Colossians 2:8-12

Vigilance (8-10): Paul now applies the lordship of Christ (2:6) to the specific situation in Colossae. He speaks of a false teacher[1] who is trying to take them captive through a developed system of belief, which includes philosophy (which is empty deception),[2] man-made tradition,[3] and the demands of a false spirit world.[4] But why should believers heed these things? They have no obligation to them![5] They have Christ Jesus the Lord (2:6), the incarnate Son of God (2:9), the supreme King (2:10). We have, in Him, the fullness of the one and only true God! We need not succumb to anything else. Jesus triumphs over all other powers and renders foolish all other persuasions.

New Life (11-12): Paul also adds that it is in this person of Jesus Christ that we have the new Christian life. Paul first uses the imagery of circumcision to depict this. As in the physical surgery men lose their foreskin, so in Christ, we lay aside our past sinful selves.[6] Paul then points out that this transformation is what happened at our conversion.[7] Our old life of sin was buried with Christ, and our new life in holiness was raised together with Him. This new self (3:10) is a reality for all who believe that God raised Jesus from the dead.

[1] In the Greek, the captor is described as a particular person, "the one who takes captive."

[2] "Philosophy and empty deception" are lumped together in the Greek and is to be read together as one thing.

[3] "Tradition of men" is later described as "commandments and teachings of men" (2:22). Cf. Matt. 15:2-6.

[4] This is the meaning of "the elementary principles of the world." The apposition of the two "according to" phrases shows the integration of the commands/demands ("the tradition") and the belief in a false spirit world. The former is seen in 2:20-21 and the latter in 2:18, 23. Gal. 4:3, 8-10 also reflects similar ideas.

[5] This is the question Paul answers starting from verse 9 with the conjunction "for," or "because [ho-ti (ὅτι)]."

[6] "The removal [ap-ek-du-sis (ἀπέκδυσις)] of the body of the flesh" is best understood as the laying aside of one's old self. In 3:9, Paul uses the verbal form (ap-ek-du-o-mai [ἀπεκδύομαι]) to describe this conversion.

[7] Buried and rising with Christ depicts conversion (cf. Rom. 6:4). "Baptism" is a rare word in the NT (bap-tis-mos [βαπτισμός]), and it is articular and mentioned in passing and without elaboration. It may refer to either water baptism (as a metonym for conversion) or spirit baptism or even Jesus' death (cf. Lk. 12:50).