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.
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.
I have been shown that we must be guarded on every side and perseveringly resist the insinuations and devices of Satan. He has transformed himself into an angel of light and is deceiving thousands and leading them captive. The advantage he takes of the science of the human mind, is tremendous. Here, serpentlike, he imperceptibly creeps in to corrupt the work of God. The miracles and works of Christ he would make appear as the result of human skill and power. If he should make an open, bold attack upon Christianity, it would bring the Christian in distress and agony to the feet of his Redeemer, and his strong and mighty Deliverer would put the bold adversary to flight. He therefore transforms himself into an angel of light and works upon the mind to allure from the only safe and right path. The sciences of phrenology, psychology, and mesmerism are the channel through which he comes more directly to this generation and works with that power which is to characterize his efforts near the close of probation. 1T 290.1
Read 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12: “And then shall that wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming: even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” 1T 290.2Read in context »
What Our Churches Should Be—The first and second chapters of Colossians have been presented to me as an expression of what our churches in every part of the world should be (Letter 161, 1903). 7BC 906.1
9-11. God's Will May Be Known—[Colossians 1:9-11 quoted.] How complete this prayer is! There is no limit to the blessings that it is our privilege to receive. We may be “filled with the knowledge of his will.” The Holy Ghost would never have inspired Paul to offer this prayer in behalf of his brethren, if it had not been possible for them to receive an answer from God in accordance with the request. Since this is so, we know that God's will is manifested to His people as they need a clearer understanding of His will (Letter 179, 1902). 7BC 906.2Read in context »