, by perverting their minds, and leading them off from the truths of Christianity.
Philosophy and vain deceit - Or, the vain or empty deceit of philosophy; such philosophizing as the Jewish and Gentile teachers used. As the term philosophy stood in high repute among the Gentiles, the Jews of this time affected it; and both Philo and Josephus use the word to express the whole of the Mosaic institutions. So the former: Ὁι κατα Μωσην φιλοσοφουντες· "Those who embraced the philosophy of Moses;" Phil., De Nomin. Mutand. And the latter; Τρια παρα Ιουδαιοις ειδη φιλοσοφειται· "There are three systems of philosophy among the Jews," (Bell. Jud., lib. ii. cap 8, sec. 2), meaning the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes, as immediately follows. The Jewish philosophy, such as is found in the Cabala, Midrashim, and other works, deserves the character of vain deceit, in the fullest sense and meaning of the words. The inspired writers excepted, the Jews have ever been the most puerile, absurd, and ridiculous reasoners in the world. Even Rabbi Maymon, or Maimonides, the most intelligent of them all, is often in his master piece (the Moreh Nevochim, the Teacher of the Perplexed) most deplorably empty and vain.
After the rudiments of the world - According to the doctrine of the Jewish teachers; or, according to the Mosaic institutions, as explained and glossed by the scribes, Pharisees, and rabbins in general. We have often seen that הזה העולם haolam hazzeh, this world, of which του κοσμου τουτου is a literal translation, is frequently used to express the Jewish system of rites, ceremonies, and institutions in general; what the apostle calls the tradition of men, namely, what men, unauthorized by God, have taught as doctrines received from him. Our Lord frequently refers to and condemns these traditions.
Not after Christ - Not according to the simple doctrine of Christ, viz.: He died for our offenses; believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved.
Beware lest any man spoil you - The word “spoil” now commonly means, to corrupt, to cause to decay and perish, as fruit is spoiled by keeping too long, or paper by wetting, or hay by a long rain, or crops by mildew. But the Greek word used here means to spoil in the sense of plunder, rob, as when plunder is taken in war. The meaning is, “Take heed lest anyone plunder or rob you of your faith and hope by philosophy.” These false teachers would strip them of their faith and hope, as an invading army would rob a country of all that was valuable.
Through philosophy - The Greek philosophy prevailed much in the regions around Colossae, and perhaps also the oriental or Gnostic philosophy. See the Introduction They were exposed to the influences of these plausible systems. They consisted much of speculations respecting the nature of the divine existence; and the danger of the Colossians was, that they would rely rather on the deductions of that specious reasoning, than on what they had been taught by their Christian teachers.
And vain deceit - Mere fallacy. The idea is, that the doctrines which were advanced in those systems were maintained by plausible, not by solid arguments; by considerations not fitted to lead to the truth, but to lead astray.
After the tradition of men - There appear to have been two sources of danger to which the Christians at Colesso were exposed, and to which the apostle in these cautions alludes, though he is not careful to distinguish them. The one was that arising from the Grecian philosophy; the other, from Jewish opinions. The latter is that to which he refers here. The Jews depended much on tradition (see the notes at Matthew 15:2); and many of those traditions would have tended much to corrupt the gospel of Christ.
After the rudiments of the world - Margin, elements. See this explained in the Notes at Galatians 4:3.
And not after Christ - Not such as Christ taught.
Surrounded by the practices and influences of heathenism, the Colossian believers were in danger of being drawn away from the simplicity of the gospel, and Paul, in warning them against this, pointed them to Christ as the only safe guide. “I would that ye knew,” he wrote, “what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; that their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. AA 473.1
“And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.... As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him: rooted and built up in Him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in Him, which is the head of all principality and power.” AA 473.2
Christ had foretold that deceivers would arise, through whose influence “iniquity” should “abound,” and “the love of many” should “wax cold.” Matthew 24:12. He had warned the disciples that the church would be in more danger from this evil than from the persecution of her enemies. Again and again Paul warned the believers against these false teachers. This peril, above all others, they must guard against; for by receiving false teachers, they would open the door to errors by which the enemy would dim the spiritual perceptions and shake the confidence of those newly come to the faith of the gospel. Christ was the standard by which they were to test the doctrines presented. All that was not in harmony with His teachings they were to reject. Christ crucified for sin, Christ risen from the dead, Christ ascended on high—this was the science of salvation that they were to learn and teach. AA 473.3Read in context »
At this time we need in the cause of God spiritual-minded men, men who are firm in principle, and who have a clear understanding of the truth. I have been instructed that it is not new and fanciful doctrines nor human suppositions which the people need, but the testimony of men who know and practice the truth, men who understand and obey the charge given to Timothy: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.” [2 Timothy 4:2.] GW 305.1
My brethren, walk firmly, decidedly, your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. You may be sure that pure and undefiled religion is not a sensational religion. God has not laid upon any one the burden of encouraging an appetite for speculative doctrines and theories. Keep these things out of your teaching. Do not allow them to enter into your experience. Let not your life-work be marred by them. GW 305.2Read in context »
Please read Paul's exhortation to the Colossians. He speaks of his earnest desire that the hearts of the believers might be “knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2, 3). “And this I say,” he declares, “lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.... As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:4-9). 1SM 195.1
Will the men in our institutions keep silent, allowing insidious fallacies to be promulgated to the ruin of souls? The sentiments of the enemy are being scattered everywhere. Seeds of discord, of unbelief, of infidelity, are being sown broadcast. Shall our medical missionaries raise no barrier against this evil? Is it not time that we asked ourselves, Shall we allow the adversary to lead us to give up the work of proclaiming the truth? Shall we allow him to keep us from being channels through which the blessings of the gospel, as a current of life, shall flow to the world? Let every man now arouse, and work as he has opportunity. Let him speak words in season and out of season, and look to Christ for encouragement and strength in welldoing. 1SM 195.2Read in context »
I have been instructed that it is not new and fanciful doctrines which the people need. They do not need human suppositions. They need the testimony of men who know and practice the truth, men who understand and obey the charge given to Timothy: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:2-5. 8T 295.1
Walk firmly, decidedly, your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. You may be sure that pure and undefiled religion is not a sensational religion. God has not laid upon anyone the burden of encouraging an appetite for speculative doctrines and theories. My brethren, keep these things out of your teaching. Do not allow them to enter into your experience. Let not your lifework be marred by them. 8T 295.2Read in context »